Trying to Move On MoveOn.Org
In the spirit of ecumenism, and convinced that there is too much one-sidedness in the political discussion now riving the country, I attended my first (and probably only) meeting of MoveOn.org, the radical progressive organization that, backed by the billions of Richie Rich radical mover and shaker George Soros, has spearheaded so much dissension since the advent of Bush 43, and now continues to fulminate against those on the right who stand against the dubious programs of President Barack Obama.
Using a pseudonym, I checked into the meeting held on East 49th. The meeting was called for 3 pm, and lasted close to three hours. The 8-page agenda handout was entitled AMERICAN DREAM HOUSE MEETING, and was hosted, it said, by Rebuild the Dream, "powered by MoveOn.org civic action."
MoveOn.org Civic Action is listed as a 501(c)(4) organization that primarily focuses on "non-partisan" education and advocacy on important national issues. Its membership numbers are not disclosed.
The location promised a swank coop, perhaps, or at least a brownstone with antiques and sky-high views of the UN, but no. The actual venue was down a dark alley, with a cage in the rear for two straining-at-the-leash doberman pinschers. It was a basement bunker that evoked the hideouts of the Partisans during WWII, with space for some 25 to 30 people of varying ages and incomes. Josef Mengele, perhaps, could have used the site for some of his less savory "experiments" on Jewish twins: raw cement stucco walls, painted garish shades of chartreuse, bilious pink, and Simpson blue. Harsh fluorescent lighting. Tile floors. Beams. Building joists and columns.
Happily, immediately to hand near our card-table chair was a table of beckoning finger foods, unexpected though certainly, in the sweltering heat of a 90+-degree NYC summer Sunday, welcome. Sodas and water in a Styrofoam ice crate. M&Ms and chocolate kisses "to balance out," as one of the organizers advised us, the crudités and tuna and ham wraps, broccoli and cauliflower florets; pretzels, chips, and sour cream dip. Tea Party meetings are not often accompanied by tasty morsels. But then again, this was a deliberate effort to undermine, copy, and supersede the Tea Party juggernaut that has proven so remarkably durable and provident at the ballot box.
The effort to supplant the largely spontaneous Tea Party was clearly at the top of the agenda, as various people repeatedly stated this weekend was a grassroots effort "across the country" of the progressive team. We were told that MoveOn is "about 5 million strong." And that, this weekend, some 20,000 people were meeting in house meetings all over the country. The handout states that there would be 25,000 people meeting throughout the metropolitan areas so key to recapturing the dream. It is not accidental that the term "American dream" figures so prominently in this scheme, since the push for illegal amnesty has come under the same rubric, called the DREAM Act entitlement program. The DREAM Act has met with determined resistance whenever it has come up for a vote, despite the backing of key Democrat legislators and the administration itself.
A nice surprise was that the speakers and handlers framed the debate in positive terms: When the group of 25 or so was broken up into smaller discussion groups to "share their personal stories" (what we have struggled with, how the economy is impacting us or a family member or loved one -- like the Socialist cells I remember from the Women's Movement), we were also tasked with saying "what experience made us proud to be American."
The handout: Moments that show us what's possible -- Think of a time in your life when you felt most proud of your community or of America. (Like that "or" part.)
Amusingly, one woman said she was most proud of America to see the union protest in Wisconsin. Another was most proud of the recent passage of the "Gay Marriage" bill and marched delightedly in the parade "although [he] is not gay." Normal reasons to be proud of the country somehow failed to emerge. I chose to contrast the extraordinary freedoms of this country as limned against the strictures of so many countries I have lived in or visited, where speech is fettered, access to liberty is denied, and women and minorities have various obstacles and penalties for not being majoritarian members of the society. Mouths dropped for some reason; this seemed an unexpected reason to be proud of the United States. It had not dawned on the attendees.
Three floor fans blew an attempt at cooling air in our direction, obscured by every back that interceded between the recipients and the chairs occupied by the small discussion groups.
The meeting was called to order by the repeated welcomes of the cheery leader, a good-looking guy in his early 30s. We heard a recording from a minority servicewoman who complained about the various discomforts she has had to endure in defending her country: Being away from her family. Earning less than in civilian life. Not having a regular job. We were asked to recruit at least five new members each to make the movement "as broad-based as possible."
The meat and potatoes part of the meeting, after we groused about the bad jobs or no jobs we had or didn't have, was deciding three suggestions each on four pages of suggestions garnered, we read, from 23,000 submitted across the breadth of the country.
The headings of these pages: Good jobs now. We all pay our share. Strong communities. And Working democracy.
But these, great as they sound, were each subtitled: How do we create good jobs and invest in a sustainable future for America and our kids? How can we stop corporations and the rich from dodging taxes? (Aha, getting the picture?) How do we ensure good healthcare, quality education, and a retirement with dignity for all? How do we make sure the people call the shots -- and no one gets left out?
What was remarkable, in the drum-roll of incessant calls for union strength and punish the "rich" and the "obscene pay of CEOs" of those rich corporations, was that President Obama was not mentioned even once in three hours. Either he is deemed irrelevant or his performance is so weak that mentioning him is considered a compromising element in a group-think aiming at strength.
Another interesting observation is that facts seemed scarce, though suggestions rolled along with imperviousness. When I stated that "moving toward a clean, green, independent energy future" (point number 1 on the Good jobs Now page) was problematic because the bulbs they advised were twice as costly, inefficient, gave poor light, and were lethal when broken and their gases released, there was a confusion evident. When I noted that green jobs are sourced as destroying 3 regular jobs for every so-called greenie, I was confronted as if I had posited that Martians were running the nearby deli: How do you know that? Where are your facts from? How can you say that? Yet it is extremely well-documented that elimination of jobs is one of the first fallouts of these mythical green jobs.
One attractive Canadian, not a citizen, complained frequently that she has had a hard time getting a good job, and has endless trouble getting medical coverage since she moved (by choice) from Vancouver to NYC. She finesses the problem by marrying a local and capturing our perks. No telling if or when she plans to become a citizen. She works now for that outstanding public service benefactor, Code Pink. She is not even a citizen.
When I pointed out the shortfalls of solar energy, wind farms, geothermal, and hybrid formats in transportation and the like, again I was met with dumbfounded consternation. The leader of our module tried earnestly to answer our concerns and objections, but though she spoke at length, she never allayed our objections, based in fact and reality. The idea that coal is a massive resource in the country seemed to have escaped notice. When I noted I had gone to ANWR and sourced the fact that we must use our own energy sources, and not foreign dependency addiction, there was hemming and hawing. No one else had been to ANWR, and the idea that the small acreage was friendly to wapiti and elk, and in fact was an ugly area of Alaska, so we would not be despoiling any glorious landscape, evoked more throat-clearing.
Our effort was to edge the group consensus toward ideas and concepts the normal person in the country could agree to -- and there were precious few of those. Every other suggestion was some variant of Boost Workers' Pay! And Stop The War On Workers! Stop the waste of wars and invest the money in peace-building. Tax speculation. Get corporations to pay. Robin Hood tax -- tax Wall Street speculation. Tax "dirty energy" -- in which they include oil, gas, coal, and nuclear.
The one suggestion I could get behind: Take care of our veterans. One that was and remains childish: Medicare for all, the single-payer mantra that has been the constant caterwaul of this and all the radical groups. Another: Break the big banks. Stop the assault on workers' rights! Keep the unions strong! And on every page, Tax, Tax, Tax "the rich."
Not a single mention of the legislative advents of the current White House occupant.
We did help push: Slam shut the door on lobbying by administration flunkeys for 6 months after leaving office. And don't allow "anonymous" political influence, since the president is more guilty of this than are any candidates in the GOP or Independent groups. And stop paying corporations for off-shoring jobs.
All the while, I acted innocent and credulous, since just attending this event was one of the most difficult things I have done this year. Not snorting in derision at the naiveté and absurdity of the suggestions was a major feat worthy of an Academy Award, I think.
I further tried to avoid being photographed with the infernal ubiquity of cell-phone cameras clicking off every few moments. I wore sunglasses on and off -- and escaped with a callow excuse when they all gathered for a group photo. No tell-tales, thank you very much.
Looking at the programmatic efforts, and the silliness of the rabid hatred for the "wealthy" and "corporate," coupled with the puerile focus of forcing society to deliver what cannot be mandated, while they ignore the entire workings of the capitalist enterprise heretofore so successful in the annals of the world, one could extrapolate that this inane bunch have not much of a prayer.
Except it would be a mistake to take the adulthood of the polity for granted, even if the elections of 2010 proved a tsunami of dissatisfaction with the current lot in Congress.