We live in an America gone awry.
However, it is not enough to recognize that our ship of state has sailed into troubled waters, though that is certainly an important first step if we are to change course. No, we must muster courage and the will that Google executive, Wael Ghonim inspired among the people of Egypt
who flooded into the streets to demand an end to intolerable government abuse and authority.
We suffer from many institutional failures today. Our government is broken, our political parties are self-serving, our economy is in shambles, and the court system that is supposed to be the safety switch has been corrupted by an out of control Chamber of Commerce. But the greatest failure of all is our own failure to act individually and together to stand up to the powerful forces that we have allowed to convince us are just too overwhelming to overcome.
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Progressives, join with me, man your facebook, monitor you twitter. The revolution starts today. It is time to FIX America!
The issues we face in the U.S. are huge, HUGE, and are growing everyday.
If anyone doubts that our ship of state has sailed into troubled waters, we need only look around us to see the plight of our neighbors. Some of us need look no further than our own homes, if indeed we still have a home. But this essay is not about all of the things that are wrong so much as it is about how to fix them. In fact, I will go one step further. I will make an appeal to each of you to join me in the effort to turn our ship of state around. Today, I am going to ask each of you to be an Egyptian and take on our American Mubarak - corporate America. Before looking at where we are, here's the bulletpoint presentation.
Here are the bullet points for those who don't want the details.
If we don't act now, we will get screwed even more,
We can't win the money war, but we CAN win the voting contest,
Progressives need a PLAN and it has already been established
Pick your reason for believing it can't work
Everyone else, join in the effort and get with the PLAN.
Here is a view in a capsule of some of the problems we face.
During the 80's the GOP began a radical and fundamental change in American government characterized by deregulation and privatization. Deregulation permitted extreme consolidation in insurance, banking, finance, and media which continue to chip away at the fundamentals of democracy. Today, we have lost the free press and our government has been auctioned off to the highest bidder. We see the disastrous results of this fundamental tear in our social fabric all around us.
Our economy continues to suffer radical upheavals that benefit the wealthy and destroy our families and our financial security. Our Supreme Court has been radicalized with the appointment of rightwing, activist justices. The business community has been consolidated by global monopolies who sit on over a trillion dollars in cash while refusing to hire the growing numbers of unemployed middle class workers. The centuries old protection of habeas corpus has been rescinded by the un-"Patriot Act".
Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse . . .
Now social security, medicare and the newly-passed health care bill are under attack. Does anyone think it's time to grab the pitchforks yet?
Thirty years ago, when Reagan won election running on an economic platform that his own vice president had referred to as voodoo economics , many of us knew that things were going to get bad. Right out of the gate, the union busting began. The air traffic controllers were fired and air safety also took a hit. Rules prohibiting concentration of media ownership were rolled back. Corporate income taxes and income taxes on excessive wealth were reduced, shifting the burden to the already struggling poor and middle class. Trickle-down economics proved to be just as much of a failure and just as devastating to the middle class as we suspected. Some of us thought things couldn't get any worse. It may seem that we have reached the bottom today and we have no where to go but up. Don't count on it. Greed never sleeps and corporate interests will not stop taking a larger and larger piece of the pie until we make them.
We must act decisively and we must act now.
I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating. ~ Boss Tweed
It will never be any easier to take effective and decisive action than now. Each day, corporate interests further consolidate both wealth and power. If you believe as many profess today that amount of campaign contributions determine the outcome of elections, the logical conclusion must be that, if we cannot prevail in 2012, we will certainly not be able to prevail in 2014 or 2016.
On February 7, 2012, Americans will nominate 60% of the candidates of the party we with which we choose to cast our lot. If you are a progressive, that means that you will want to see 140 strong progressive candidate on ballots in 14 states less than 12 months from today. The Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucuses are January 16, 24 and 28 respectively. Fielding candidates, building grassroots teams to strengthen neighborhood support for each candidate and obtaining the commitments for campaign funding requires at least 6 months in order to be effective. Before any of this effort can happen, some organization must be in place to plan, schedule and manage the effort. Normally, this task would fall to the political party, but the progressive community has no party apparatus in place to step up to the plate. The Democratic Party is missing in action and is often largely controlled by corporate party hacks. The Green Party has failed to capture any significant support nationally and more often than not serves to split the progressive vote so that a rightwing, radical corporatist candidate wins in the general election.
It's time for a game-changer
Money is not omnipotent. It can buy a lot of media and media can sway a lot of people, but progressives have one major advantage, There are still a lot more of us than there are of them. Our problem has always been getting out the vote. Over 64% of eligible voters voted in the 2008 elections. That is the highest percentage of voter turnonut in the last 50 years. Still, most of the 36% of non-voters are more likely to identify with progressive ideology than with conservative ideology. Conservatives have an extraordinarily high rate of turnout at the polls largely because their civic commitment is nurtured in familes, churches, business organizations and the business place itself. In fact, during times of weak economic activity, those who are not associated with one of these conservative institutions are the first to be laid off, downsized or outright fired for "cause".
It is reasonable to assume that most of these victims of conservative economic policy are not likely to be heavily influenced by the rightwing noise machime. According to AOL News, those most affected by the economic crisis represented only about 37% of the electorate in 2010, compared to 40% in the previous midterm election. If progressives can reach 1 out of 10 of these victims of the conservative attack-on-the-middle-class machine, we will win in a landslide in 2012. But how do progressives do what has never been done? How do progressives raise the voting percentage from 64% to 68%? How do progressives reach 14 million non-voters? The mere magnitude of this task seems enough to cause the mere mortal progressive to shrink back to the comfort of the coffee shop discussion where whining about problems is much more confortable than confronting them. And still, we approach closer and closer to the brink of total disaster every day that we do not act.
Progressives don't lack numbers, we lack organization. It is time for a network of community organizations working on daily basis to train members in every community across the U.S. to foster progressive ideology and to nurture the leadership qualities that are needed to confront and overcome the seemingly overwhelming challenges facing America. Progressives have a number of organizations working in a variety of political campaign and issue advocacy endeavors and many of these organizations provide training opportunities. Each of these organizations have contributed to the limited successes that have been achieved in recent years, but none of these organizations provides the comprehensive and extensive organizational infrastrucure to effectively confront the threat that corporate cash in our political campaigns represents.If we are to successfully defeat the politics of greed, we must recognize that it is time for something new and different. It is time for a Progressive Leadership Action Network (PLAN).
Progressives need wait no longer. PLAN was incorporated in January, 2011, to provide the organizational infrastructure, the inspiration and motivation, and the training resources to establish and maintain a presence in communities across America. The PLAN team has been in place for about 5 months planning and coordinating with other progressive leaders in preparation of the PLAN debut. The first PLAN state councils in Florida and California are in the chartering process which is expected to be completed in February. Louisiana, Connecticut and Illinois have begun to form charter teams to establish their own state councils. PLAN America, the national coordinating council, will publish an activist's handbook entitled FIX America, How Each of Us Can Help All of Us during the 2nd quarter of this year. Later in the year, PLAN will introduce a new media network, NewStand Media, that will serve as a powerful vehicle for progressive messaging that will change to the political landscape. We have the resources we need to win the battle and now we have the PLAN.
If the odds were too great or the obstacles truly insurmountable, our future would be bleak indeed. Access to large sums of campaign cash gives rightwing candidates a decided advantage, but money alone does not guarantee their success. The progressive community may not be able to match corporate cash in 2012, but we have more human support to get voters (see footnote) walking into voting booths to signal in some recordable way their choice of candidates to represent them.
Corporate campaign cash is an obstacle, but it is not insurmountable.
It is also true that the money spent attempting to influence the outcome of elections can sometimes illegally subvert the results of the electoral process. This issue is important, but must be, and has been, addressed in other essays. Still, in spite of all advantage money offers those seeking to determine electoral outcomes, money is not omnipotent. People are the final arbiters.
Another argument that progressives offer one another to ensure failure is that any plan big enough to succeed is too big to be successful. Imagine what the world would look like if we could move beyond believing that failure is inevitable. How big does the plan have to be to get from where we are to where you would think we should be?
We can find any reason to reject the possibility of success if we look hard enough.
The number of ways we can find to justify our unwillingness to consider success as an option is limited only by our own imagination. A few popular ones include:
if we haven't been able to do it before, what makes you think you can,
where is the funding coming from? Success isn't possible without adequate funding,
all of the details haven't been worked out. Come back when you can ensure you have the right answer to every question,
it sounds like a good idea, but it will be too difficult to convince everyone else,
the people who aren't involved don't want to be involved and any effort to reach out to them is a waste of time,
all who care about change are already working as hard as they can and they don't have time to do more, and
[insert your own reason for insisting success is beyond reach] _____________________________________________
Stop looking for reasons to fail and join the effort to FIX America!
Success is seldom guaranteed. Any plan that is large enough to FIX America! will necessarily carry with it some element of risk. However if you weigh the risk of failure against the certain outcome of doing nothing, the choice is clear. Those who are joining PLAN are putting fear of failure aside to begin the process of reaching out to the non-engaged, training new leaders and raising the level of awareness of progressive ideals and issues in their communities. They are preparing to succeed in 2012.
The people of Egypt just threw off thirty years of hard oppression by showing up en masse and refusing to leave until they got what they wanted. They showed up. We can do that. PLAN is the place people show up when they recognize something is dreadfully wrong and decide to do something about it. Change is possible with the right knowledge and tools. Corporations have owned democracy for thirty years because they showed up. We can do that. Corporations have money, but we have votes , and in a head-to-head contest, votes win . We can begin a new era of pushing the government to serve the people again by engaging the non-engaged, training new leaders, and raising awareness of progressive ideals and issues. There is a movement waiting to happen and you can help lead it.
Footnote: Voter - as of this date, a voter must be a natural person. It is not clear how long this definition will persist.