September 14, 2004,
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article appears in the September 27, 2004, issue of National Review.
Afew years ago, I had an agent who was hard to get hold of. I'd call him up and his secretary would say, "Oh, he's with Vanity Fair right now." I'd enquire hopefully as to which of his clients the perfumed glossy had chosen to feature, and she'd say, "Oh, no. It's not for any clients. Vanity Fair's doing a profile of him 'the king of a new breed of super-agents who are changing the way the industry does business.'"
"Oh, really?" I'd say. "Well, if you could have him call me next wee "
"I'll try. But he's doing a photo shoot for Paris Match on Monday, and then on Tuesday he's got "
Week in, week out, I'd pick up a magazine or newspaper and see my agent staring out from the full-page spread. "Gee," I thought, "whoever's my agent's agent is doing a great job."
That's how I feel about MoveOn.org. Hardly a day goes by without some featurette or other on "how the Internet is changing the way we do politics" or some such, with seemingly obligatory references to the spectacular success of MoveOn.org. But, in all the stories about the spectacular success, nobody ever seems to point to any examples of what they're spectacularly successful at. They've certainly raised and spent a lot of money, but what do they have to show for it other than their own hype?
"MoveOn.org Becomes Anti-Bush Powerhouse," says CNN. But have they knocked the Bush campaign off course? Have they peeled away voters in key states? The only critical wobbly "red" state has been Florida, and that's a result more of demographic trends than anything else: Those incoming oldsters aren't voting Democrat because MoveOn.org is the talk of their gated community.
By comparison, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth raised very little money and spent even less. According to the IRS records up to September 5, MoveOn.org had total "527" receipts of $9,086,102 and total expenditures of $17,435,782; the Swift Vets had total "527" receipts of $158,750 and total expenditures of $60,403. Who would you say got a bigger bang for their buck?
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