Basically, I’m for more democracy in local, national and world political affairs. I’m also for more and better education and access to real information for people, as democracy’s worst problems come from populations that are not well-informed and often acting on prejudices and stereotypes, getting the bad government they vote for.
America’s democratic institutions have long been corroded through the effects of political party machines, elitism and cronyism among the political class, and the lobbying of government contractors. Was there a relatively golden age in the 1950’s and 1960’s, when at least the worst old local party “bosses” had faded and meritocracy was the quality everyone claimed to respect? I was a child then, I won’t trust my memories, and anyway those memories were all formed by reading the LA Times every day, cover to cover, since age 8.
Since then however, America’s democratic decline has accelerated rapidly, and I largely blame America’s televised political journalism and the financial arms race among competing politicians to feed the hugely expensive machinery of televised advertising, which has learned to effectively play people’s emotion with outright lies and a million kinds of hype, chicanery and misdirection.
I’m not very satisfied with democracy in local government in America either. If you’ve ever spent any amount of time sitting in on local government meetings, it quickly becomes clear that local government MUST exist – contrary to the fantasies of anarchists and libertarians – simply to mediate the conflicts among the local property-owners. (And in America, the local anarchists and libertarians among the property-owners would shoot each other up pretty badly if local government failed to mediate their conflicts.) I just think we could do it a lot more honestly and openly. The adoption of the city manager form of local government by the vast majority of localities adds another layer of government unaccountable to the citizens, while empowering whatever local elites dominate the city management staff.
Whenever elections are happening, I have instinctively cheered for Democrats since the 60’s. This continued even after I made the decision in 1990 for work for the Green Party for the next 10 years, in 1992 I talked up Clinton over Bush as much as I could. When I was practically a full-time volunteer for Nader in 2000, one of three people in my state at both the initial and final meetings of the state Nader campaign, I never hated Gore;
I expected Gore to win and wanted Gore to win. When the disgraceful result of the 2000 election left some Dems screaming at the Greens with blame, and some Greens screaming back rejecting that blame, I said that both Greens and Dems were stupid and to blame, as neither of us saw how determined the Republicans were to steal the election.
In 2004, it was very distasteful to me to see the Greens in my state split between those who wanted to move forward with the intelligent Green lawyer Cobb, who had zero name recognition and ended up getting less than one-half of 1% nationally, and those who wanted to make a personality cult around Nader (and I have an article to write about his many failings as candidate). I tried to lead a trend of “Greens for Kerry,” arguing that now that we had seen how fascistically insane the Republicans really were, it was imperative to limit the threat of a second Bush term (which did give us Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court and the godawful Citizens United decision, which threatens to end the option of grassroots organizing as a tool in American politics).
So here we are today (as I wrote in 2010 in the first version of this article), watching Obama try to be centrist in the face of Republican hatred and obstruction, and doing a much poorer job of commanding the public discussion as a President than he did as a candidate. I still instinctively cheer for both Democrats and Greens, however I grow ever more dis-satisfied with how both of them operate in political life.
Basically, the actual left in America, all the millions of people out there who understand the progressive truths taught by life, will have little or no influence over government and/or media until they GET ORGANIZED.
Fortunately, today in the latest version of this article in the spring of 2019, much of this work is being done by a wide variety of diverse organizations, at all levels of political experience, from the very effective ActBlue fundraising program to the grassroots organizations like MoveOn and the Indivisibilty campaign to all the on-going special interest global and local causes that have organizations, to the risk-taking and progressive campaigns for all elected positions that a new generation of Democrats rode to victory in 2018 and their sisters and brothers already running for 2020 – whom we ABSOLUTELY NEED to have win in face of the daily monstrosities and developing tyranny being unleashed by madman Trump and the Republicans. An especial good word needs to said here for Dr. Rev. Barber and his Unite the Poor and other campaigns, read about his inspiring personality and the work he does, he is the ideal model of the leaders we need.
For the sake of History, I’ll leave the next two paragraphs largely unedited from their 2010 version, when I described what I thought we American progressives would need to achieve electoral victories.
In this 2010 vision, I saw the need for a new type of organization to overcome the problem that progressive voices were being largely shut out of official Obama administration and Democratic Party institutions. The goal of this ideal new left organization I envisioned would be major reforms to the formal and informal institutions that have allowed corporate money to dominate political life, accompanied by a drive to replace the 70% of all Democratic party officeholders at all levels who are corporate-owned careerists, with actual progressives and leftists with an ethic of service. The organization would have both political and educational structures under the tax laws, the educational arm would focus on why corporate-owned politicians are a threat to democracy and our children’s futures.
Note my ‘comment on comments,’ on the home page post “History: It’s Happening every second”
The political structure of this organization would work both within the Democratic party to change it, running candidates in primaries and so on, and would also work outside the Democratic party to change it, joining with any third party to oppose the worst Democrats and sometimes even running independent candidates in general election.
Even in 2010 I recognized that was a big problem that the Republicans have gone so completely whacko. I wanted us to think very carefully to avoid replacing bad Democrats with dangerously deranged characters like Sarah Palin or Michele Bachman, and with the cast of mobsters, bozos, and lobbyists-for-polluting-industries we’re seeing in the destructive-of-democracy Trump Era, these considerations are even more important. For my ideal organization of 2010, I saw tactics like refusing to announce whether we will support the Dem candidate until the last minute, with our members inundating message forums with the message that even if we end up voting for a particular bad Democrat to prevent a much worse Republican, we still oppose policies X, Y and Z of the bad Democrat we do not respect, and will be in that Democrat’s face over their failings.
Ever since I saw how destructive it was to productive work in the Green Party in California and Oregon in the 90’s, I have felt that it is a huge mistake in the context of actual existing American history and culture, to try to build such an organization on a “unity” of ideas or a “perfect platform.” Again, that was to me the least productive and most irritating aspect of Green politics in those days, people labor so hard and earnestly to produce a huge list of politically-hip positions, which is actually a turn-off to a significant proportion of voters and a distraction and obstacle to real political work – getting out and talking to people you haven’t met before. I understand this sort of thing still goes on in some progressive circles in 2019.
In both 2010 and 2019, I think that we the progressives need to organize around the goal: major reforms, and ending the careers (or forcing a change in behavior) of corporate-owned politicians. We must accept that we are going to have a wide diversity of beliefs and attitudes, we should not try to build or claim false unities of belief. In 2010 I had a clear vision about how my ideal organization should consciously manage our volunteers falling into two or three main groupings, those who prefer solid but steady politics and working with the Democrats, and those who prefer noisy and demonstrative politics working with independents and third party-type voters – and the rare few who want to do both. This type of organization structure may yet prove useful in American progressive politics.
As we in America in 2019 struggle with Trump violating every norm, announcing his wish to be President for life and directing his toadies to obstruct all attempts to bring him to justice, even as impeachment proceedings have begun, I am very much concerned for a strong progressive response to the Constitution-wrecking being conducted by Trump and the Republicans. Basically we all need to work as hard as we possibly can on all fronts at all times. I’d love to neglect my three jobs and family needs to get a new article out reflecting my current thoughts on American progressive politics, however I can’t pretend I have any of the answers we all need as to HOW TO GET RID OF ALL THESE TRUMP FOOLS AND TRAITORS ASAP.
To return to my lifelong political visions, I do foresee a day of a global democratic government – yet to calm everyone’s nationalistic fears, I have always looked for 3 or 4 generations of education and cultural change to precede any political steps. This program looked a lot more hopeful in the 1980’s, when I thought it up, than it does today: will we even have 3 generations worth of human future, at the rate we’re going., when all the alarm bells of climate change are ringing that we needed to stop using fossil fuels YESTERDAY, if our grandchildren are to have much of a life.
On one hand, the threat of environmental/economic catastrophe if we don’t change some of our wasteful ways increases the need for global cooperation, on a much shorter time frame than 3 generations – consider a time frame like TODAY. On the other hand, the short time frame and the atmosphere of crisis may make cooperation less likely rather than more likely, if human selfishness and the power of tradition and the usual remain at normal levels.
In short, there’s a lot of work to be done in the field of human political relationships. I will continue to be opinionated and active, and hopefully will extend my record of working well in democratic activist groups seeking change