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Battered, Abused Progressives Struggle with Biden, Tea Party as Midterm Elections Near

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Progressives gather for a rally in Ohio led by former President Bill Clinton
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The Tea Party is winning. In their efforts to remake the Republican Party and advance a cultural and economic agenda that is in sync with what their members support, they are defeating GOP incumbents in races for the Senate and House. They are winning local and state elections and stealing headlines. And, as lunatic as their candidates seem, the organization responsible for making civil debate near impossible during the Obama Administration's push for health reform has become a force politicians and the media legitimize more and more each day.

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While a Tea Party insurgency remakes a Republican Party, Democrats and the Obama Administration work to manage progressives' anger and frustration and keep numerous liberal or progressive organizations pacified. A recent example is Vice President Joe Biden appearing on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC to specifically tell progressives "get in gear, man" because "there's a great deal at stake."

Progressives don't need to be told there's much at stake. In politics, there's always a lot at stake. That's exactly why progressives are so disgruntled; they don't think the Obama Administration and Democrats get it.

Biden carried out the job he was tasked with and delivered a message aimed at whipping progressives in the same way Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs have been whipping them:

"If they take over the House and the Senate, don't kid yourself. They've made it really clear. Pete Sessions said [if the GOP takes over Congress], "We'd have the exact same agenda." And look, there is a lot at stake here, and our progressive base, you haveyou should not stay home. You better get energized because the consequences are serious for the outcome of the things we care most about. And I didn't mention half the stuff we've gotten done." [emphasis added]

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But, progressives have been energized. Unions and party activists energized support for Bill Halter in Arkansas. Instead of supporting the candidate progressives favored, Obama and other Democrats aided and supported Blanche Lincoln, a conservative Democrat that fought back against efforts to reform healthcare up until the final vote. They sent a strong message to unions and party activists that they would not support grassroots efforts to elect candidates who could possibly advance key reforms if elected. And, this happened with Andrew Romanoff in Colorado too; the establishment helped Michael Bennet.

What is the impact of the Administration's and establishment Democrats' support for incumbents over progressive insurgent candidates? Bennet has decided to oppose Obama's $50 billion infrastructure plan. And, a failure to go after Blue Dog Democrats who colluded with Republicans in obstructing the health reform agenda in 2009 has created an election season where "Democratic candidates are spending three times more advertising against the health reform law than they are in support of it."

The grassroots, which created the momentum and energy Obama needed to win in 2008, has been energizing the base for the midterms since campaigns for Democratic primary elections began. Even if they were disappointed and were experiencing heightened levels of disillusionment with the process of elections and system of government in America, they went into gear. But, in contrast to the GOP who have in the media been forced to celebrate Tea Party candidates who defeated GOP incumbents they hoped would stave off the Tea Party insurgency, the Democratic political leaders have not celebrated any of the small amount of progressive candidate wins so far in the midterm elections.

The result is snooty editorials, like this one from Washington Post' s Stephen Stromberg, are written ridiculing progressives for daring to do exactly what the Tea Party is doing:

"Progressives have few others to blame for their disappointment but themselves. They placed unmeetable expectations on Obama.

Despite this, it's equally obvious what will happen if election night 2010 goes badly for Democrats. Many will blame the president, not themselves, arguing that Obama should have articulated a grand, progressive vision -- which would have inspired about a third of the nation and concerned the rest. They'll also blame him for not fighting harder for a larger stimulus that didn't have the votes, for a public option that didn't have the votes, for card-check legislation that didn't have the votes, to close Guantanamo faster than Congress would let him or to end don't ask don't tell before lawmakers would allow it. It's self-fulfilling self-righteousness." [emphasis added]

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The progressives are taken to task for daring to advance a bold agenda while the Tea Party's drive to "take the country back" is considered to possibly resonate with enough Americans to give them the right to continue building their movement.

At this stage, progressives may stay home because the primary challengers they supported were shut down. Instead of supporting a Blue Dog or conservative Democrat or a Republican who will likely never be on the right side of change, progressives may instead opt to direct what energy and time they have into issues-based advocacy campaigns to move the center on issues like the power of money in elections, mountaintop removal coal mining and dirty energy, BP's destruction of the Gulf of Mexico and the need for more transparency and action, the continued war in Afghanistan, the "new normal" the Obama Administration has helped create by continuing Bush Administration policies on national security, civil liberties and human rights, the growing power of forces that endorse the privatization of American public education, and the threat telecommunications companies pose to the Internet and the nation's media infrastructure, etc.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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