If You Succumb to Cynicism, The Regressives Win it All
This is for those of you who consider yourself to be progressive but have given up on politics because it seems rotten to the core. You may prefer Obama to Romney but don’t think there’s a huge difference between the two, so you may not even vote.
Your cynicism is understandable. But cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you succumb to it, the regressives who want to take this nation back to the 19th century win it all.
The Koch brothers, Karl Rove, the rabid Republican right, CEOs and Wall Street titans who want to entrench their privileges and tax advantages – all of them would like nothing better than for every progressive in America to throw in the towel.
Then America is entirely theirs.
The alternative to cynicism is to become more involved in politics. Help create a progressive force in this nation that grows into a movement that can’t be stopped.
We almost had it last year in the Occupy movement. We had the arguments and the energy. What we lacked was organization and discipline.
I’ve spent years in Washington and I know nothing good happens there unless good people outside Washington are organized and mobilized to put pressure on Washington to make it happen.
This isn’t new. In the election of 1936, a constituent approached FDR with a list of things she wanted him to do if reelected. “Ma’am,” he said, “I’d like to do all those things. But if I’m reelected, you must make me.”
We must make them.
I suggest a two-step plan.
Step one: Vote for Barack Obama for President and vote for every Democratic senator and representative in Congress. Get off your ass and make sure your friends and relatives do the same.
Step two: Starting Election Day, regardless of who’s elected, commit at least three hours every week to political organizing and mobilizing. Connect with other progressives in your city and state. Help find and recruit new progressive candidates to run against Republicans in swing states, and against conservative Democrats. Support the members of the progressive caucus in Congress. Raise money. Raise a ruckus.
Make it our goal to reverse Citizens United, even if it takes a constitutional amendment. And have public financing of elections (including requiring the media to provide free political advertising as part of their commitment to public service).
Also break up the biggest banks and resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act.
Put a 2 percent surtax on wealth in excess of $3 million. And a one-tenth of 1 percent transaction tax on every financial transaction. And restore top tax rates to what they were before Ronald Reagan became president.
Use half this revenue to pay down the national debt and half to make sure every American has a world-class education.
Put a tax on carbon, and use the revenues to reduce or replace payroll taxes.
Have a single-payer health-care system that delivers care at far less cost than our current balkonized and inefficient one.
And much else.
You say it can’t happen — the system is too rotten.
It won’t happen if you wallow in the comfort of your cynicism. But it will happen if you and others like you get fired up.
We’ve done it before.
I remember when progressives joined with African-Americans to get enacted the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. I remember when progressives stopped the Vietnam War. When women finally got freedom of choice over their own bodies. When the Environmental Protection Act became law.
Who would have imagined two decades ago that America would elect an African-American as President of the United States? Who would have supposed gays and lesbians would begin to achieve equal marriage rights?
Of course we can take America back.
Stop complaining and start organizing.
And by all means, vote.
“The fate of progressive activists is to always be fighting for the victories they already won.”—
“ “I go crazy with all these Democrats saying you have to go conservative to win, you have to go cautious to win. These damned consultants come in and say, ‘This is how you have to run,’ and it’s always the same: raise money, spend it on television, don’t say anything that will offend anyone. And the Democrats do it and then they end up in tight races, worried about whether they’ll make it,” says Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats but rarely takes advice from anyone in Washington. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out why progressives listen to consultants. Building movements, making progress on progressive issues— you have to talk to people, educate people, organize people.”—
The Secret of Bernie Sanders’s Success
Sanders bristles when pundits who don’t know Vermont dismiss his approach to campaigning as a regional deviation that might work in what is often portrayed as a quirky liberal state that couldn’t possibly have relevance for the rest of the country. “It wasn’t that long ago that Vermont was one of the most Republican states in the country. Until two years ago, the governor was a Republican; the lieutenant governor is a Republican. This is a significantly rural state. This is a state with some very conservative regions.” Yet, Sanders won by wide margins even in areas where Democrats run poorly. Why? Because the senator does not waste money on TV commercials designed to scare or fool voters into backing him. Rather, he goes where voters live. Personal Democracy Media co-founder and editorial director Micah Sifry, who has followed Sanders and Vermont politics for years, recalls: “Visiting hunting lodges to talk about protecting natural resources for hunting and fishing and establishing a connection with [hunters] was one of the ways that Sanders managed to earn the trust of the predominantly conservative and working-class Northeast Kingdom section of Vermont, which regularly gives Sanders, a self-declared socialist, its hearty support.”
If national Democrats did the same, Sanders suggests, there could be many more progressive Democrats representing rural states. He gets furious at the “swing-state strategies” that target a few competitive states and districts while neglecting the long-term work of building support in “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” areas.
More at The Nation
“This recall drive is the greatest popular democracy movement in Wisconsin history, and one of the greatest challenges to political power in American history. The signals could not be stronger. The Wisconsin democracy movement is real.”—
Fun fact: the recall petitions weigh more than 3,000 pounds. On Wisconsin.
“The very idea that one can effectively battle Wall Street's corruption and control by working for the Democratic Party is absurd on its face: Wall Street's favorite candidate in 2008 was Barack Obama, whose administration -- led by a Wall Street White House Chief of Staff and Wall-Street-subservient Treasury Secretary and filled to the brim with Goldman Sachs officials -- is now working hard to protect bankers from meaningful accountability (and though he's behind Wall Street's own Mitt Romney in the Wall Street cash sweepstakes this year, Obama is still doing well); one of Wall Street's most faithful servants is Chuck Schumer, the money man of the Democratic Party; and the second-ranking Senate Democrat acknowledged -- when Democrats controlled the Congress -- that the owners of Congress are bankers. There are individuals who impressively rail against the crony capitalism and corporatism that sustains Wall Street's power, but they're no match for the party apparatus that remains fully owned and controlled by it.”—Glenn Greewald
A progressive answer to the Tea Party
Bill Maher recently had some fun (video) in a monologue about how progressives should respond to the Tea Party’s continued influence over policy.
The only way to pull the debate back from the far right is for liberals to elect their own slate of 60 unstable, loony-tune, mad-as-a-hatter, crazy motherfuckers. So please, liberals, start trolling Whole Foods parking lots, nude beaches, erotic cake stores, the MSNBC commissary, anywhere where you might find angry left-wing lunatics to create a party within a party, as the Tea Party is a party within the Republicans. [more]
I’ve taken the liberty of putting forth some modest reform proposals that fit nicely with Maher’s call to action. Feel free to add to it or submit something and I’ll post.
- Obviously, Citizens United v. FEC is immediately reversed. Further, all corporations that conservative members of the Supreme Court have direct investments in are immediately taxed a sum of $500,000, just because.
- A Super Congress will be established to figure out new ways to spend an undetermined but “stupendously massive” amount of money on the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency. This Super Congress will be a group of one. And that sole member will be Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
- A special prosecutor will be appointed to charge President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and conspiring members of their administration with war crimes and treason. The prosecution will take place in a military tribunal so that the defendants will not enjoy their full set of rights.
- To enact a death penalty, all state governors must physically flick the switch of the electric chair in front of constituents and newspaper photographers. This new law will be formally known as the Rick Perry Killed Cameron Todd Willingham Act.
- All wars will require unanimous — yes, unanimous — approval from Congress.
- Efforts to organize economically depressed communities will be 50 percent subsidized, as will food co-ops. Every community will have a taxpayer-funded homeless shelter, food bank, and battered women’s shelter. All food retailers will accept food stamps.
- Universal healthcare. You know, like South Africa.
- Unfortunately, guns will continue to be legal. However, anyone who sells a gun that is used in a crime will become a party in that crime. Thus, gun dealers will need to take the personal responsibility of ensuring they are not selling guns to would-be criminals.
- The state will either recognize all marriages or no marriages. No more of this heterosexuals-only bullshit.
- The top marginal income tax rate will return to the level of 1950: more than 90 percent. Middle-class and poor Americans who reside in the lower tax brackets, however, will keep their current rates.
- There will be no tax rates for capital gains. All income derived from investments will be treated though it were payroll.
- All employees and agents of financial institutions who earn more than $150,000 will be criminally liable if that institution engages in robo-signing or any other form of fraud.
- Not only may mortgage interest be deducted from tax liability, but so may mortgage principal. But only for the first home one owns, and only if that home (via solar panels and other alt-energy technology) produces as much energy as it consumes.
- Military spending will be capped at 1995 levels, and any further increase in military spending will be offset by an equal amount of tax increases on military contractors.
- Banks will revert to their proper role as entities that facilitate commerce. No more trading with their own money (“proprietary trading”).
- There will be a private bank set up to fund energy-efficient infrastructure and technology. The state will compel private oil and coal companies to keep the bank, which shall be run by environmentalists and chaired by Ralph Nader, adequately capitalized.
- The maximum rate of return a lender can charge on a line of credit will be 12 percent annually. This includes you, payday lenders.
- In addition to print, broadcast, radio, and online, a new category of media — propaganda — will be introduced. Allegations of libel and slander will be easier to prove against these media enterprises. Also, viewers, as a class, will be able to sue propaganda media and only propaganda media for being intentionally misinformed.
- Those employed by media organizations that choose to do business as a 501c(3) nonprofit will pay no income tax of any kind. Lobbyists and public relations representatives shall be precluded from bothering these reporters or trying to influence what they write.
How Not To Make The World A Better Place
Raise awareness. Lots of it. Create a viral meme that points to an outrageous but oversimplified issue. Ask people to RT you and tell their friends. Don’t have a specific call to action. Continue to do this with a new cause each week until every person in your life zones when they see your name on their feeds.
Criticize. Spend your time reading about people trying to address causes important to you. Write about how they aren’t 100% respectful or ethical or inclusive. Propose only solutions that are completely unrealistic or no solutions at all.
Discourage people from asking questions. There’s a group of feminists that don’t want you to ask questions about feminism. For real though. If you want to know about feminism you should pick up a fucking book and stop wasting their precious time because it’s not their job to educate you. I don’t get this even a little bit. Write books and websites and lobby for change all you want to but the number one way to get someone on your side is to have a relationship with them. If you could explain to your friends and acquaintances why equality is so important to you, they’ll be swayed a lot sooner than staring at some edgy t-shirt you printed. Maybe you think they’re boneheads for not already understanding what you’re telling them, that’s okay. But people have to start somewhere. You did.
Splinter. You found a niche cause like solving cancer, cool! Start your own charity and name it after yourself. Make yourself executive director and put it on Facebook. Start a fundraising campaign to fund your new charity so that you can cover all your start up costs instead of asking people to donate to an established non-profit already in place, working, and with a lower operating cost. I’m sure you know better though!
Be as unlikeable as possible. Get a blog and twitter account you use mainly to shame people for being less knowledgeable than you. Be a generally negative bitch who plays into the worst kinds of stereotypes people have about “progressives” and scare a lot of people away.