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Memo to Progressives: Green or the Graveyard

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Is it time for progressive, antiwar, and pro-environmental activists and voters to look beyond the Democratic Party and seek other alliances?

There's only one plausible excuse left for such voters to remain loyal to the Dems in the realm of electoral politics: to prevent the GOP from winning. Some progressives insist that we need to continue supporting Democrats because of Supreme Court appointments (although Dems in Congress have approved some of the most ideologically rigid Republican appointees) and to save reproductive rights (already watered down, with Democratic help), but these are corollaries of the 'defeat the Republicans' argument.

Is this enough reason to invest eternal hope in the Democratic Party? Is there any future for progressives beyond excuse-making?

It's no secret that voters who call themselves progressive have been frustrated by the Obama Administration's broken promise of "change we can believe in." The list of disappointments is extensive:

-- The recent deal with Republicans to extend President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.

-- Escalation of the Afghanistan War; continuation of Bush-Cheney-era assaults on the US Constitution; persecution of whistleblowers.

-- Dismissal of the public option (in early negotiations with corporate lobbies, we now know); passage of a health care reform bill with legally questionable 'mandates' that funnel our money into private for-profit insurance companies, with no measures to bring down health care expenses or save Americans from financial ruin over medical emergencies.

-- Authorization of new nuclear plants built with taxpayer money (private industry considers nuclear power too risky and expensive for their own investments); embrace of the 'clean coal' myth while allowing mountaintop removal mining to devastate and poison the landscapes of West Virginia and other states.

-- Continuation of the failed and wasteful War on Drugs, silence about the mass incarceration of young black and poor men, and the powerful for-profit private prison system that makes money by filling up cells.

-- Taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts; hiring of Wall Street insiders like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers for key financial positions; minimal aid for Americans losing their homes because of the subprime mortgage crisis; appointment of the 'Catfood Commission' to mull cuts to Social Security; continued support and military aid for Israel's brutal violation of the basic human rights of Palestinians.... We can go on and on.

Aside from slogans, Democrats in recent elections have offered no inspiring vision of a better America. In 2010, the only appeal to voters seemed to be "we're not as dreadful as the Tea Party or George W. Bush."

The Democratic Party represents what Chris Hedges calls "a corrupt liberal class, bereft of ideas and unable to respond coherently to the collapse of the global economy, the dismantling of our manufacturing sector and the deadly assault on the ecosystem."

It's getting worse. Bemoaning the "shellacking" that Dems suffered on Election Day 2010, President Obama signaled that he's ready to compromise with the Republican majority in the US House. Since he tried to appease the GOP endlessly during his first two years, what he means now is capitulation, which certainly describes the tax cut deal.

And he's doing so despite the fact that 28 out of 54 of nearly-Republican 'Blue Dog' Dems were defeated on Nov. 2, while 66 of the 69 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus were reelected to Congress. These results suggest that voters favor Dems who stand up for their stated values.

Republican politicians aren't impressed with Mr. Obama's overtures. They've made it clear that their main objective is to defeat him in 2012. We can therefore trust the GOP to stake out even more rightwing positions than ever before, with their own vision of America as a Limbaugh-Gingrich wonderland of minimal government services and protections for citizens, vilification of vulnerable minorities (immigrants, Muslims, gay people) and anyone who disagrees with them (liberals, "liberals"), and maximum corporate and military power. (Chris Hedges and others warn that Republicans are on the brink of fascism. I prefer to call it Foxism.)

The 2010 election repeats a pattern evident in recent decades. The Democratic establishment retreats from the party's traditional values and constituencies in the belief that they'll appeal to an imagined center, all the while competing for strings-attached corporate campaign checks against an increasingly extremist Republican Party.

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Scott McLarty is former media director for the Green Party of the United States. He has had articles, guest columns, and book reviews published in Roll Call, TheHill,, Z Magazine, CounterPunch, Green Horizon, The Progressive (more...)

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