MoveOn explains anti-war effort in post-Sheehan era
Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org, was interviewed on CNN this morning about his organization's reaction to Cindy Sheehan's decision to step down as a leader of the anti-war movement.
In response to a question about whether he agreed with Sheehan that the Democratic Party had betrayed the cause by capitulating to President Bush on the war funding bill, Pariser responded, "Well, yeah. Many Democrats joined most Republicans in obstructing the will of the American people."
The answer, he said, is to continue to organize and put pressure on members of Congress. "We put pressure on the Democrats to make them listen to the vast majority of their constituents ... and then we put pressure on the Republicans."
When asked to respond to Sheehan's accusation that MoveOn wasn't anti-war enough, Pariser replied graciously, "MoveOn has had differences with her from time to time. I think she was a voice, though, at the beginning, who spoke out when few other people would, and we're very thankful for that."
Pariser was then asked a final question about whether MoveOn is losing its relevance because it wasn't able to unseat Joe Lieberman or defeat the supplemental war funding measure. He stated, "Our members are more active and more powerful than they've ever been. ... With that kind of political wind at our back, I think you're going to see a change in policy in the near future."
The following video is from CNN's American Morning.
ROBERTS: Ten minute after the hour now.
This morning the anti-war movement is moving on without one of its strongest voices. Cindy Sheehan, who you will remember lost her son in Iraq, says she's stepping away from the spotlight. Sheehan blasting the Democrats, saying they had turned against her when she tried to hold them to the same standards that she held Republicans.
Sheehan told The Associate Press, "I've been wondering why I'm killing myself and wondering why the Democrats caved in to George Bush."
Eli Pariser is director of MoveOn.org, and he joins us now from Portland, Maine.
Good morning to you, Eli. Good to see you.
ELI PARISER, DIRECTOR, MOVEON.ORG: Good morning.
ROBERTS: So, Cindy Sheehan says that the Democratic Party betrayed the cause by capitulating to President Bush on this war funding bill. Did they?
PARISER: Well, yes. I think Democrats joined -- many Democrats joined most Republicans in obstructing the will of the American people. People saw the election last November as a mandate for Democrats to leave the country out of the mess in Iraq. And so far they haven't done that.
ROBERTS: So what does MoveOn.org do now? What do you do about the Democratic leaders who negotiated this bill, even though they refused to vote for it, and for those Democrats who did vote for it, both in the House and in the Senate?
PARISER: Well, I think we do two things. We -- you know, we organize. We put pressure on the Democrats to make them listen to the vast majority of their constituents and most people across the country who want this war to end.
We make sure that every time they come home they're hearing from constituents who want the war to end. And then we put pressure on the Republicans, because let's not forget, it's the Republicans when are obstructing the -- you know, who are obstructing the two-thirds vote we're going to need to override President Bush's veto.
ROBERTS: Right. So, how much pressure do you put on the Democrats? Of course, many people remember back to the 2006 election, where it was MoveOn.org that led the challenge to Senator Joe Lieberman. He was a supporter of the war, and it was MoveOn.org who led the charge to try to get him out of office.
PARISER: Well, that's right. We, you know, are not a party organization. We're an independent organization.
Our members feel very strongly about a responsible end to the war. And we focus on politicians, Democrats or Republicans, who are standing in the way of that.
Right now, you know, we're going to focus on the Democrats who voted yes, who gave Bush another blank check for this war. And we're going to focus on Republicans because, again, they are the people who are siding with President Bush and supporting his failed policy.
ROBERTS: Now, MoveOn.org was one of Cindy Sheehan's early supporters. She then turned against your organization as she moved further to the left, claiming that you're not anti-war enough.
Is there any validity to her charges?
PARISER: Well, you know, I think none of us could can really understand what it's like to be a mother who lost her son in this war. And I think, you know, in any war, but especially in a war that was as tragically mismanaged, as huge as a blunder as this one.
So, Cindy and MoveOn, you know, our members have had differences with her from time to time. I think she was a voice though at the beginning who spoke out when few other people would. And we're very thankful for that.
ROBERTS: Is MoveOn.org losing relevance? And I ask that question because you did target Senator Joe Lieberman in 2006. He won, despite your best efforts to unseat him. You led a campaign against this wartime supplemental and it got passed.
Do you still have the clout you used to have?
PARISER: You know, I think, you know, our members are more active and more powerful than they've ever been. You know, I think you saw that in the first round of the supplemental where the Democrats, with our support, sent a bill to President Bush that did have timelines and did have teeth to end the war.
ROBERTS: Right, but you lost, so how do you explain that? PARISER: I think you saw that in the 2006 elections. Well, you know, I think some of the Democrats are not on that page yet, but what we have is we have a majority of the public, a vast majority, not just Democrats, but Independents and Republicans, who feel this war is a terrible mistake, and who are working through MoveOn and through other organizations to make a correction. And with that kind of -- with that kind of political wind at our back, you know, I think you're going to see a change in the policy in the near future.
ROBERTS: All right. Well, we'll take a look and see if you can be effective on that front.