Rachel Maddow should run for President of the United States of America. Seriously Rachel, you should.
This is not because I want to see President Obama not have a second term. He has accomplished more for the progressive cause than any president since, well, Johnson. Assuming he does run for four more years he is infinitely superior to any Republican the GOP will nominate. And a progressive third party candidate will only serve to split the liberal vote allowing say, Sarah Palin, to walk into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on a plurality. The reason someone like Maddow should run is in order to enhance the prospects for Obama while boosting the fortunes of the progressive cause.
The mainstream left is suffering from an enormous problem these days: the lack of strong political leadership. Because Obama has opted to be a centrist President -- probably both because that is his preference as well as his political calculation for better or worse -- he has effectively abandoned his liberal base. This is why even though the current administration and 111th Congress have put a lot of liberal policies into place progressives are so dismayed these days, after having elected the first African-American president with enormous hopes of a great shift to the left, they have been cut adrift with no major figure to proclaim their cause.
Hillary is part of his administration, and she is pretty centrist herself (her associates contend that she would have dropped major health reform in order to retain more of the center vote). The Kennedys are out of the picture, and they are so 20th century in any case. Ye old Ralph Nader is even more 1900s, and he merely splits the progressive vote. For reasons that are obscure no other liberal has achieved the national stature to represent the enormous numbers of Americans who want a more advanced and modern nation.
Americans who prefer what are labeled progressive policies are a minority, but a very large minority; at least as large as those who support policies that are considered conservative. Sociopolitical researchers including myself are showing that the long-term demographic and cultural trends favor progressivism (articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/27/opinion/la-oew-paul-religion-secularism-20101027; http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf). Bush II only got to the White House because a screwy electoral college system allowed the Republicans on the Supreme Court to wave him in, and the Repubs just made big gains only because the economy is in such terrible shape -- that because the Republican version of the American Way drove it into such a deep canyon (click here).
One reason that liberals are not doing as well electorally as their numbers indicate they should is because of a lack of discipline. Where was the million progressives march on the capital for a truly universal health care system or at least the public option? Why didn't liberals pack the town hall meetings in the late summer and fall of 2009? Had the petulant left not turned out in such low numbers this November, the damage would have been more limited. The left could use more moxie.
The right -- being more conformist and autocratic despite their constant proclamations of being all for individual liberty and so forth -- are more disciplined, and they also enjoy more in the way of leadership. In particular, they have John McCain's most desperate and irresponsible gift to America, Sarah P. The she-dropped-the-governor-job-as-soon-as-she-could-cut-lucrative-book-media-deals quasi-politician very probably cannot be elected President in a head-to-head race with a mainstream Democrat, but she is aiding the hard conservative cause by keeping the base excited and hopeful while pushing the Republican movement to the right. The Palin phenomenon does have its downside, she is pandering to the John Birchian, Glenn Beck wing of the Tea Party that she sometimes turns off even conservatives -- the GOP failed to pick up two or three Senate seats as a result.
Because getting liberals organized is like herding cats, the need for some leadership is all the more urgent. As Michael Lerner pointed out in the Washington Post (click here), the way to do this for the next couple of years is via a full blown, no holds barred, out and out progressive candidate for President in the Democratic primaries. One who can get liberals excited to have someone actually voicing their concerns in an open, forthright, and engaging manner. The left will have a reason to get off their sad sack butts and get active again. Meanwhile the existence of a strong progressive movement will both allow and pressure Obama to shift more to the left.