Progressives – a force for good or self?
Nice post from Mark Karlin over at Buzzflash:
We hope that the Blanche Lincoln and Jane Harmon primary victories against two progressive challengers don’t open another round of finger pointing and bitter recriminations among progressives. There is too much at stake.
When I started BuzzFlash in May of 2000, before Bush was put in the White House by the Supreme Court, progressives and Democrats in general were looking for a voice to call out the Republicans for what they are: Bullies, Liars, Hypocrites and full of Gluttonous Greed. BuzzFlash to hundreds of thousands became that voice for several years until blogs emerged and became thousands of individual voices. The Internet became the vehicle for exposing and challenging the dishonest and thuggish theocratic oligarchy of the GOP, as the corporate mainstream media gobbled down Republican talking points and regurgitated them in stories as the “truth.” The Internet was — for many years — the sole counterpoint to a “frame,” as George Lakoff labels it, that the GOP successfully uses to control the debate on public policy issues and skewer that discussion to the hard right.
But with the emergence of an Obama Administration that is filled with Centrists and that has leaned heavily toward corporatist governance, progressives and Democrats have split into two camps: those who are critical of Obama’s frequent siding with the status quo and those who argue that he can’t do anymore because of the booby traps he inherited from Reagan, Bush I and Bush II administrations. But remember this: there is nothing that the entrenched elite and the Republicans want more than progressives to be engaged in a shooting war at each other.
BuzzFlash has not been immune from this fray, that we admit. But we do believe that progressives need to look beyond the politics to our goal of seeing government and Americans working on behalf of the common good — and to our long-held objective of healing the planet. Achieving these goals involve more than electing individuals; they involve building movements. We are awash in a sea of easy Internet “action,” when we need to realize that most great advances in the U.S. — Civil Rights, the Vote for Women, Labor improvements — have come as the result of movements that preceded legislative remedies.
Movements require shoe leather, organization and loud voices, not e-mail petitions that are quickly deleted if they ever even arrive in a Congressional or Senate Offices. Movements require sweat equity, courage, perseverance, self-sacrifice and determination. Movements can change the world; E-mails to Congress won’t.
Progressives need to rally behind what unites us, instead of getting caught again and again in the dashed hopes of supporting individual candidates who — for the most part — inevitably become a part of the Washington elite status quo of a revolving door between government and corporations. We must become the change by making Washington and local elected officials respond to the force of movements that cannot be denied. Lyndon Johnson would have never championed Civil Rights if there had not been years of movement activity and charismatic non-politician leadership behind the cause of equal rights.
Recently, Rabbi Brant Rosen, of the Jewish Reconstructionist Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois, wrote in an E-mail: “For me, the notion of ‘joy as service’ is fundamentally different from the kind of joy that is simply rooted in the self – ‘joy as narcissism,’ if you will. As Leo Tolstoy once wisely observed, ‘Joy can only be real if people look on their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness.'”
That is the challenge that we face as progressives, to achieve through movement activity a “joy” that “can only be real if people look on their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves.”
This must become our beacon, our guiding light; we must rise above the notion that politicians will implement what is necessary to advance our democracy on an equitable and environmental basis without being forced to do so.
We must become the force that powered movements and social advances in the past. Legislation will follow only if we put our convictions into action and force elected officials to do the right thing.
Otherwise, big money will pull the strings, and we will be left bickering among ourselves on the Internet and shouting curses at FOX television in the comfort of our homes.
MARK KARLIN FOR BUZZFLASH, EDITOR’S BLOG