It’s finally here, folks. This is the year we start the revolution. This is not a revolution like the first one, of course. The revolution we need is a revolution in ideas.
For the last 30 years or so, the government has been taken over by neocons, whose main ideology states that government does not work, because government is incompetent and inefficient, and setting out to prove just that. They believe in tax cuts, without resulting spending cuts. They believe in making their base happy now, while leaving our children and grandchildren with a bill that pretty much guarantees much higher taxes for decades to come. They claim to believe in free markets, to the point that, while running the government, they abdicated the government’s key economic role, which is to regulate the market into basic fairness. As a result, large corporations have been allowed to merge into huge behemoths, that crush any potential competition, and suppress entrepreneurship. The current mania for deregulation also suppresses wages, and prevents economic prosperity for the masses; preserving it only for a select few.
That has to change. This country not only needs a change in government and a change in leadership; we need a change in attitude.
One of the reasons the neocons have been allowed to run roughshod over the government and the economy and lead this country to near ruin is the political ineffectiveness of the progressive side of the equation. When did progressives lose their political instincts? When did we start putting our own personal political beliefs ahead of common sense, and pushing for actual progressive measures, that will make a difference in people’s lives? When did progressive politics become a fad, and therefore completely ineffective as a political movement?
Do progressives even know what a “true progressive” politician is? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not Ralph Nader.
Now, I’m not going to trash Ralph Nader’s career; it’s mostly a stellar one, up to the time he decided to become a politician and run for president. As a politician, he was terrible. But worse were the people following him. He never had a chance of winning. He knew it, and the people following him knew it.
Now, given the fact that, in a democracy, the only way ideas can ever become policies is if said ideas are adopted by those who actually win election, what’s the purpose of progressives’ constant support of candidates who cannot win? More puzzling still is the lack of support of politicians and candidates who can and do win, in favor of jingoistic bullshit catch phrases and ideas that never actually go anywhere?
Like I said, it’s time for a revolution, and the revolution has to be progressive in scope. But we have to be realistic, and it has to be a campaign to get the average people to adopt our positions; a campaign to make our ideas reality. Right now, the tendency of progressives is to be all or nothing; we support a candidate who can’t win, and when that self-fulfilling prophecy is fulfilled, we whine that the Democratic candidate isn’t “progressive” enough, and we whine and sulk for four years, while we wait for another loser to come along and say just what we want to here.
Here’s a reality check, folks;
Democrats do not have enough votes to make the Iraq occupation go away. Period. Republicans are setting records for filibusters, and there are simply not enough votes to stop the GOP. All that was accomplished by the 2006 transfer of power to the Democrats was to stop the bleeding. A 50-50 split will not end the Iraq Occupation, and that’s what we have in the Senate, currently.
If you really want the Iraq War to go away, you will support whichever candidate in the general election is most likely to listen to the people, and/or bow to pressure from the public to end the war. If you’re a Kucinich supporter in the primaries, great. But you should know there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of Kucinich getting the nomination, so at some point, if you really, truly want to end the occupation of Iraq, you will have to put all of your weight behind whichever of the two major party candidates is most likely to end it. That means putting all of your weight behind the Democratic nominee, regardless of who it is. If you can even think of voting for a third party candidate in the current atmosphere, or not voting at all, then you are not a progressive with principle, you’re just a dope.
This country is addicted to oil, and that addiction will not end anytime soon. Like it or not, most people, including those we claim to champion, such as the poor and minorities, depend on the oil economy for their very existence. Under the best-case scenario, it will be a quarter- to half-century transition to alternative energy sources, and a real progressive will understand this, and support that fact. The key is to change people’s perceptions about alternative fuels and conservation, not denigrate oil companies.
Global warming is a fact, but we really don’t know the cause of it. And frankly, it almost doesn’t matter. As noted, transitioning from carbon-based energy sources will be a long, arduous process, and polarizing the argument by declaring that “greedy oil companies” have screwed things up misses the point. If our goal is to reduce fossil fuel use and our carbon footprint, what’s wrong with cleaner air and water as a goal? Why not push conservation as a great way to save money, while also helping out the environment? Does everything have to be a destructive crisis? It’s really funny; we (rightfully) laugh at the rapture enthusiasts for constantly predicting the imminent bloody end of the world, but don’t progressives do the same when it comes to the environment and global warming? How do we expect people do follow our lead when all we talk about is impending catastrophes?
Roe v. Wade is all but dead and we, not the neocons, killed it. As progressives, we allowed the right to co-opt the terminology of the argument, we let them frame the entire issue, and we allowed them the power to do everything they could to undermine it. The issue is not, and never has been, abortion. The issue is, who gets to make reproductive decisions; the individual or the government. Yet, we have allowed the right to make the argument about whether or not a fetus is a “baby,” and we have allowed them to call themselves “pro-life,” thus branding progressives as “anti-life,” by insinuation. And by putting all of our resources into candidates who can’t win election, and then taking our ball and going home when they don’t win, we cede the election to the right, who have spent the last thirty years packing the courts with like-minded freaks, who will be there making neocon-style decisions for many years to come.
Because money does have far too much influence in the political process in this country, we have no choice but to support a candidate who has received a lot of money from people whose motivations we should probably question. So, we need to get our heads around the fact that it will take candidates who take corporate money to get corporate money out of politics.
Third parties are a pipe dream, and simply cannot win on a national level. Let’s face facts; more than two-thirds of voters are either Republicans or Democrats, and even most “Independents” will vote for either a Republican or a Democrat. Does that mean it’s not possible for a third-party candidate to win? No, it doesn’t mean that. But the fact of the matter is, such a third party will have to be an absolutely solid centrist, which bursts the bubble of the average so-called “progressive.” I would also point out that 80% of Republicans and nearly 33% of “Independents” will pretty much always vote for a Republican in any election. They are far more reliable voters than Democrats. And
that means third parties will almost always split the Democratic vote, and give the election to the Republicans.
These are all proven realities, folks. This country needs a revolution, and needs it badly. But the type of revolution that we need is a progressive revolution, in which we put our emotions aside and start doing what’s right. If progressives are actually going to reform the process, and restore the system the neocons have broken, we will have to be much smarter than we’ve shown ourselves to be, politically speaking. It will require three steps, each of which must be completed in order for a reform movement to take place.
First, we must elect Democrats to office, because that is the only way to stop the continuing damage to the republic being done by the neocons. Progressives have to put ego aside and support any Democrat for a couple of election cycles, and vote for anyone short of Joe Lieberman with a D in front of their name, at least for the next few election cycles, until we force the far right out of the government.
Second, we have to support the Democrats once on office, and stop withholding support every time they do something we don’t like. We have to learn to accept progress in baby steps, and lose this “all or nothing” attitude we tend to bring to everything. Truth be told, it was progressives who killed the Clinton health care plan, because it wasn’t “progressive enough.” The right lied about it, but we put it down just as much, because we envisioned just simply tossing aside all private insurance companies and simply instituting a single-payer health plan all in one fell swoop, and it wasn’t going to happen. Thirteen years later, it’s still not going to happen, and think of how many people have died because they’ve been refused health care under the current system, which is still far worse than the Clinton plan. It would be far easier to transition to single payer from the Clinton plan than from the current non-plan, but we don’t have that option, in part because progressives had to have it all.
Third, and possibly most important, we have to do a better job of reaching out to a majority of voters, and making our case that what we stand for makes a lot more sense than what the government is currently doing. Progressives suck at PR. Put it this way; the far right could not have demonized the word “liberal” without our acquiescence, if not our outright consent. Often, we state our opinions as if they are fact, which is actually not a bad thing in itself. But we also have a tendency to demonize those who disagree with us, by referring to them as “stupid.” We also fail to see that different people have different reasons for thinking the way they do, and some of those who side with the right have valid reasons for doing so. We write people off, because they don’t think the way they do. We denigrate people who don’t see things the way we do. And we don’t listen, and provide alternative viewpoints that fit their mindset.
This country is at a crossroads. After nearly 30 years of neocon rule, this country is broken. They broke the government, they broke the Constitution, they broke the judicial system, they broke the economy, and they broke the spirit of the average American. We must start repairing these things, but it won’t be quick and easy; it will require patience, and it will require political savvy that progressives have not demonstrated for many years. Winning is the only thing that matters, which means backing the best candidate who can win. Voting for a loser on “principle” doesn’t actually demonstrate principle. It demonstrates immense gullibility, and nothing more.
Welcome to 2008. The revolution starts now… but only if we understand how important we are in the process.