At this bleak political moment, gaining congressional power for progressives might seem like pie in the sky. More and more desperate efforts are underway to stave off a Republican takeover of Congress. But the necessity of trying to prevent right-wing rule on Capitol Hill should not obscure the need to win more seats for genuine progressives.
Sold Out to the Corporatocracy
Ever since early last year, the Obama administration has chipped away at the Democratic Party’s base — undermining its capacity to mobilize for the midterm election — while sometimes courting Republican leaders to the point of absurdity. Consider this news account from the New York Times days ago: “Though liberal and labor groups have been agitating for public works spending, Mr. Obama and his advisers are emphasizing business tax cuts in hopes of drawing Republican support — or, failing that, to show that Republicans are so determined to thwart Mr. Obama that they will oppose even ideas that they and most business groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, advocate.”
Or consider the Washington Post report Sept. 9 on “Obama’s proposal for $180 billion in fresh infrastructure spending and business tax breaks.” The newspaper explained that “his plan would make permanent a corporate tax credit for research and allow companies to deduct from their taxes this year and next the entire cost of whatever they spend in new investments — ideas pulled directly from GOP playbooks.”
Will the Real Populists Please Stand Up?
Progressives need to fight back — today, tomorrow and every day. The electoral struggle is just one part of what’s needed to build effective social movements, but it’s an important part. And that effort should include primary battles to elect real progressives to Congress.
More broadly, progressive populism is essential in the quest for economic and social justice — a vast worldview away from the “populism” flaunted by Tea Bag boosters and the like.
“It’s necessary to restate the solid principles of populism and reassert its true spirit, because both are now being severely perverted by corporate manipulators and a careless media establishment,” Jim Hightower wrote early this summer. “To these debasers of the language, any politicos or pundits who tap into any level of popular anger (toward Barack Obama, liberals, the IRS, poor people, unions, gays, immigrants, Hollywood, community organizers, environmentalists et al.) get a peel-off â€˜populist’ label slapped onto their lapels — even when their populist pose is funded by and operates as a front for one or another corporate interest. That’s not populism, it’s rank hucksterism — disguising plutocrats as champions of the people.”
Hightower’s assessment is true today, and it will be true the morning after Election Day: “Now is the time for progressives to reassert their populist beliefs and bona fides, for we’re living in a teachable moment in which it’s possible to reach most Americans with an aggressive and positive approach to achieving a higher level of economic and political democracy.”
There’s a viable — and essential — alternative to right-wing Republicans and corporate Democrats. Real progressive populism is grounded in humane values, solidarity, caring and organizing. We can put up a fight. And we can win.Φ
Norman Solomon is the author of many books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, which has been adapted into a documentary film of the same name. He is co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America.