MoveOn’s Obama Endorsement

Why there is no "hope" for "change"...

MoveOn is mobilizing. The “antiwar” group’s Political Action members across the country voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Democratic candidacy of Barack Obama last week. MoveOn claims to have 1.7 million members in states that vote in Tuesday’s primaries. “[Our] endorsement means a fresh infusion of people-power for Obama in the critical days before Super Tuesday,” read the organization’s press release. “MoveOn will immediately connect thousands of progressive activists into the Obama” volunteer operation.

Obama’s campaign is no doubt pleased, for its mantra of “hope” and “change” has begun to echo in the deep subconscious of many well-intentioned progressives. Obama’s best quality at this point seems to be the fact that he’s not a Clinton. When it comes to foreign policy, however, he may as well be, which makes MoveOn’s shallow approval of his candidacy all the more hypocritical.

After Obama won his senatorial race in 2004 he quickly abandoned the antiwar rhetoric he had touted along the campaign trail. While remaining critical of the White House and the lies that pushed us towards war, Obama still maintained that US military should remain in Iraq until the job was completed.

“Given the enormous stakes in Iraq, I believe that those of us who are involved in shaping our national security policies should do what we believe is right, not merely what is politically expedient,” Obama proclaimed in a speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in late November 2005. “In sum, we have to focus, methodically and without partisanship, on those steps that will: one, stabilize Iraq, avoid all out civil war, and give the factions within Iraq the space they need to forge a political settlement; two, contain and ultimately extinguish the insurgency in Iraq; and three, bring our troops safely home.”

Obama continues to favor a “phased redeployment” of our troops as well as “benchmarks” for the Iraqi government, but promises to not “fully withdraw” — hence why the Illinois senator has supported the majority of Bush administration’s pork-engorged appropriation bills that are draining the U.S. Treasury. Obama wants to keep cadres of troops throughout Iraq with others all other the region to strike if necessary.

So where would President Obama send the troops he’s redeployed? A good guess might be Iran.

As Obama told the Chicago Tribune on September 26, 2004, “[T]he big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures [to stop its nuclear program], including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point . . . if any, are we going to take military action?”

He added, “[L]aunching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in” given the ongoing war in Iraq. “On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse.” Obama went on to argue that military strikes on Pakistan should not be ruled out if “violent Islamic extremists” were to “take over.”

“[Iran] is a genuine threat” to the United States and Israel, Obama later expressed at a forum sponsored by AIPAC on March 12, 2007 in Washington D.C. At the event Obama reiterated that he would not rule out the use of force in disarming Iran, a position he shares with rival Hillary Clinton.

Earlier that same month, on March 2 2007, Obama spoke at an AIPAC Policy Forum in Chicago, where he succinctly laid out his position on how he would deal with the Middle East, promising not to alter the U.S.’s lopsided relationship with Israel. “[W]e must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs,” he said. “This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza.”

How could any critic of the war machine support a candidate like Barack Obama? MoveOn has quite a long history of supporting Democratic candidates, despite said politician’s allegiance to the Bush doctrine — so their support of Obama doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But even CODEPINK stalwarts like Jodie Evans and Nancy Kricorian (the latter runs the popular have endorsed Obama for president.

Perhaps betrayal is contagious.

In the end Super Tuesday, despite MoveOn’s public frolicking, won’t end up being all that super when the votes are finally tallied. A pro-war candidate from both major parties will likely solidify their side’s nomination.

Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published by AK Press in June 2008. Check out the Red State Rebels site. Read other articles by Joshua.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. said on February 4th, 2008 at 10:27am #

    Your statement: ‘to serve the corporate elite while sustaining U.S. militarism abroad.’ Isn’t that the purpose of the presidency in the American mind?

  2. HR said on February 4th, 2008 at 1:51pm #

    Move On seems to be nothing more than a congregation of Democratic Party Yuppies pretending to be progressives. What the group says or does has no influence whatever on my thinking.

  3. DavidG. said on February 4th, 2008 at 5:21pm #

    Move On, in Australia, has become a significant force for good. Hopefully it will do the same thing in America.

  4. Joe Mowrey said on February 4th, 2008 at 5:28pm #

    Thanks for being one of the few voices to point out that Obama is nothing more than the same song, 45th verse. So-called progressives are like the vast majority of Americans; they are the most willfully ignorant population on the planet. I suspect if Jeb Bush were to put a ‘D’ after his name and run for president, “progressives” would vote for him just to get “a Democrat in the White House.” Our culture has made us afraid of actual social revolution and constructive upheaval.

    Also, as I’m sure you are aware (since I follow your views on Palestine) Obama was willing to speak out in favor of Palestinian rights at one point. Now he is completely beholden to the Israel Lobby.

    He’s just another commodity available to the highest bidder.

    Of course, I’m one of those freaks who doesn’t believe there will be an election in ’08. I’m betting on an Israeli attack on Iran, supported by us, a black flag “terrorist” attack in the U.S followed by martial law. And I’ll give double the odds that our Congress will vote wholeheartedly to support the entire program. The sheeple of the U.S. the same. And MoveOn? Well I imagine even they will find a way to embrace totalatarism. As long as the donations keep pouring in.

    Job security is everything.

    Joe Mowrey
    Santa Fe, NM

  5. HDune said on February 4th, 2008 at 6:57pm #

    On top of all this, Obama or Clinton will undoubtedly allow Bush to walk away from his crimes.

  6. Robert B. Livingston said on February 4th, 2008 at 8:16pm #

    I concur with what the Ralph Nader team is saying at his campaign exploratory website:

    The message begins, “Maybe we are wrong.”

    That is honesty.

    Who would not love to believe, as the thoughtful journalist Robert Parry does at Consortium News, that “[t]he endorsements of Barack Obama by members of the Eisenhower and Kennedy families suggest that they see in him a hope for returning to the peaceful ideals of an earlier era. Or as Obama says, his goal is not just to end the Iraq War but ‘the mindset’ behind the war”?

    Who would not like to ally with the expectant, hopeful, and idealistic fresh faces belonging to the youth who clamor for Obama, especially in opposition to the jaundiced, scheming, and backward looking-Clinton and her powerful supporters?

    I certainly would… but I cannot.

    I cannot because I believe that what Joshua Frank writes is essentially true: in essence, the power elites hedge their bets with Obama because they understand he is guaranteed to deliver the goods they crave so much– as surely, if not more ably, as the mostly self-serving Clintons would (make no mistake: two Clintons are running against him).

    What is at stake for us is America’s purpose in the world.

    Will it continue to be a country that musters its energy toward subordinating life to ensure profits for the few? Or will it become a country that promotes human values and respect for all?

    Mankind’s eternal crime is the subordination of life and love to “things”. Are we to be history’s villain, or its champion?

    I endorse both Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney. And I would add, “maybe I am wrong.”

    But like Nader’s team says at its exploratory site: “I doubt it.”

  7. USS Liberty said on February 4th, 2008 at 9:54pm #

    I especially like the sentence: “having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse.” Living in the USA, now a radical Christian theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons, which wages war for Israel, the radical Jewish theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons, is equally depressing.

    If Obama is sucking up to AIPAC, it just confirms his membership in the “more wars for the Jews” Party.

  8. Tony said on February 5th, 2008 at 12:13am #

    You do realize that Obama proposed legislation that would prevent Bush from seeking military action against Iran, right? It’s on his website.

    “Obama also introduced a resolution in the Senate declaring that no act of Congress – including Kyl-Lieberman – gives the Bush administration authorization to attack Iran.”

    But yeah, quotes out of context work best.

  9. Paulette Sage said on February 5th, 2008 at 9:21am #

    May I join your tribe, Joe Mowrey? I’m freak no. 2 who also believes there will be no “election” [sic]. And even if there is (some semblance of one), nothing will change. Most progressives support the underlying hegemony of our culture/country. You have eloquently “spoken” all the things I have believed for a very long time. Hope we’re in the same gulag.

  10. Bill Todd said on February 5th, 2008 at 1:31pm #

    After reading the copy of the above article in CounterPunch I attempted to contact you through its link, only to find out that that domain is said to be for sale. It also took my three tries to reach DissidentVoice: the paranoid might begin to suspect that someone doesn’t like you.

    In any event:

    “MoveOn is mobilizing.”

    That statement, unfortunately, seems to be true.

    “The “antiwar” group’s Political Action members across the country voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Democratic candidacy of Barack Obama last week.”

    That statement, however, is patently false. The truth is this:

    Last Thursday, soon after Edwards’ announcement that he was ‘suspending’ his campaign, MoveOn sent out an email announcing this vote to determine whether it would support one of the two remaining mainstream Democratic candidates. The deadline for voting was mid-day the following day, tending to ensure that only the most actively-interested MoveOn members (who would take the time to respond immediately during the work week) would vote.

    The ballot included no ‘none of the above’ option, nor could it be submitted without selecting one of the two – thereby ensuring that those of us who wanted MoveOn to endorse no one were precluded from expressing that wish. However, the email clearly stated that unless 2/3 of the MoveOn membership (not simply 2/3 of those voting) voted to endorse one of them, no endorsement would be made – which suggested to me that an endorsement was an extremely long-shot at best.

    Friday afternoon rolled around, and a MoveOn email arrived enthusiastically indicating that Obama had won the endorsement with 70.4% of the vote to Hillary’s 29.6%. However, it indicated that only 280,528 votes had been cast: given MoveOn’s claimed membership of 3.2 million, that means that a bit over 6% voted for Obama and a bit under 3% voted for Hillary – with the portion of the remaining 91% that might have voted given the opportunity frozen out either by their own time constraints or by the inability to express a preference for supporting neither candidate.

    It is difficult to see this as anything other than a cynical and calculated effort by the MoveOn leadership to cloak their own desire to endorse Obama with a thin veneer of membership consensus – especially given the hasty nature of the process and the inability to express a desire not to endorse anyone. So while condemnation is certainly in order, I’m not sure that the membership itself is the correct target.

    – bill

  11. Mike McNiven said on February 6th, 2008 at 5:04am #

    Bill T,

    MoveOn “moves” as George Soros desires! He is one of the deciding “movers” of the criminal US imperialist “movement”! Please move away from them!

  12. rosemarie jackowski said on February 6th, 2008 at 4:12pm #

    Pretty sad when the only candidate who wants a change in US foreign policy is a Republican with a scary domestic agenda. How about a Nader/McKinney ticket? It’s not too late yet.

  13. gan.g said on February 18th, 2008 at 2:33am #

    The contradictions pointed out by the article are true. However, they look like ‘betrayal’ and ‘hypocricy’ only when one holds a short-sighted and conventional view of the relationship between social movements and electoral politics. There is something much deeper, and more important going on here, and the high stakes demand we have a more sophisticated conversation about it. It is high time that radical and progressive social movements reframe their understanding of the electoral process in order to be more effective as social movements. A vote for, or endorsement of a candidate should not in any way be interpreted as APPROVAL or AGREEMENT. It is a strategic decision to place the candidate (among those remaining) who is likely to be the MOST VULNERABLE and SUSCEPTIBLE to social movement’s INFLUENCE if and when they achieve the highest position of state power. By supporting Obama’s candidacy, it is not because we love him, or even like him, but because of all the remaining candidates of either party, he is the one who will be the most DEPENDENT upon our support in order to survive; the most easy to DAMAGE if he disagrees with our position, and the most easy to REWARD with what we have to offer if he supports our position. The crucial point to remember is that electoral politics are neither a substitute for social movement organizing, nor its antithesis, but rather, its other half. In short, once the candidate you ‘support’ is elected, the social movement which ‘supported’ them must stay organized as an outside force, and immediately go on the offensive and keep the pressure on – every day. That’s when social movements are the most powerful. Inside: they need an actor capaable of directing the policies and massive resources of the state (which are unmatched in terms of scale). Outside : they need the ability to exert effective pressure on that actor. Simply put, this is about raw power politics, but from a social movement perspective. A major reason the left has been ineffective for 7 years, despite the success in organizing massive mobilizations, is because Bush was in no way dependent on the constituency marching in the streets. A hundred thousand anti-war Americans could shout their hearts out, and he could ignore them, and it cost him absolutely nothing, because they played absolutely no role in his taking or keeping power. On the other hand, if his own social movement base (i.e. the evangelical right) which he did owe a great deal to, so much as whined, he listened. He had to. In fact, he spent a great deal of time redirecting state resources not merely towards supporting his base’s agenda, but towards strengthening their capacity as a grassroots social movement. This in turn helped him keep his hold on state power. From a social movement’s perspective, the right had achieved the perfect ‘virtuous cycle’ (or ‘vicious cycle’ as far as the left was concerned). The only reason it is failing now, is because the policies themselves were foolish and destined to implode, and those at the helm were at best self-delusional and inept. But even so, the effectiveness of this cyclical social movement/state synergy model kept the neo-con agenda alive, and invulnerable to attack, for much longer than it should have survived. In fact, the kind of state supported grassroots mobilization handed them a second election, after it was already becoming clear that the policies themselves were failing and losing mainstream support. So its time to wake up, folks! This is not about ‘liking’ a candidate, or even agreeing with them. This is about putting the guy or gal in charge who gives the left the most strategic leverage to us as a social movement – and right now, that’s Obama, no question. it ain’t Hilary. It aint McCain. And the day Obama is elected, he will know who he owes that victory to. That being said: be prepared. It won’t stop him from selling out, in part, to some of his other sources of support (corporations, elite liberals, etc.). You should expect it, in fact. However, we will have our hands on at least a few crucial pillars of support (the anti-war movement, the youth, etc.) that we can pull out from under him whenever we want – and he’ll know it, and we’ll know it. So let’s get over our emotional baggage and psychological resistant concerning terms like ‘support’ and ‘endorse’ and make the right strategic choice, so that the next time we take to the streets by the hundreds of thousands, it matters.