I'm a longtime admirer and member MoveOn.Org. MoveOn has helped transform progressive politics, point the way to a new web-based activism, and raised millions of dollars to support progressive candidates.
The key to MoveOn's success has been its core democratic principles. As its web site puts it, "Every member has a voice in choosing the direction." When MoveOn wanted to decide which candidate to support in the Democratic primary, it didn't have a conference call among a small group of leaders. It polled its 3.2 million members.
However, when it comes to health care reform, MoveOn's leaders seem to be overlooking its core democratic principles. Without asking the opinion of its members, MoveOn's leaders have elected to join the steering committee of (and pledge at least $500,000 of its members' money to) a new health care coalition called Health Care For America Now, which excludes supporters of single payer health care, many of whom are MoveOn members. HCAN instead supports preserving and reforming the private health insurance system (while offering an expensive public alternative that individuals and employers can buy into with their own money).
I recently critiqued this coalition in the Huffington Post and was joined a day later by Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. (In the name of a full and fair debate, the type which I believe MoveOn and HCAN should be encouraging among its members, also see the blog by HCAN's Richard Kirsch, which while criticizing the private health insurance industry, also reassures the health insurance lobby that HCAN supports preserving private insurance.)
MoveOn's leaders could have encouraged this kind of debate and pushed for HCAN to organize itself as a broad coalition of progressive health care reformers, encompassing both single payer supporters and supporters of a private/public compromise. Instead, HCAN has enshrined the preservation of private health insurance in its Statement of Principles and has excluded single payer supporters from its events. I'm friends with some of HCAN's founders and honor their deep commitment to health care reform. But I believe that they have chosen a strategy that divides the progressive movement, right at the moment when we may have the best chance in a generation to fundamentally transform America's failing health care system.
Now a coalition of single payer supporters, including Progressive Democrats for America, Healthcare-NOW, Physicians for a National Health Care Program, and the All Unions Committee For Single Payer Health Care, are circulating an online petition requesting that MoveOn follow its core democratic principles and -- after sponsoring a vigorous online debate on whether to support reforming private insurance with a voluntary public add-on, or replacing private health insurance with a universal single payer system -- allow MoveOn's members to vote on which approach they support.
You can find the petition at http://pdamerica.e-actionmax.com/takeaction.asp?aaid=3436
Whatever your position on health care reform, if you agree that MoveOn's members, and not just its leaders, should determine MoveOn's direction on the vital issue of health care reform, please go there and sign the petition.
Then please email the petition to your friends and supporters and ask them to sign too.
UPDATE: The Petition has only been on line for a couple of hours and already over 1000 [2 hours later and its up to 1500] people have signed. [A FEW HOURS LATER AND ITS UP TO 2000 SIGNATURES, AND THE PETITION HAS ONLY BEEN UP FOR LESS THAN 12 HOURS--KEEP THOSE SIGNATURES COMING, AND PASS THE PETITION LINK ON TO YOUR FRIENDS.]
Here's the text of the Petition:
WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, respectfully petition the leaders of MoveOn.Org to abide by its core democratic principles and ask the opinion of its members whether they support reform of the private health insurance system or replacement of private health insurance by universal single payer health care, before MoveOn continues to organizationally and financially support a new coalition which supports the former and excludes the latter.
WHEREAS, MoveOn has had extraordinary success because it has presented itself as democratic organization in which, as its web site proclaims, every member has a voice in choosing the direction.
WHEREAS, MoveOn's leadership has not followed its democratic principals regarding the choice of MoveOn's direction on one of the most important issues confronting the country, universal health care.
WHEREAS, Tens of thousands of activists, including many MoveOn members, have been organizing at the grassroots in support of replacing Americas fragmented and wasteful system of private health insurance with a universal single payer Medicare-For-All system that would cover everyone from cradle to grave, in which health care decisions would be made between patients and doctors and not by insurance company bureaucrats, and in which everyone would have the right to choose her or his own doctor. Medicare-For- All is embodied in H.R. 676 introduced by Rep. John Conyers and co-sponsored by 91 members of Congress.
WHEREAS, With the longstanding coalition called Healthcare NOW playing a key role, HR 676 has been endorsed by 452 union organizations, including 111 Central Labor Councils, 36 State AFL-CIO federations, and 17 national or international unions including the United Auto Workers, The National Education Association, The American Federation of Teachers, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee; such national organizations as the NAACP, Progressive Democrats of America, Physicians for a National Health Program, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society; and 32 City Councils including Baltimore, Louisville, Indianapolis, Detroit and Boston.
WHEREAS, Without asking the opinion of its members, the leaders of MoveOn have chosen to join the steering committee and pledge $500,000 of its members money to a competing health care coalition with the confusingly similar name Health Care For America Now, whose Statement of Principles seeks to preserve and reform the private health insurance system (adding an expensive public alternative that businesses and individuals can pay for with their own money) and which systematically excludes supporters of single payer health care, including many of MoveOn's own members, from its events.
WHEREAS, We, the undersigned, believe that this decision by MoveOn's leadership to take a major leadership and fundraising role in this competing coalition to reform private health insurance and exclude single payer supporters, many of whom are MoveOn members, violates MoveOn's core principle that MoveOn's members choose its direction.
NOW THEREFORE, We, the undersigned, respectfully call on MoveOn to follow its core democratic principles and sponsor an online debate between supporters of universal single payer health care and supporters of reforming private health insurance with a voluntary public alternative, and then let MoveOn's members vote on which approach to health care reform they believe MoveOn should support.
To sign, click here.