Report on meeting about progressive coalition building, with Rocky Anderson

Saturday afternoon I attended a meeting on “Progressive Coalition Building – 2012 and Beyond” at Green Lake library in Seattle. The meeting was organized by supporters of Rocky Anderson, who is running for President under the auspices of the Justice Party.

Anderson spoke by Skype for the first 45 minutes. (Impressively clear audio and video!) During the first 20 minutes, he gave a competent speech. “There’s no real choice between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to fundamentals.” There’s especially a lack of of leadership on climate change.

Anderson said that the federal government is at a 20 year low for the number of prosecutions for financial fraud. There are one third the number of prosecutions under President Obama as there we under Bill Clinton.

Obama is “ratcheting up the imperial presidency.” “We’re living under a tyranny … I know that’s a harsh word.” Anderson gave the example of indefinite detention, which clearly violates the due process clause. It’s remarkable to him that this “blatantly unconstitutional” provision passed Congress and was signed into law.

Is Obama the lesser of two evils? In some ways he’s the more effective of two evils, because he has no opposition from the Democrats, who fear aiding the GOP and so won’t oppose him no matter what he does.

During the Reagan presidency, the administration hired pollsters to see if they could get away with indefinite detention. The pollsters said the people would oppose it, so Reagan gave up on the idea. Nowadays the government gets away with a lot, and the people don’t seem to object.

Campaign finance reform is a “dispositive” (deciding) issue. (I think that’s the word he said!)

Anderson is aware that the Occupy Movement doesn’t want interference from politicians. (I sensed that Anderson thinks his policies are consistent with the preferences of the occupiers and would like their support.)

Someone said that the last two third party candidates to win any electoral votes were Jesse Helms and George Wallace. (Andy Kern did some research and found this website, according to which the George Wallace was the most recent third party candidates to get any delegates, in 1968;  Jesse Helms isn’t mentioned.)

Anderson mentioned that Teddy Roosevelt ran for President in 1912 under the Progressive (“Bull Moose”) (after he had already served as President from 1901 to 1909). Though he lost that election, most of the progressive policies he supported soon became law. So, third parties work, even if their candidate doesn’t win.

The last half of the Skype chat consisted of questions and answers. I asked, “Given that it’s unlikely you’ll win, what do you hope to achieve and how will you get the media coverage to achieve it?”

Anderson replied that when he announced his run, he was on a dozen major talk shows. People WANT a third party. Congress’ approval rating is low.

“What do I want to see? Momentum towards building a massive, broad-based peoples’ movement,” like in the 60s. General strikes might work.

Our advantage now compared to the 60s is that we have better social media (the Internet). The flip side is that click-based activism isn’t enough. People need to meet in person and build local organizations.

Someone asked if he’s considered who his running mate might be. He said he has some people in mind but wishes to keep their names private at this point.

He said he has spoken with Chris Hedges, who (he thinks) would endorse him but Hedges needs to maintain independence so he can work with Occupiers.

Anderson closed by saying that he loves feedback. “I am not a fount of all wisdom.”

During the last 45 minutes of the meeting, a dozen of us activists sat in a circle and discussed our ideas for social change. Most of the people were middle-aged or above, but there were two young people: someone active in the Occupy Movement and a coastal scientist. I was impressed by the smart dialog. We were all asked to share our vision for the future (along political lines).

Someone said that the Left is usually unprofessional. We need to be very professional, thoughtful, and organized. The GOP and Dems are professional.

One participant said we need constitutional changes to open up the electoral system to more than one party. Though the Constitution doesn’t explicitly mandate two parties, it has structural rules that cause two parties to prevail: winner take all, the electoral college, and the lack of runoff voting, for example.

When it was my turn to talk, I described my vision about building a progressive media that we progressives control, so we’re not dependent on the Seattle Times and on TV to get out our message. The Left is disorganized and uncoordinated.  There are many groups. We can’t even speak to each other. We need to talk to each other first, then coordinate and cooperate, then reach out to people outside the progressive echo chamber. Otherwise, we’ll never be able to stop voters from buying into conservative b.s. and from voting against their own self-interest, as they did with I-1098 and I-1053 in 2010.

To get constitutional changes (reversing Citizens United) and policy changes we first need to educate the public and market our ideas.

Many participants nodded their heads. No one people or faction should control the progressive media we build.

Linda Boyd, the de facto head of the Justice Party in Washington State, called on participants to volunteer for the Justice Party. Fair enough. But there is also a need for progressive coalition building (as the title of the meeting, “Progressive Coalition Building – 2012 and Beyond”, suggests).   The first half of the meeting was mostly about Anderson. The second half was about progressive coalition building.

Several people there said they want to meet again. I agree. Great group of smart progressives.

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