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“Unprecedented Demographic Change”: Adapting To Change Requires Curiosity And Creativity

Our 24/7 news cycle that is addicted to the crisis of the moment and the horse race of electoral politics doesn’t do a good job of recognizing the tectonic shifts of change that are undergirding our lives.

The attacks of 9/11 followed by the Great Recession changed the way a lot of people feel about America in ways that aren’t articulated often enough. We are experiencing demographic change that is unprecedented, are nearing the end of two terms for our first African American president and are likely on the cusp of electing our first female president. All of that is happening as we are experiencing the effects of globalization and automation in our economy while technology becomes more central to how we live our everyday lives. Finally, we are just beginning to see the effects of climate change – with dramatic impacts looming on the horizon.

We can play the political parlor game of trying to suss out which of these is the most responsible for the dynamics of our current politics, or we can notice that the combination of those changes is affecting all of us. When Kevin Drum wonders why both political parties are afraid to talk about an improving economy and Gregg Easterbrook asks when optimism became uncool, I suspect that it is the weight of all of these changes that is the answer. But Easterbrook makes an interesting observation.

Though candidates on the right are full of fire and brimstone this year, the trend away from optimism is most pronounced among liberals. A century ago Progressives were the optimists, believing society could be improved, while conservatism saw the end-times approaching. Today progressive thought embraces Judgment Day, too…

Pessimists think in terms of rear-guard actions to turn back the clock. Optimists understand that where the nation has faults, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

The Tea Party responded to these changes by saying that they wanted to “take our country back.” When Donald Trump talks about “making America great again,” that’s essentially what he is saying too. Fear and retreat are a pretty common reaction to change among human beings.

Traditionally progressives have faced challenges like this by working on ways to move forward rather than pinning for days past. To do so requires things like curiosity and creativity. The past can be examined objectively, but the future is still uncertain. Ideologues too often stand in the way of curiosity and creativity. Here is how then-Senator Barack Obama talked about that back in 2005:

…the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, “true” progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward. When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive “checklist,” then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems.

I believe that this is why the President so often says that it is young people who inspire his optimism. They tend to be free of the ideologies and baggage of the past. Instead, they bring fresh eyes to the challenges we face going forward. Progressives need not fear the changes we are experiencing today when we tap into all of that.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 17, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“All-Power-Or-No-Power Tea Party Stuff”: Purist Progressives Who Don’t Want Power Or Relevancy

I have already made what I consider a reasonable progressive case against a Clinton-Warren ticket, but there are some unreasonable progressive cases out there.

Even if Warren cut a deal to endorse Clinton and serve in her administration, it’s not clear whether all of her backers — or Sanders’ steadfast supporters — would automatically jump aboard the Hillary bandwagon.

“I find it highly improbable that a leading voice in the progressive movement, whether it be Elizabeth Warren or someone else, would want to be sitting in the vice president’s office or in the Cabinet,” said Jonathan Tasini, a New York-based Sanders supporter who isn’t ready to give up the fight for Bernie. “Would Warren or any true progressive be willing to make the obvious compromises that a moderate corporate Democrat Hillary would demand? I don’t think so.”

Politico might have mentioned that Jonathan Tasini ran in a Democratic primary against Clinton’s 2006 Senate reelection bid, but they didn’t. He got a whopping seventeen percent of New York state Democrats’ votes. Then he threatened to run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010 before deciding to wage a doomed House campaign against Charlie Rangel instead. I don’t begrudge the guy’s desire to challenge the Establishment in New York, but he’s lucky if he speaks for 17% of the people there.

Progressives like Tasini are so anti-establishmentarian, and so reflexively suspicious of power, that they don’t actually want any for themselves. Not really. If you want to argue that Warren is more valuable as a senator than she could be as a vice-president, or that Sanders could get more done as the Chairman of the Budget Committee than he could cooling his heels in the Naval Observatory, I think those are entirely defensible arguments. But this dismissal of the value of having progressive champions chosen to be first-in-line to the presidency is something to behold.

It wasn’t too long ago that there were no Progressive Caucus members in the Senate. The Iraq War and its aftermath has certainly changed that. Former House progressives Ed Markey, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono and Bernie Sanders are all serving in the Senate today, along with folks like Brian Schatz, Martin Heinrich, Tom Udall, Al Franken, and Jeff Merkley who are pretty progressive in their own right. When Elizabeth Warren looks around, she doesn’t feel like she’s all alone.

But, still, nothing says you’ve arrived like getting put on a presidential ticket. That’s the opposite of the pariah status progressives have suffered under since the Reagan Revolution kicked into full swing. From a progressive point of view, Warren isn’t necessarily a better pick ideologically than any of the others on the above list, but she’s more famous and a more gifted politician (at this point) than the others. She’s also a proven success at the inside bureaucratic game, which she proved when getting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau set up in the face of withering opposition.

The idea that a “true” progressive wouldn’t sully themselves by association with a Clinton presidency is a rejection of the advances progressives have made, and it’s a recipe for continued marginalization and irrelevancy. What I object to is not the rational assessment that a particular progressive (whether Sanders, Warren or someone else) might be more influential in a role other than the vice-presidency. What I find galling is the idea that no good progressive should be willing to serve “in the vice president’s office or in the Cabinet” of a Clinton administration because it would involve making compromises.

As George W. Bush said, the president is the decider, and anyone who serves the president must accept that they sometimes have to salute decisions they didn’t recommend. This all-power-or-no-power no compromise attitude is Tea Party stuff.

It’s laughable.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 12, 2016

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Progressives, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The ‘Sandernistas’ Brand New Congress Initiative”: The Bernie Camp’s Really Bad Idea of A ‘Tea Party Of The Left’

From a great distance, the news that volunteers associated with Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign are turning their attentions to the herculean task of organizing progressives for midterm elections would seem to be exciting news for all Democrats. Without question, the close alignment of the two parties with groups of voters who do (older white people) and don’t (younger and minority people) participate in non-presidential elections has been a big part — along with the normal backlash against the party controlling the White House — of the massive Republican gains of 2010 and 2014. The prospect of heightened midterm turnout from under-30 voters alone could be a big and important deal for the Donkey Party.

But the closer you get to the Sandernistas’ Brand New Congress initiative — the new project by recently laid-off Bernie staffers to create a revolution in Congress beginning with the 2018 elections — the less it looks like the instrument for a difficult but achievable task and the more it looks like the product of a very strange set of beliefs about American politics. It’s not focused on boosting progressive turnout in general elections, but on recruiting and running candidates in Republican as well as Democratic primaries who meet a rigid set of policy litmus tests. The idea is very explicitly that people alive with the Bern can literally elect a “brand-new Congress” in one election cycle to turn public policy 180 degrees. Or so says key organizer Zack Exley:

“We want a supermajority in Congress that is fighting for jobs, criminal justice reform and the environment,” Exley said. “Most Americans actually want that, and I think we get it by running Dems in blue areas, Republicans in deep red areas, and by running independents wherever we didn’t defeat incumbents.”

Republicans, too?

Corbin Trent, another former Sanders staffer, said bringing Republicans on board is “the key to it being a successful idea” and there’s enough overlap between Sanders’ platform and tea party conservatives to make the PAC’s goals feasible.

Reality television star Donald Trump’s current status as the Republican front-runner demonstrates that GOP voters are eager for candidates who, like Trump, criticize the corrupting influence of money in politics and the impact of free trade deals on American workers, Trent said.

“This will allow Republicans to say ‘Yeah, I’m a Republican, but I believe climate change is real and I don’t believe all Muslims are terrorists,” he said. “It will allow people to think differently in the Republican Party if they want to pull away from the hate-based ideology.”

Yes, that was what I feared: The discredited notion that lefties and the tea party can make common cause in something other than hating on the Clintons and Barack Obama is back with a vengeance. And worse yet, Donald Trump — Donald Trump — is being touted as an example of a Republican capable of progressive impulses because he shares the old right-wing mercantilist hostility to free trade and has enough money to scorn lobbyists. Does your average Trump supporter really “believe climate change is real” and disbelieve that “all Muslims are terrorists”? Do Obamacare-hating tea-partiers secretly favor single-payer health care? Do the people in tricorn hats who favor elimination of labor unions deep down want a national $15-an-hour minimum wage? And do the very activists who brought the Citizens United case and think it’s central to the preservation of the First Amendment actually want to overturn it?

It’s this last delusion that’s the most remarkable. If there is any one belief held most vociferously by tea-party activists, it’s that anything vaguely approaching campaign-finance reform is a socialist, perhaps even a satanic, conspiracy. These are the people who don’t think donors to their political activities should be disclosed because Lois Lerner will use that information to launch income-tax audits and persecute Christians. The tea folk are much closer to the Koch brothers in their basic attitudes toward politics than they are to conventional Republicans.

But there persists a sort of “tea envy” in progressive circles. Here’s Salon staff writer Sean Illing in a piece celebrating Brand New Congress:

Real change in this country will require a sustained national mobilization, what I’ve called a counter-Tea Party movement. While their agenda was nihilistic and obstructionist, the Tea Party was a massive success by any measure. And they succeeded because they systematically altered the Congressional landscape.

Well, you could say that, or you could say the tea party’s excesses cost Republicans control of the Senate in 2012, and produced an environment that’s made Donald Trump and Ted Cruz the GOP’s only two options for this year’s presidential nomination. Indeed, you can probably thank the tea party for the likelihood of a very good Democratic general election this November.

But that will again produce excellent conditions for another Republican-dominated midterm in 2018. It sure would make sense for progressives to  focus on how to minimize the damage in the next midterm and begin to change adverse long-term turnout patterns. Expending time, money, and energy on scouring the earth looking for Republican primary candidates willing to run on a democratic-socialist agenda will not be helpful.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 29, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Progressives, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Thanks For Asking”: How Do You Make Change Happen? Show Up

In my travels and conversations this year, I’ve been encouraged that grassroots people of all progressive stripes (populist, labor, liberal, environmental, women, civil libertarian, et al.) are well aware of the slipperiness of “victory” and want Washington to get it right this time. So over and over, Question No. 1 that I encounter is some variation of this: What should we do!?! How do we make Washington govern for all the people? What specific things can my group or I do now?

Thanks for asking. The first thing you can do to bring about change is show up. Think of showing up as a sort of civic action, where you get to choose something that fits your temperament, personal level of activism, available time and energy, etc. The point here is that every one of us can do something — and every bit helps.

Simply being there matters. While progressives have shown up for elections in winning numbers, our movement then tends to fade politely into the shadows, leaving public officials (even those we put in office) free to ignore us and capitulate to ever-present, ever-insistent corporate interests. No more. Grassroots progressives — as individuals and through our groups — must get in the face of power and stay there.

This doesn’t require a trip to Washington, though it can. It can be done right where you live — in personal meetings, on the phone, via email and letters, through social media (tweet at the twits!), on petitions, and any additional ways of communication that you and other creative people can invent. Hey, we’re citizens, voters, constituents — so we should not hesitate to request in-person appointments to chat with officials back home (these need not be confrontational), attend forums where they’ll be (local hearings, town hall sessions, speeches, meet & greets, parades, ribbon-cuttings, receptions, etc). They generally post their public schedules on their websites. Go to their meetings, ask questions, or at least say hello, introduce yourself, and try to achieve this: MAKE THEM LEARN YOUR NAME.

OK, you’re too busy to show up at all this stuff, but try one, then think of going to one every month or two. And you don’t have to go alone — get a family member, a couple of friends, a few members of the groups you’re in to join you. Make it an excursion, rewarding yourselves with a nice glass of wine or a beer and some laughs afterward.

Then there are times (“in the course of human events,” as Jefferson put it) when citizens have to come together in big numbers to protest, to insist on being heard. Lobbyists are able to meet with officials in quiet rooms, but when we’re shut out, a higher form of patriotism demands that ordinary folks surround a public official’s district office or a high-dollar fundraising event to deliver a noisy message about the people’s needs.

This is especially necessary for officials who get a substantial or even majority vote from progressive constituencies… but still stiff us on such major needs as increasing the minimum wage, overturning Citizens United, endorsing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street speculators, and prohibiting the outrage of voter suppression. We have a right to expect them to respect our vote, and stand with us on the big issues. We’ve been too quiet, too indulgent with such office holders, and they won’t change until we start confronting them publicly.

Both in terms of having your own say and in demonstrating the strength of the grassroots numbers behind the policy changes we want, you and I are going to have to get noisier, more demonstrative, more out-front in demanding that elected officials really pay heed to those who elected them. Let’s make 2016 the year of reintroducing ourselves and our expectations to policymakers. At their every turn, we should be there, becoming a personal human presence (even an irritant) they cannot ignore.

 

By: Jim Hightower, Featured Post, The National Memo, April 13, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Elected Officials, Progressives | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sanders And The Snapchat Liberals”: Why Progressive America Routinely Punches Below Its Weight On The National Stage

If the polls hold, scoring tickets to “Hamilton” will be as good as it’s going to get for Bernie Sanders in New York. But let us first linger in Wisconsin, where Democrats and independents gave Sanders what looked like a decisive win.

It seems that 15 percent of Sanders’ Wisconsin supporters voted only for Bernie, leaving the rest of the ballot blank. By contrast, only 4 percent of Hillary Clinton voters skipped the down-ballot races.

It happens that one of the down-ballot races was for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. The progressive, JoAnne Kloppenburg, had a good chance of toppling Rebecca Bradley, a right-wing appointee of Gov. Scott Walker’s. But Kloppenburg lost, in part because of the laziness of Snapchat liberals.

Snapchat is a messaging app that makes photos and videos disappear after they are viewed. Its logo is a ghost. Snapshot liberals are similarly ephemeral. They regard their job as exulting in the hero of the moment. Once the job is done, they vanish.

(An interesting wrinkle is that 10 percent of Sanders’ voters checked the box for Bradley. This suggests that a good chunk of his win came not from fans but from conservatives seeking to frustrate the Clinton candidacy.)

Anyhow, three days later, a Wisconsin circuit court judge struck down an anti-union law backed by Walker. The law ended unions’ right to require that private-sector workers benefiting from their negotiations pay dues or an equivalent sum.

The ruling was hailed as a “victory for unions,” but that victory will almost certainly be short-lived because the matter now heads to a divided state Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court justice, Kloppenburg could have helped save it.

Sanders can’t directly take the rap for this. He, in fact, had endorsed Kloppenburg.

But the Sanders campaign rests on contempt for a Democratic establishment that backs people like Kloppenburg. It sees even the normal give-and-take of governing as thinly veiled corruption. Liberals involved in the necessary horse trading are dismissed as sullied beyond repair.

TV comedy news reinforces this cartoonish view of what governing entails. The entertainers deliver earnest but simple-minded sermons on how all but a chosen few folks in Washington are corrupt hypocrites. (I find their bleeped-out F-words so funny. Don’t you?)

Snapchat liberals tend to buy into the “great man” theory of history. So if change comes from electing a white knight on a white horse, why bother with the down-ballot races?

Hence the irritating pro-Sanders poster: “Finally a reason to vote.”

Oh? Weren’t there reasons to vote all these years as tea party activists stocked Congress with crazy people? Wasn’t giving President Obama a Congress he could work with a reason to vote? (The liberal savior in 2008, Obama saw his own Snapchat fan base evaporate come the midterms.)

When asked whether he’d raise money for other Democrats if he were to win the nomination, Sanders replied, “We’ll see.”

Bernie doesn’t do windows and toilets. That’s for establishment Democrats.

The difference between the pitchfork right and the Snapchat left is this: The right marches to the polls to vote the other side out. The left waits for saintly inspiration. If the rallies are euphoric and the Packers aren’t playing the Bears, they will deign to participate. Then they’re gone in a poof of righteous smoke.

It is a crashing irony that many liberals who condemn voter suppression by the right practice voter suppression on themselves. The liberal version doesn’t involve onerous ID requirements at the polls. It comes in the deadening message that few candidates are good enough to merit a vote.

And that’s why progressive America routinely punches below its weight on the national stage.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, April 12, 2016

April 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Down Ballot Candidates, Hillary Clinton, Progressives | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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