I agreed this week to become an honorary co-chair of A New Way Forward, a spontaneous grassroots movement that is reminding me of the early days of Moveon.org. This impressive group of passionate organizers got involved because they were listening to progressive economists and business leaders talk about alternatives to the Geithner plan on re-building the banking system, and they decided to get involved. Some of these organizers are old hands like Joe Trippi (who truly is an old hand -- I met Trippi when he was helping Walter Mondale in Iowa in 1983, and he already seemed like an old hand then) and Zephyr Teachout of Dean campaign fame, and some are relative youngsters like Tiffiniy Cheng.
I agreed to become a co-chair in part (of course) because I strongly support the principles for banking policy that they have laid out -- the same ones supported by all of the economists and economic policy thinkers I respect the most, people like Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, Joe Stiglitz, William Greider, Simon Johnson, Jamie Galbraith, Leo Hindery, and Rob Johnson. But I also agreed to help because the spontaneous passion and obvious organizing skill, completely unsupported with money or institutional DC help, reminded me of the early days of Moveon.org. Before there was ever the online organizational giant of Moveon.org, it was a simple internet petition written and put online in the living room of Wes Boyd and Joan Blades and forwarded to a few of their friends. Wes and Joan didn't know anything about how Washington D.C. works, or how a PAC operated, or how a poll was conducted. They didn't have any money or institutional support when they started, although a few of us in DC recognized their potential and lent a helping hand. All they had was their passion about an issue (in that case, the impeachment fight), and great instincts about online organizing.
While A New Way Forward does have some old hands at online organizing involved, their spontaneous passion about their issue and their creating a protest with national implications with no financial or institutional support reminds me exactly of MoveOn.org's launch 11 years ago. It also reminds me of the practically spontaneous mass street demonstrations done in 2005 on the immigration issue by prominently young Hispanic organizers mostly driven by text messaging.
One of the reasons I am so excited about A New Way Forward is that this approach to organizing a campaign around the banking issue is exactly what is needed. Traditional DC organizations were always going to be reluctant to get into this fight. For one thing, very few DC organizations work on banking and finance issues. For those that do, they are deeply engaged in working with the White House to get the budget and health care reform passed, and don't want to throw cold water on that White House relationship.
Here is the information about the April 11th rallies. I will be speaking at the one in DC, but please don't let that discourage you from coming. My message will be simple: I support Barack Obama, support his budget and his agendas for health care and climate change and immigration reform and the Employee Free Choice Act. But on banking policy, we need A New Way Forward.