People for the American Way (PFAW) went to bat yesterday for embattled Attorney General Eric Holder and condemned the House Oversight Committee’s political witch hunt. PFAW’s president, Michael Keegan, let them have it: “To be sure, Congress has a legitimate interest in investigating Operation Fast and Furious, but Chairman Issa and Republican majority on the Committee appear to be more interested in scoring political points than in getting to the bottom of what happened.” That’s good; it made me cheer. The problem is, Michael Keagan didn’t have anything nice to say to thousands of PFAW’s supporters either.
I understand the importance of fundraising. I understand that to continue their work, PFAW needs money, and I understand the critical imbalance between what the Republicans and Democrats have to spend. I write about this stuff daily, after all, and read what my fellow writers have to say.
But there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. This is the fundraising email PFAW is sending out to those who have supported them in the past, a sort of combined guilt-trip and pressure sale predicated, unfortunately, on the very conservative philosophy that “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” (and I mean with “PFAW” literally). Take a look at their pitch:
Dear [insert your name],
It appears that the most unlikely name of all may now be supporting Mitt Romney for president:
[insert your name]
Please give me a moment to explain.
Thanks to the Citizens United decision, corporations now have the same free speech rights as people when it comes to spending money on America’s elections. Every time you pay your bills, buy gas, food, or any other everyday item, some of that money is going directly into Mitt Romney’s campaign budget.
That is why it is so important that you renew your PFAW membership.
If PFAW loses someone as committed to the American Way as you are [name] – to someone like Mitt Romney — either directly or simply by your inaction … our civil rights and liberties as Americans will be absolutely devastated.
In other words, if you don’t give to PFAW, you are a Romney supporter. If you want to eat and drink, if you want your family to eat and drink, you shouldn’t sleep good at night unless you address this imbalance by also giving PFAW money.
Nothing could be more guaranteed to prevent me from supporting an otherwise praiseworthy group like PFAW.
My inaction? Seriously? They seem unaware that there are other ways to oppose Romney and everything he stands for. Just because I am not giving them money doesn’t mean I am not doing anything.
If I could be paid for every letter I write and petition I sign,letters to the editor, not to mention the phone calls I have made, I could retire. I am sure many of you could say the same. I spend hours every day writing for the liberal cause here at PoliticusUSA and did elsewhere before that, again, without pay, donating my time freely for a cause I believe in very deeply, even though my family has suffered as a result.
In exchange, I endure abuse and insult, as do all, I believe, who write here at PoliticusUSA. I’ve even had anonymous hate mail delivered to my home. This sort of stress is not good for your health – it is not good for somebody like me who suffers from heart problems; who is forced, as a consequence, to watch his blood pressure closely. I have been told by my family that I am not always at my most pleasant because of the built-up anger, frustration and even hopelessness of the task in which I am engaged.
But I do it anyway, because I believe in the cause for which we are fighting, as do millions of others who do not give PFAW money.
Yet for all my sacrifices, I am a Romney supporter? I don’t think so. My family doesn’t think so.
I would love to give them money. I would love to give every liberal and progressive group whose cause I believe in money, as well as every environmental and wildlife group. But who can do that? Who can give more than a fraction of what they’d like to be able to give? Nobody can. Including me.
It’s one thing to be insulted by Republicans and fundamentalist Christians. It’s another thing entirely to be insulted by a group that should have your back.
Yes, PFAW fights to defend us against a terrifyingly dystopian future, as their email reminds us:
- Advancing the War on Women – defunding family planning, denying access to basic birth control, and criminalizing reproductive choices.
- Packing the Supreme Court with justices like Robert Bork – who Mitt Romney named to co-chair his presidential advisory committee on law, the Constitution and the judiciary.
- Privatizing Social Security and devastating Medicaid.
- Slashing federal safeguards for the environment, energy and education.
Yes, they do some very important things, as they also remind us:
- Organize progressive voters and get them to the polls on Election Day. Get-out-the-vote efforts were essential to our victories in 2006 and 2008, and will be again in 2012.
- Fight the outrageous lies being propagated by the Republicans and the Tea Partiersto build unfounded fear and resentment for President Obama and Democrats in Congress.
- Buy airtime and advertisements on television, radio and the internet. We also need funding for phone banking and mail efforts to reach voters directly.
- Put “boots-on-the-ground.” People For the American Way is placing staff members in key districts to best coordinate our forces.
But they are not the only ones out there. There are the rest of us. There are those who like me, write. There are those who march, those who occupy. There are many unsung heroes of the war which we find ourselves fighting, through no choice of our own but out of necessity – to preserve a sane and sustainable world for our children, our liberty as a people intact.
By my reckoning, I’ve done quite a bit. Sure, I go to sleep at times wishing I could do more. I look at my little boy every day and wonder what kind of world he will inherit. Perhaps I could do more if I had more money or more time and cared less about my family or my own health. Perhaps instead of buying medicine for my son or eating a meal, I could give money to PFAW so they will stop questioning my devotion to our cause, but I’m not going to do that. Guilt trips are not suddenly going to produce more time or money for me to throw around.
I Admire and respect PFAW, and their Right Wing Watch is an invaluable resource. We’re fighting the same battle, after all. But allies shouldn’t accuse allies of being enemies. The simple fact is, we get enough of this with me or against me nonsense from conservatives. This email was not the best idea they ever had, and I suspect if they could go back, they might have chosen a less offensive means of getting our attention.
Now, if they will leave well enough alone (stop accusing us of supporting Romney), I can get back to bashing the people I want to be bashing: the Republicans and fundamentalist Christians who are trying to destroy our country.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.