Reprinted from personal blog:
Some of the heavy hitters of the progressive talk show scene met on for an annual forum on democracy in Kent, WA near Seattle. The event took place at the Sho Ware Center and was sponsored by the local CBS owned radio station KTPK . AM 1090's own Lee Callahan MC'ed the gathering and former Seattle Times Chief Political Reporter David Postman moderated the discussion entitled: "Showdown 2012: Recapturing Democracy".
Six left-of-center national talk show hosts met before a large audience to discuss their views on current challenges to democracy in America. The line up included Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, Ron Reagan, Mike Papantonio, Norman Goldman and Sam Seder.
An opening address was delivered by US Congressman Jim McDermott. He told the forum participants,
"It's a new time. It's getting harder to come back after you've been out of work for a while. That's why we need a social safety net. Food Stamps are the only guaranteed safety net we have left and the proposed House of Representatives Farm Bill will take that away."
Among his goals, McDermott listed: a moratorium on home foreclosures, a healthcare bill which includes a public option, reinstatement of the Glass/Steagall Act regulating US banks, establishment of a publicly-owned state bank in Washington, and a one trillion dollar federal bill to rebuild the nation's infrastructure.
McDermott says the current US tax structure is unfair. He claims it is "ridiculous" to maintain a system where the richest people in the nation pay only 15% of their income in taxes. He claims that half of the US budget deficit could be erased simply by allowing the Bush administration's tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.
During the evening, the discussion became animated and at times quite contentious as the outspoken media personalities debated ways to end the corruption on Wall Street, succeed in their efforts to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and win the upcoming national elections.
The panelists attacked Republicans for subverting the democratic process in Congress by establishing unfair rules which allow them to block progressive legislation with filibusters. It was also generally acknowledged that conservatives have gained control of a majority of the judicial positions in the country.
Attorney Mike Papantonio (host of Ring Of Fire) pointed out that 70% of the federal district and appellate courts are now being controlled by right-wing judges.
Norman Goldman, also a lawyer, suggested that the entire federal judiciary system needs "restructuring". He is promoting the idea of term limits for federal court judges who have been "overturning democratic processes."
Thom Hartmann has called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Judge Anthony Scalia. Hartmann spoke out against the recent political posturing of the Supreme Court, demanding that Congress reassert its Constitutional powers to keep the judiciary in check by enforcing the federal judiciary code of conduct.
All the panelists agreed that the country must re-elect President Barack Obama to avoid a further drift to the right. But one main point of contention among progressives has been the current political strategy of Obama and the Democratic Party during this election season. At issue is the party leadership's major emphasis on massive fundraising efforts, despite the fact that the majority of their membership would prefer more grassroots local activism and FDR-style national relief programs.
Sam Seder said he will vote for President Obama in November, but he also criticized the President for his willingness to cooperate with the GOP on a number of important issues, including potential cuts to social security and public bailouts for private corporations.
"We don't want progressive liberalism to become associated with bail outs for the banks that have ripped us off," he said.
Thom Hartmann was the only member of the forum's panel who did not express complete optimism about the President's chances for re-election.
His view: "I am very worried about this election because the party that spends the most money usually wins. This year the Romney campaign will be able to spend twice as much as Obama."
Randi Rhodes directed some intense criticism towards the US media. She blamed a corporate takeover of the press for the current lack access to information on important political issues. She said, "I'm part of the problem because I'm in the national media. There's no local media anymore. There used to be 10,000 of us talkshow hosts on local TV and radio stations. Now, if you don't work for a national network, you don't find work, so nobody's talking about what's happening in your own community."
Sam Seder replied, "We are living in a post-truth political era." As an example he cited the right-wing's attempts to cast Barack Obama as being "soft on immigration" while in reality his administration has actually increased the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants. In this way, he explained, conservatives have diverted attention away from the really important issues of war, poverty and global warming.
Norman Goldman's solution to the problem was for citizens to become journalists and report information by posting stories on their own websites and taking advantage of various social media. He told the audience, "You can replace the corporate media."
Ron Reagan admitted that his father was one of the politicians who changed the nature of the modern American political dialogue by promoting fear among mostly white blue collar workers by warning them that their jobs would be taken away by immigrants - the so-called "Reagan Democrats". He also decried what he called the American "fetishization" of guns and the military.
At the close of the forum the panelists were asked how progressives can win political power and successfully challenge the entrenched establishment within their own party.
While Hartmann and Rhodes encouraged people to participate directly in the Democratic Party as precinct officers and committee members, Norman Goldman suggested that progressives should consider supporting so-called "third parties" such as the Greens or Rocky Anderson's Justice Party. He maintains that this is the only way for progressive activists to gain enough political "leverage" to force the Democrats to return to its populist roots.
Mike Papantonio concluded his statement by placing the Democrats in a larger political context in which a diverse coalition of progressive groups are working together to create a more sustainable and equitable society.
"Why are we always talking about the Democrats?," he said. "As I look around here I can tell that you are a movement and not just a political party. What we have to understand is that there are no more political heroes who will come along and save us - we have got to do it ourselves!"
In response to worries about the national elections and the loss of our democratic institutions, Ron Reagan made this ominous statement -
"This is the most important battle of our lives - and we've got to win!"