Okay, first here’s my confession. I’m a frequent reader but very infrequent contributor, and I’m not much for wading into online discussion and/or controversy.
BUT I feel as though this is a particularly important moment for Democrats and progressives of all stripes, that we got rolled after the 2008 election, and that now is the time to assert ourselves more aggressively. I remember being in San Diego just after the 2008 elections – I think it was the spring of 2009 – and seeing people already with their anti-Obama/tea party signs standing at the freeway on-ramps. I can’t remember exactly what they were demonstrating about, other than the now-familiar take-back-America whine-fest, but I remember thinking, jeez, where did all THAT energy come from? The election is over, right? So why don’t people just settle down and get back to their lives?
And I also thought, that won’t amount to much. But as we know now, this was the beginning of a whole lot of craziness. And the 2010 debacle.
Now we’re all still in the after-glow of another important victory, and I’m expecting another astro-turfed surge of right-wing populist pseudo-rage that will suck all the oxygen out of what passes for our civic life in this country and derail what could be an important conversation/fight over budget priorities for the next decade. My question is how can we prevent that? How can we BUILD on the important moment of the 2012 victories and RETAIN THE INITIATIVE? A few thoughts below the fold.
Where are the Shadow Reps?
I live in the NY-23rd. New York, of course, is a deep blue state, but this newly-re-apportioned district is in pretty-red Western New York. Still, the rookie challenger Nate Shinagawa only lost by around 10,000 votes, or about 3 percentage points.
I’m really encouraged by what we’re hearing out of the Obama camp about continuing to organize, etc. but it seems to me that we need to keep the pressure on in a consistent, on-going way – not just around issues like the so-called “fiscal cliff” but also around issues (and internal processes of governance, like committee assignments and stuff like the reforming the filibuster) that don’t get a lot of national attention. Why not tap people like Nate to serve as shadow reps in red districts? They could keep people on the ground informed about is happening in the House and where and how we can apply pressure. Now is the time to rally the troops for the mid-terms, not a year from now. And, I think that after this last election people on the left are ready to get more engaged in the process of governance, not just in an election. Personally, I think it would be energizing to get together with other progressives a couple of times a year in order to learn more about how to put pressure on our Republican rep. and to defeat him the next time around. Imagine that happening in every red district in the country.
My guess is that among the 116,000 or so folks who voted Democratic in the NY-23rd many would show up for an informational get-together or be willing to chip in a few dollars to fund a shadow rep. Hey, DNC, you’ve got our numbers, we’re waiting for a call.
Tell me where to show up
My biggest beef about the whole health-care drama in Obama’s first term was that we never saw people marching for single-payer, except in a few places like Seattle. What would have happened if 500,000 people had converged on the mall in D.C. at just the right moment to demand action for a single-payer system? Maybe, in the end, we would have gotten just what we got, but that certainly would have made an impression. And it would have been muscular, ballsy. You know, I think a lot of people are drawn to where the action is, to where the energy is, even if they don’t necessarily buy all the specifics of the policy being advocated. My guess is that that is true on the right. A lot of people just liked the buzz and energy of the whole tea party schtick. Energy attracts energy.
So now I’m waiting for someone from the Obama campaign to text-message me saying that we’re going for a million demonstrators on the mall to demand higher taxes for the rich, substantial cuts to the military, the end of corporate welfare, and hell, no to cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Tell us where and when.
Citizens, United beats Citizens United?
If the last two presidential elections taught us anything it is that money and top-down lobbying and maneuvering isn’t everything. That is a tremendously hopeful thing. Democracy can work. But if an election won by the people doesn’t translate into governance by the people, what have we won? Like a lot of progressives I was – and continue to be -- pretty upset with the failure to close Guantanamo, the continuation of the war in Afghanistan, the failure to address (much less reverse) the abuses to civil liberty initiated in the Bush years, and a whole range of policies that continue to privilege the privileged. These are all the result of decisions that were made in our name, but often without much notice or input by we the people. Bloggers, pundits, the press all have a role, but our political leaders need to lead. Not just before an election. But now. During that governing part as well.
Like I said, I’m encouraged by the noises coming from the Obama camp about continuing to organize, but there needs to be some real action soon or the moment will be lost. And nature abhors a vacuum.