Baron Dazzled by MoveOn

Jim Baron writes:

…when I heard there was a [] meeting scheduled at a home in Barrington last week, I thought I would sit in and see what it was all about.
The meeting, replicated in living rooms all over the country on the same night — the national MoveOn organization claims 7,000 people at meetings in 350 cities, which divides into about 20 people each, which was about the number of folks at Sam and Pat Smith’s house on Tuesday — was billed as a “Mandate for Change.”
The idea, Sam Smith explained, was to “remind Congress members why they were elected.” MoveOn likes to take at least a little credit for nationwide Democratic sweep in November and, Sam noted, “the progressives we sent to D.C. need support to carry out the agenda.”
Ideology and issues aside — I was there to observe these folks clinically, as a lab technician observes subjects of an experiment, and the content of their discussions were not as important to me as the fact that the discussions were happening — I was pretty impressed and heartened that meetings like this could be taking place in living rooms across America in 2006. If there were another group, nationwide or local, similar to this one espousing conservative values and issues, that would be equally exciting.

Um…Mr. Baron….over here! (Now, to continue…)

This was a working meeting of individuals — not a pre-existing group with an agenda, like a labor union, a parent-teacher organization or a religious group — people who came together with the express purpose of participating in the political process. It was not a cocktail or dinner party where a political discussion happened to break out.

Yikes…that’s being a bit naive. “[N]ot a pre-existing group with an agenda”? Before a bunch of people get together to make a labor union, are they a pre-existing group? Howsabout a group of parents in a nascent PTO? In fact, Baron’s last comparison, a religious group, may come the closest to describing what they are. These folks worship at the altar of liberal progressivism (and some at a sub-altar of anti-Bushism). In reality, they are nothing more than a grassroots PAC for the Democrat Party. That is their agenda: first, elect Democrats, second make sure that said Democrats act appropriately liberal and progressive. They are as ideological–and thus have an agenda–as any labor union or PTO or religion.
But Baron was apparently emotionally MovedOn:

Covering state government in general, and the General Assembly in particular, you can get a little bit jaded about the way politics works. Watching these sincere people gather in a living room in Barrington to try to convince their public officials to pay attention to people rather than lobbyists or contributors can restore your sense of the possible in politics.
My first thought: We need these people, or some like them, to keep an eye on the Statehouse.

I’d venture to bet that most of those “sincere people” uniformly voted Democrat last election, putting back in power all of those in the RI Statehouse whom Baron seems to think need their feet held to a fire. In actuality, the watchdogs for whom Mr. Baron yearns are to be found hereabouts and in places like Common Cause and Operation Clean Government. Those are also groups of like-minded citizens.
The folks who make up MoveOn are to be congratulated for their participation. But they neither represent anything new nor anything particularly unique in the history of this country. Abolition, the temperance movement, labor organization: all came about because individuals sought change via a grassroots movement. These small, localized efforts morphed into larger efforts driven by larger groups. Eventually, someone was bright enough to bring these disparately led groups together. That’s what the founder’s of MoveOn did.
Baron’s MoveOn meetup group is just an example of a local chapter of a larger national organization getting together. Like a Cub Scout pack meeting–nothing more, nothing less. Let’s not deify them just yet, OK?

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17 years ago

I was quite amused to read Baron’s column this morning. Baron has long been a Democratic party sympathier if not a card carrying member of the party. His column this morning makes that point very clear. Not one of Jim’s better efforts. Has Baron ever written such a column on OCG?
Of course he hasn’t.

17 years ago

I’ve dealt with Jim, and he’s not exactly a card-carrying Dem. He’s bagged on the good old boys pretty good in his time.

17 years ago

Actually, I have a couple of friends who were active in on the national level in the 2004 campaign but who also are disgusted by Democrats on the state and local level, going so far as to quietly assist Republican (gasp!) candidates in the last two elections.
If many Rhode Island move on-ers were like my friends, Baron is right, the General Assembly would be in trouble. But it’s not clear if they are representative or just smart about state politics.

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