Misspelled but not misbegotten A typographical error in yesterday's item about Howard Dean, the Wall Street Journal and the MoveOn.org preference poll annoyed several readers, and caused at least one to speculate about my motives. A county supervisor from Wisconsin sounded suspicious:
"I'm a fan! I read your blog daily. Often, we think very much alike. But then, you dis moveon.org. What's up with that? First, Salon always links to such things ... except for moveon.org in Joe Conason's blog ... You misspelled the moveon.org name! Movokeon.com? Wha? Joe, it's www.moveon.org. But, you know that. It looks pretty intentional. Please don't tell us you're intentionally misleading your readers! ... Our generation has a historical imperative to remove George Bush from power. Don't be petty, please!"
While typos don't normally require apologies, I regret any distress provoked by that one. I certainly meant no disrespect to MoveOn, an organization I've admired ever since its founding as a citizen movement against impeachment. (Neither does Salon, which has given serious, favorable and typo-free coverage to the MoveOn preference poll.) My point was that the right-wing Journal editorial page sounds delighted with the Dean candidacy - and to examine the possible reasons for the curious timing of the Journal's "endorsement."
As for this week's MoveOn poll, I think activists and voters should keep in mind what an Internet survey is -- and what it is not.
It isn't a "primary." With a few hundred thousand participants, it cannot be representative of tens of millions of Democrats -- or even millions of progressive Democrats -- as a group. Because only three candidates were permitted to e-mail their statements to the MoveOn membership, the poll doesn't offer an opportunity to evaluate support for the entire field. And the involvement in the Dean campaign of a MoveOn principal has raised questions about fairness and impartiality.
So it would be easy to overestimate the poll's meaning, although winning the MoveOn endorsement would clearly be of great benefit to any candidate. This is an important experiment in democratic organizing on the Internet - and as with their campaign against impeachment, MoveOn's creative activists are seeking ways to answer right-wing money power with grass-roots people power. For that public service, they deserve applause.
[10:45 a.m. PDT, June 25, 2003