Elections have consequences. In 2010, the Republican base, fired up by the tea party, continued capitulation of the Democrats and their unadulterated hatred of President Obama, swarmed the ballot box and delivered a crushing blow. Many legislative chambers, governor’s mansions, and congressional seats fell to the overwhelming anger of the revved up, conservative base dominated electorate. All the while, the milquetoast Democrats had disappointed, disaffected and generally ignored their base, and so in turn, the people who elected Dems in 2006 and 2008 just stayed home.
The Democrats never seem to get the message that the ideas of the left are much more popular than those of the right. They never seem to fight for our values. Our values are stronger than theirs. Our values are Equality, Liberty and Justice. These are foundational principles of our republic and they are incredibly powerful. But instead of consistently framing their messaging around these values, Democrats back away, compromise, lose faith in the fact that Americans side with the left on issue after issue and crumble in the face of conservative arguments.
The Republicans, however, always align their arguments with their values of “limited government” (even though they tend to grow the government), “constitutional rights” (although they tend to infringe on civil liberties) and “personal responsibility” (while they encourage corporations to externalize costs and internalize profits). They frame every issue around these key values and have gotten a lot of average Americans to buy into their world view through these values.
But it has finally gone too far. In their new found power, Republicans are proceeding to fire up the much larger liberal base by ignoring the vast majority of Americans in favor of catering to their ideologically driven base. Now is the time to build upon the the uprising in Wisconsin and across the Midwest.
It occurred to me recently that I cannot remember the last time that the left had a major offensive (advancing our agenda) legislative victory, but I can name a lot of major offensive legislative victories of the right. The fact that I can’t remember it is primarily because I was born in 1976 and the first President I remember is Reagan and secondarily because there hasn’t been one since at least 1980. You may argue with this, but I’m not talking about elections or court decisions, I’m talking about major pieces of legislation that advanced the progressive agenda. The Affordable Care Act is a gigantic subsidy to the insurance industry, so I don’t see it as a victory. Mostly, the things we’ve won on have been defensive victories, and while it’s important to defend what we’ve got, we’re not advancing our agenda and when we lose, our agenda is being rolled back. Many times, even when we win, we still lose. Had we prevailed in Wisconsin, our unions were still making concessions, so even if the right to collective bargaining is defended, we’re losing ground on pension and salary. What I’m saying here is that because we’ve been on defense for so long, we sometimes win battles, but we’re losing the war.
It’s (past) time to go on the offense. Republicans, emboldened by this past election are staging an all out attack on all fronts. They’re giving tax breaks to businesses that primarily help the wealthy, setting up future crises, while using the current budget crisis to kill public employee unions, attempting to disenfranchise reliably Democratic voters, waging war on women, the poor, disabled and elderly. They are trying to roll back government benefits to the people while bestowing them on the rich all while wrapping this in rugged individualism, limited government and “hey, it’s not in the constitution”.
But we’ve always been in this together,
We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. ~ Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence
had need for governmental protection from abuses,
The public be damned! ~ William Vanderbilt upon his doubling of fares on New York streetcars
and it is in the constitution.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ~ Preamble of the Constitution of the United States (Emphasis Added)
And we have instituted real, positive, progressive changes in our society, and we can in the future. All it takes is for us to join together and organize. We have seen the rumblings of this in Wisconsin and I for one hope it continues. We must learn that rallies are all fine and dandy, but limited in their scope if those being protested will not heed the will of the people peacefully. Accountability through recalls is fantastic but horribly slow (especially in this case). There is some talk of a general strike which would be amazing, but how about some creative new tactics? Perhaps the good people of Wisconsin should visit their Governor at his Mansion 3 miles Northeast of the Capitol at all hours of the day and night. Perhaps its time to bang on some pots and pans so that he hears us. Perhaps.
Whatever those on the ground in Wisconsin decide, I’ll be there to help. I’m not going to physically go to Wisconsin as that would be a burden on both me and them, but I will send food boxes for strikers, I will gather donations, I will help organize. This is what we need and there’s a name for it…solidarity.
Which brings me back to my broader point, we on the left are too fractious. We organize around important issues when we need to be organizing around our crucial values. We each fight on our specific issue, but fail to get each others backs. We must realize that there are only two types of power the world has ever known; money power and people power, and people power is stronger if we have the numbers. However, as Ben Franklin made the point earlier in this post, we cannot fail to hang together. We need to unite the various movements of the left. The labor movement, the environmental justice movement, the peace movement, the civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and human rights movements. We need ALL progressives to come together, to stand together, to fight together. The fate of our country, our republic and our economic well being depends on it. This is an epic struggle for liberty, equality and justice and we must not falter. The time is now.
Cross Posted on Daily Kos