Sunday, November 04, 2012

Tuesday's national election and progressive politics from Wednesday on

Election Day is Tuesday. For me, the fight over budget cuts and Obama's Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will take center stage on Wednesday. Massive federal spending cuts would like slam the economy into another recession and leave us stuck in the depression, with employment far below 2007 levels, for years to come. In 2008-9, there was a fair amount of speculation about whether the US could have a "lost decade" like Japan in the 1990s.

We're halfway there now.

The fact that a Democratic President is likely to lead a drive to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid shows how dangerously skewed toward the policies of plutocrats American politics are right now.

Jamelle Bouie has a thoughtful piece on progressives and the Democratic Party, Win or Lose, What Should Progressives Do Next? The Nation 11/02/2012. He looks at the nature of conservative organizing since 1964:

This sounds obvious, but it’s often missing from conversations around how to out-maneuver conservatives and bring progressive ideas to bear on national problems. Ask liberals how to best move forward in advancing policies, and you’ll get some constellation of familiar answers: “Better education,” “getting money out of politics,” “more grassroots activism,” “better messaging.”

But the history of the conservative movement—and its triumph over moderates in the Republican Party—tells a different story. Yes, conservatives built think tanks, trained messengers and developed new ideas. But they also invested in the hard and dirty work of winning elections. And not just on the presidential level—for decades before the GOP revolution of 1994, or the election of George W. Bush in 2000, conservatives were building political organizations at the local and state level. Conservatives—some organized, others inspired—worked to dominate school boards, city councils, state legislatures and other more granular positions in American political life.
In other words: organize, organize, organize.

But not just any organization will improve things. Bouie doesn't get into the need for unions, but unions are a vital part of any progressive political movement. In terms of organizing effort transforming into political clout, unionizing is the most highly effective kind I can think of. And legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) that would facilitate union organizing - and which Obama promised to support as a candidate in 2008 but pretty much forgot the day he was elected - should be a high priority for progressives and Democrats who want their party to be more than a center-right party contending with a loony-right Republican Party. Bouie:

Over the next four years, progressives should work to build their strength at the local level, and at the same time, try to use the party primary system to push the Democratic Party in its favored direction. Some liberals prefer third parties, which is understandable—Democrats have been lackluster, at best, when it comes to advancing progressive ideas. But to borrow a phrase, we fight with the system we have, not the one we want. Odds are low that the United States will move away from a first past the post, winner-takes-all electoral arrangement. As such, odds are even lower that we’ll move away from a two-party system. For now at least, the Democratic Party remains the best vehicle for progressives, and we should take advantage of that. Doing something as straightforward as replacing a moderate Democrat with a liberal one can go a long way toward increasing the currency of our ideas.

The pay off to all of this isn't just a strong roster of progressive lawmakers—it’s a country where progressives have deep influence in the halls of power, and can exercise power in a serious way. It may take a generation to succeed, but as we’ve seen with the conservative movement, it can and will work.
There are groups like Blue America that are working on getting progressive Democrats nominated and elected to Congress. As Digby points out in a specific case, (They'd rather have a crazy Republican than even try to elect a progressive Hullabaloo 11/03/2012), the Democratic Establishment can be hostile to progressives even when they have a great shot at winning against a hardline Republican. The case she describes there with the help of a Chris Hayes video involves the 11th Congressional District in Michigan.

Both Digby and Howie Klein of Down With Tyranny keep track of Blue America candidates. Speaking of Howie Klein, he makes an interesting observation about the expectations of the Romney campaign in Romney Knows It's All Over 11/02/2012:

Today, for the first time in memory, the Republican Party failed to deliver the weekly radio address to stations. Romney taped it, but never distributed it. He's just going through the motions now and riding out the embarrassment that's coming his way on Tuesday, probably worrying about how harsh the attacks from the far right on him and his world will be once AP calls the election for Obama. Romney's closing argument is, basically, vote for me or the House Republicans will wreck the economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. Sounds to me like a clarion call to defeat Republicans running for Congress. Even with unrelenting GOP obstruction of every single attempt Obama and the Democrats have made to fix the horrendous economy Bush and the GOP left, the final jobs report before Tuesday was more terrible news for Romney (and great news for America): 171,000 jobs added in October, coupled with sharp upward revisions to the prior two months data brought the average over the last three months to 170,000.
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