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Related: A Progressive Vision

December 29th, 2005

Dear MoveOn member,

I just finished writing a report to our Board about what we accomplished together this year. I wanted to share it with you—so we could all step back and take a look at the year that’s ending.

It’s remarkable how far we’ve come in the last twelve months. When the year began we were saddened by our losses. Onlookers and pundits thought our commitment might diminish. But it didn’t. Even in dark times, you never lost sight of the free, fair, and just America that we’re fighting for.

And your passion and commitment were contagious: in 2005, MoveOn grew to over 3.3 million members.

Change happens in fits and starts. Change pools quietly and then all of a sudden breaks down the dam and surges forward. It happened this year in big moments, like when Congressman and Marine veteran John Murtha stood on the House floor and declared that America had to begin its exit from Iraq. But it also happens in small moments—the phone calls from constituents that change a staff member’s mind, a Congressman’s meeting with a clear and passionate constituent.

I want to thank you for those moments—the moments when you dashed out a quick comment to your Congresswoman or made a phone call during lunch break or ponied up $25 for an ad—that, together, made a big difference in 2005.

You don’t need to take my word for it. Here’s a note Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid asked me to send on to all of you:

To the members of MoveOn: I know Congress can often seem very far away. But when you folks call, and write, and hold events that demonstrate how much you care about something we’re doing, it really wakes people up. Your voices remind me and my colleagues that democracy works. I see the impact every day—you’re forcing Congress to answer to the people, not the lobbyists or the White House. And I’m looking forward to fighting alongside you next year.

And here’s what a Bush aide in the White House told a reporter for the conservative Weekly Standard: “Obviously the bombardment of . . . ads and the earned media by MoveOn et al. had an impact."

2006 is around the corner, and our battle to win back Congress begins in earnest in the New Year. The prospect of a big change is good—the political wind and the American people are behind us, pushing us forward.

But right now, what I’m most grateful for is your continued belief in democracy—in the impact we can all have together. Because when we believe we can make a difference together, we do.

Thanks, happy holidays, and here’s to a great ’06,

--Eli Pariser and the whole MoveOn ‘05 team: Wes, Joan, Carrie, Noah, Adam, Rosalyn, Nita, Justin, Laura, James, Erik, Marika, Micayla, Jennifer, Ben, Matt, Tanya, Tom, and Noah.

P.S. MoveOn consists of two main organizations— Political Action, where we run most of our advocacy campaigns and work toward electoral success, and Civic Action, the non-partisan home of the Media Action program and the Hurricane Housing project last fall.

Since this is a Political Action email, I can’t say too much about Civic Action, but MoveOn members did great work there, too. Over a million of us successfully pressured Congress to save NPR and PBS; we launched Media Action, our task force to hold the media accountable; and of course together through the Hurricane Housing website, MoveOn members and others helped house over 30,000 people stranded after Katrina. Thanks for all of that, too.

Annual Report: Political Action in 2005

Executive Summary

We expected 2005 to be a tough year. Together, we faced an ascendant Republican Party which claimed a broad mandate to push American to the right. After the heartbreaking defeat in 2004, we assumed MoveOn members’ energy and engagement would decline to normal levels.

In some respects, we were right: Republicans’ ambitions were every bit as big as they appeared. But instead of shrinking, MoveOn grew. And when Republicans pushed to the right, MoveOn members pushed back and held their ground. Together, we’re now on track for a change election in 2006.

Here’s an overview of what happened at MoveOn in 2005:

It’ll be a long, hard journey to win back Congress and start building a truly progressive America. But MoveOn members are active and engaged, the political climate is turning, and the course is clear. We’re on the right path.

Manning the Barricades and Winning Victories

At MoveOn’s foundation is the idea that all of us, together, are smarter and stronger than any one individual. So we listen carefully to where MoveOn members want to make an impact and focus our resources there.

In 2005, MoveOn members told us they wanted to work in four main categories: good government, peace and security, a middle-class America, and a sustainable future. Here’s a far from comprehensive look at what we did together in these areas:

Good government: Building a strong democracy

Peace and Security: Building a safer America

A fair economy: Building a middle-class America

The environment: Building a sustainable future

Building toward 2006: Electoral work in 2005

In 2005, we started laying the groundwork for a change election in 2006.

We raised over $1.5 million directly for candidates, focusing on progressives and on key races in 2006. Our early money had a big impact: in a number of these races—candidates who were on shaky ground are now firmly in the lead.

Here’s where members made a difference:

We also helped progressives win big in the 2005 elections. In states where important ballot initiatives were happening, we asked MoveOn members what positions we should endorse. Then we encouraged folks to get out and vote for those positions.

One sad note: Ohio voters rejected a broad set of initiatives called Reform Ohio Now which would have changed Ohio’s election system. Luckily, there are important races next year for Governor and Secretary of State—which means there’s still an opportunity to make sure what happened in 2004 doesn’t happen in 2008.

Going Deeper: Operation Democracy Takes America

In 2004, we tried something new: a get-out-the-vote program in key battleground states we called Leave No Voter Behind. Over 70,000 MoveOn members participated, and our post-election analysis shows it was highly effective.

Now, through Operation Democracy, we’ve made the 2004 field campaign permanent. Across America, there are thousands of volunteers who spend hours each week taking MoveOn deeper into our communities.

In the spring and summer, Operation Democracy increased the number of MoveOn events being held across the country by 40%. Operation Democracy leaders held “Speak Outs” to oppose the Republican budget, organized vigils, delivered petitions on Iraq and Tom DeLay, and organized all night “citizens’ filibusters” to stop the “Nuclear Option.”

This fall we began focusing on getting progressive messages out through the media, and we added staff organizers and volunteer Regional Coordinators to train Operation Democracy members. This nearly quintupled the amount of media coverage local events received.

Having organizers and Regional Coordinators also helped us expand into places people don't normally associate with MoveOn: towns like Southaven, MS; Hays, KS; Kingsport, TN; Fayetteville, NC; Humble, TX; Starkville, MS; Walterboro, SC; Coeur d'Alene, ID; Norman, OK; and Martinsburg, WV.

MoveOn’s Challenges: Name, Innovation, and Focus

As we go into 2006, we’ll be especially attentive to three main challenges MoveOn faces as an organization:

Protecting the MoveOn name.

Right-wing operatives from Karl Rove on down have made MoveOn a target of their attacks. Their strategy: divide Democrats from MoveOn and their base. It’s something to be proud of—it means we’re having a real impact—but it’s also something to watch.

The primary way we can fight back is by making our 3.3 million members the face of the organization—something we’re doing more than ever with Operation Democracy. Our members look, act, and talk like real Americans because they are real Americans—and that’s the best way we can demonstrate that MoveOn is a mainstream phenomenon.

Innovating in online organizing.

As MoveOn has grown, we’ve continued to take risks—trying out creative new ways of involving members in national politics. Sometimes these projects work, and sometimes they don’t, but when they do they can help move the whole field forward.

Now that we’re a more established part of the progressive movement, it’d be easy to become more conservative—taking fewer risks and sticking to what we know because there are more people watching.

We’re committed to keep trying new things: We serve MoveOn members best through constant innovation.

Focusing on the most important fights.

While we will focus more and more in 2006 on winning a change election in Congress, our work to pass good laws and stop bad ones won’t stop. Since we’re a multi-issue group, we’ll be asked to join many fights—partners in the movement know that MoveOn members’ pressure can make a real impact. But we have to make sure we don’t get spread too thin.

We’ll work to stay focused on the fights where we can make the biggest difference—either by weighing in to change the balance in Congress, or by telling a story about what’s going on that helps set the terms for the elections in November. And, of course, the first and last question we’ll ask ourselves before engaging is, “Is this a service to MoveOn members?”

The Year Ahead: Winning Back Congress in 2006

In 2005, we’ve been preparing for the November election, and in 2006 our campaign will commence in earnest. Here are some of the elements of our strategy:

We Couldn’t Have Done All This Without . . .

We couldn’t do this work alone. We’re grateful to be part of a much larger progressive movement—a constellation of thousands of groups and millions of people—who make it possible to do what we do. Our allies in the movement help us quickly understand issues, identify places to push, coordinate messages, and bring MoveOn members’ voices into the fray. We are utterly indebted to them.

We’re also lucky to work with some truly great partners and consultants who help hone our public relations strategy, create our ads, and work with our members out in the field.

Here’s a partial list of the other folks who have worked together with us this year: Our amazing and superlative team of national volunteer coordinators: Mary S., Andrew L., Geof C.; our intrepid and outstanding team of regional coordinators: Ann G., Greg B., Joan M., Carl W., Dante C., Heather M., Beyhan T., John S., David M., James H., William M., Julian W., Randy M., Emily S., Julia D., Deirdre J., Desiree F., Randy M., Diane F., Tressa O., Kyle, Mary Hanson, Mary G., Pam H., Nancy B., Anita K., and Minna M.; Grassroots Campaigns’ talented and hard-working organzers: Sonja M., Karla P., Alissa M., Chris B., Garrett M., Gwyn L., Jennifer R., Jenny S., John R., Joshua D., Justin W., Kimberly F., Lilia T., Mari S., Martin C., Maya T., Stuti D., Susan H., Takeata P., and Mike B.; the Support Team all-stars: Kathleen G., Daniel M., Lisa J., Maria B., Jennifer T., Kate S., Dick K., Beverly B., Miriam G., Sarah M., Donna J., and Roxanna S.; Tim Hansen, who makes ActionForum sing; Patrick, Randall, Aaron, Rob, and Dave at We Also Walk Dogs; Doug, Jon and Matt at Grassroots Campaigns, Inc.; Trevor, Jessica, David, Ira, and everyone else at Fenton Communications; Bill, Pacy, and the team at Zimmerman/Markman; statistical whiz Joel; research whiz Jeff; airtime purchasing maven Jon; Hal, Benita, Selina, and the rest of the team at Leventhal Kline Management; Greg and David at Silk, Adler, & Colvin; Joe and Neil at Sandler, Reiff, & Young; the team at Fontanello, Duffield, & Otake; Tom and Chris and the Democracy for America Team; Duane, Andrew, and Matt at TrueMajority; Paul, Brad, Kim, and everyone at Americans United to Protect Social Security; Roger, Bob, and the Campaign for America’s Future team; our union allies at AFSCME, SEUI, and the AFL-CIO; Jeff Blum and U.S. Action affiliates across the country; Tom Andrews and the Win Without War coalition; the team at the Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities; Lydia at Defenders of Wildlife; Gene, Athan, and Anna at U.S. PIRG; Pam at; Ralph, Marge, and Ruth at PFAW; Nancy, Nan, Wade, Glen, Adam and the the whole Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary; Lisa, Jed, Jeani, and Anthony at the ACLU; Cecile at America Votes; Carl at Sierra Club; Chellie and the team at Common Cause; David, Mary, and Nick at Public Campaign; Cathy Hurwit, Susan McCue, and the House Progressive Caucus; and all of our elected leaders who stand up and fight for the issues that really matter to the American people.

Our first and last thank you is, of course, to our members, without whom MoveOn simply wouldn’t exist. Your trust, hope, and commitment mean everything to us.