So now, in addition to the California primary on Tuesday, I get to cast my vote in the MoveOn primary in the next 24 hours. If one of the two candidates left standing gets two thirds in the MoveOn vote, the organization will try to use its mobilization apparatus to help the winner, beginning Saturday.
Oddly enough, I find it harder to decide what to do in the latter vote than in the former. In the primary, now that Edwards is out, I'll be voting for Obama because he seems a hair's breadth more likely to get the U.S. out of Iraq sooner. But it is much harder for me to vote for him in the MoveOn primary -- I've still got a few hours to decide whether I can stomach it.
Here are the problems:
Barack Obama should, by rights, not get a chance to vie for MoveOn's support. The guy stuck it to MoveOn when he didn't have to. Last fall, when Republicans demanded that Congress scold MoveOn for its ad referring to Bush's Iraq commander-stooge as "General Betray-us," Clinton voted no. Obama skipped the vote. This from the guy who asks us to believe in our ability to bring real change to Washington, who claims to be "powered by hope and people like you." Guess that works unless we, the people, raise the temperature of conflict a little too high for his taste.
But more importantly, I'm not sure I like the idea of MoveOn, as an organization, throwing its weight into the primaries. MoveOn is a huge and useful part of an emerging infrastructure of technologically sophisticated grassroots pressure groups that have responded to the decay of democratic (small "d") organs of civic participation. That is, a lot of us are pissed about being shut out of our own country's decision making by a combination of straight up Republican authoritarian rule combined with Democratic cowardice. We've built some alternative megaphones on the internet and increasingly among community groups on the ground.
It is not good for these groups to become simply constituent groups entirely inside the Democratic Party. Labor has done that in some periods with early endorsements and hasn't been able to pass any progressive labor law for decades. They get taken for granted.
We don't want to be taken for granted. After November, even if a Democrat wins the White House and Democrats pick up a good number of seats in Congress, a lot of us are still going to have to be lobbing pies at officeholders from the outside if we want meaningful change.
It would be smart if MoveOn could help its members remember that oppositional role, as well as the inside role we all hope to play electing whatever Democrat emerges from the primaries. It's tough during the primaries remembering that real change is going to require both roles. The MoveOn primary only obscures that awareness.
I'll give the experienced progressive warrior who writes as Meteor Blades the last word on the conundrum that confronts progressives every four years. I think he says it succinctly.
I'm not at all sure throwing MoveOn's energies into the primaries serves the cause of keeping both parts of the pairing on track.
UPDATE, Friday am: So 70 percent of MoveOn members voted to endorse Obama. Though this wasn't what I hoped for, I do hope this increases MoveOn's influence which is ultimately a good thing.