I personally lack the nerve and freedom to go to D.C. and join such a protest, but by analogy with the situation in Egypt and other countries, I can see why people feel forced to engage in such resistance.
There’s a leadership vacuum on the Left, due to the centrism of President Obama, Governor Gregoire, and the leadership of the Democratic Party.
Recently MoveOn.org has stepped in to fill that vacuum and has been successful at garnering citizen participation and media coverage.
Dozens of new people showed up at recent MoveOn house meetings I attended. (See Thoughts on yesterday’s American Dream meeting and MoveOn’s plan for a mass movement.) Turnout was even higher at protests that MoveOn organized at Congressional offices, including that of Republican Congressman Dave Reichert (8th CD, WA). People are scared and angry about Republican insanity and Democratic complicity, and MoveOn provides a useful means of using that anger constructively.
About 75 people turned out at a July 26th protest at Reichert’s Mercer Island office. Over 60 people showed up on Aug 2. Both Reichert protests generated a lot of press, for example:
King 5 video on visits to McDermott, Smith & Reichert; MoveOn was mentioned
Reichert’s video remarks (let the system work) didn’t address the issues.
Article w/pics about Reichert visit
“Mercer Island Police arrived a short time later to escort the protesters out of the building and allowing them to gather on the sidewalk on 78th Avenue SE.”
A friend wrote, “A reporter from Mercer Island patch was there and he was writing about it. You may check that. People gathered and went to his office and then they said we should be outside and 2 staffers with clip board came and handed people a piece of paper with their information and they concerns.”
Sandra VanderVen, a MoveOn regional coordinator, deserves applause for organizing these events and stepping forward, literally, with a megaphone at the protests.
I just started a new job and so I have been unable to attend either protest. Apparently, only unemployed, under-employed or retired people have the time to attend such protests, which are usually in the middle of the day on a work day.
MoveOn.org has gone through a lot since it was formed in 1998 in response to the impeachment of Bill Clinton. It’s played a big role in helping elect Democrats but has also come under criticism for being inflexible (top-down), controlling, and complicit with centrism. The Democratic Party has at times treated MoveOn unfairly, for example in response to MoveOn’s controversial General “Betray Us” ad in the New York Times.
People stop attending meetings and protests if they feel that nothing is being accomplished. Right now, MoveOn is succeeding. An organizer of one of the house meetings wrote, “I know that MoveOn.org is really trying to get things moving and right now – that’s going to be tough. I didn’t get to sit in on much of the discussion last time but what I heard was a frustration that people want to DO something and not just sit around. I had one guy grill me on what was going to be done with the information that came out of meeting. Had to admit that I’m not sure – just that I did send it forward to the right people.”
Like the rest of us, MoveOn is imperfect, but it’s been a force for good overall, especially recently. Let’s hope it continues to make constructive use of peoples’ anger.
Let’s also hope that the media continue to give coverage to MoveOn events. In fact, better yet: let’s make our own news media so that we’re no longer at the mercy of often conservative news outlets.
It was just a couple of nights ago that Keith Olbermann was challenging us, in one of his “Special Comments”, to rise up in the streets and take back this country.
He pointed out that the only way those on the left were going to be able to fight against those who are looking to get all “Tea Party” is to be as angry and as organized and as aggressive as the Tea Party community, and if we’re smart, we’ll take him up on that challenge.
But if you really want to push “professional” Democrats to the left, most especially this President, and you want to do it in time to impact the ’12 cycle, the only way to do it is to run a candidate in primary contests that either moves the conversation your way…or leaves you with a surprising new Candidate.
And right here, right now, we actually have a chance to do exactly that – and that’s why, in today’s discussion, I’m going to challenge Olbermann right back.
“Then white men began to fence the plains so that we could not travel; and anyhow there was…nothing to travel for. We began to stay in one place, and to grow lazy and sicker all the time. Our men had fought hard against our enemies, holding them back from our beautiful country by their bravery, but now with everything else going wrong, we began to be whipped by their weak foolishness…”
–Pretty Shield, of the Crow Nation, quoted in the book “The Native Americans: An Illustrated History”
So imagine, if you will, how the political conversation would be different right now if this President was facing a primary challenge from an unabashed Lefty.
Let’s go further: just imagine how things would be different over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or over at the Capitol if someone announced they were running against this President from the left – and on the day that person announced, they had 15-20% of the Democratic electorate in their pocket, with an increasingly unpopular President on the other side.
Now imagine if that person had no qualms about “pooping in the Democratic pool”, and was willing to call out the Party establishment for having let the Nation down in so many different ways these past couple years, which would presumably make that candidate very interesting to those who support the interests of Labor, just to give one example.
And most importantly of all, imagine if this President, having just caved, again, for a second, and, soon, a third round of Republican hostage-taking (and facing a fourth in January of 2013), had to face a riled-up and articulate opponent on a debate stage.
Of course, for that to happen, you’d need a credible figure with national recognition, and in this environment, it wouldn’t hurt if that person wasn’t too closely associated with either Washington or the existing political parties.
(All of this would also make that candidate interesting to centrist voters as well; you’ll recall that the ’08 Obama Campaign appealed to many centrist voters for many of the same reasons.)
It also wouldn’t hurt if that person looked like a President, and even better, if that person was entirely familiar with the world of television.
So think about all that for a minute…and after you do, consider this: is there anyone else out there that you’d rather see primarying this President than Keith Olbermann?
Now let me take a minute and talk directly to you, Mr. Olbermann:
I know you said that it’s time for us to get organized and angry, but in this media world, if you don’t have Astroturf to get your movement off the ground, you need a celebrity with respect in all the right places, and that describes you pretty well.
Movements need to raise money, and if you were to go out there and do a week of hustling, I’ll bet you could raise seed money from both the “Left Coast” and “Upper West Side” communities (and you might even be able to hit your boss up for a donation); you could also draw a lot of PAC money (Labor, for starters, the gAyTM, for another) and lots of individual, enthusiastic, Internet contributions – and what happens to the political conversation if the Olbermann Campaign begins to raise money at a pace that puts The Fear on the Obama Campaign?
Al Gore took a big risk, and a made a big financial commitment besides, when he decided to bring you over to Current, and I don’t want you to have to worry about what’s going to happen over there; with that in mind I’m going to suggest that we ask Michael Moore to step in to take the wheel for a short time, at the same time you let Schuster run the actual newsgathering operation, so that we know you’ll be able to come back to something that has been in pretty good hands.
“…(baseball is) our national pastime, that is if you discount political campaigning.”
Before you dismiss this idea out of hand, Keith (can I call you Keith?), I want you to think about one thing, and I want you to think about this very, very, carefully:
You know what happens to those lucky few who actually make it through a Presidential campaign and win?
They get to throw out the first pitch of the new baseball season – at least four times.
You could take a few months out of what you have done so well and really change the direction of this nation’s politics, and you could think of it as a patriotic duty– but it would also be an incredible learning experience, and you’d come back to your own job with an understanding of the inner workings of realpolitik that very few on television could ever match…and after it’s over, since you wouldn’t be running again, you could actually talk about “where the bodies are buried” in a way no one else can.
Maybe you’re thinking: “How can I be credible if I have no real ability to run a government?” The answer can be found, literally, right here.
The Blogosphere is entirely capable of providing the appointees who would run a Government – after all, we have experts, including a Nobel laureate, to run an economy (Secretary of the Treasury Paul Krugman? Robert Reich for Council of Economic Advisors?), and folks like Lawrence Wilkerson who could take over at State…and I could go on and on and on, all the way down to my man Marshall Adame, who, I promise you, has all the training and skills we would need to ramrod the actual physical process of withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan (you’ll find him at BlueNC; on his resume is a stint running the Basra Airport, a couple of decades as a Marine logistician, and an unsuccessful run for Congress).
And it’s not like you would be more subject to scrutiny than you are now: virtually every hard-right Conservative out there already sees you as the Devil incarnate – and that’s actually an advantage in this situation that can’t be ignored.
You want to go from making Special Comments about how The Fear has overtaken Democrats to being the one who puts The Fear upon them?
You wanna drive Grover Norquist and Steny Hoyer absolutely nuts, both at the same time?
You want to finally do what Craig Nettles got to do, that you never did: play baseball and join the circus?
Well, here’s your chance to do something that could change the whole political conversation – and before we’re done, President Obama might even find those “comfortable shoes” we’ve heard so much about.
So let’s take one for America, and let’s get this thing on the hump, or whatever cliché you prefer…but let’s do it now, and let’s do it well, and let’s create something that brings the “discouraged” public to bear in a way they aren’t today.
This is your chance to do something big, something profound…something that takes your “diva tendencies” and plays them to their best advantage…and I think it’s time for you to get behind this idea; before, as you suggested could happen, the window to fight back closes.
Can we all breathe a sigh of relief now that Congress has passed and the president has signed a bill increasing the debt ceiling and cutting the budget by $1 trillion? After all, it seems like sanity prevailed.
That would have been the case if Congress has simply passed an increase in the debt ceiling. It didn’t. What we got was a package of bad policy gift-wrapped in rosy rhetoric from the president and Congress. What we will get in the next year is a stagnating economy, increased unemployment and a growing federal deficit.
The deal cuts $7 billion from federal spending starting in October. That translates to about 150,000 lost jobs, when you account for both the direct jobs held by civil servants and government contractors, and the jobs created when they spend their paychecks. Then it cuts another $3 billion in government services in the next year. Pile that on top of the national and Washington state unemployment rate of 9.2 percent, and the Snohomish County unemployment rate exceeding 10 percent, and you have the recipe for increasing unemployment and decreasing hope.
It doesn’t help that our economy grew by just 1 percent on an annual basis for the first six months of this year. That doesn’t keep up with population growth and it doesn’t make up for the trillions of dollars that “disappeared” when the economy initially tanked in 2008 and 2009. In our state alone, one result is that we have 150,000 fewer jobs than before the recession.
So now is not the time to cut back on government services. We need them more than ever. We need them to cushion the impact of this continuing stagnation on working and unemployed people, with unemployment insurance, food stamps and Medicaid. And we need the jobs other federal services require, whether those are at the Everett Navy base or in the national forest surrounding Arlington. Don’t count on them.
It gets worse. The deal cuts $1 trillion from federal programs in the next 10 years. On top on this, it empowers a “super-Congress” of 12 legislators to reduce the federal deficit by another $2.5 trillion, through spending cuts, including possible cuts to Medicare and Social Security. (They call this entitlement reform, but actually it is simply taking away benefits we all worked for.)
Congress and the president have engaged in a charade of rhetoric. They say, as if it was a good thing, that they will cut government spending. Would that be cutting the Food and Drug Administration, which tests and guarantees drug safety and effectiveness? How about the firefighters in the national forests? Maybe we could just let those fires burn out of control. How about the Federal Aviation Administration? Surely we don’t need air traffic controllers to land planes. Or just cut Social Security payments, now that we have seen the bottom drop out of our private retirement plans. Sure, cut the only sure bet for economic security in old age.
But the most damning thing about the deal is that it won’t work. It won’t do what it says it will do. It is based on fairy tales of economic growth that remain illusions. For example, the Congressional Budget Office forecast a 3 percent growth rate in the gross domestic product this year. Thus far, it is coming in at 1 percent.
Numbers like these mean that the deal will deepen stagnation and lead us into a double-dip recession. As a result, tax revenues will decline, because there will be fewer jobs, less out-of-pocket consumption and less income. At the same time, the need for essential supports, such as unemployment insurance, health care and food stamps, will increase, fueling more government spending.
So we will see a bigger federal deficit sooner — one that could actually force Congress and the president to again raise the debt ceiling before the next election, which is exactly what they wanted to avoid.
Originally published at HeraldNet