I’m very far from being okay. There is very little satisfaction in watching the collapse of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. The joys of “I told you so” are vastly over-rated.
Does anyone remember — or want to remember — the insane amount of energy spent for months on end for that piece of shit known as healthcare reform? Hour-by-hour, vote-by-vote, blunder-by-blunder, broken promise-by-broken promise? The desperate hope that some pathetic fragment of a public option would make it into the final bill? The obscene celebration at the signing?
Does anyone remember — or can remember — that Obama & Co. wanted to get healthcare done with because the big issue on everyone’s minds was jobs? The obscene unemployment rate? Do we remember that it was only a few weeks ago that they passed one more extension — one that completely ignored those who had exhausted their 99 weeks of benefits? That cut benefits by $25? And expires in November?
Jobs was supposed to be the next big fight, but it ended up more like a pair of mangy mutts yapping in an alley. Tickets half-price. There was no serious push for having the government actually create jobs for the unemployed, jobs to rebuild a country whose infrastructure, as everyone knows, is falling apart.
There is plenty of blame to go around, but among the blamees is the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Defeats have consequences. After the so-called progressive wing was beaten in the healthcare fight, they were beaten. By that, I mean that the outcome of the healthcare fight tore their guts out. Destroyed their hope. On jobs and unemployment, if they had poured in a fraction of the energy put into healthcare, they might have still been defeated. But they never even tried to make a serious fight of it.
Then I look at what has happened to the Full Court Press, a plan to run in all 435 Democratic congressional primaries in 2012? Not much. People said, “sign me up!” but few were willing to work for it. Not because they were lazy or apathetic. They were good people. But the internet activist mode is not one of focused, concentrated activity. Rather, it is to engage in a wide variety of low-impact activities: on-line petitions, calls and faxes and e-mails to politicians, Facebook sign-ups. All activities are valorized, and it is in fact considered a bit rude to argue that any one activity is better than another, even though on reflection, some activities are indeed better than others. (My bad manners again!)
The Full Court Press plan envisions running a lot of races with no expectation of winning any of them, flying in the face of the ActBlue model which espouses targeting the worst Democrats in the primaries, and running to win. (See Full Court Press — what the OpenLeft brouhaha was about and We deal in change.)
(By the way, you can’t say the ActBlue, Accountability Now strategy is doing much better.)
The most frustrating thing has been people who have just read the FCP proposal and enthusiastically say sign me up, and then almost within minutes, say, “let’s target a few of the worst and beat them!” On the face of it, this seems quite illogical, if not overtly insane. But on further thought, this only reflects a real contradiction in our world. The argument that we have to work for the Democrats is not trivial. Completely wrong-headed, I believe, but not trivial. Going independent requires a combination of guts and hope that few have. The hope is the harder to come by.
Then a few weeks ago, I get an e-mail from Julia Williams, announcing that she is “now OFFICIALLY the Green Party candidate for MI Us Congress District 12 (Sander Levin’s, you know, the “dem” that voted to continue war funding and voted against the timed withdrawal of troops just this week!!!)” Made my day.
I had been in touch with Julia last winter, when she was contemplating running as an independent. I had tried to convince her that the smart strategic move was to focus on the Democratic congressional primaries. But she was stubborn and would have none of it. I’m glad. She was on the money, and now writes:
My name is Julia Williams, and I am the Green Party candidate for US Congress, MI District 12. My district is a large and varied one, with small to large cities, townships, and the 3rd largest city in Michigan. What they all have in common are the distressful situations found nationwide: unemployment, lack of medical insurance/care, loss of homes, cutbacks on essential services, pollution of the environment (water, air, land, food), and a political system that allows these things to happen. My strongest opponent, Rep. Sander Levin, although nominally a liberal, has not supported “Medicare-for-All,” and has recently voted for continued war funding, and against a troop removal deadline.
But the reason I decided to run was based on the tipping point of the Macondo well geyser. I saw a broken political system that would allow such a tragedy to occur, without accountability or even providing real relief to the citizens most affected. I realized that neither party had addressed our major problems, had not focused on citizen needs, and had spent an inordinate amount of time playing politics with people’s lives at stake. I realized if we don’t act quickly, my (and everyone’s) grandchildren will inherit a barren, poisonous landfill we once called “Earth”. Neither legacy party has the platform goals of social and economic justice, ecological wisdom, grassroots democracy, and non-violence, which make up the “Four Pillars” of the Green Party platform. I believe that there is a better, more just, more sustainable way of life that can be created for this country, my State, my District, and the Green Party has the roadmap to get there.
The issues that I will address when I am elected that mean the most to me all revolve around keeping my neighbors safe and healthy. First of all, I believe Medicare-for-All should be enacted immediately, since unhealthy people cannot be productive, work, or enjoy life. In addition, having a healthcare system that is universal will immediately stop more than 50% of bankruptcies. The issue then becomes one of jobs. The federal government is indeed one of our greatest job creators, but I want to change those jobs from military duty, defense manufacturing, and privately contracting out our security, to re-deploying our citizens to help create a new, more vibrant, and healthier America. This country can stop out-sourcing, and create new, green, local, jobs that will promote the development and use of clean energy, and build a better infra-structure with mass transit and more efficient and faster rail (all of which Michigan is uniquely positioned to help design and manufacture). In addition, to those who have worked their entire lives, and depend upon the contracts we built together with our government known as Social Security and Medicare, I pledge to work to not only defend these programs from the coming attempts by BOTH parties to cut benefits, but to strengthen them, and allow the government to negotiate for lower pharmaceutical prices.
I realize that as a Green, I will be in a minority position, but I could use my seat to create a new dialog with the public, and both legacy parties. We have all seen recently, that even a lowly House member can affect the legislative process, and I vow to work to make those changes for the betterment of our citizens, not corporations or campaign donors. For far too long the money flowing into our legislative bodies has controlled not only what is enacted but even what is said. I aim to change that conversation.
There are some hard-headed arguments for the Full Court Press approach, of using the leverage open to us in the Democratic congressional primaries. I don’t think that should be surrendered lightly. On the other hand, one of the strengths of the FCP tactic is to apply pressure on the Democrats as a party, not a collection of individuals with varying degrees of wickedness. And the fact is that running independent makes that point even more sharply. I think that decent, principled people just aren’t all that eager to become honey-dippers (people who clean outhouses, for you city folks), however sophisticated that might seem.
I’m struck by the tipping point. “[T]he reason I decided to run was based on the tipping point of the Macondo well geyser.” People get all caught up in their calculations. But even for those of us who like to appear hard-headed and scientific, if there weren’t something in our gut driving us, all the analysis in the world wouldn’t matter. The Full Court Press is still alive, but so far, it is not grabbing enough people in their guts. More and more Americans are turning independent. This is a fact we all have to deal with.
There are all sorts of arguments about whether Obama and the Dems could do better given all the Republican obstruction they face. Bully pulpit, end the filibuster, punish the Liebermans, etc. I needn’t repeat them. But then there’s this Afghan kid. In 2002 during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, who at age 15 threw a grenade and killed an American invader. Since then, he’s been locked up in Guantanamo for 8 years, tortured, and now is facing a military commission to determine if he should spend the rest of his life in prison on the basis of a confession that was tortured out of him.
All Obama has to do is speak, and this travesty will end. In my gut, the Democrats stand condemned. That has become my bottom line.
To reach Julia: