One of the most inspiring political leaders in recent decades, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), famously declared: "I represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Today we need progressives in Congress who will represent the progressive wing of the Progressive Caucus.
That's the largest caucus on Capitol Hill — but having 80 members on the roster won't do much good if many cave under pressure.
For 18 years, the North Bay has been represented in Congress by Rep. Lynn Woolsey. Her strong antiwar voice and very progressive voting record have endeared her to a lot of constituents. Now she's publicly saying that she may choose to retire instead of seeking reelection.
This week, after decades of working for progressive social change, I'm announcing a federal exploratory committee for Congress. If Rep. Woolsey doesn't run in 2012, I will.
Across the country, alarm is rising as corporate power escalates at the intersection of Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. An egregious factor is the deference to such power from some elected officials who rely on a progressive base for votes but shrug off tangible accountability to that base.
Dysfunctional relationships between liberals in Congress and progressive social movements serve as enablers for endless war, massive giveaways to Wall Street, widening gaps between the rich and the rest of us, erosion of civil liberties, outrageous inaction on global warming, and so much more.
Back in congressional districts, the only way to beat corporate Astroturf is with genuine grassroots activism — committed to creating a very different kind of future for the next generations.
At a time when high unemployment is becoming more protracted in tandem with a gargantuan warfare state, we're in the midst of what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism."
So-called moderates are adept at fine-tuning rather than challenging a destructive status quo. But there's nothing moderate about helping to fuel the engines of social inequity, eco-disaster and perpetual war.
Eight decades ago, much of the U.S. press was hostile to a new president named Franklin D. Roosevelt, and many of his political enemies called him a dangerous radical. But there was — and is — nothing unduly radical about supporting economic fairness and social justice.
Before the end of his first term, FDR denounced "the economic royalists." He said: "They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred." He did not say, "They hate me — and I want them to like me."
Today, big money and mega-media power are dominant; yet progressives who are principled, determined, and methodical can prevail in a big way. That's what happened last year when activists defeated PG&E's monopolistic Proposition 16 despite being outspent by more than 400 to 1.
Living in the North Bay for more than a dozen years, I've often been moved by the extent of local progressive passions. Antiwar, environmental, and social justice outlooks are widespread — and deserve forthright representation in Congress.
Paul Wellstone was vitally correct when he said: "In the last analysis, politics is not predictions and politics is not observations. Politics is what we do. Politics is what we do, politics is what we create, by what we work for, by what we hope for, and what we dare to imagine."
Republished with the author's permission from the San Francisco Guardian.