Are you one of the millions of progressives grieving about the catastrophic fiasco that happened in Massachusetts yesterday? Wondering why it is that a Republican took the Senate seat in one of our most beloved – and deeply blue – states? This event is a tremendous learning opportunity for us.
Now is the time for bold vision and action. While the corporate minions of our party’s past continue to call for us to act like Ronald Reagan if we want to win (see this disgusting diatribe by Mark Penn who recommends kissing up to Wall Street and ignoring main street as a strategy for success. Leaves one wondering just what the hell “success” means to him), we know what we really need to do:
Fire all those political consultants who couldn’t find a progressive victory if it hit them on the head!
We saw what happened when John Kerry refused to fight for what he believed in during the 2004 election, instead opting to follow the latest poll conducted by an “approved” consultant on the insider list of the party leadership. We observed the tactics of the status quo in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including the adoption of Rovian attacks in the infamous “3 AM ad” that used fear to discourage voters from caring about Barack Obama as a way to undermine his electability (and throw the entire progressive agenda under the bus at the same time). Most recently, we’ve stood by as a “super majority” which has more representational leadership in the federal government than any party in our lifetimes, waffled and caved in to a nonexistent opposition in the debacle called health care reform throughout the last year.
These are clear indicators of failure. Yet there is no accountability for the liberal consultancy class. Indeed, they remain deeply embedded in the Democratic Party apparatus through requirements from central funding organizations like the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) as “people who must be hired” if candidates want to get a dime from the party establishment.
This is a recipe for continued disaster. We don’t need more triangulation or “moving to the center” (a code phrase for ignoring our popular roots and pretending to be neoconservatives). What we do need is a strong moral vision and the will to stand by our principles. This isn’t about messaging. Nor is it about following the polls. Such small-mindedness begets incremental progress combined with monumental setbacks.
Now is the time to begin building on success. Barack Obama didn’t win the White House by presenting a seven-point plan or playing the cold-shouldered wonk. He won by articulating a clear vision of progress and calling us all to rise with him to become the country we know in our hearts that we can be.
Our current political system is taking us to the brink of collapse. It brought us the financial meltdown and massive bail outs to the super rich, while leaving the economy in tatters. It denies the urgency of our faltering global ecological commons, putting all of humanity at risk of extinction. And it is poisoned by the moneyed interests of health insurance companies, oil and coal companies, financial institutions and bloated defense contractors. These entities are part of the problem. They will go down when the structure topples, like a neglected bridge in rush hour traffic or the unmaintained levies of a coastal city in the eye of a hurricane. It is clear to anyone who cares about the environment, universal health care, livable wages and fair taxation that our current political infrastructure is broken. It’s time for an upgrade.
Our job is to be sure that new and better systems arise to take its place.
There are many of us working day and night to build the new models for politics based on civic engagement, social technologies, the needs of real people and an earnest desire to solve problems instead of catering to bullies from decades past. We’re applying microcredit lending strategies to help those in need to help themselves, starting social businesses that earn a profit while doing good, organizing communities of empowerment to meet each other and share ideas, starting our own media centers to bypass the corporate filtered “mainstream media” (the one that manipulated the populace into a war in Iraq) and so much more.
The political establishment isn’t going to know what hit them. They didn’t recognize our tactics when Howard Dean asserted that we’ll only win if we engage as many people as possible (through his 50 State Strategy). The conservative “wisdom” of Democratic leadership was that the only way to win is to turn off as many people as possible while still securing 50-plus-1 percent of the vote. This may be the case if winning means preserving the status quo. But 50-plus-1 doesn’t stave off the climate crisis. It doesn’t remove entrenched interests either.
We’ve entered the second decade of the new millennium. The digital natives among us, those who cut their teeth in an internet world, are wired for collaboration and thinking in terms of systems. And they are starting to come of age. The politics of tomorrow is upon us. Let’s go about the work of creating it.
This will require a retooling, just like any system replacement. During the 20th century, most of the standard tools came from the fields of law, economics, marketing and accounting. In the 21st century, our tool set will include computer programmers who design “civic software,” adaptive management experts who can navigate through ongoing periods of significant change by creating learning organizations that nurture people, eco-design architects who shape public spaces that encourage meaningful interactions in our built environment, and much more.
The time for the politics of tomorrow is today. But first we need to get the failed consultancy class out of our way. And we need to employ new and better tools that promote civic engagement and build trust with everyday people. The people in charge right now don’t seem to realize this. So let’s replace them with people who do.