by Jan Baughman
(Swans - May 9, 2011) I envy the Tea Party. Not because of its agenda or its wing-nut advocates, but because of its moneyed founders -- those astute marketers that invested their wealth in a political cause, creating the guise of a grass-roots movement to implement their agenda and create a faction of impassioned followers who actually have myriad candidates to support. Loyal Tea Party constituents tell their incumbents, "Do as I say or you're out," and they vote accordingly. "Progressives" tell the Democratic candidates, "Do as I say...but if you don't, I'll vote for you anyway." The agitators on the left -- Michael Moore, Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky, Keith Olbermann (of late) -- throw their support to the Democrats election after election. So it goes, time and again, while the Democrats ignore their constituents' empty demands knowing full well they'll garner the lesser-evil votes. Merriam-Webster defines progressive as "a: of, relating to, or characterized by progress. b: making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities." Based on these definitions, the Tea Partiers are the true progressives, and the self-defined progressives on the left who consistently support this country's move to the right should more aptly be labeled for what they are: Regressives.
The voices of independent voters who otherwise share the agenda of the regressives are silenced each election cycle. Labeled as "spoilers," we are confronted with a George W. Bush-like "you are either with us or against us" threat of meddling in democracy and obstructing change. Third-party candidates have been shut out of the system, while the two parties coalesce as the Democrats consistently concede to the right, moving the country ever closer to corpocracy and perpetuating the transfer of wealth from the people to the elite.
It's a tragic era, for those not among the elite, that is witnessing the dismantling of the New Deal, labor unions, abortion rights, free speech, quality education, affordable health care, and threats to Medicare and Social Security -- the last two holy grails for privatization -- while the provision of free speech and human rights has been bestowed upon corporations that profit on our demise. The battles that previous generations fought on behalf of we the People have been answered by our contemporary legacy: Complacency. When will "lesser evil" finally become the greater evil of the so-called progressives? How evil does "lesser-evil" have to become before the left takes itself seriously and actually votes its convictions rather than for the party they still cling to as the counter to the right? From where will we find the support and the money to re-fight those battles whose spoils we've long since taken for granted?
Sadly, it appears that until the Tea Party and their corporate backers take complete control, the regressives will remain in their somnambulant delusion that they can implement change through the two-party system. The next presidential election is a year and a half away, but the campaigning has begun in earnest amongst the Republicans and the Tea Partiers, while President Obama reportedly needs to raise a billion dollars to buy a second term. No challengers from the left have emerged -- no such challengers exist. Meanwhile, the hopes of regressives for universal health care, withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, protection of the environment, a sane and sustainable energy policy, and the well being of the next generation look to the assassination of Osama bin Laden as the defining moment that will ensure the president's re-election.
Change we can believe in? Hope? The Democrats' record is unambiguous in their response to their supporters' beliefs and hope. The Tea Partiers and the progressives differ in that the former vote their ideological agenda, while the latter vote for a party that continues to work against theirs. It's time for regressives to adopt the Tea Party's practice of voting according to principles, and holding true to those principles without lesser-evil concessions. The time has come to groom progressive candidates to redirect the shifting tides and to pressure the progressive agitators to put their money where their mouth is. It's time to learn from the Tea Party and turn beliefs and hope into progressive action. Too much is at stake for the future of the (non-elite) people and the environment, with democracy regressing to a one-party, corporate-controlled system. Forget 2012, and imagine what life will be like for the People in 2016, 2020, 2024, and beyond given our current trajectory.
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