Norman Solomon is not very happy with MoveOn and justifiably so. The national mobilization group has chosen the path of least resistance when it comes to taking a stand on the Iraq War. They even went so far as to distance themselves from Cindy Sheehan, the nation’s most pissed off mom. It seems they are uncomfortable calling — as Sheehan has — for the immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq.
Why? Because they perceive an opportunity among those who may be questioning the war but continue to support the troops. MoveOn hopes that by hedging on the war criticism — the war is wrong but the troops aren’t — they will win new followers. The reality is that such equivocating simply angers MoveOn’s base and allies as the group sounds more and more like the administration.
This problem isn’t limited to MoveOn or the war. John Kerry’s debacle last year made it painfully obvious — to all but Kerry and the Democratic Party — that movements can’t be branded, packaged and sold the same way we sell detergent or cigarettes. Nor can they exist if they erase the lines that separate them from the opposition.
Yes, I said the opposition.
The concept of opposition is starting to be treated like a dirty word in this country. Trashing partisanship is becoming a national sport with the media pundits. If it weren’t for our lawmakers behaving in a partisan manner then we would be able to solve all the problems we face. Partisanship — especially manifested through political parties — is keeping us from doing the work we need to do.
Cursing partisanship has become a regular part of our state legislative session. A number of lawmakers have floated the idea of making legislative seats non-partisan. The same suggestion has been made for the lesser executive positions like Secretary of State and Treasurer.
Promoting non-partisanship sits well with one of the most de-politicized electorates in the world. It sustains the fantasy that our political processes are about fair play. If we maintain an even playing field then everyone becomes equal.
We may just as well blame the differences caused by the clothing our lawmakers wear and suggest legislative sessions be held in the nude.
Our role as progressives is not to further weaken our political culture by perpetuating the fantasy that without the barriers of partisanship we can all come together for the greater good. The slick suites on Wall Street, the tanned, smiling faces in the Fortune 500 photo display and the reclusive, well-heeled aren’t interested in coming together with the masses — except for the purpose of making us do their bidding and help further fill their coffers.
As progressives, we must not hide that fact by pursuing non-partisanship. Rather we must be working to expose those who will never be truly interested in even playing fields or equality, those who seek to treat 90 percent of the world as their chattel, and those who are willing to do anything to keep things that way.
We must be partisan if we are to survive. We must be partisan if we are to tear down this current unfair system and replace it with real equality. We must revel in the “roar of the ocean and its many waters.” Those elements are inseparable, just as the quest for freedom and justice cannot be separated from partisanism. If we can’t do that then we better move on so others can get on with the real work.
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The Portland Alliance
2807 SE Stark Portland,OR 97214
Last Updated: October 6, 2005