Commentary Magazine


Topic: MoveOn.org

Can Moveon Nudge Warren to Run?

While conservatives eagerly seize on each new Hillary Clinton gaffe as proof that she is not the invincible presidential candidate Democrats believe her to be, the political left is looking at the former secretary of state’s struggles from a different perspective. Tired of being the doormat for their party’s establishment wing led by the Clintons and unhappy with the former first family’s level of comfort with Wall Street, the so-called progressive wing of the Democrats is ready to assert itself. That’s the dynamic that is driving both a new assertiveness on the part of congressional liberals as well as the decision of Moveon.org to try to derail Clinton’s coronation in 2016 by starting a movement to draft Senator Elizabeth Warren to run against her.

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While conservatives eagerly seize on each new Hillary Clinton gaffe as proof that she is not the invincible presidential candidate Democrats believe her to be, the political left is looking at the former secretary of state’s struggles from a different perspective. Tired of being the doormat for their party’s establishment wing led by the Clintons and unhappy with the former first family’s level of comfort with Wall Street, the so-called progressive wing of the Democrats is ready to assert itself. That’s the dynamic that is driving both a new assertiveness on the part of congressional liberals as well as the decision of Moveon.org to try to derail Clinton’s coronation in 2016 by starting a movement to draft Senator Elizabeth Warren to run against her.

The Moveon.org effort may be nothing more than a stunt by a group that has struggled to maintain its once central role in pushing the liberal agenda in recent years. Once George W. Bush left the presidency and was replaced by Barack Obama, his administration, with its top-down culture that squelches disagreement and debate, has dominated the Democrats leaving left-wingers to kibitz impotently on the sidelines. But with Obama moving into the lame duck period of his presidency, the time may have come for the left to get into the fight again as they seek to emulate the success of their Tea Party antagonists on the right, as Politico noted in an article today.

Moveon does have a huge mailing list of what they claim are eight million left-wing activists that belong to their movement. But while that sounds impressive, it has yet to be seen whether Moveon still has the ability to mobilize these people in a coherent way so as to emulate the kind of local grassroots activity that made the Tea Party such a force in 2010 even if its national leadership was far more divided than that of Moveon.

Just as problematic is the question of whether Warren is even interested in running. She has, as her staff again said yesterday, repeatedly told those asking about the possibility that she won’t do it. Whether that was merely a case of a prudent politician not wishing to tilt against windmills by challenging the Clinton machine or a genuine lack of desire for the presidency, we don’t know.

Can Moveon start something that could lead to Warren changing her mind?

It cannot have escaped the Massachusetts senator that Clinton’s post-State Department public appearances have been less than successful. Most of the party is treating Clinton as if she is the presumptive nominee but as everyone remembers from 2008, she is not a brilliant politician. Her string of gaffes during her book tour and subsequent misstatements have not dented her poll numbers when matched up against the motley crew of other potential Democratic presidential candidates. But Warren is someone who, like Barack Obama, can capture the hearts of the party’s liberal base. Moreover, being opposed by an even more liberal woman would rob Clinton of the main narrative of her presidential juggernaut: the effort to elect the first female president.

Any challenge to Clinton would be politically perilous and a savvy operator like Warren is rightly shy about jumping into a fight with a family that plays for keeps. Warren may not be sure that her left-wing support will be enough to compensate for the money the Clintons can raise or their ability to cash in IOUs from politicians around the country. But while waiting her turn seems like the smart play, at 65, 2016 may actually be Warren’s best shot at the presidency, especially if Clinton does run and serve two terms.

In the coming months, Warren will concentrate on leading a liberal guerilla war against moderate Democrats in Congress and hope to become the face of resistance to the GOP majority. But at the same time she will probably stay out of the presidential fray and watch and wait to see if Clinton is still stumbling through 2015 as she prepares for an inevitable run. But if Moveon can provide a viable platform for left-wing resistance to Clinton’s nomination, a Warren candidacy will be made a bit more feasible. Though Moveon isn’t by itself enough to scare Clinton, she should be very afraid of Warren and the passion of an aroused left-wing base. If the senator runs, Hillary will be in for the fight of her life.

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Why Did MoveOn Apologize for Opposing Radical Foe of Israel?

Last month, MoveOn.org joined a chorus of liberals and Democrats pleading with New York Democrats not to nominate Charles Barron for a safe New York City congressional seat. MoveOn sent out an email blast aimed at the radical candidate. Barron, a vicious anti-Zionist and radical supporter of dictators like Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, was political poison for the Democrats, and his defeat by the more centrist Hakeem Jeffries caused the entire party to heave a sigh of relief. But according to one of the group’s top leaders, the decision to draw a line between its activities and a hatemonger was a terrible mistake.

As JTA reports, Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, apologized for the email blast at Barron. Calling the group’s condemnation of Barron — a candidate who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan’s David Duke — “offensive and inflammatory,” Ruben walked back MoveOn’s involvement in the race saying:

The email was all too reminiscent of the kind of attacks that have been used by our opponents to divide progressives over and over again — white folks from African Americans, Jews from non-Jews, recent immigrants from descendants of immigrants, etc.

Why would anyone regret being part of an effort to save the Democrats from the humiliation of nominating someone who has become the poster child for the radicalization of their party? The answer is simple. Ruben’s walk back of the attack on Barron is consistent with the group’s origins and its basic purpose.

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Last month, MoveOn.org joined a chorus of liberals and Democrats pleading with New York Democrats not to nominate Charles Barron for a safe New York City congressional seat. MoveOn sent out an email blast aimed at the radical candidate. Barron, a vicious anti-Zionist and radical supporter of dictators like Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, was political poison for the Democrats, and his defeat by the more centrist Hakeem Jeffries caused the entire party to heave a sigh of relief. But according to one of the group’s top leaders, the decision to draw a line between its activities and a hatemonger was a terrible mistake.

As JTA reports, Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, apologized for the email blast at Barron. Calling the group’s condemnation of Barron — a candidate who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan’s David Duke — “offensive and inflammatory,” Ruben walked back MoveOn’s involvement in the race saying:

The email was all too reminiscent of the kind of attacks that have been used by our opponents to divide progressives over and over again — white folks from African Americans, Jews from non-Jews, recent immigrants from descendants of immigrants, etc.

Why would anyone regret being part of an effort to save the Democrats from the humiliation of nominating someone who has become the poster child for the radicalization of their party? The answer is simple. Ruben’s walk back of the attack on Barron is consistent with the group’s origins and its basic purpose.

The email blast at Barron might have seemed like a sensible thing for a liberal group to do. But MoveOn’s apology is a reminder that it is a beachhead for the radical left in American politics, not a bastion of traditional liberalism.

The JTA article referred to past controversies about MoveOn’s website forums, which were well-known for being home to the worst sort of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist hate speech. The group says it removed any offensive speech, but critics have rightly pointed out that most of the really nasty stuff about Jews and Israel remained. But no matter what its online fans say or don’t say, MoveOn’s far left politics are antithetical to the maintenance of a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.

Even more to the point, as Ruben’s apology highlights, it is the sort of radical group which can never envision having any enemies on the left even if that puts them into bed with the worst sort of anti-Semites and haters. If MoveOn’s political action committee thinks there is something wrong with pointing out that a politician spews bile at Israel and the Jews, it is an indication that the group believes there is nothing wrong with such behavior. Though the group’s condemnation of Barron was the act of a rational liberal group, it was actually out of character with the organization’s spirit and, no doubt, repulsive to many of its activists.

While some in the media have treated MoveOn as a serious player, its moment in the national spotlight during the heyday of the anti-Iraq war protests is over and with it, its claim to mainstream status. The Barron walk back ought to signal those who have lauded it that this creature of George Soros’s wealth should not be accorded the respect it has gotten. The mutual affection of MoveOn and David Duke for an Israel-hater tells you all you need to know about where the group fits into the political spectrum — on the margins where the far left and the far right merge.

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