Was Rahm Right (about Progressives)?

What progressives should learn from the last three years is that the current electoral rules don’t allow them to earn and own their place at the table; instead progressives have to wait to be invited there by their Democratic gatekeepers. And those gatekeepers are plainly happy to accept your votes and money–but that’s all.

The European Greens are the best example of what progressives could accomplish with a real democracy. With proportional representation, public financing of campaigns, free media time for campaigns and universal voter registration, the Greens are able to consistently win their own representation in the legislatures even though they often don’t break 10 percent of the popular vote. Nevertheless, they get their fair share of seats, and are present in the legislature and in the media and in the important debates of their time.

Through this very presence, the Greens have managed to push the political spectrum in their direction to the point where even the conservative parties in Europe today are “greener” than the U.S. Democratic Party. Despite some alarming right-wing swings in the U.K. and France, the European political spectrum is where American progressives would love to be. That’s because Europeans have real and functioning democracies, and not the half-baked version that Americans suffer with today.

At the very least, we can thank Obama for drawing the lines in the sand so clearly and starkly. At this point, any progressive leader who does not pursue political reform relentlessly is a faux leader, and she or he should get off the stage and hand over the microphone to someone else.

steven hillIt’s time for a change of leadership in the progressive movement to those who understand these harsh realities. Because the only thing worse than the steep upward climb ahead is when certain leaders take us up the wrong dead-end trail. Unfortunately, that’s what just happened.

If progressives can’t figure this out and get started on the tough hard slog of political reform, I can only conclude that, truly, Rahm Emanuel was right.

Steven Hill

Steven Hill is a political writer who is the author, most recently, of “Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age” and “10 Steps to Repair American Democracy. Visit his website at www.Steven-Hill.com.

Republished with the author’s position from In These Times



Published by the LA Progressive on May 19, 2011
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About Steven Hill

Steven Hill is Director of the Political Reform Program at the New America Foundation, which seeks to identify and develop the best opportunities for political and electoral reform, educate opinion leaders and the public about electoral alternatives, and encourage the formation of a broad-based coalition for reform. Mr. Hill is the former senior analyst and cofounder of the Center for Voting and Democracy/FairVote. He is author of the recently published Ten Steps to Repair American Democracy (PoliPoint Press, May 2006). His previous books include Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's Winner Take All Politics (Routledge Press, 2002) and Whose Vote Counts (co-author, Beacon Press, 2001). Mr. Hill's articles and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, and other leading publications. Mr. Hill has appeared on national and local radio and television programs, and has lectured widely in the United States and Europe. He was campaign manager in San Francisco for the successful effort that passed instant runoff voting for electing local offices, and was one of the organizers of successful efforts to pass public financing of elections for local campaigns. Mr. Hill received a B.A. from Yale University.