At 3:48 p.m. today, sitting in the third row of the gallery overlooking the U.S. Senate floor, I watched 42 lawmakers—almost every Democrat and independent in the Senate—walk up to the podium, thrust out a thumbs-down to vote "no"—and take our country off the path to war.
There's no cheering allowed in the Senate. So I had to hold it in.
But now I can finally let it out: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Today, we did it. The other side had tens of millions of dollars. Our side had millions of people. The other side had TV ads. We had facts. The other side had fear. We had courage.
Sure, the Republicans will keep trying to undercut the Iran deal, just like they voted 60 times to repeal Obamacare. But today, with this vote, we made crystal clear that they're going to lose—and the defenders of diplomacy and security are going to win. Because of that, America is stronger, and the world is a safer place.
To be honest, I'm still pinching myself. Did this really happen?
Not long ago, it seemed like a very long shot that the Iran deal would survive. Republicans would be united, the prediction went, and Democrats would be divided. The bill to torpedo the deal would sail through the House, through the Senate—and then, President Obama's veto would be overridden by supermajorities in both houses.
But then the wind changed.
Through July, through August, we organized. Tens of thousands of MoveOn members and our friends made phone calls, visited their members of Congress, and spoke up at town halls. We signed petitions, chipped in for billboards and field organizers, and organized vigils—including more than 200 events just tonight.1
Republicans had hoped that this summer would be like the summer of 2009, when rampaging Tea Partiers terrified Democrats and emboldened the most extreme Republicans. Instead, voices of reason and peace and diplomacy rose above the shouts on the other side.
And one after another, instead of rushing in fear to oppose the Iran deal, Democrats in Congress actually took the time to read it, to ask questions, to listen to scientists and veterans and faith leaders, to constituents, and to their consciences. Israeli security experts explained why they supported the deal. Ambassadors from allied countries made their case. Democratic leaders in both houses—including Senators Durbin, Reid, and Murphy, and Representatives Pelosi, Schakowsky, Lee, Doggett, Price, and so many others—reminded their colleagues that this was one of the most important votes of their careers, and not one to be taken lightly.
And in the last two weeks, right up to the last moment, the trickle of support for the deal became a flood. We won the cloture vote in the Senate today.2 And enough Democrats have announced their support for the deal to sustain a veto in the House. Republicans may try more shenanigans—we'll have to be vigilant—but there's no going back.
* * *
Today was a breakthrough. But it wasn't just two months in the making—it took us more than a decade of work. MoveOn members have tirelessly organized alongside allies like J Street, Win Without War, CREDO, the National Iranian American Council, Democracy for America, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Daily Kos, Peace Action, the Council for a Livable World, and many more.
Yesterday, I visited undecided Democrats in Congress with a group of people who knew the price we paid for getting this wrong before. Retired generals, combat veterans—and a Gold Star mom, whose son had died in Iraq on Memorial Day. Please, they all said: Give diplomacy a chance. At last, their voices have been heard.
In the twelve years since we went to war in Iraq, we've elected a president, sent progressive champions to Congress, and changed the politics of war and peace.
None of this was easy. But as hard as it's been, it's hard to imagine anything more worthwhile.
Thanks for all you do.
–Ben, Jo, Justin K., Alejandro, and the rest of the team
P.S. Since the run-up to the Iraq War, we've never stopped working for peace—and we won't stop now. Our monthly donors give us the consistent funding we need to win enormous victories like this one. Will you become a monthly donor today?
1. "Massive August Grassroots Mobilization to Support Iran Deal," MoveOn.org, September 4, 2015
2. "Senate rejects attempt to derail Iran deal in victory for Obama," The Washington Post, September 10, 2015
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