A Bad Week for Progressives, or a Wake-Up Call?

It’s been a rough week to be a progressive, to be sure.

First, Martha Coakley lost Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts
Senate seat, which supposedly put the health care reform bill in jeopardy.

Then, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court showed its
current stripe and actually ruled that corporations didn’t have enough power in
the political arena, and could spend as much as they wanted campaigning for
anything they wanted, thus certifying that the more money you have, the more
speech you’re entitled to.

Then, to top it all off, Air America radio went belly-up,
thus taking away a very important progressive voice from airwaves that have been
dominated by wingnuts in recent years.

All in all, a lousy week, huh?

And yet, in the very small amount of free time I had to peruse
the progressive blogosphere, I saw no calls to arms. I saw no calls to take
back this country. I saw…


Yes, where I
see a call to arms and a need to fight harder, I have largely seen progressives whining about everything that's happened.
Whining that they’ll never vote for a Democrat again, and lumping all Democrats
into the same worthless pile, even though there are only a half dozen Senators who are
creating a problem occasionally. They’re whining about the Supreme Court, as if it’s just
occurred to them that most of the Justices were political appointments put on
the court by Reagan or one of the Bushes. The decision itself is seen by a great number
of progressives as a fatal blow to democracy and we should just give up,
because “the corporations” won. And Air America’s demise is living proof that “the
corporations” have taken over the radio and won that, too.

There are two ways to see this week, politically speaking,
folks, but there is only one acceptable one. If you’re not pissed off and
registering to be a Democrat about now, then you need to resign your commission
as a self-described progressive and just admit you’re nothing but a whiner.

This week pissed me off. It demonstrated to me once again
that electing Barack Obama as president was only the BEGINNING of a long fight
to take back this country for the people.

Everyone blames “The Democratic Party” for losing the Senate
seat in Massachusetts, and the national party does deserve some of the blame,
to be sure. They took the seat for granted and just assumed voters in the state
would vote for anyone with a “D” after their name, apparently forgetting  about Mitt Romney, who served as governor for
a time.But you know what? Progressives did the same. How many of you sent money to Coakley until the last week, when it became apparent that she might lose? How many of you played her up in the press, or joined phone banks to tell people about Scott Brown and to praise Coakley for her splendid credentials?

And “The Democratic Party” didn’t push Coakley to run;
Coakley chose to run, and won a primary back in December against a man named
Kennedy who was no relation to “The Kennedys.” Why didn't progressives put up a candidate? Where was the progressive candidate in that primary, holding Coakley's feet to the proverbial fire? Oh… there wasn't one? Isn't that a problem, folks?

Coakley just ran a classically
shitty campaign, along the lines of the 2000 Gore campaign or the 2004 Kerry
campaign; two campaigns that were only topped in their vapidity by the 1988
Dukakis campaign. See, voters really don’t care what you stand for; they care
that you stand for something, and Coakley didn’t seem to stand for anything.But where was the progressive candidate in all of this? There were no progressives willing to take Ted Kennedy's place for almost three years?

Why do we think the entire country should just spontaneously become progressive because we are so convinced in the rightness of our cause that everyone should just adopt it without question? And how many elections do we lose before we finally figure out that such a thing never happens?

With Coakley’s loss, you would swear a hole was cut in
the space-time continuum, and the entire issue of health insurance reform is a
lost cause because, gosh-darn it, we no longer have 60 seats; we only have 59.

Bullshit, folks. It just means we probably won’t get a public option.
It doesn’t mean there won’t be any reform, just not as much as we’d hoped. That should signal to progressives that we have to work harder. We have to
take what we can get this time, and work to get more progressives elected in
the coming years. Instead of seeing Coakley’s loss as a sign of gloom and doom
to come, we should see it as a wake-up call. There is no such thing as a “safe
seat,” and we should work our asses off to get as many progressives and
moderates as possible into Congress. I know a lot of you are pissed at Barack Obama for not "changing" enough, but his administration only represents one branch of government. To make the changes he wants to make, he needs Congress. His pen will only get him so far. If 60 Senate seats isn’t enough, perhaps we need to
shoot for 68 or 70 for the time being, until the mood in the country changes
and the right wingers are back in the political margins, where they belong.

The Supreme Court’s absurd decision the other day should
really piss you off; I know it did me. But the problem is NOT “corporate
personhood.” For some reason, we were able to deal with “corporate personhood”
for many, many years without a problem. Now, all of a sudden, it’s become this
huge, symbolic issue. “Corporate personhood” is actually an important concept
and shouldn’t be scrapped just because right wingers choose to abuse the
concept. But just as “actual persons” who have committed felonies can have exceptions
carved out for them in the interests of public safety, “corporate persons” do
not have to be entitled to the same rights as “actual persons.” It should be
possible to carve out an exception for specific categories of “persons,”
especially for those who aren’t actual “persons,” as described in the

But I’ll get to that in another column. What that decision
the other day should have done is make you mad, and more determined than ever
to work to get rid of the status quo and elect as many Democrats as
possible. You should be determined to make sure another Republican can’t make a
Supreme Court nomination for the next 20 years, so the court can return to
moderation and stay that way for a while. Instead of dealing with this rationally, and putting this on the make up of the Supreme Court, however, I’m seeing declarations of
gloom and doom and threats to withdraw from the Democratic Party and never vote
again. (Yes, I have seen that from so-called “progressives.”)

The problem isn't "corporate personhood," it's that five wingnut
Justices thought "corporate persons" deserve the same rights as "human
persons," despite the fact that they only exist on paper. FOUR JUSTICES AGREE WITH US (including Sotomayor, FYI), that "corporate personhood" does not translate to the same rights
as individuals. In fact, you should read Stevens' dissent; it's
beautifully written.

Do you know what our attitude should be at this Supreme
Court ruling? (No, but I’m sure Milt will tell us what we should think, the
know-it-all.) It should be a push-back unlike anything we have ever seen before.
Who gives a shit if corporations can spend tons of money on campaigns in an
attempt to influence them? Let’s make sure it doesn’t work! Let’s get out there
and use everything at our disposal to make sure the public knows our side, and
let the corporations spend themselves into oblivion trying to fight us.

Ah, but that’s so not like us, isn’t it? For some reason, we
worked our asses off to elect Barack Obama because he was seen as an “agent of
change” and after he was elected, we dropped off the face of the goddamned earth. For some reason,
progressives thought that electing a president and 60 Senators was the END of
their job, and they needed to rest for a while. Apparently, a lot of
progressives thought that putting those elements in place was sufficient and
that everything would change simply because we had the numbers. Well, guess
what, folks; politics doesn’t work that way. Not only do you have to elect them,
you have to support them while they’re in office. The teabaggers have been all
over the place, letting everyone know what they’re up to; where are the
progressives? I’ll tell you where we are; we’re reading our own blogs and commenting
amongst each other, and sitting in the corner wondering why no one invites us in, and we’re absolutely flabbergasted when the right drowns us

Changing a society takes hard work, people. It only begins
with an election; it never ends with one. These people need your support even
after they’re in office. May I remind you that the issue with health insurance
reform isn’t “The Democrats;” it’s about 5-6 Democrats who represent states
that aren’t exactly progressive strongholds, and who risk their seat if they
are seen as “too liberal.”

We have to keep up the pressure; we have to support “The
Democrats” and not just whine about the things they’re not doing, and we have
to understand that we are in for a very long, very difficult fight. Things don’t
change just because we want them to. We have to make them change. Hell; even after we have created a fully progressive society, we'll still have to work our asses off to keep it.

Now, about Air America Radio’s demise…

The post-mortem on them among progressives, as I’ve seen it,
seems to be that the demise of Air America is yet another sign that the right
wingers have taken over the airwaves and progressive radio is over and done
with.  Again; it’s that “gloom and doom”
attitude writ large. (Gee, I wonder why people don’t like us?)

Air America Radio was a stupid business model when it came
into being. I understand that it seemed necessary, in a way, but the entire
business model was destined for failure as a capitalist enterprise. I’m
actually quite surprised they made it through six years. They were trying
to provide a 24-hour block of programming and, because it was assumed
(correctly) that corporate-owned stations wouldn’t carry the programming under
the normal business model, they started by leasing stations.  They paid their initial hosts way too much
money, and they were run by the irrepressibly stupid Sheldon Drobny at first.

But the demise of Air America points up a major difference
between right and left. The right will spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year
propping up failed enterprises just to keep the propaganda flowing, while the
left simply doesn’t have millionaires and billionaires who are willing to
plaster our media with money to keep it going.

There’s a good reason for that, really. You see, we have the
truth on our side, while the right wing peddles bullshit. It takes a lot more
money to peddle a lie. The problem with the left side of the equation is, we
don’t support (there’s that word again!) truth tellers sufficiently. We get all
proud and peacock-like when someone like Rachel Maddow gets a program, and we
watch it at first, but then we get bored and drop off.Once more; this is a never-ending struggle.

 Air America was
doomed to fail because its business model was unworkable. But its business
model could have been changed. What never changed was the lack of support. A number of progressive talk shows are doing quite well, but they’re still lagging
behind most of the wingnuts propaganda fests, because progressives seem to lack
an understanding of how markets actually work. We see that a progressive radio
show hits the air and we say, “That’s nice,” and we talk about it, and we might
even stream it at work. But we don’t do the leg work necessary to make sure it
succeeds, while the wingnuts do. 

It's time for progressives to get off their asses and stop whining. Instead of running away from the Democratic Party, we should be running into it and demanding our say. We should be putting up our own candidates, and speaking to the masses, instead of each other.

This has been a difficult week for progressives, to be sure.
But learn the right lessons from it, folks. This country needs major reform,
and that’s not going to happen with one or two elections and having a majority
in Congress and a black guy in the White House. This week should have reminded
us that we have a lot of work to do. We have to undo an entire generation of
neocon politics, and that’s going to take a long, sustained effort, not
just during election cycles, but between them, as well.

Get pissed and get moving, liberals and progressives.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the
rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe
— Thomas Jefferson

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  1. Sorry for the duplication, but I think the second one came out best. I somehow thought the first one got swallowed up into cyberspace. My apologies.

  2. “This country needs major reform, and that’s not going to happen with one or two elections and having a majority in Congress and a black guy in the White House.”
    You’ve hit the nail on the head. It took the Republicans 25 years (since the mid-eighties), pumping tons of money into radio, TV, print media and conservative think tanks, to indoctrinate the American people into believing that America is a center-right nation and that only conservatives have the answer to all our problems. They have spent 25 years telling us: Government bad; Non-regulation and Free Market good. We have to put our noses to the grindstone and our money where our mouths are if we want to succeed in winning the propaganda wars as well as the Republicans have and returning this country to a time which polices greedy Wall Streeters, banks and corporations, and gives the average American the opportunities to live a good and decent life and provide for his family at least as well, if not better, than his/her father did. The most important arrow in our quiver should be the courage of our convictions and a passel of hard workers, candidates and contributors to make this nation the country which we want–one which values ALL citizens and gives equal opportunity to EVERYONE, not just the rich and the corporations. FDR will be proud.

  3. “This country needs major reform, and that’s not going to happen with one or two elections and having a majority in Congress and a black guy in the White House.”
    You’ve hit the nail on the head. It took the conservatives 25 years of dedicated plugging away on radio, TV, and in the print media with tons of money to rule the airwaves and get their message of no hope and no change across (“liberals and progressives-bad; conservatives and regressives-where all Americans want to be). It’s gonna take liberals and progressives perhaps that long to let the American people know that there’s another point of view out there that favors the little guy (the middle class) and anybody lower on the public totem pole and wants equal opportunity and potential for all Americans.

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