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Lauren57: I have been a progressive activist for 30 years, and the Occupy movement is the most hopeful movement for social and economic change I have seen in my adult life.
I have been a "member" of MoveOn since they started and even had a house party for them back in 2005. The problem with them is that they are top down and hierarchical. Their only attempts to get their "members" to have input into their agenda was years ago when they did polling of their members as to their priorities. They also asked their members to comment on people’s comments, which proved highly unwieldy when you have 5 million members potentially weighing in.
Also, they are a national organization that develops national actions that don’t always relate to local conditions. For example, the first action we were asked to do after the house party was to set up tabling to get people to sign petitions to our Senators asking them to oppose the nuclear option that Republicans were threatening to use to overcome Democratic opposition to Bush’s nominees. Well, here in California, our Senators are Democrats and would never have voted for this. So doing that action would have been a waste of our time. And there is no real way for members to communicate directly with the leaders of MoveOn. You have to go through your local council, who then goes to the regional director and so on up the line. Also, you are "allowed" to have your own local actions, but they never give you the email list of all the members in your area to make those local actions more effective.
Rebuild the Dream started more democratically where they had house parties and on-line voting to determine the top ten priorities. But again, these are national priorities and they must all be achieved through legislation and the electoral system. The Occupy movement is challenging the entire system by which we are governed. The idea of getting all the progressive groups out of their own silos and under one banner was a good idea by Van Jones to try to achieve the same uniformity of purpose as the Tea Party. But it is questionable as to whether that will work with progressives who tend to want to reason things out and are less likely to fall in line under some authoritative leadership than are conservatives.
But since they started last summer, they were eclipsed by the Occupy movement who, with their organic, bottom up development and the passion and dedication of the participants who have been willing to put their bodies on the line, managed to capture the public imagination and change the national dialogue in ways these liberal groups were unable to do. As to the 99% Spring, they are adopting the messaging and tactics of the more successful Occupy movement. But I have been on their national calls and another Occupier went to the trainers’ training, and the fact is, they have no soul.
Unlike on an Occupy call where no one voice dominates and everyone has input, the 99% Spring call was dominated by one speaker who dictated to the listeners. We were only allowed to speak during a three-minute break out session. And even then, we had to answer a predetermined question of one idea we could think of to make the action better. At the training, they had the trainees do all sorts of silly motivational chants, etc. It is highly orchestrated and scripted and the participants are there to do someone else’s bidding not to make their own decisions, much less their own revolution. They really are unable to answer questions such as, what are we supposed to do with this training once it’s over or what is the end game.