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.
It’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 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