Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Progressives Must Keep Pressure - But Not Just on Obama

Good thoughts from Alternet's Kathy G on the work that progressives need to perform in order to drag Obama back to their side of the issues:

This is where we, as liberals, progressives, lefties, activists, whatever-you-want-to-call-us, come in. I do not believe that our interests are best served by the kind of cheap electioneering we saw over the primary campaign. What would be far more effective would be an independent movement that makes strategic alliances with various political candidates but is also distinctly separate from them.

Instead of shilling for Barack, or Hillary, or whoever, we should have been pressuring the candidates to work for our votes. We should have been pressing them to take firm, non-negotiable positions in favor of things like no immunity for the telecoms, or immediate withdrawal from Iraq with no residual troops. Instead, we were really cheap dates. And when you act like suckers, don't be surprised when something like Obama's support for the FISA compromise comes back and bites you in the ass.

If we want real change in this country, the place to look for it is not in our so-called leaders, but in ourselves. What we need, in short, is a movement. Without such a movement, President Obama is not going to be able to achieve a whole lot more than President Clinton or President Carter did. But with such a movement, we may actually get somewhere. FDR was able to achieve great things because he had the strong support of a powerful labor movement. Similarly, the civil rights movement was the wind at LBJ's back. But I ask you, what will President Obama have?

Sam Stein covers some of the same ground in his article "Serenity Lost: Obama and The Netroots".

One might argue that this is all empty rhetoric if there are zero consequences for not listening to the progressive cause. But the one time there were real consequences at the presidential level was in 2000, when disaffected progressives backed Ralph Nader and the Green Party. The result was eight years of an imperialist presidency that has steadily eroded our freedoms. No honest progressive, as upset as they may be with Obama's General Election moves, wants to open the floodgates to a third Bush term. Nader is wrong: there is virtue in electing the "least worst" candidate.

The key term there is "at the presidential level." Supporting Obama as the best presidential candidate (which he is) doesn't preclude fighting for just causes when his leadership veers off track. A lot more action on issues such as FISA can be taken at the level of individual Senators and Representatives. A great example: the robocalls being run in House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's district by local activist Rev. Lenox Yearwood, lambasting Hoyer's FISA compromise. And you can bet that progressive activists will remember FISA when Hoyer's re-election comes due.