Thursday, September 06, 2007

Lessons for the anti-war left: How progressives and Dems folded on FISA.

With progressive groups facing Democrats in Congress seemingly more willing to cave in on demands for a firm withdrawal deadlines from Iraq, it's worth looking at how Democrats and progressives caved in to Bush's "War on Terror" politicking earlier this month on the draconian FISA bill. But traditional progressive groups and the emerging "netroots" of bloggers failed to work together effectively to halt the passage of the FISA bill. The same thing could happen again as the anti-war left is divided over how to proceed in pressuring Congress to stand up to Bush's war plans. (You can keep abreast of the shifting debate in Congress over the war at a new blog, Iraq Files, by Ian Fried.)

As I point out in my article on FISA:

The progressive movement was essentially caught off-guard by rapidly moving legislation that threatens some of our most basic values. Here's a thought experiment: If the situation were reversed, and a weakened liberal Democratic president tried to quickly ram through legislation, say, restoring full federal funding for abortion, would a Republican-led Congress and the right-wing media let it slide through without a rapid response and a real fight? Not likely.

[ACLU lobbyist Rachel] Perrone, for one, has drawn some hard lessons about the ACLU's outreach efforts to the blogosphere. "It could be improved on our side by being more consistent. We knew the bill was moving, but we waited until things were on fire." Previous administration proposals to win legislative authority for warrantless eavesdropping died in Congress in the spring, so, she points out, "things fall off the radar until the ship's ready to run into an iceberg."

For their part, some influential bloggers distrust not only Congressional Democrats but the traditional advocacy groups that should be their natural allies. Although Open Left blogger Matt Stoller, who has specialized in using the Web to mobilize activists, now believes that the ACLU did its best to fight the FISA bill, he condemns what he sees as slow-footed, inept communication and organizing strategies by the ACLU and traditional groups on a host of progressive issues, pointing to the ACLU's Find Habeas campaign as "patronizing and idiotic." (The ACLU defends that campaign as part of a broader lobbying initiative that is causing Congress to revisit the habeas issue.)

"We have to leverage these groups to do what they're supposed to be doing," he says. However, he contends that many bloggers don't take what seems to be the obvious step of linking to well-established advocacy groups' Congressional contact pages because "we don't trust them." Yet that was the secret of the successful effort to save net radio -- many websites linking to a well-organized lobbying group. As an advisor on the comparable "net neutrality" campaign, Stoller points to factors of its success missing in some traditional groups' use of the Web: "It explained the politics clearly, and the people being asked to participate trusted those doing the asking." But he won't acknowledge the failures of the blogosphere to work together with groups that share their values by amplifying those groups' lobbying resources.

Yet with the Bush Dog initiative that Stoller's Open Left is launching to hold conservative Democrats accountable, he's taking an important step -- independent of the major progressive advocacy groups -- in using the Web to force the Democratic Congress to stand up to Bush's far-right agenda. "Terrorism is the third-rail issue for Congressional Democrats, but the base has moved on," adds the ACLU's Frederickson. But the key factions in today's progressive movement won't succeed until they learn to work together to create enough pressure on Congress to vote on behalf of those who voted the Democrats into power.

To read more, check out this article:
Behind the FISA Flop | The American Prospect

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?