No to Co-Option: MoveOn is the Opposite of the Occupy Movement

MoveOn’s History of Undermining Progressive Causes in Support of the Corporate-Dominated Democratic Party

While most of the comments about my article on Van Jones and our GeneralAssembly’s call for independence from the Democratic Party and Democratic Party front groups were positive, a few people don’t seem to know the history of MoveOn.

Please do not misunderstand my criticisms of MoveOn and other organizations in this article as criticism of the many good people in these organizations. We have some people from MoveOn and other groups working with us at Occupy Washington, DC.  It is the leadership of these groups that misdirects people into the Democratic Party, supporting Democratic candidates and weak and often counter-productive Democratic Party positions.  We welcome MoveOn members to the Occupy Movement, but we do not want their leadership misdirecting the movement into the Democratic Party which is dominated by Wall Street and other big business interests.

Many occupiers are growing increasingly concerned about the attempted co-option of the Occupy Movement by Democratic Party operatives.  I focused on Van Jones because he has been appearing in the media talking like he is occupying somewhere.  I don’t think he is sleeping in a tent in any Occupy, but he sure gets a lot of attention from the corporate media as if he were an occupier. The corporate media seems to want to anoint him as the leader of the Occupy Movement. And his Rebuild the Dream website makes it look like it was the Occupy the Highway Movement, even though no one from Rebuild walked the 220 mile journey from New York to Washington, DC.

But I am equally concerned about groups like SEIU – a union that has already endorsed President Obama – and has been described by Glenn Greenwald as attempting to co-opt the Occupy Movement. Also of concern is Campaign for America’s Future which holds annual conferences that seek to spotlight Democratic candidates and get people to spend their time and resources electing Democrats.  If their strategy is to elect Democrats that is fine, just do it somewhere else.  The Occupy Movement is the opposite – we are independent of the two parties. We see the system as corrupt and working to elect people in that system as joining the corruption rather than stopping it.

Regarding MoveOn, which has done mailing after mailing using the Occupy Movement, it consistently supports the Democratic Party and undermines progressive causes. They started as an advocacy group for the Democratic Party and have remained such. It began seeking to end the impeachment of President Clinton for lying under oath about sexual harassment.  They work hard to keep liberals and progressives inside the Democratic Party so that they will not form an independent movement to hold Obama and the Democratic Party, as well as Republicans, accountable.  MoveOn refuses to acknowledge their constant betrayals of the people by the Democratic Party.

Using non-profit front groups to undermine progressive movements is consistent with the tactics of the Democratic Party. In return for big funding from Democratic Party donors these groups are told what they can do and say by Democratic Party operatives. During the health care reform debate MoveOn was part of a coalition called Health Care for America Now.  The name of the coalition was eerily similar to the long-established single payer advocacy group, Health Care Now.  But rather than advocating for an end to insurance-dominated health care as single payer would do, the well-funded Health Care for America Now (spending at least $50 million to support ObamaCare) advocated for the Obama health law, which is a more deeply entrenched insurance industry domination of health care.  A law that even forces Americans, for the first time in history, to buy a corporate product and in this case a seriously flawed product.

Rebuild the Dream, a MoveOn Project, continues to undermine real health care reform by using the new language of the single payer – “Improved Medicare for All” – in their issue demands. But, Rebuild waters down this demand to protect the insurance industry.  When you read the details rather than a real improved Medicare for All system that eliminates health insurance they merely advocate that people be offered the opportunity to buy Medicare as another insurance policy.  Their last paragraph makes all the arguments for single payer, but then pulls back to merely offering Medicare as one insurance option. Their language is essentially the public option using single payer language. No doubt the vast majority of MoveOn and Rebuild the Dream members support single payer (two-thirds of Americans do) and real progressive change, but Van Jones’s Rebuild uses similarities in rhetoric to fool them and keep progressives inside the Democratic Party rather than developing the kind of unified independent movement that is needed to push for real change. We need to challenge the insurance industry, not work with Democrats who take millions in donations from them.

MoveOn did this to the peace movement in 2007 after an anti-Iraq War vote gave the Democrats control of the House of Representatives.  The anti-war movement was in full force pressuring members of Congress.  The Democratic leadership put forward a bill to end funding for the war unless “benchmarks” were met and allowed war funding for four big exceptions that would allow the war to continue, such as fighting terrorism, protecting American interests, and training the Iraq military.  Twenty peace groups united to oppose the Democratic plan to continue war funding.  Every vote was needed by the corporate-Democratic Party leadership to continue war funding.  At the last minute, MoveOn came out in support of the weak Democratic plan and provided cover to Democrats, relieved constituent pressure, and allowed the war funding to continue.

Not surprisingly, there is confusion among liberals and progressives who support the common agenda of ending the wars, economic justice and environmental protection.  We’re sometimes asked if Rebuild the Dream is part of Occupy Washington, DC.  The answer is an unequivocal NO. Occupy Washington, DC is an independent movement that will hold the system, big business and both parties accountable for corporatism and militarism.  And we will not go away or be absorbed by MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream and its Democratic Party allies.  We are critics of the machine, the corrupt, dysfunctional system, which the Democratic Party has always been and continues to be part of.  We welcome Dream supporters. We would even welcome the leadership.  All they need to do is renounce the Democratic Party and President Obama.

MoveOn and Rebuild the Dream can prove us wrong if they come forward with a non-partisan statement saying they will fight against any elected official, of any party, in any office, who has not lived up to the anti-militarism and anti-corporatist agenda, especially the president.

Until that statement is made Democratic Party operatives and their allied groups should back off the Occupy Movement.  You have a different strategy – working inside the Democratic Party, working inside the limits of the corrupt machine while we want to transform American politics.

Get out of our way.

Kevin Zeese co-directs Popular Resistance and is on the coordinating council for the Maryland Green Party. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.