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If you are progressive, you are hungry for change. By definition, you are a person who would like to see the American government progress into something different and better than what it is now. This is what unites us.

How we change and what that change looks like is where we start to splinter into many different camps. Here, as part of my series on third-party and independent movements, is an oversimplfied description of the three basic ways this desired change could come about:

1) A Movement Within the Democratic Party

The right-wing takeover of the Republican Party that began with Ronald Reagan is a good model. Methodically and relentlessly, the ultra conservatives plotted out a slow conquest of the GOP that took 20 years to come to fruition in the presidency of George W. Bush.

The genius of this intra-party revolution was the coalescing of religious, economic, and military zealots. Individually, they posed no threat to the moderate wing of the Republican Party. Together, they were able to shift the entire nation several notches to the right.

Some progressives are hoping for this kind of process to happen in the Democratic Party,  shifting the nation back to where it was in 1980. There are currently a number of organized effotts to groom progressives for movement into higher offices as Democrats.

I'm personally skeptical of such a movement finding success, as these candidates are often required to sell their progressive souls either to get elected, or to have influence and power once they get into office.

2) A True Third Party Movement

Historical precedents are rare for the building of a new party from scratch, but it has happened, sort of. The Republican Party has a complicated early history that involved several new parties emerging as the Whigs declined and abolition became a primary issue. Nonetheless, that era does prove that the two major parties are not indestructible, and that given the right circumstances, a new party can arise.

What might be impossible, I'm told, is for a third party to arise while the other two remain strong. Invariably, the old party that is closest in ideology to the new one will weaken and die.This is why many Democrats do not want to discuss the possibility of a progressive third party. They fear it will either play spoiler, like Nader in 2000; or will grow strong enough to weaken the Democrats and give power over to the the Republicans.

The true third party method, therefore, is a catch-22 - unless one is so disenchanted with the two-party system that they don't think it matters which of the old parties is in power. In my opinion, we are not yet at that point. The Republican agenda is scary enough that I will not support someone like the Greens yet. (although I will write about the idea!)

3) An Independent Movement That Overlaps With A Major Party

The obvious example here is the Tea Party. Focused sharply on economic issues like the national debt, Congressional spending, and taxation, the Tea Party became enough of a force to spook the Republicans into action. Quickly co-opting the Tea Party message and many of its candidates, the GOP shifted even further to the right as it worked not to see its base fractured.

The Republicans were successful at neutralizing the threat, but the ongoing influence of the Tea Party is indisputable, from the GOP landslide in the 2010 mid-terms to the dramtic shift to the right in Congress' economic agenda.

To me, this seems like the best model for progressives to use to try to steer America back to a sane place in its politics. An independent, grassroots movement that unabashedly promotes progressives values could gain considerable steam if we could find a way to unify. And as a voice that is independent of the official Democratic Party, it would have the freedom and the courage to truly tell it like it is.

The Occupy movement embodies the proper spirit and is a step in the right direction. To be a true political game-changer, however, a progressive movement would have to broaden both its concerns and its constituency. We could trumpet issues such as the living wage and worker justice, fighting climate change, full LGBTQ rights, and true financial reform - just to name a few.

Again, however, my experience makes me doubtful that progresives can find the unity and leadership to launch such a movement. But it is our best hope to do as our name says we do - to help our nation progress into something different and better.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm not sure, but I think there's a clue here: (0+ / 0-)
    I'm personally skeptical of such a movement finding success, as these candidates are often required to sell their progressive souls either to get elected, or to have influence and power once they get into office. (my emp)
  •  Actually, there is another possibility (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ahumbleopinion, chipmo, Aspe4

    Not saying I support such an option, and its less a strategy than a consequence, but...

    A time may soon come when progressives are so thoroughly disgusted with their choices that they will cease participating in the dog and pony show our elections have become.  If enough of them fall off, it would become increasingly difficult for the Democrats to maintain any electoral success.  In order to remain relevant, they would have to move left to recapture the electorate they've lost.

    Two thoughts on that.  1) As much as you credit the Rethugs with a well thought out long-game strategy--and there certainly was that (though I'd argue it's beginnings preceded RayGun by quite a bit)--today's Rethug party is the result of choices 1, 3, AND 4, in combination.  Indeed, I suspect that, to much of the party (long term planning aside), the current state of the party is an entirely unhappy accident.  The Cons had a long term plan for making the Rethugs more conservative--not bat crap crazy.

    2) I've long believed that the population--as a whole--is moving left.  Our nation's politics are like a pendulum, with long arc swings one way and then back the other.  Invariably, the politicians are well behind the public.  Look at polling on any issue and you'll find the progressive position held by two-thirds to three-quarters of the people.  In an ordinary cycle or swing of the pendulum, the politicians would, of necessity, follow the swing (asking for actual leadership would generally be asking too much).

    The problem is...THE MONEY.  Where the nation stands on any given issue is now essentially irrelevant to any politician.  Where the money stands on the issue is what matters.  Most of the districts are so gerrymandered that the party holding office is not in question.  The only question, there, is do the Rethug voters pick bat crap crazy or really bat crap crazy and do Democratic voters vote "Moderate" (i.e. Right-wing Conservative) or "Liberal" (i.e. Center-right Conservative).  No matter what the position of the nation as a whole, that is, now, ALWAYS going to be the broad landscape calculation--because the MONEY is, by and large, pretty darn Conservative.  It doesn't even matter where the public stands on state-wide or nation-wide elections (Governor, Senator, President).  The calculation is this:  either I support the policies the MONEY demands, win, and they give me lots of money OR I support the policies the money demands, lose, and they give me a lobbying job and lots of money.  The only way a politician can truly lose is by opposing the oligarchy, so no one will.

    Which is why the only real answer for Progressives (or anyone else who cares about restoring our democracy or "representative republic" or our system, whatever you envision it to be) is to devote our energies to a Constitutional Amendment removing money from politics completely.  Once you do that, we can return to a system where our politicians once again have to care about what the citizens want and believe.  Until you do that, nothing else you do is going to be worth a damn.

    "Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will."—Frederick Douglass

    by costello7 on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 09:12:49 PM PDT

    •  There are other avenues in addition to trying (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to get a handle on the influence of money, things that may need to happen even before that is possible.  Voter suppression and gerrymandering essentially leverage the impact of the money.  Elected officials don't even need to pretend to listen to their constituents in too many jurisdictions.

      And option 3 needs to be vigorously pursued.  It is how labor won the right to organize.  It is how women got the vote.  It is how civil rights laws were passed.  It is how equal rights for gays is being more accepted every year.  Mass popular movements can be successful when they get people's attention and change their minds.  Political parties follow popular opinion, they do not lead it.  Change opinions and the politics will follow.

      “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

      by ahumbleopinion on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 09:54:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's the old paradigm (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chipmo, Aspe4

        The new paradigm is MONEY.  I'm telling you, as things currently stand, you could have 98% of the population in this country believing and demanding one thing and the politicians will put on a bit of a show, but in the end they'll vote with the two percent.  And then they'll tell you how hard they tried and, "Gee, if only..." and "Well, if you just elect more on our side..." or "If you'd just donate $10 more...".  It's all a crock.  Both parties are bought and paid for by the same monied interests.  That's why the Bush tax cuts were extended before.  And that's why they'll be extended again.

        We, the voters, no longer matter.  Just as we, the consumers, no longer matter.  We no longer have anything of value that the Powers That Be want.  They'll squeeze a little harder until they have it all--until we're back working in company towns...never making enough to pay back the debts that they keep piling on...until slavery is back in full, for all practical purposes--but, really, they're done with us.

        The ONLY way ANY of it will ever matter again is getting the  MONEY completely out of politics.  Then we can go back to one person/one vote.  So long as it's one dollar/one vote, there aren't enough voters in the country to put up even a half way realistic fight against all those dollars.

        Mass popular movements COULD be successful.  Once.  Not anymore.  If you haven't got countless billions in your pockets, it's just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

        Only the MONEY matters.  That's the new paradigm.

        "Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will."—Frederick Douglass

        by costello7 on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 11:31:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Preach it, Brother or Sister! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          A vast majority of voters are naive enough to think we still have a two-party system where Republicans and Democrats are in a bona fide struggle against each other. Once you realize that this is not the case, a lot of things start to make sense, like why extremely popular policy never gets enacted. If it runs afoul of the 1%, the legislation will lose no matter how popular it is. Republicans are quite open about their slavery to the 1%, Democrats don't have that luxury, though they are just as much slaves as repugs are, because most voters believe the fantasy that Repugs and Dems are opposed. If Dems were as open as repugs are about their corporate shilling, the game would be up presumably. Though many Democrats are so hyperpartisan that I don't think it would matter to them if Dems were that open.

          Democrats have to play to lose and pretend like they really wanted to pass the legislation that would help the 99% but just couldn't. So, Dems, donate more money and volunteer more of your time and next time we'll somehow beat those nasty republuicans we never seem to be able to beat!!

          "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

          by Aspe4 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:53:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Focus on ballot initiatives not amendments (0+ / 0-)

      amendments are very VERY hard to pass 2/3 of congress and 3/4 of the states is a very high bar, especially when the result of the passage would be to nutter the other side.

      But consider the following:

      1) Amend several state's Constitutions to deny any corporation a business license that didn't allow all it's shareholders a vote in it's political donations. This would be defacto disclosure for public companies, and it would prevent most companies from engaging in social conservative causes. Most big shareholding financial institutions don't want to be involved in "messy" social issues they only want to make money, they'll use the religious right but they don't want to be "visibly" drawn into  their fights. Make sure this extends to shell companies, and other entities the corporation owns (in other words think hard about covering loopholes). Get enough big states to do this and it will effect 90% of corporate America.

      2) Use amendments to force companies to allow all shareholder a binding vote on either CEO pay or even better make the compensation committees (the ones who actually sign off on CEO pay) directly electable by shareholder. Make sure these election are based on votes weighted by share value (to prevent golden shares).

      This is the basically the reverse of "right to work" legislation, use conservatives own strategies to fight back.  

      -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

      by dopper0189 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:27:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Combine that strategy with (0+ / 0-)

        A broad-based campaign to convince people to buy less corporate stuff altogether - and I think there might be some traction. IMO - as long as people continue to fork most of their earnings over to corporations without even considering the consequences, we have no hope of change.

      •  I'm sorry, I have to disagree (0+ / 0-)

        A Constitutional Amendment that removes money from politics and declares that corporations are not people is the only way out of this.

        With any other route, you're working just as hard at playing whack-a-mole.  And, guaranteed, if you ever did come up with something that worked, SCOTUS would declare it unconstitutional.

        Even if you could force such carefully worded requirements into state constitutions (which I highly doubt you could), the business would simply move offshore and do their political contributing through a mailroom in Utah to a Super Pac that, under law now, doesn't need to disclose anything.  Then you're right back to having to fight for transparency through Congress.  I've seen that movie.  I know how it ends.

        You do an end run around Congress, in effect, and force a Constitutional Convention.  The further down the food chain the politician, the less bought and paid for they are.  I'm not saying it would be easy to get enough states to call one, but it can certainly be done.  And its sure as hell easier than going to the very beneficiaries of corruption (i.e. Congress) to stop it.

        There are currently dozens of issues that have broad support everywhere EXCEPT inside our federal government (and the smoking rooms of the country clubs).  There are, I submit, enough to bring about such a convention.  Strategically, though, we would need to be a bit like the Ron Paul people and ensure that the delegates chosen are OUR people as much as possible; just getting the Convention itself ratified is far from the end of the battle.

        Besides, if we don't do this, the Tea Baggers (well funded by the Koch suckers--I mean brothers) most certainly will.

        "Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will."—Frederick Douglass

        by costello7 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:45:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not willing to concede (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim Moss, Ace Nelson, zitherhamster

    I'm a progressive candidate for a county office, in a district that has always voted Republican.  My message is one of building the future, creating the communities we want.  

    I've knocked doors every day since June 1 in my district.  When I say I want to bring jobs to this area by improving public transportation, fixing our roads, and moving toward clean renewable energy, people are very receptive and open.  Even those who lean Republican are interested in what I have to say.

    I plan to win.  One voter at a time.  You can be cynical and throw up your hands and say money trumps everything, but I refuse to believe that.  A week ago 11 people came out to knock doors with me.  I'll be working till 8:01 p.m. November 6 to try to get myself into a seat.  Get out there and help someone else do the same thing.

  •  Or (0+ / 0-)

    we could always work to elect more Democrats. When you elect more Democrats, better Democrats will run and then we can work to elect them.

    Sitting out elections just ends up with more Republicans elected, and that has the snowball's effect of electing more and worse Republicans.

    Once the ACA goes into full effect, its benefits will help more Democrats get elected. But that won't happen if Republicans regain control of the federal government this cycle and repeal it.

    I think of politics like chipping little bits off a big hunk of granite. It's a long and exhausting process but there's a statue in there as long as we keep chipping away at it.

    •  I'm not sure I agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Of course I would rather see a Democrat get elected than a Republican, but the fact that Democrats had historic majorities in the House and Senate and still couldn't get much done - other than a watered down HCR Bill - tells me that there's a strong force sucking D's toward the center, even over to the right. They couldn't even let the tax cuts on the wealthy expire, for crtying out loud.

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