There's an interesting cross-blog discussion happening right now, taken up today by Cernig. As I and others have noted, it appears that the Congressional Democrats are going to nap through the current round of massive scandal that is enveloping the GOP.
This is exactly the kind of determined leadership that brings me to Cernig's commentary. He draws from several posts (including Shaker contributor Rana's post from Tuesday) on the theme of
the (by now old) claim that the Democratic Party has ceased to be representative of a significantly large portion of the American Left and moreover, no longer have a "vision worth voting for". That the Democrats have become, by their own intent, Republican-Lite.Is it even a point worth debating anymore? If it is, Cernig presents a small mountain of evidentiary material to back up the claim that progressive ideals and the left in general have been abandoned.
I’m not someone who could easily be considered “anti-war”, but even I agree that a grieving Catholic mother named Cindy Sheehan speaks for a lot of people when she says that war is wrong and we should quit waging it. And that’s just the sexiest of the progressive topics out there right now.
We’re still haunted in this country by forty million permanently uninsured people and another forty million who are temporarily without insurance on any given day. It’s a safe bet that a lot of those people are working for close to minimum wage, handling cash and making change, and passing things like coffee cups whose lids they’ve just pressed closed across a counter to you. It’s a safe bet that a lot of those people can’t afford to take a day off of work when they get sick. It’s a safe bet that we’ll be confronted with a highly lethal influenza pandemic that is showing resistance to half of our arsenal of anti-viral drugs in the next fifteen months.
Is it really so hard to see how the lack of leadership on progressive ideals affects those of us lucky enough to plunk money into a 401k twice a month?
Perhaps I digress, or perhaps I add to the heap of reasons why we need new leadership in this country. As Cernig points out though
Its a safe bet that neither Greens, nor any kind of American Labor Party nor any socialist group nor Naderites will mount enough of a challenge in the near future to break the dual-party system, even with the massive potential electorate they have.So we are in a position where we have a sizeable and growing left with an increasingly clear platform of policy demands (less intrusive coalition-based foreign policy; roll back unwise tax cuts and spending to balance the budget; realistically address far-reaching domestic problems like health insurance affordability; and provide a comprehensive approach to offset the downsides of corporate globalization, to name a few) but no political leadership to mold these progressive ideals into national policy. Sadly, I don’t even see leadership materializing in time for 2008.
Cernig makes a timely suggestion: create structures modeled on Poland’s Solidarity movement.
So where to start? Well, what the Greens and the Unions and the Laborites should do is get together for talks about establishing exactly that kind of grassroots up structure for a coalition movement on the Left - a true American Solidarity.You remember Solidarity, right? Lech Waleska and shipyard workers, sitting down until an unaccountable dictatorial regime recognized its existence? Here’s how The Nation noted the 25th anniversary of the social movement that ultimately brought down communism in Europe:
For although Solidarity fought against the official Communist world, the left welcomed it more than the right. While bankers feared the movement might jeopardize the repayment of Poland's large debts, and conservatives feared mass democratic movements in general, radical activists from Brazil to South Africa sent their greetings and their representatives, trying to figure out what this unusual trade union/social movement, led by 37-year-old electrician Lech Walesa, was all about.Isn’t this really where we are now? Hasn’t politics in America devolved into a contest of which party can more slickly persuade the public that the other side is evil so that they can get back to handing out truckloads of taxpayer cash to corporate contributors? Didn’t the Senate just approve a movement conservative to the high court in the same week that the conservative movement was exposed as a gang of criminals who’ve taken over the country by breaking its laws?
As demonstrated over the next sixteen months, Solidarity's real innovation was its commitment to radical social transformation without bothering about the state. Partly because party dictatorship put the state off-limits and partly because Solidarity's key ideologues had themselves been 1960s radicals inspired by the anti-authority ethos of the time, Solidarity developed the groundbreaking concept of "antipolitics." The idea was not to "take" power but to get away from power and let society transform itself.
So to this cross-blogosphere conversation, which I think is timely and important, I add these concepts: “anti-politics” and “to get away from power and let society transform itself”.
I think it’s time that we seriously considered the possibility that American politics are irrevocably broken. How will we, the progressives, the lefties, the liberals, the activists, the anti-war radicals, and all the other energized souls of America reshape this country in order to advance the progressive agenda from outside the body politic?
(Cross-posted at my house of words, Simianbrain.)