A Short History

A short history

A Short History
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Over the past 17 years, MoveOn members have been part of game-changing victories and have worked together to play a leading role in ending the war in Iraq, passing landmark legislation such as health care reform, and advancing the cause of economic fairness. Read on to learn more about our story.

When tech entrepreneurs Joan Blades and Wes Boyd created an online petition about the Clinton impeachment in 1998 and emailed it to friends, they were as surprised as everyone else when it went viral. Although neither had experience in politics, they shared deep frustration with the partisan warfare in Washington D.C. and the ridiculous waste of our nation’s focus at the time of the Clinton impeachment mess. Within days, their petition to “Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation” had hundreds of thousands of signatures. For the first time in history, an online petition broke into and helped transform the national conversation.

Check out this clip from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow discussing MoveOn’s history:

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Wes and Joan realized that their petition’s success only hinted at the internet’s potential to impact politics. They saw that the hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans who had signed their petition could be organized to take action on many issues, and that online organizing had the potential to disrupt and fundamentally alter the course of our democracy. The signers of Wes and Joan’s petition became MoveOn’s first members.

In the years that followed, MoveOn pioneered the field of online organizing, innovating a vast array of tactics that are now commonplace in advocacy and elections and shifting power toward real people and away from Washington insiders and special interests. MoveOn campaigners were the first to use the internet to run virtual phone banks, to crowdsource TV ad production, and to take online organizing offline, using the internet to mobilize activists to knock on doors and attend events. We proved that individual Americans could pool lots of small contributions to make a big impact by raising hundreds of millions of dollars for progressive causes and candidates.

Together, in collaboration with allies, we have grown the progressive movement and demonstrated that ordinary people’s voices can make a difference—that collectively, we possess extraordinary people power. MoveOn members have played crucial roles in persuading the Democratic Party to oppose and eventually end America’s war in Iraq, in helping Democrats retake Congress in 2006 with our influential “Caught Red Handed” campaign, in securing the Democratic nomination for President Obama in 2008 with a pivotal endorsement before the Super Tuesday primaries, and in passing health care reform in 2010. More recently, we’ve surfaced student loans as a potent national issue, catalyzed the fight to expose and push back against the Republican War on Women, helped elevate the leadership of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and other progressives fighting economic inequality, mobilized more than half a million people to help take down the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol grounds, led a massive grassroots mobilization to secure President Obama’s diplomatic agreement with Iran and prevent a costly and unnecessary war of choice.

But we face strong headwinds. Thanks to corporate and 1% interests, too many politicians are still focused on tax cuts for the rich and austerity for everyone else. Too many are pushing to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, when most Americans want those programs expanded. Right-wing governors and state legislatures are waging a war on women and rolling back voting rights. Mass incarceration and police violence are huge challenges that disproportionately impact communities of color. On immigration, on gun violence, and to an alarming degree on climate change, the status quo isn’t cutting it. Our country can and must do better. Together, millions of MoveOn members will make sure it does.

Step up as a MoveOn leader by starting your own MoveOn Petition campaign, adding your name to a campaign that’s already underway, or chipping in to support our work today.