Evidence supporting both propositions exists to such a degree, in fact, that many young liberals and progressives claim that continuing to practice party politics as usual is to engage in an exercise of denial. Significantly, they no longer get angrily written off by the more conservative core of the Party as naive trouble makers. That the Party must heal itself, must forge a united focus, with new leadership can be felt as a pre-volcanic rumble threatening at any moment to erupt into a real movement -- finally.
Some feel that the election thefts and the certainty of more in the future constitute plenty of motivation for such a movement -- no other catalyst is necessary. Unfortunately, history teaches that people rarely mobilize to redress a wrong when their own leaders quit the field. Citizens seem to need a dynamic, positive goal to unite and ignite them.
Pulling out of Iraq might constitute a unifying goal if it included comprehensively revising U.S. foreign policy. At present, however, Democrats disagree widely concerning how a pull-out should be handled and even more widely about foreign policy in general. Protecting the Bill of Rights could be a unifying goal as part of a dynamic, ritualistic, massive reaffirmation of the Constitution. But Democrats vary greatly in their degree of alarm over applications of the Patriot Act and other anti-constitutional Neocon policies.
The idea of recreating the Democratic Party from the ground up unifies some progressives, but these activists are divided over strategy. Some want to mount a revolution within the Party, others to build an external organization bent upon pressuring the Party further to the left. In any event, most Democrats remain content to operate within the party's existing framework, remaining loyal to the DNC if not to the DLC. Other goals that unify all Democrats, unequally, are education reform, social security stabilization, and the stemming of job-loss to workers abroad. Because Democrats differ significantly in terms of how these issues affect them as individuals, the degree of energy they are willing to expend upon them varies as well. Many feel that job loss in particular -- more than 2 million manufacturing jobs since 1998, according to AFL-CIO President John Sweeny addressing the National Press Club on Jan 18 of this year -- is an issue that transcends party politics.
One issue alone unites all liberals and progressives (rationally, all citizens), ranks at or near the top of everyone's set of priorities and falls solidly within the sphere of Democratic party politics: the need for a system of government controlled universal health care in the United States. The number of uninsured Americans varies between 20 and 60 million depending on how one poses the question. According to Susan Starr Sered and Rushika Fernandopulle, authors of Uninsured in America, the figure most often reported in 2003 was 47.3 million. The January 19, 2006 Stanford Daily reports that "45 million Americans are uninsured" and "the United States spends more on health care than other industrialized nations with universal health insurance."
Notwithstanding declarations by some high ranking Party officials that this is an unfeasible goal, most of the rank and file view it as an altogether doable objective,given sufficient resolve. This issue, moreover, cuts across lines of class (at least all strata below the wealthy elite), race, ethnicity, sexual preference and gender. It potentially mobilizes the grass-roots and provides political purchase for leaders such as Congressmen Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, and wealthy financier George Soros. It has such strong appeal across such a wide base that even a Republican controlled media could hardly neutralize its power once it gained a little momentum.
As an intense, all-out, in-your-face,no-holds-barred, do-or-die, "accentuating the positive", political issue, Health Care reform lends itself perfectly to internet organizing. If groups such as Moveon defined Health Care Reform as a necessary, if not sufficient platform commitment -- insisting that only candidates who endorsed it would be supported -- it might well be possible to create a grass-roots movement on the left with real political clout, at last. A movement capable of protecting itself from big Pharm and other corporate abusers. A movement capable as well of protecting the public against the loss of its Constitutional rights, such as the right to an honest vote.
Such a movement might grow strong enough to ensure that the nation's leaders were sane, competent, and committed to representing, rather than ruling the citizenry. Health Care Reform, quite conceivably, could heal the Democratic Party -- and the nation.
David Weiner, who teaches sociology and social psychology at Austin Community College, has also taught high school and served as a community organizer and anti-racism activist for more than half a century. He can be reached at email@example.com. Or visit his website at http://sdweiner.home.texas.net/d/dw.htm