If Michael Moore Would Run for President

If Michael Moore would run for President in 2012, it could be a game-changer in American political life. For starters, it would likely shorten the war in Afghanistan by at least six months, and the American and Afghan lives that would be saved would alone justify the effort.

If Moore announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination now, and followed up that announcement with a vigorous campaign focused on the struggles of rank-and-file Democrats, it would re-mobilize rank-and-file Democratic activists. It's possible that he might even win; but win or lose, the campaign could arrest and reverse the current rightward, pro-corporate trajectory of our national politics, which is the predictable consequence of the failure of Team Obama to deliver on its promises from 2008, which in turn was the predictable consequence of the doomed effort to try to serve two masters: Wall Street and Main Street.

Like few people with his political views, Michael Moore needs no introduction to the Democratic primary electorate. To most rank-and-file Democrats, the name Michael Moore stands for a set of progressive populist ideas: health care for all, workers' rights, opposition to Wall Street's stranglehold on Washington, closing down the wars of empire and bringing our troops home.

In 1984 and 1988, the Jesse Jackson campaigns showed what could be accomplished running a populist, issue-based, movement campaign in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. In 1984, Jackson got more than 3 million votes, a fifth of the total, and won 5 primaries and caucuses. In 1988, he got almost 7 million votes and won seven primaries and four caucuses; at one point, following his victory in the Michigan caucus, he was ahead in delegates.

Of course, the progressive Jackson campaigns had a particular starting point: their base in the African-American community. But a Michael Moore campaign would also have a starting point: his status as an international progressive populist rock star. The moment that Michael Moore says, "I am a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 2012," it's a live proposition. And Moore would have tools for getting out his message - videos and the internet - that the Jackson campaign didn't have in 1988.

Like few American progressives of his prominence, Moore has the ability to connect with and mobilize working-class anger at Washington and Wall Street.

In the Jackson campaign, picket lines were campaign stops. That's the kind of campaigning that could be happening now. You get out the campaign message, but you also shine a spotlight on local struggles, nationalize them and magnify their power.

In Michael Moore's last movie, there was a long sequence about the struggle of the UE workers in Chicago. Those are the stories around the country that the Moore campaign for President would be telling to a national Democratic audience: Studs Terkel with a video camera and an RSS feed.

A Moore campaign for President announced today could be active in this Congressional election cycle: campaigning for progressive Democrats in the 2010 primaries, and thereby mobilizing the national progressive base in these contests, campaigning for progressive Democrats in the November election, building its national organization at the same time. A Moore campaign for President would compete for the endorsement of every organization of progressive Democrats, including Progressive Democrats of America, MoveOn, and Democracy for America. A Moore campaign would compete for the support of labor unions, which would put the Employee Free Choice Act and fair trade right back at the top of the national agenda. And a Moore campaign would work to build the base of the endorsing organizations.

If Obama's advisers knew for certain that they would face an effective progressive challenge in the 2012 primaries and caucuses, it's likely that they would start making different political choices immediately, because everything they fail to accomplish by spring 2012 would be on the table in the primaries and caucuses: health care for all, putting America back to work, ending the war in Afghanistan. Most analysts seem to think that there was a strong correlation between Obama's announcement of July 2011 as the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the 2012 election cycle; but an effective primary challenge would bring that calculation forward by six months. It's likely that if Obama's advisers knew they faced a spring 2012 deadline for showing that the war was ending, they would stop undermining Afghan efforts to start peace talks. A Moore campaign could save thousands of American and Afghan lives. In contesting Democratic primaries and caucuses against Michael Moore, Obama's advisers won't be able to prevail by deploying mere rhetoric, because now they're in power, and would have to answer for what they are actually doing.

In many ways, the stage is set perfectly. There will not be a crowded field; if career advancement is your goal, you generally don't run in a primary against a sitting President. When "the Democratic Party is in power" is the ideal time to mount a progressive Democratic challenge, because that's when the inability of Washington Democrats in thrall to Wall Street to deliver on progressive promises is thrown into sharp relief.

The Tea Party movement and the Massachusetts election are a warning. Populist anger is going to go somewhere. Team Obama will not be able to channel that anger so long as its economic team is a subsidiary of Wall Street. If we don't want a repeat of 1994 and a long return to Republican reaction, there must be an alternative voice that can reach the majority of Americans. A Michael Moore campaign could be that voice.  

And for Michael Moore, I think it's a logical next step. He may be near the limit of what he can accomplish politically by only making movies. It's time to make a new documentary: the documentary of a campaign to rally rank-and-file Democrats to take back America from Wall Street, Wal-mart and the military industry.

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Pre-Endorsement Speech Thread

John King on CNN: "Expect a very positive address from Senator Clinton. Don't just look for her to endorse Barack Obama but look for her to enthusiastically make the case of why it is so important that her supporters to get behind Barack Obama." Also, "Senator Clinton will make the case of why it is so important for Democrats now to come together and take the campaign against John McCain into the fall."

6,000 tickets were distributed online to attend Clinton's speech today.

Anyone else think it's funny that the cable news networks are stalking Hillary Clinton's home to get the shot of her leaving for the National Building Museum?

Update [2008-6-7 12:0:34 by Todd Beeton]:Some more speculation about what to expect from Hillary Clinton's speech from Richard Wolff on MSNBC: "I suspect that...what really matters here is that this is a call for Democratic unity. She has to show some leadership in taking her supporters to the issues that are at the heart of Obama's agenda, to say their issues and his issues are the same and that's why they should work together."

Update [2008-6-7 12:10:6 by Todd Beeton]:If you're not at a TV, CNN.com will be streaming the speech live. The speech is not expected to start before 12:30pm EDT at this point. From the cable networks' SUV cam at casa Clinton, the Clintons haven't left their house yet.

Update [2008-6-7 12:18:14 by Todd Beeton]:OK, I think I'm going to have to go back to CNN. Keith just asked Timmeh whether Al Gore's concession speech is the model of the modern day concession and Tim of course pretended that the US would have ceased to exist as we'd known it had Al Gore challenged George W. Bush instead of conceded to him. "One of the most extraordinarily gracious comments in American political history, absolutely. What could have happened on that day if Vice President Gore hadn't been so magnanimous in understanding the need to unite the country." Umm, pray tell, Tim, what exactly would have happened? Christ. How does Keith talk to this guy with a straight face? See ya MSNBC.

Update [2008-6-7 12:26:39 by Josh Orton]: Things aren't much better on CNN. Instead of going over the same conventional wisdom again and again, would it kill cable news networks to maybe find some Hillary Clinton supporters and interview them about how she inspired them? Or how Clinton brought them into the political process? Probably don't have the resources for that. Better to stick with the stakeout of Clinton's house and pointless banter with the same pundits saying nothing useful.

Update [2008-6-7 12:32:28 by Todd Beeton]:Breaking: the Clintons are on the move.

Update [2008-6-7 12:32:28 by Todd Beeton]:The rehabilitation of Bill Clinton in the media is underway. Wolf Blitzer has been asking what Bill Clinton's role in the upcoming election will be and the consensus is that he is uniquely able to appeal to certain segments of the population and has a unique skill at framing issues that could help Barack Obama in the fall, but clearly he will not be nearly as visible in the general as he was in the primary. I like that Wolf asked Donna Brazille why she and Al Gore decided not to use him more in 2000 and she said "We used him strategically to turn out the base...We saw in our polling that Al Gore needed to appeal to independents and Bill Clinton had lost some support among independents."

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Retiring Debt

Hillary Clinton is expected to "suspend" her campaign today, a distinction that will allow her both to hold onto her delegates (although her endorsement would release them to Obama if they choose to switch to him) and to continue to raise money to pay off her $30 million in campaign debt. Clinton advisers are telling The AP that Hillary Clinton will seek help from Barack Obama in retiring the debt.

In politics, money talks. And money is likely to be an important factor in discussions between Barack Obama's advisers and the debt-saddled Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign.

Clinton will likely seek help from Obama in retiring her massive campaign debt, which has swollen to more than $30 million, including $11 million she lent the effort, advisers said Thursday.

How Obama helps Clinton with this could be tricky, but Eric Kleefeld makes an important point that should allay any Obama supporters' fears that it's their donations that will go toward settling Clinton's debts.

For the sake of clarity, it's worth pointing out that the Obama campaign cannot directly give money from its own treasury to the Clinton camp. Instead, Obama would ask his top fundraisers to help bring in the money, and likely send out e-mails to his much-praised list of small donors asking them to give Hillary a hand.

Of course, whatever deal the two do strike, Barack Obama won't exactly come away empty handed himself.

The former first lady, who plans to bow out of the race and endorse Obama on Saturday, told donors she will raise money for Obama's campaign, both to help the Democratic Party's cash position and to expand the Illinois senator's prodigious fundraising base. Her advisers estimate the former first lady could bring in $50 million to $100 million for the general election campaign...

And, if The AP article is any indication, some of Hillary's advisers may be using the talks to get something more than merely money out of the deal:

...and much more if she were named Obama's running mate.

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Pre-Endorsement Unity Thread

Tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will thank supporters, congratulate Barack Obama and endorse him for president. From her e-mail the other night:

On Saturday, I will extend my congratulations to Senator Obama and my support for his candidacy. This has been a long and hard-fought campaign, but as I have always said, my differences with Senator Obama are small compared to the differences we have with Senator McCain and the Republicans.

I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party's nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise. [...]

I will be speaking on Saturday about how together we can rally the party behind Senator Obama. The stakes are too high and the task before us too important to do otherwise.

She will be speaking at 12pm EDT at the National Building Museum, located at 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. Go HERE for a ticket. I believe Jonathan will be liveblogging it from the venue.

Today, on the eve of Hillary Clinton's concession speech, the word of the day for Democrats is unity.

This afternoon, the Obama campaign sent out a fundraising ask that paid tribute to Hillary's campaign:

I'm sure you've heard that Hillary Clinton is suspending her campaign and announcing her support for Barack. We all owe Senator Clinton -- and her supporters -- a great deal of respect for running an incredible campaign and strengthening our party in all 50 states.

A bit later, I received this from Wes Clark, one of Hillary Clinton's staunchest supporters:

Now I am asking you to come together and make sure Barack Obama is our next president.  This is a critical mission.

Hillary Clinton ran an amazing race.  She inspired millions.  Our party is a better party because of her campaign, and our nation is a better nation because of her service.  She is and will always be a friend whom I admire. [...]

It's time our party comes together to stand behind Senator Obama as we move forward in this election season.

And this evening, Chelsea Clinton addressed the Texas state convention and delivered a message that can only be seen as a preview of her mother's speech tomorrow:

Chelsea Clinton delivered a message to convention delegates from her mother: Thank you for all the support - and now it's time to rally behind Sen. Barack Obama.

Obama, as everyone surely knows, narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"My mother wanted me to be very clear - we are going to united," Chelsea told Texas Democrats.

Her mother, she noted, will be endorsing her formal rival tomorrow. Hillary Clinton will reaffirm "her life-long commitment to support and elect Democrats and Sen. Obama in November," the younger Clinton said.

And how can we forget linfar, who brings her own brand of unity to the rec list:

But the campaign is Over. It is time to move on. I am moving on and this is my first step. [...]

So here's to Hillary Clinton-- the first woman to win nearly 18 million votes in a Democratic Party primary--and to her  concession speech and a united Democratic Party.

It was one hulluva goddamn fight!

Use this as an open thread to pay tribute to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the historic race we've witnessed this year, a contest that will officially come to a close tomorrow. But we all know it's not the last we'll see of Hillary Clinton this year. After all, as Terry McCauliffe promised:

"She will do anything. She has made that clear. She will do anything she can to help Barack Obama,  travel if he wants her to travel everyday she will do that," McAuliffe told reporters outside of Clinton's  Washington DC home Friday, as hundreds of staffers were gathering at the house for a final party.

There's more...

Hillary Clinton's Message To Supporters

Hillary Clinton's message to supporters, via e-mail:

I wanted you to be one of the first to know: on Saturday, I will hold an event in Washington D.C. to thank everyone who has supported my campaign. Over the course of the last 16 months, I have been privileged and touched to witness the incredible dedication and sacrifice of so many people working for our campaign. Every minute you put into helping us win, every dollar you gave to keep up the fight meant more to me than I can ever possibly tell you.

On Saturday, I will extend my congratulations to Senator Obama and my support for his candidacy. This has been a long and hard-fought campaign, but as I have always said, my differences with Senator Obama are small compared to the differences we have with Senator McCain and the Republicans.

I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party's nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise.

When I decided to run for president, I knew exactly why I was getting into this race: to work hard every day for the millions of Americans who need a voice in the White House.

I made you -- and everyone who supported me -- a promise: to stand up for our shared values and to never back down. I'm going to keep that promise today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life.

I will be speaking on Saturday about how together we can rally the party behind Senator Obama. The stakes are too high and the task before us too important to do otherwise.

I know as I continue my lifelong work for a stronger America and a better world, I will turn to you for the support, the strength, and the commitment that you have shown me in the past 16 months. And I will always keep faith with the issues and causes that are important to you.

In the past few days, you have shown that support once again with hundreds of thousands of messages to the campaign, and again, I am touched by your thoughtfulness and kindness.

I can never possibly express my gratitude, so let me say simply, thank you.

Saturday it is. Details as we get them...

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