Disaster or Victory? Two Progressive Views of the Election Results

November 6, 2010

Media critic Norman Solomon describes the election as “grim history” while Institute for Policy Studies staff Karen Dolan reads the results as a victory for progressives.  Both views are well worth considering and both call for visionary grassroots action in response.  See both below. – Editor

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After the Election Disaster: Back to Basics

By Norman Solomon

Now what? We need to build a grassroots progressive movement — wide, deep and strong enough to fight the right and challenge the corporate center of the Democratic Party. The stakes are too high and crises too extreme to accept “moderate” accommodation to unending war, regressive taxation, massive unemployment, routine foreclosures and environmental destruction.

A common formula to avoid is what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the paralysis of analysis.” Profuse theory + scant practice = immobilization.

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“Vast Array of Activism” Needed


It’s not enough to denounce what’s wrong or to share visionary blueprints. Day in and out, we’ve got to organize for effective and drastic social change, in all walks of life and with a vast array of activism.

Yes, electioneering is just one kind of vital political activity. But government power is extremely important. By now, we should have learned too much to succumb to the despairing claim that elections aren’t worth the bother.

Such a claim is false. As bad as the election results are, they would have been much worse across the country if progressives hadn’t worked hard against the right-wing juggernaut.

For instance, consider the many hundreds of on-the-ground volunteers who rejected the paralysis of analysis by walking precincts and making phone calls to help re-elect progressive Congressman Raul Grijalva. He won a tight race in Arizona’s southwestern district and will return to Congress next year — much to the disappointment of the corporate flacks and xenophobes who tried to defeat him because of his strong stance against the state’s new racial-profiling immigration law.

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Obama’s Under-Reach

The mass-media echo chamber now insists that Republicans have triumphed because President Obama was guilty of overreach. But since its first days, the administration has undermined itself — and the country — with tragic under-reach.

It’s all about priorities. The Obama presidency has given low priority to reducing unemployment, stopping home foreclosures or following through with lofty pledges to make sure that Main Street recovers along with Wall Street.

Far from constraining the power of the Republican Party, the administration’s approach has fundamentally empowered it. The ostensibly shrewd political strategists in the White House have provided explosive fuel for right-wing “populism” while doing their best to tamp down progressive populism. Tweaks aside, the Obama presidency has aligned itself with the status quo — a formula for further social disintegration and political catastrophe.

The election of 2010 is now grim history. It’s time for progressives to go back to the grassroots and organize with renewed, deepened commitment to changing the direction of this country. If we believe that state power is crucial — and if we believe in government of, by and for the people — it’s not too soon to begin planning and working for change that can make progressive victories possible in future elections.  Φ

Norman Solomon is co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.


Buck Up, People … Progressives Won!


By Karen Dolan

No, I am not playing the popular elementary school game of Opposites Day. It’s true. Progressives won in the 2010 mid-term elections.

As touching as it was to see Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) choke up over the retelling of his hard-knock life story of having to be a waiter in his dad’s bar, tears are not so attractive on the faces of Progressives this morning. Did we all miss the news flash? PROGRESSIVES WON!

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Small Losses for Progressives; Big Ones for Blue Dogs

Two significant exceptions are of course the tragic defeat of Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and the sad loss of prinicpled Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). But, the Congressional Progressive Caucusthe largest caucus in the House Democratic Caucus at over 80 members, emerged virtually unscathed, losing only three members. By constrast, the conservative Blue Dog Democratic caucus was more than sliced in half from 54 members to only 26. Further, of the 34 conservative Dems who voted against Obama’s Healthcare Reform, a mere 12 won re-election.

Dead weight gone. Good Riddance. The blame for the stalemate to come can now fall squarely where it belongs … on the anti-progressive, anti-democratic, anti-populist Republican members of Congress.

Our work is now finally beginning. The veil of a happy Democratic governing majority is finally lifted. We didn’t have it then; We don’t have it now. But what we do have now is a more solidly progressive bunch of Dems in Congress and a president presumably less encumbered by the false illusion that playing nice will get him a date with the other team.

Let’s thank Grayson, as well as Reps. John Hall (D-NY) Phil Hare (D-IL) for their principled time in office. Let’s get Feingold on the ticket as Obama’s runningmate in 2012. Let’s throw our support unabashedly behind the Congressional Progressive Caucus and let’s push Obama to finally do the right thing through as many Executive Orders as we can present to him.

People … progressives won! Republicans are all over the map. They’re a mess and won’t be able to wreak the havoc they seek. We should be energized. We must be energized. Too much is at stake. The road ahead isn’t so bad as long as we have the big picture and the fighting spirit spurring us on. Progressives will be the heroes in 2012. Let’s make Obama one too.  Φ

Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and director of the Cities for Progress and Cities for Peace projects based there. She holds an M.A. With Highest Distinction in Philosophy and Social Policy from the American University in Washington D.C

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