An Anti-War Lesson for Tea Partiers


Former Reason intern Jeff Winkler catches up with the anti-war left:

Back in 2003, the lefty site MoveOn.org "flexed [its muscle with] 'virtual marches,' in which tens of thousands of protesters jammed Senate and White House phones, fax machines and e-mail boxes with antiwar messages." Originally founded to encourage the public to "move on" from Bill Clinton's sexual escapades, MoveOn.org repositioned itself as a heavyweight in the early 2000s anti-war movement.

This time around? A little less than a week after the attack, MoveOn.org has articles bashing "Out-of-Control Republicans in Wisconsin," but hardly a mention of the bombing in Libya. Well, there is a post noting that John McCain called Muammar Gaddafi an "interesting man" on Twitter two years ago. So much for moving on. […]

"It was certainly easier to mobilize under Republican presidents," said [Code Pink's Medea] Benjamin. "A lot of the organizations that are bigger than ours are affiliated with the Democratic party and they are reluctant to criticize the president."

In related (and relatedly predictable) news, here's a fancy new academic paper [PDF] explaining how proximity to the Democratic Party basically neutralized the anti-war movement. Which underlines, I think, a point Nick Gillespie and I argue explicitly in The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America–one reason that the Tea Party is sticking while the anti-war netroots went POOF! is precisely because limited-government activists have refused to be domesticated by one of the two major political parties. The strength is in becoming a swing voter, then maintaining that distance by speaking from conviction instead of political expedience.

So what has MoveOn done with all that fancy new access to power? As Peter Suderman demonstrated in his great feature from the March issue, the number-one netroots outfit will likely have its most lasting impact be not on the conduct of foreign policy, but on the control over…the Internet.

Watch Reason.tv's report on what happened to the anti-war movement: