I received an email from MoveOn.org in my inbox today that included this:
President Obama and most of the congressional Democrats spent the last month working hard to craft a plan that would help keep hundreds of thousands of teachers from being laid off, invest in vital green-energy technology, and provide health care for folks who lose their jobs. What did conservative Democrats and Republicans bring to the table? Rehashed Bush policies and tired talking points. The very same things that got us into this mess in the first place. The stimulus will still create millions of jobs, and it's an important first step, but it could have been even stronger.
They're right. It could have been much, much better. The Republicans' hypocritical whining is only half the reason, though. Another reason why the debate over the stimulus centered on the merits of tax cuts, and not on the merits of actual government stimulus, was because left-leaning organizations like MoveOn.org refused to participate in the debate, and instead became administration mouthpieces.
Independent political organizations exist to challenge leaders and to serve as a forum to debate policy. MoveOn.org had done a great job of that during the election cycle, reminding its members of very liberal issues like the dangers of global warming and the importance of better healthcare. But as soon as Obama won, MoveOn.org's email blasts suddenly consisted entirely of Obama talking points.
I don't know if this is because they're afraid they might lose access to the administration, or if they sincerely believe that Obama's stimulus plan is the best that could be done. Either way, it's disappointing.
If organizations like MoveOn.org had joined the stimulus debate from the beginning, they could have pulled the policy debates leftward and made it easier for Obama to pass the kind of stimulus the country really needs. Instead, MoveOn bought into Obama's bipartisan gestures, and as a result the country was fixated by the Republicans' insane call for more tax cuts and less spending.
It's a disservice to its members, and it's a disservice to the country.