On Friday I read in the New York Times that President Obama would be happy to cut $200 billion out of Medicare in order to inflict pain on his Democratic base, part of an imagined tradeoff in which the two parties inflict pain on their imagined bases in order to reduce the deficit without imposing sensible taxes on billionaires or shrinking military spending to sane levels. Also on Friday I got an Email from True Majority asking me to celebrate Obama's defense of Medicare.
We've progressed from "I feel your pain" to "I inflict your pain," and we're being told to like it.
"President Obama: If you stand up to the Republican hostage-takers and protect Medicare," it says on MoveOn.org's website, "we will have your back." Or, of course, even if you don't do that, President Obama, even if the whole idea of it is based on myths about who is on whose side, MoveOn and most other online groups that don't have the back of the Republican Party will have yours. That's the way this game works. Except that it hasn't been working.
True Majority's traditional focus was on reducing military spending, but during the early Obama years it celebrated particular weapons cuts, masking overall increases. MoveOn used to organize anti-war rallies, albeit only in Republican congressional districts, as long as the president was a Republican and the Democrats tolerated it. Now, you'll have a hard time finding any of our wars' existence acknowledged on MoveOn's website, which is dominated by opposition to the Tea Party.
Even in the bad old days of a Republican president, True Majority had to be pushed hard by its members to oppose wars, and MoveOn conducted a poll of its members asking if they preferred Nancy Pelosi's plan to keep the wars going or President Bush's, and then used the inevitable result to dishonestly claim that its members preferred Pelosi's plan to Congresswoman Barbara Lee's proposal to actually end a war.
All of the Democratic Party groups turned against single-payer healthcare when instructed to do so, just as they can be counted on to steer clear, cave in, and avoid a fight on any issue the Democratic Party is on the wrong side of, which is of course just about all of them.
I'm not suggesting we devote our energies primarily to criticizing those who are gently nudging in the general right direction. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with opposing Tea Party lunatics. I'm suggesting that we need to understand what's happening in order to create something better that is desperately needed and could alter our entire public discourse.
What if we had an online organizing force that answered only to concerns of peace, civil liberties, and social and economic justice? What if this new movement opposed Wall Street bailouts regardless of partisan positions? What if it opposed wars no matter who was commander in chief?
When it came to electoral politics, all the same choices would remain. Voters could still choose to back the best candidates or the lesser evil compromises. Legislators could still choose to vote down imperfect bills or negotiate the best deals they could pass. But the left edge of the acceptable range of policy positions would cease its rapid slide rightward. Elected officials of all parties would know that no betrayals of popular progressive positions were going to be free.
A new online movement at http://rootsaction.org is rapidly growing and holds just this vision of independent progressive activism and communication. In this moment when the President and the Secretary of State have reportedly condoned the possible killing of unarmed American activists on a legitimate humanitarian mission, as opposed to a "humanitarian" war, don't hold your breath for Democratic Party subservient groups to speak out. But do count on RootsAction to be on top of the issue:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
You have urged our fellow citizens not to participate in an unarmed nonviolent humanitarian mission to Gaza by sea.
But have you urged Israel not to interfere with ships in international waters?
Have you urged Israel not to harm unarmed activists engaged in an actual humanitarian mission, the very thing your government pretends its wars are?
Have you urged Israel to lift the illegal and murderous blockade of Gaza?