In the construction of a debate there are three basic elements. One is a resolution in which a given statement is made that defines the parameters and issues covered in the debate. The others are simply the affirmative position supporting the resolution and the negative position rebutting the resolution and its defense. The case being presented might be stated as a resolution in the following manner: " Resolved: Increasing primary candidates in the Democratic primaries will produce a significant change in the campaigns' political discourse that will alter or change the political agenda in the election."
OpEdNews has worked tirelessly to get progressives to engage in the political struggle through elections within the Democratic Party. They have witnessed, as we all have, the deterioration of political opposition in the United States and the repeated violations of the Constitution. There does stand an organization that has already been created to change the Democratic Party from within, the Progressive Democrats of America. Based on that it is fair to ask whether it is truly just a matter of running candidates in the Democratic primaries, or whether there is a more substantive question that lies underneath. Why have there not been more significant voices raised when such an overwhelming majority of the American people stand opposed to the war in Iraq? Why is climate change and peak oil not addressed as a priority by the public officials in the US to an extent needed to address the science that has been put forward? Why are progressives so marginalized in campaigns and fail to come forward with significant constituencies capable of making an impact?
Maybe because it fails to examine the unstated premises of the resolution: that the Democratic Party is capable of being the agent for change in America and that the progressive agenda is a vibrant trend that is capable of exercising influence in the political arena in the electoral process. Does this make me on the negative side of the resolution? I would have to say so. No debate can proceed without agreement on the definitions and I for one cannot agree either that the Democratic Party is capable of presenting significant policy changes and structural reforms before the American people or that the Democratic primary system and candidates lie at the root of the failure to redefine the opposition in a manner to make it more relevant to the American people.
As a Green since 1992, I have engaged in organizing and supporting candidates in a third party challenge that has had to confront numerous efforts to marginalize Green opposition from Democratic progressives by attempting to restrict ballot access, and oppose needed reforms to open up a wider range of perspectives in the political debate. Many Greens whom I have associated with in the past changed their registration and former Green candidates went as far as to urge a cross-over in the Democratic primary in 2004 for Dennis Kucinich. Many Democrats who supported the Green candidacy of Ralph Nader in 2000 fell prey to the Anybody But Bush campaign by the Democratic Party and concluded that they were really the culprits responsible for electing G.W. Bush as a result of the massive campaign from 2000-2004 to isolate the Green Party and funnel opposition into the Democratic Party.
In 2008 there are primaries in every Congressional District in which qualified candidates can make their case within the Democratic Party. It is truly the case that it is not my job to try and do their work for them. Cynthia McKinney's announcement for the Green Party Presidential nomination is an expression of the narrowness of the debate within the Democratic Party and an affirmation of a viable, alternative strategy for change. Cindy Sheehan gave up her initial effort to engage Nancy Pelosi from within the Democratic Party. Like Ralph Nader, she did so not out of some martyr complex but simply as a concrete result of the repeated failure of the Democratic Party and its supporters and voters to propose options for reform and change. The debate is to find a strategy and an agenda capable of pulling together a new coalition of voter blocs that can successfully challenge the defenders of the status quo. Cynthia, Cindy and Ralph have dared to walk outside the boundaries that others defined for them. The message may resonate with many, but the actors have not yet integrated leadership with direction and agenda, policy with public appeal or strategy with organization.
If I were to write the resolution for the debate in a manner in which I could support the affirmative it would be: Resolved: "Political opposition in America needs to be redefined and re-integrated into the American mainstream by establishing and building political parties and forms of opposition that can effectively address the peoples' grievances, needs and concerns and develop a new agenda and strategies." The growth of advocacy groups and non-profits have de-politicized the major social issues of our day and obstructed the ability to present the case through political organization that can define itself and its priorities based on its constituencies. They have made organizers into activists, redefined political issues into cultural matters, prioritized direct action over electoral work and have directed policy and reform debates to die at the hands of the duopoly parties. In education, funding issues gave way to diversity curriculum; in foreign policy, Constitutional inadequacies were disregarded in favor of promoting the Democrats' wars over the Republican ones; and in health care minimalism replaced a comprehensive approach.
At this point a swing vote for a third party presents a more significant challenge to the current business as usual than do Democratic Party primaries. The DNC has used the stick against independents and Greens in an effort to marginalize their election impact. The challenges of state Democratic Parties have sought to limit the scope of policy debates and restrict ballot access. There is also a primary worth noting within the Green Party for the Presidential nomination that includes Cynthia McKinney, Elaine Brown, Jared Ball, Kat Swift, Jesse Johnson and possibly Ralph Nader.
It is good to center the political movement for change in the electoral arena. Democrats need to recognize the real odds of changing the role of the Democratic Party on the Iraq war, Executive power, defending the Bill of Rights and impeachment, as well as Republicans need to recognize the impact of Republican policies on Constitutional law, education, healthcare, foreign policy and energy transition. Those Democrats who come forward in the primaries can provide a voice in the internal debate. But as demonstrated by Dennis Kucinich's actions at the Democratic convention, the impact will be minimized and is clearly established to maintain the status quo and not to change the conduct of elected officials.
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