96% of MoveOn Members Did Not Show Support for the Pelosi Bill

On Sunday, March 18, Sheldon Rampton and I wrote “Iraq: Why Won’t MoveOn Move Forward?”, an article now widely circulated online. It has helped to focus debate on whether the Democratic Party is really attempting to end the war in Iraq, or is content to simply manage the war for supposed electoral advantage in 2008.


The liberal advocacy group MoveOn has 3.2 million members. Yesterday MoveOn misleadingly claimed that the results from their recent member survey showed overwhelming support for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill on Iraq. “The results are in from our poll on whether to support Speaker Pelosi’s proposal on Iraq: 84.6% of MoveOn members voted to support the bill,” according to MoveOn. However, this claim flunks the smell test and is far far from accurate.


MoveOn is engaging that oldest of PR games known as ‘lies, damned lies and statistics.” The truth is that 96% of MoveOn’s 3.2 million members did not even bother to vote in their member survey. Most of MoveOn’s members probably ignored and failed to open the email, since nothing in the subject line indicated it was particularly important. MoveOn informed this reporter that about 126,000 people voted in what I pointed out to them was a very biased pro-Pelosi poll. The MoveOn question essentially provided a choice of Pelosi and peace (Yes), or Republicans and war (No). Gee, guess how that one gets answered?


The real news is that 96% of MoveOn’s huge list did not vote with them to support the Pelosi bill. When MoveOn says 84.6% of their members chose Pelosi’s bill, they mean 86.4% of the measly four percent of their members who bothered to open their email and respond. A polling of members in which 96% do not vote is no polling at all. Unfortunately MoveOn, while claiming to represent their overwhelmingly anti-war membership, is being unaccountable and anti-democratic.


An article in Politico.com makes clear the crucial role MoveOn has played by supporting the Democratic leadership over the large caucus of pro-peace progressive Democrats. Here’s a description of how the MoveOn survey was used inside the Capitol: “A jovial Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger went up to fellow Maryland Rep. Albert Wynn as he sat off the floor with a reporter and told Wynn that a vote against the bill was a vote for Republican victory. He waved a copy of the MoveOn.org press release backing the measure. ‘Have you seen this?’ Ruppersberger asked. ‘Yeah, who did that?’ replied Wynn, a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus.”


The biased “poll” that MoveOn emaiied to its 3.2 million subscribers reads like a Soviet ballot. Many liberal strategists inside the Beltway believe that that what the House leadership is doing is smart and practical politics. In fact, this is back room power politics of the worst sort, a cynical ‘Let It Bleed’ strategy that abandons efforts to halt the war and is geared toward getting Democrats elected in 2008 by blaming the continuing quagmire of the Iraq occupation on the Republicans.


The American people deserve leadership and honesty from their political representatives and from groups that claim to be representing them. A choice between Republican or Democratic gamesmanship on Iraq is no choice at all when it allows the dying and suffering of tens of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to go on, all for some campaign leverage down the road in 2008. As confused as the American public has been by the Bush propaganda that sold the war, and the failure of the mainstream media to confront and expose it, there is now a solid majority of Americans who want the US out now or in the very immediate future. They are not being served by partisan gamesmanship, nor is their country.


John Stauber is Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin. He can be reached at: john@prwatch.org 


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