Friday, March 19, 2010

No More Nuance

Check out this article, if you desire, before reading my post.

A lot of self-titled "progressives" say things like this, from Miles Mogulescu of the Huffington Post:

“Progressives need to have a sophisticated and nuanced relationship with elected Democrats. After the 2008 elections, too many progressive organizations demobilized believing their job was simply to take orders from the White House to support Obama’s agenda, whatever it was. That was a mistake. It’s equally a mistake for progressives to overreact in the opposite direction and think they can abandon electoral politics and do nothing to prevent the Republicans from regaining power. What’s needed is a powerful grassroots progressive movement to force elected officials to do the right thing more often and to counter-balance the power of big money in politics. The periods of progressive change in American politics, like the Progressive Era, The New Deal, and the Great Society, have come when strong progressive movements have forced elites and elected officials to enact somewhat progressive legislation.”

Mogulescu advocates voting Democrat, but then creating a "powerful grassroots progressive movement to force elected officials to do the right thing." He claims that voting third party (or not voting) is naive and impractical, that the Democratic Party is our only hope for salvation from the big bad Republicans and their evil plan for destroying the world. Or something to that effect.

What is more naive, though? Voting third party, or expecting that you can create a "powerful grassroots movement to force elected officials to do the right thing." Hello? How, exactly, is that supposed to happen? Elected officials listen to two things, votes and money. Grassroots movements are not likely to compete with corporations (who, thanks to the Supreme Court, can now give indefinite sums of money to political campaigns) on the financial side. So the only power we the people have is the power of the vote. If we say: "Look, Mr. Obama, we want you to pass a health care bill that actually covers everyone and lowers insurance costs, but if you don't we'll still vote for you," what good does that do? If that is our approach, how easy is it for the Democrats to do what corporate interests want them to do, whilst paying lip-service to their cowed supporters?

No, Mr. Mogulescu, yours is a refrain too often heard. Your revision of the history of previous Progressive movements smacks of corporatism. The New Deal succeeded not because Progressive citizens "held their representatives' feet to the fire" in some namby-pamby, "nuanced" way, but rather because they threatened to and did vote for the Socialist Party. Because they were dangerous to the powers that be. Third parties didn't win any elections, but they did win the battles for reform upon which they were based.

Where do we stand today? Our modern news-cycle has, ironically, all but destroyed our once vibrant third-party world. The "impracticality" of voting for a Libertarian, a Green, or an Independent is so manifestly obvious to everyone that we have decided, instead, to lock ourselves into a perpetual cycle of "the lesser of two evils." If two trains are going to Hell, is it really better to hop on the slower one? I tell you, Mr. Mogulsecu, these trains that are the modern major parties don't have a "reverse" switch on them. This is a one way trip.

Unless, of course, we can overwhelm the power of money with the power of votes. Granting your ideal of a grassroots movement large enough to effect change in Washington, I suspect that same movement would be large enough perhaps not to elect a Nader as President, but certainly to elect a Mike Miles (of Colorado) to the Senate, or a Matt Gonzalez (of San Francisco) to the Congress. Indeed, perhaps we can elect a slew of these true, non-corporate progressives to the legislature, rather than hoping and praying that the Nancy Pelosis of the world will see the progressive light and try to make change for the better, simply because we the people asked nicely.

Now is not the time to ask nicely. The current health care bill, the bailouts, the continuing (unending) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reaffirmation of the Patriot Act, the passage of FAFSA (before Obama's presidency, but he voted for it as a Senator), the coming ramping-up of the disastrous "No Child Left Behind" bill... What do they have to do to lose your vote, Mr. Mogulescu? Which of these horrifying bits of Washington maneuvering did your nuanced opposition whittle down into a more palatable poison?

To pick one of these targets, the health care bill is now almost certain to pass. It has no public option. It requires that all citizens purchase health care, but does nothing to ensure that health care will be affordable. It even allows businesses to opt-out of providing health insurance for their employees. It is, in short, the wet-dream of the very health-insurance companies that are the root, tree, branches, and leaves of the problem of American health care. Far from constraining the growth of insurance company profits, this bill is a veritable fertilizer for those companies, which is why it stinks so bad.

No more nuance, Mr. Mogulescu. The Democrats have been shoving nuance down our throats for too long. Nuanced support lost Gore the election. It lost Kerry the election. Nuanced support meant that the Great Hope for Change that was Barrack Obama has turned into a second edition of George Bush (I do not exaggerate; show me a policy which has changed). Until we progressives start to scream at our beloved Democratic Party, "We're not going to take it anymore!" they have no reason to listen to us. Until we progressives demonstrate that we have the power to win and lose elections for the Democratic Party, they will not heed our demands. Until we progressives stop voting for Democrats, our votes will not count.

No comments:

Post a Comment