Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Priorities USA Action”

Move On – Super PAC?

I’ve been a big fan of MoveOn.org since the last Presidential election. I smiled every time I sat in my car behind one of their bumper stickers and, being from the Bay Area and having a long commute, I probably smiled a lot.

I have also been a critic of Super PACs and voiced my disappointment at the establishment of an Obama Super PACPriorities USA Action – so you will excuse me when I realized that MoveOn.org may well be defined as a PAC. It probably wasn’t envisioned as such (or at least not with the baggage the Super PACs now carry. From their Wiki Page:

“MoveOn started in 1998 as an e-mail group, MoveOn.org, created by software entrepreneurs Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, the married cofounders of Berkeley Systems. They started by passing around a petition asking Congress to “censure President Clinton and move on”, as opposed to impeaching him. The petition, passed around by word of mouth, was extremely successful; ultimately, they had half a million signatures.[9] The couple went on to start similar campaigns calling for arms inspections rather than an invasion of Iraq, reinstatement of lower limits on arsenic and mercury pollution, and campaign finance reform.”

Joan Blades and Wes Boyd - Founders of MoveOn.org

MoveOn doesn’t have the feel of a Super PAC. They have harnessed email, Facebook, and Meetup forums. It has an Action Forum that allows members to decide and promote progressive causes.

MoveOn has divided into two legally separate entities: one is educational and advocates for national issues (MoveOn Civic Action), while the other is a more traditional PAC, raising millions of dollars for Democratic candidates.

There is nothing wrong, illegal, or immoral with what MoveOn.org is doing. But those bumper stickers just don’t make me smile anymore. I wish for a simpler time, when politicians won elections with scintillating rhetoric, inspiring vision, and a strategy to make the world a better place for all.

But then, that doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Super PAC, Super Disappointment

I have been following the Republican primaries with righteous indignation, just the ticket on the commute to work over the fog-hugging Bay Bridge. Today (Wednesday at the time of writing), Mitt Romney is confident that, despite losses in key states to Rick Santorum, he will win the primaries, because he has the money to buy TV ads.

Really? Not because he attracts the party faithful through his stirring speeches, articulate exposition of policy, his vision and personal principles?

But this seems to be a glimpse of the future political landscape, where money rather than grassroots support, will decide who rises (or floats) to the top.

Those of us on the moral left will point out that our candidate won the elections against considerable odds by rallying hundreds of thousands of people to donate $25, a meaningful contribution for many. We rallied on street corners, in town hall meetings, and across the Internet.

So I am rather upset to hear that President Obama has sanctioned the forming of a Super PAC – Priorities USA Action. Campaign Manager, Jim Messina essentially told us that the President doesn’t like flip-flopping like this, but has to be realistic and anticipate the media assault waiting for him when the real election campaigning begins.

I know that there is a mixed reaction among the faithful. Many are relieved that reality has kicked in before it is too late. Better to accept the future scenario now and do what must be done to ensure four more years.

But other, myself included, have sighed deeply. Did it really have to be this way? Can we not have the courage of our convictions to believe that we will win because our message is right, our vision in tune with what needs to happen, and that Americans are smart enough to treat this like a general election and not a reality show.

Matea Gold and Melanie Mason, have written a great article in the LA Times: Obama’s embrace of ‘super PAC’ will test his base of donors. Worth the read.

I stand as one of the disappointed, but it won’t stop my commitment to reelecting President Obama. I know what the alternative is (whether Romney, Santorum, Paul or Gingrich), and I begrudgingly know how they can win.

I remain stunned that so many people, only a few months into President Obama’s first term, were actually blaming him for the state of the economy, as though none of the economic carnage and greedy abuse happened prior to his election.

Super PACs have no place in politics. They should remain on the Comedy Central where they belong.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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