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Funding the (R)Evolution of Democracy

By by Kathleen Bushman  Posted by Larry Sakin (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   1 comment
Message Larry Sakin

We Americans have entirely too many corporate sponsored candidates and voters of both parties are riled. This blue lass is certainly one Democrat who is ready to buck down her stall. I hope that you have all read this Daily Kos diary recently: RNC fires ENTIRE phone banking staff . "I kid you not. In a shocking move that not only demonstrates the difficulties that the Republican Party is having with its grassroots small-dollar base, but also reveals the direction in which the party is headed, the Washington Times is reporting that the RNC has summarily fired all 65 of its telephone donation solicitors." Democratic voters are equally upset and I am convinced that a similar difficulty will soon be evident - if it isn't already evident - in the Democratic Party. I know many members of my different Yahoo groups have threatened to stop funding the Democratic Party because they are so disillusioned with the congressional Democrats' vote on the supplemental funding of the Iraq War and various other issues. While the DLC and Democratic campaign consultants may feel certain that they can depend upon Democrats who will continue to vote for the lesser of two evils, it is my firm conviction that their confidence is misplaced. I think that the increasing economic pressure on the middle class has been greatly underestimated by both parties as well as the fact that American attitudes have moved progressively to the left. I am convinced that those factors have altered the political landscape to an extent that too many politicians have failed to note - and that is true to the increasing sorrow of politicians on both sides of the aisle. Economic pressures upon the middle class and increasing progressive attitudes together provide a powerful energy source that can and must be harnessed by bold progressive leadership or that frustrated energy will be left open to the negative influence of Lou Dobbs or even Rush Limbaugh of the right. Though the DNC did more to fund the anti-war candidates in the '06 election and those candidates were often more successful than DCCC candidates, I think it is time to find a surer means of electing issue-committed candidates. I think it is time to formulate a means of funding candidates who will actually commit to: impeachment - antiwar measures - the need for health care reform, and other middle class issues. I am proposing a means to fund a democratic (small "d") revolution. If we on line activists could organize and work to raise funds on the Internet - place the money in a trust fund - and use those funds exclusively for issue committed candidates we would promote more accountability from every politician. Every politician would be notified that it would no longer be possible to rely upon blind party loyalty to win re-election. The "vote for the lesser of two evils" argument would fall on deaf ears. I think that the present moment is a propitious moment for alternative funding for alternative candidates because I know that I am not the only Democratic voter who is thoroughly disillusioned with the "lesser of two evils" option. I am proposing that it is time for Democrats to raise money for an alternative candidate wherever Democrats are faced with re-electing a centrist candidate who has proved him or herself to be non-responsive to the very Democrats who elected him or her. With money on the table to fund an alternate candidate, perhaps the Greens or the Socialists would choose to field a candidate when they might not otherwise do so. I propose that we progressives promote a trust fund to distribute among progressive candidates whenever the Democratic Party fails to field a candidate worthy of our vote. The election results of 2006 indicate that the candidates who took the clearest anti-war stance were most often the most successful candidates. When I propose funding a revolution in order to reestablish normal relations with our leadership, I am assuming, of course, that funding a Green Party member, an Independent or a Socialist would ensure a politician who would vote along with progressive Democrats to end the war, to promote health care and environmental issues - especially if their campaigns had been funded by a progressive group. I am personally convinced that Rep. Nancy Pelosi, in particular, needs to be replaced. I understand that it was not only Pelosi's idea to take impeachment off the table, it was her "strategy" to pass the supplemental funding of the Iraq occupation, she added her vote to the passage of the new bankruptcy bill and it was also her leadership which saw the Iran amendment removed that would have denied Bush the authority to engage in hostilities with Iran without specific congressional approval. Expanding on this idea. I think we should compose a list of the most outrageous politicians of either party and go for their jugular by funding an opponent who is progressively Green, Independent, or Socialist. On the other side of the aisle - Senator Gordon Smith is a Republican here in Oregon that I would love to send to an unemployment line. Even loyal Republican voters - no, especially loyal Republican voters, should be appalled to know that Gordon voted against oversight of the very corporations profiting so hugely from no-bid Iraq contracts funded by the taxpayer and thus enabled Halliburton, as well as Halliburton-like corporations, to commit repeated crimes of fraud. I understand that historians claim there can be neither a successful democracy nor a successful revolution without the middle class. I am proposing my solution for two primary reasons: to prevent the further erosion of the middle class whose existence is necessary to a healthy democracy and to prevent the growth of corporatist candidates whose only loyalty is to CEOs and not to ordinary voters. I read somewhere that no successful revolution can succeed without a middle class, but I think the larger part of that equation is left tacit. To my thinking, the theorem should read, "No revolution can succeed without a middle class which feels threatened and thus finds itself spurred into action." I think the fear of job loss, the fear of illness without adequate medical coverage, the fear of recession/depression due to the deficit, and fear of the soaring cost of a higher education for our children have created a national fog of fear for the future. Those fears are much more immediate than the ever receding fear of the terrorist threat. Without reference to the steeply rising costs of gasoline, higher education, and health care, these facts alone are alarming: In a recent article, Greg Palast reported, that "average income in the U.S has fallen $2,000 per household since the last days of Bill Clinton." That's in just 7 years! The number of homeowners who spend 30% or more of their income on housing has jumped to 35%, up from 27% in 2000, leaving little or nothing left to save . In the year ended June 30 (2003) 92% of the record 1.6 million filers were middle class, according to a Harvard University study. Now even that safety valve to relieve the increasing pressure upon the middle class has been severely limited by the new bankruptcy law. (See excerpt and reference link below.) I am assuming, of course, that if Greens or Socialists were to replace the centrist Democrats who voted in favor of the new bankruptcy law for instance - the progressive movement would be more enhanced than it would otherwise be than by the continued re-election of Repo lites. Bolder leadership could harness the increasing energy of the national pendulum's swing to the left as reflected in a recent Pew Poll. The American voter on the other hand must stop re-electing politicians whose votes have not been responsive to the electorate who put them in office. If we do not demand accountability on the part of every politician we are less and less likely to get accountability from any politician. Public opinion supports bold progressive leadership ( Nathan Newman ) "In fact, a major multi-decade study of public opinion published just in the last few weeks by the Pew Research Center emphasizes that current political changes are matched by a strengthening of progressive values in the public. The study Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007 shows that not only have there been important shifts in the last couple of years, but more importantly, there are long-term trends over the past few decades that have created opportunities for progressive leaders to deliver bold programs that take on the cynicism that affects too many Americans." Among the critical progressive issues is health care. A majority of Americans support providing a health care safety net. "Despite the YOYO ( You're On Your Own ) ideology promoted by the right-wing, 69% of Americans now believe that government has a responsibility 'to take care of people who can't take care of themselves' - an increase in support for a strong safety net from 61% as recently as 2002. Similarly, 69% say the government should guarantee 'every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep,' up from 63% in 2002 and the highest it has been since 1991. This belief in a hand-up for those in need trumps even fears of deficit spending: 54% of the public believes, 'The government should help more needy people even if it means going deeper in debt,' compared to just 41% who endorsed that statement back in 1994." An uncomfortably high level, "26%, of Americans say there has been a time in the last 12 months when they have been unable to afford necessary health care for themselves or a family member. : Support for extending health care to all Americans trumps any tax-phobia: 66% of Americans favor "the government guaranteeing health insurance for all citizens, even if it means raising taxes." With some governors and legislatures stepping up to support revenue increases to pay for extending health care to the uninsured, there is clearly a super-majority in support of their actions." Newman further points out that the cynicism of the American voter has become a serious challenge that must be addressed by progressives in order to be effective. "While the public wants active government for everything from strengthening labor rights to protecting the environment to ending racial discrimination to providing health care for all, they are now deeply cynical about the ability of government to deliver on those needs. With Bush and his corporate cronies taking a wrecking ball to government and demonstrating massive incompetence, from Iraq to cleaning up after hurricane Katrina, the result has been a significant increase just since 2002 in the percentage of the public that believes things run by government are "inefficient and wasteful." While the public wants what government delivers, 62% worry about the waste and corruption they have too often seen demonstrated. Similarly, we have seen a decline since 2002, from 55% down to 45%, in the percentage of the public that believes that 'government is really run for the benefit of all the people.' While sometimes merited, that cynicism by the public is often the largest obstacle to progressive success. It's a good reason for legislators to take the steps-- ethics reforms, public financing of elections, greater disclosure of tax and budget benefits for corporations -- to help overcome the skepticism that many Americans have in our democracy." I believe that bold progressive leaders could generate enthusiasm in a disillusioned electorate. Too many Americans do not even bother to vote. In America today too many believe that most politicians are corrupt and out of touch with the life and problems of the ordinary American. The faith of the electorate must be restored for the sake of the continued health of our democracy. I think we must force our politicians to earn that trust by refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils. When blocs of progressive Democrats take their votes and their support to a Green or a Socialist Party candidate, those Democrats will not have to make a commitment to the formation of a third party nor to perpetual loyalty to another party. Democratic voters can exercise an option that they have so far ignored. By choosing to make the Democratic Party more accountable, voters can choose to force the Democratic Party to pay greater heed to their constituents. As Greg Palast recently said, "Whichever party is in the majority in Congress, it remains a millionaire's club where Average Americans, plucked of their vote, are soon carved into chewable pieces for the corporate carnivores." No one begrudges them their money but, as long as politicians want to be re-elected, those politicians in the "millionaire's club" need to be reminded that they are accountable to the people.

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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on Mytown.ca, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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