More Democratic fratricide this week . . . .
Celeste Fremon at Huffington Post reports on remarks Hillary Clinton made recently about MoveOn.org during a closed-door fund-raiser:
"Moveon.org endorsed [Sen. Barack Obama] -- which is like a gusher of money that never seems to slow down," Clinton said to a meeting of donors. "We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and It's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."Eli Pariser, from MoveOn, responded:
"Senator Clinton has her facts wrong again. MoveOn never opposed the war in Afghanistan, and we set the record straight years ago when Karl Rove made the same claim. Senator Clinton's attack on our members is divisive at a time when Democrats will soon need to unify to beat Senator McCain. MoveOn is 3.2 million reliable voters and volunteers who are an important part of any winning Democratic coalition in November. They deserve better than to be dismissed using Republican talking points."Ironically, MoveOn got its start in 1998 by organizing support for President Clinton during the Impeachment process. They created an online petition called "Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation."
A few months ago, at a MoveOn-sponsored forum, Hillary praised the organization:
I also want to thank you for being such lively participants in American democracy. You started from the very fundamental premise that in our democracy everyone should have a voice and that given the power of the internet, we now have millions of voices that are part of our debates. I personally welcome that because for nearly a decade you've been asking the tough questions, you've been demanding answers, you've been refusing to back down when any of us who are in political leadership are not living up to the standards that we should set for ourselves and that you expect from us. I think you have helped to change the face of politics for the better, both online and in the corridors of power. So although some of your members may be a little surprised to hear me say this, I am grateful for your work. I remember when you started and how important it was and I look forward to continuing our dialogue in the years ahead on the important issues facing our country and the world.Matthew Yglesias, at The Atlantic Monthly, sees a larger Clinton pattern at work:
[T]he bad dynamic between Clinton and MoveOn is a reminder of one of the fundamental problems with her candidacy. The Clintons, and many of their key supporters, come out of a school of political analysis which holds that the problem with the Democratic Party in the United States is that progressive institutions are too strong. Only by curbing the influence of these institutions, the theory goes, can Democratic Party politicians engage in the tactical repositioning necessary to win elections.Personally, I have mixed feelings about MoveOn. But I don't see the ultimate good in attacking an energized and increasingly important group of activists within your own party.
Whether or not that was true in 1988-92 or, indeed, whether or not it remains true today, this is clearly not a long-term strategy for progressive politics. This "crush the left, move to the right" theory of electoral political may or may not work for politicians in the short run, but to create big change you need to strengthen progressive institutions and move the entire spectrum to the left.
My guess is that the Clintons are appealing again to reactionary Democrats, especially in Pennsylvania, by distancing themselves from those terrible "progressive" nuts. Once more, they're playing the Republican song, this time using a falsehood that Karl Rove already used a few months ago.
But even if bashing MoveOn were to help them in the Pennsylvania primary, wouldn't they need these same people in a general election? They assume that MoveOn will come around later. And given how loyal MoveOn is to the Democratic Party - and how nasty MoveOn and DailyKos are to any mention of third-party attempts - the Clintons are probably right about that. At least to a degree. The organizations might come around and help them raise money. But individual voters within the groups might defect.
In any case, it's one more example of the Democrats working hard to lose what should've been a winnable election.