Why 7 Million Progressives Just Jumped Into the Presidential Race

Today, MoveOn announced that its 7 million members have voted, with 91 percent in support, to endorse President Obama. A number of progressive friends have asked me why we would endorse the president, given MoveOn members' disagreements with him. The short answer is, MoveOn members believe the future of the economy and the middle class are at stake, they see this election as a choice between two candidates and they don't want to sit on the sidelines.

Our members shared their thoughts about the clear and present threat that Mitt Romney represents to the middle class and those struggling to join it:

Romney will strip the middle class of everything -- all protections, such as environmental, educational funding, health issues, job security, social security, and medicare. Please do all you can to reelect President Obama. -- Linda, PA

Two SCOTUS judges are expected to retire in the next 4 years. I would much rather have Obama choose their successors than Romney. With the House and possibly the Senate in Republican hands post 2012, the White House would be the firewall that could prevent the dismantling of the social safety net. Romney has expressed his desire to end Obamacare even though many of its provisions are very popular (and just plain ethical). -- Mike, NC

MoveOn members have fought the Administration hard -- on the public option, the 2010 extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and the disastrous debt ceiling deal, for starters. This year, we've pushed the President to do more to hold Wall Street accountable and to commit publicly to vetoing any further extension of the tax cuts for the rich. Our members believe that re-electing the president will not bring progress in itself, but, rather, is a precondition for progress.

At the end of the year, we will stand at the edge of a Jobs Cliff, when Congress will set our nation's economic course for a decade or more. The Republican plan -- extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, financed by huge cuts to vital services and the expiration of unemployment benefits -- would wipe out millions of jobs with the stroke of the pen. It would drag the economy back into recession and be a long-term disaster for the middle class.

Democrats are in disarray. Some are talking about unilaterally undoing the automatic defense cuts that give them leverage, while others are waffling on what the right cutoff is for extending the Bush tax cuts. To win the Jobs Cliff fight, progressives will have to push Democrats hard. But to have a prayer, we need to win the presidential election first.

If Republicans take the Senate and the White House -- both of which look very possible at this point -- they can extend the Bush tax breaks for the rich, give corporations more tax privileges, end Medicare, slash Social Security, wipe out the EPA, zero out the funding for Wall Street Reform and repeal Obamacare -- all through reconciliation, with only 51 votes, in a matter of weeks. Good bye, middle class.

And then there's the Supreme Court, with three justices, including progressive Ruth Bader Ginsburg, set to turn 80 during the next term. Is it any wonder MoveOn members see this as an all-hands-on-deck moment?

The bind progressives are in is real. Despite notable champions within their ranks, many Democrats take progressive votes for granted; even though the 2010 election offered conclusive proof that a dispirited base spells electoral disaster.

Clearly, we should not support all Democrats, always. In 2010, MoveOn members decided to focus on saving endangered progressives vs. helping the Blue Dogs who'd voted no on Obamacare or clean energy.

But progressives can get overly focused on sitting on our hands, as a strategy for building power. Never underestimate Democrats' ability to learn the wrong lesson from a loss. Remember the dramatic left turn of 2001? I didn't think so.

We have a bunch of different avenues for building progressive power and we need to use them all: moving public opinion; fighting for progessive policies and making examples of lawmakers in both parties who stand in the way; organizing lots more people; supporting or blocking lawmakers' signature initiatives; and making sure our issues are front and center in the election.

The latter is crucial right now. That's why MoveOn will be focused on forcing both candidates to address key economic justice questions, and doing all we can to make this race a choice between a country that works for the 1% and a country that works for everyone.

In the long run, we need to get much, much better at electing progressives, and winning primaries, all the way down the ballot -- not just working the top races. At MoveOn, we've been testing new methods, with our allies, for recruiting and supporting progressive candidates at the local and state level. It's paid off with recent victories in Oregon and Nevada.

But in the short term, we face an election whose outcome will shape America for a generation. And, for MoveOn members, who know what's at stake for 99%, it's one we can't afford to lose.