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RECLAIMING DEMOCRACY

MoveOn revolutionizes political participation

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It's been a long while since progressive politics have been so simple, effective, necessary and fun--thanks in part to the brilliant orchestrations of an online organization and its mere handful of employees yet force of millions--MoveOn.org.

MoveOn was unwittingly born in 1998 by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, out of their frustration with the partisan warfare in Washington, D.C., surrounding the proposed impeachment of President Clinton. Though neither had much political experience, their strong feelings about the need to "move on" past Monica-gate to more critical issues, spawned an online petition entitled "Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation." Blades and Boyd quickly discovered they were not alone--within days, the petition had hundreds of signatures.

MoveOn's humble beginnings set the perfect example of how ordinary citizens can become quickly and effectively involved in politics using the most economical and efficient vehicle around--the Internet. That first petition led to a grand mission for the fledgling organization: to reinstate a true democracy where every person has a political voice.

Since 1998, MoveOn has impacted hordes of frustrated, formerly apathetic, and overly-busy citizens through unparalleled creative methods. At present, MoveOn boasts a network of more than 2,000,000 online activists who work on both local and national levels to revitalize politics. MoveOn chooses its battles strategically, focusing on issues where public opinion and legislation don't match up--campaign finance, environmental issues, media consolidation and the Iraq war. MoveOn builds electronic advocacy groups and provides essential tools to members so they can have an impact.

MoveOn's methods include sending out succinct, engaging and technologically advanced e-mails about contacting legislators to voice your opinion. But where other organizations might merely ask you to "contact your legislators," MoveOn does critical homework for you, making the task of picking up the phone too easy to forego. Within the body of an e-mail they recently circulated to help defeat the Defense of Marriage Act, MoveOn inserted the name and number of Senator Mike Simpson, who was a potential swing vote.

When MoveOn needs to raise money for the bold television or print ads they've expertly produced, the e-mails they transmit contain links to view the ads, which download quickly. MoveOn's media and tech savvy became evident when they went to buy airtime during the last Super Bowl for their ad "Child's Pay" (about who is going to pay off Bush's $1 trillion dollar debt). When CBS refused to air the ad (on the basis of it being an "advocacy ad") MoveOn created another media campaign--about CBS's censorship being a "tragedy of free speech." The end result: the ad zipped all over the Internet, CBS received thousands of angry calls, and MoveOn supporters boycotted the Super Bowl halftime broadcast.

MoveOn is proud to rely heavily on small contributions from many. Since last October, over 160,000 MoveOn members have donated more than $10,000,000 to develop and run ads telling the truth about the Bush administration in key battleground states (i.e. Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Nevada and West Virginia). These ads reveal how Bush has allocated a preposterous $87 billion for Iraq while many Americans cannot earn a living wage and show how his environmental policies (or lack thereof) affect asthmatic African American children. One ad is characterized by two stark checkboxes, one for Bush: The Corporation's Choice, the other Kerry: The People's Choice. MoveOn calculated that viewer tests of this ad yielded an amazing six percent shift toward Kerry.

MoveOn has aligned itself with several recent political film projects; they co-produced Robert Greenwald's film Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War, which was completed in November 2003 and reveals an unquestioned and unchecked road to war. MoveOn helped organize house parties around Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911, asking members to see the film the opening weekend then attend local house parties the following week to discuss the film and to dial into a conference call interview with Moore. As more than 50 Boiseans gathered and dialed in, Boise lit up on an online map, then Phoenix, then Portland--visually connecting more than 55,000 people at 4,600 parties nationwide. Such parties diminish the isolation progressives feel living in conservative states.

In mid-July, MoveOn members assembled at four Treasure Valley homes with cell phones in tow to register voters in critical states like Florida. House party hosts were provided with impeccably detailed, downloadable instructions that included a motivating scripted introduction: "We don't expect overwhelming results here today, just hopefully a registered voter or two per caller. But added up, with thousands of us calling across the nation and with the election as close as it is predicted to be, it can have dramatic results. Only a few hundred voters made the difference in the last presidential election, and the voters we register today could make the difference this year."

One of MoveOn's current campaigns is focused on exposing Fox television network's Republican bias and their inability to present "fair and balanced" news coverage. They have helped underwrite another stirring Robert Greenwald documentary, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism. Currently, MoveOn's Web site has a quick and dirty form you can fill out to ask the FTC to demand Fox News stop misleading consumers. Visitors to the MoveOn site will also find a link to the Daily Mislead, a daily chronicle of Bush administration distortion, plus a slew of other ways to become informed and involved--like donating frequent flier miles to bring troops home.

Self-defined moderate Boisean Patricia Rich says, "MoveOn is so organized and quick to draw attention to the injustices occurring under the present administration. What is most impressive is the degree of honesty and accuracy I have seen. While right-wing media and talk shows exaggerate and mislead, I have never seen anything I felt was overstated or 'spun.'"

On the Web site, you can read about how MoveOn linked arms with the John Kerry campaign to organize house parties to watch Kerry's July 29 speech at the Democratic National Convention. The event raised money for the Kerry campaign and members tuned into a conference call with John Edwards. Signing up to attend such parties is unbelievably easy--once you fill out a few fields and are a MoveOn member, you receive e-mail invitations with direct links to a party near you. Apprehensive types can read quotes about previous house parties and view photos, revealing how fun and accessible politics can be.

MoveOn may just have the mojo to help bring our political system back into balance. Boise resident Shauna Sahlein, who has both hosted and attended local MoveOn events, believes, "We as a country have not done a very good job of education and inclusion when it comes to governance. The idea of being able to disseminate information to many in a very short amount of time so that more can be aware and involved is a very progressive idea. In terms of lighting a fire under the Democrats, MoveOn has already been a blessing. As to whether or not we can expand that circle of light I can only hope for the best and work toward it."

To learn more about MoveOn, visit www.MoveOn.org.

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