In the absence of a national leader, progressives need an actionable plan including a sweeping progressive budget proposal, a national convention of progressive activists and thinkers, a major fundraising drive supporting progressive House and Senate candidates and a campaign of state ballot initiatives similar to those under way in Wisconsin and Ohio.
In 2008, America did not elect a great progressive president in the tradition of Roosevelt or Kennedy. One can support President Obama’s reelection but accept that he will not govern like a historic champion of progressivism, populism or powerful systemic reform.
For many progressives, populists and reformers, their monumental victories in the elections of 2006 and 2008 have turned to monumental disappointment.
The events of 2009 and 2010 resulted in the rise of the Tea Party movement, the depression of the progressive base, the Republican landslide in 2010, the rush to the right by Republicans — and the rush to the right by Obama compared to previous Democratic presidents.
If the present looks dark for progressive populists, the road to renewal looks clear. It lies with supporting Obama but accepting that he is not the great progressive populist leader, reformer or champion we expected.
Liberals need a plan. I propose this: Don’t wait for Obama. Don’t get mad. Organize. Mobilize. Champion the proposals we support in the battle of ideas. Fight for them. Fight for candidates who stand with us to regain control of the House and retain control of the Senate. Fight for state ballot initiatives we can win.
If the Conservative Political Action Conference can host a convention, why can’t liberals do it with leading champions of women, workers, consumers, the earth, the poor, large liberal donors and progressive allies in the old and new media?
If conservative Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) can propose a sweeping budget bill, why can’t progressives? I believe voters will choose the public option, consumer protection offered by Elizabeth Warren and a fair progressive tax code over the destruction of Medicare, windfall profits for oil companies and loopholes for those who cheat military families and millions of consumers.
A progressive budget that would help those who are jobless for 99 weeks, instead of treating them like human excrement to be discarded and abandoned, would be approved by a nation of voters who are not crass, craven, callous and cruel.
Mobilize: Instead of being depressed, progressive populists should organize a nationwide fundraising drive, including the smallest donors and the most wealthy Hollywood stars, to support progressive incumbents and challengers for the House and Senate in 2012.
For every Tea Party congressman who wants to attack programs that benefit tens of millions of women, or destroy Medicare as we know it, there is more support for Democratic control of the House.
Organize: Progressives should escalate battles for statewide votes, which is how progressives have historically begun great change. They can win Democratic control of the Wisconsin state Senate and major victories in Ohio.
Progressives can mobilize, organize, fundraise and win statewide campaigns on highly popular issues such as collective bargaining for workers, pay equity for women, true healthcare reform for consumers, an end to usury abuse of borrowers and public disclosure of secret campaign donations in states across America.