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Our Progressive Coalition – A Reason To Believe

( – promoted by David Dayen)

Our Progressive Coalition: A Reason to Believe

By Brad Parker

When we were formulating our strategy timeline for the “Progressive Plan” – published by the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party in August 2006 – we called for a coalition meeting of all outside the Democratic Party Progressive groups with all Progressive Caucuses inside the state Democratic Parties in the fall of 2007. Up until two weeks ago it looked as though this strategic prognostication might not be realized as the rest of the timeline has been. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving we can be thankful that in two significant ways this call to coalition has not only been realized but in mysterious and stimulating ways.

First – a move to censure Senator Dianne Feinstein for her votes to confirm Leslie Southwick and Michael Mukasey, that began in the Executive Board of the Progressive Caucus of the CDP, caught fire across California, resulting in a spirited effort to do just that at the CDP Executive Board meeting in Anaheim this past weekend. Mal Burnstein – Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus of the CDP – first brought the resolution of censure to the caucus board. It was unanimously passed.

Then, it began to be moved and passed at Democratic Clubs and County Central Committees. That was concurrent with an all-out and energetic promotion by the Courage Campaign. Before long the censure movement was joined by MoveOn, PDA, local DFA and Wellstone chapters and more than 30,000 Californians. Even though the Resolutions committee of the CDP voted to stifle debate and not hear the resolution – the Progressive, Women’s and Irish-American caucuses passed it. California was on fire again.

Less heralded – but just as important – was the announcement of an Immigration Town Hall to be held at the 2008 CDP Convention in San Jose this March. This initiative also originated in the Progressive Caucus Executive Board. Over the last six months, the Labor caucus embraced it, as did the Women’s and African-American caucuses, finally receiving the impramatur of CDP Chairman Art Torres at this weekend’s CDP meetings. It is a bold idea to bring together representatives of all of the caucuses in the Party who choose to participate and discuss an issue central to the upcoming 2008 campaigns in a setting that encourages listening, dialogue and mutual respect. A coalition of seemingly disparate groups within the Party to form a consensus is also a feature of the “Progressive Plan” strategic timeline and was slated for the 2008 CDP Convention, where it will now come to fruition. Where the members lead, the leaders must follow.

Bound up in the drama surrounding these policy and action determinations has been the question – “Who is a Democrat?” and “What does the Democratic Party stand for?” While there are as many answers as there are registered Democrats, both questions taken together point toward a larger phenomena that we are all participating in – futuring the Democratic Party.

Broadly speaking there are two forces that might be categorized as: the progressive membership (inside and outside of the Party – the activists) and the current leadership (both Party leaders and elected officials) who are debating these questions and pointing to their divergent philosophies for answers. Current leadership seems to be embattled and demanding unity behind incumbents and campaigns as well as established Party funding, endorsement, rules, resolutions and platform procedures. Progressive membership is rallying for more openness, access to decision-making apparatus, accountability of electeds (and their voting records), transparency in financial decisions, disbursement of campaign funds to all candidates and open debate of all issues. It may appear that these two camps are antithetical but that is not necessarily so.

Current leadership claims that critique of Democrats by Democrats leads to Republican victories. Progressive membership counters that lack of critique by Democrats of both Democrats and Republicans leads to inertia, capitulation and complicity in Republican malfeasance. So, what can bring the apparently opposed views into consilience? How can the Democratic Party develop improved strategies for advancing the Liberal Ideal? What is the best way to bring about and end to Neo-Con social policy and Neo-Liberal economic policy? When do Democrats do best at winning elections? The answer is simple and profound; give the citizens of America a “reason to believe”.

In a nation mired in scandal – political, business and religious – people have lost hope. When Party leaders are incommunicado from the citizenry. When elected officials are enjoying fine wine, luxury travel, substantial healthcare and pension plans yet the citizens have none. When politicians tell you to trust them and yet they betray their own families – in public. When the first consideration on any vote is how will it help an elected to get reelected. When too many people are dying for no reason in an illegal war of intervention in a foreign land. When there’s too much cash from Crony contributions spilling out of the campaign accounts of electeds and the working stiffs have nothing then the people become mired in despair and the Constitution gathers dust in a forgotten corner. Our job as Progressives is now, has always been and will remain to give people a reason to believe again.

While we are dispatching the Republican Anarchy Collective – and we are getting there – we must take on the Crony corruption in the Democratic Party. The source of the corruption – besides primal greed and narrow self-interest – is the theoretical premise foisted upon our Party by the DLC. Their premise was and is; money and business are the primary concerns of the Party along with aggressive national security. Of course this thesis was always false but with a salesman like Bill Clinton the Party couldn’t resist. Now twenty years of devastating electoral losses later the membership has woken up and begun to swarm around the Progressive movement. In the end money was not the way to win but the way to lose. Even the current leadership and electeds are beginning to tire of carrying the Clinton/DLC machine around on their backs.

So, our job as a Progressive coalition remains the same. We are here to give the people, the sullen citizens, a reason to believe; a reason to believe that their vote will be counted as cast, a reason to believe that the Liberal Ideal is not dead, a reason to believe that principles win elections not big donors, a reason to believe that they should be active civically, a reason to believe that the Democratic Party is different from the Republican Party, a reason to register as Democrats and vote for Democrats. In short – the Progressive membership’s emphasis on principles is the cure for what ails the body politic. Our forming swarming coalition is the reason to believe.

This past weekend showed that everyone, members, leaders, activists and electeds alike could and should find a way to work together for the enlightened self-interests of all. It put a fine note on the reality that only the freedom of “dissent” can lead to the “consent” of the governed. It also proved that accountability and standing for something is not only possible but also essential to being a Democrat and the future of the Democratic Party. Most importantly – the Progressives inside the Party acted with decorum and civility – allowing the strength of our ideas and our tough-mindedness to carry our message while many in the opposition lost their cool and relied on bellicose belligerence to defend their derisory obfuscation. Our principled ideas and actions are our strength and speak louder for us than emotional outbursts ever will.

If Democrats want to win again then they only need to stand up, show up and speak up for the principles we all hold dear rather than the large donor’s pet projects. Our Progressive Coalition not only stands for all Americans but is the positive force forging a reason to believe while creating  – E Pluribus Unum. To paraphrase Hubert Horatio Humphrey – I’m as pleased as punch to be part of this historic citizens movement of the Twenty First Century. I can’t wait for another wild weekend!