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May 29, 2008

Make it Happen: A Progressive Window

Chris Bowers at Open Left argues that we have not just the possibility of a huge Democratic victory across the board this fall, we have an incredible opportunity - a rare window of opportunity to pass progressive legislation that changes the course of the country.   

He’s been writing about this a lot lately, examining it from several sides.  Here’s the background from a recent post entitled, “Once in a Generation is Now”:

The Progressive Window refers to the six, brief, roughly once-in-a-generation opportunities when progressives have held enough power in government to pass real, strong, legislation. No window has been without its conservative moments, and some windows have been more successful than others in terms of the amount of legislation that passed. Still, collectively these six windows cover the time periods when virtually all extant, progressive, federal legislation passed into law.  In order, these windows are, roughly, Reconstruction, the early twentieth century, FDR's presidency, the JFK / LBJ sixties, the Carter administration, and the first two years of the Clinton administration.

Bowers sees a possible seventh window on the horizon:

This new, seventh window is possible because one very realistic electoral outcome for 2008 is a Barack Obama presidency, a Nancy Pelosi-led U.S. House with 260 Democrats, and a U.S. Senate that breaks 60-38-2, with Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders as the "2", which, if we hold the Presidency and succeed in governing, should last from 2009-2014.

Yes, please, I’ll take that.  Now, how do we get from here to there?  And please, dear God/goddess/Universe/Consciousness/Spirit, let the Democrats manage to not only win but to come together to take advantage of that opening. 

Chris has been thinking about that as well. 

He has said that an Obama/Edwards ticket would provide us the largest vote.  Now, I’ve never been a fan of Edwards (nothing giant, just a lack of wow for me) but I’m a fan of a big win. 

This is the larger picture, folks.  I’ve been talking with people at the grassroots level a lot lately, people who haven’t been involved in politics in any official way until just recently.  They are very smart; they care desperately about the country and they want to make a change.   

But some reasonable portion tell us that their neighbors are talking a lot about their disappointment with this extended Democratic primary.  They don’t know what to say and, most likely, they feel that way themselves. 

They don’t like the Clinton people going after Obama and they don’t like the Obama people going after Clinton. 

It can be easy to get caught up in the annoyance, the sense of betrayal, and the rising sense of panic that we are going to give the Republicans way too much to work with. 

With Chris’s powerful argument in front of me, I find it much easier to remember that there is something bigger at stake here.  This is the opportunity to open up another progressive window.  It’s that simple.  It’s worth setting aside our annoyance and feelings about begin betrayed.  It’s worth stretching our thinking, our ability to organize, and perhaps most importantly, our sense of hopefulness. 

We can do this. 

We can give the Democratic nominee, most likely Obama, and whomever he chooses as his VP and the Democratic Congressional and Senate candidates likely Darcy and Jeff Merkley and George Fearing and Larry LaRocco as much help as we can manage in money, time and buzz.  And the governor and the Democrats at the state level.

We can give our Democrats across the Board a very big win.  That is the precondition to opening up this progressive window.

Then, we can help them avoid what Chris and others call a "failed window," a time like 1977 – 1980 or 1993 – 1994, a time when the Democrats controlled both the Presidency and Congress but stalled out and then lost big at the voting booth.   This is a time when, he says,

The opportunity is squandered and the legislation necessary to improve the quality of life in America is not passed into law. Moments like these lead to backlash realignments, as we experienced in both the 1980 and 1994 elections. A failure during the progressive window blows an opportunity for an entire generation of progressives.

We are used to ineffective Democratic representation in D.C. which seems easily stymied, or all too willing to go along with, conservatives. However, the 2008 elections present us with an opportunity to move away from that paradigm very quickly. These elections can give progressives power in D.C. that we haven't had since the 1930's. If that isn't something to get excited about, and to work our asses off to achieve, I don't know what is. Of course we should always remain wary, and of course we will still have huge fights ahead of us even if we pull off these electoral victories, but this is still a once in a generation opportunity. We can't afford to squander it.  (Emphasis mine)

And, from an earlier post on the same subject:

A progressive legislation window is within our grasp, and we won't have the opportunity again for a long time. From my point of view, all of this makes the continued pitched battles between Clinton and Obama supporters, in the form of seemingly endless stereotypes and flame wars, really, really stupid. The opportunity we have here is so much bigger, and can potentially last so much longer, than any one person. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 29, 2008 at 08:37 PM in National and International Politics, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (4)

Exit, Voice or Loyalty and Scottie's Choice

Years ago, in a college class, I read a book called “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Declines in Firms, Organizations, and States” by Albert Hirschman.  The details have slipped away.  The title and the general sense of the choices that people have when they are disgruntled at work have stayed with me.  And, when I have been unhappy with where I’ve worked, I’ve thought long and hard about by the primary choices – “exit and loyalty (or maybe who cares?)”, “voice from within the organization”, “voice after departure (kiss and tell)” or “stay and be loyal”.  Which would I do?  Which was I doing?

I think about it now around Scottie McClellan and his new book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception” and wonder if he might have made the choice a bit earlier.  The same choice, the mix of “exit” and “voice” that Scottie chose, would be okay - but maybe a friggin’ five and a half years earlier! 

I know, I know.  He was young, loyal to Bush from the years in Texas together.  He was in a bubble.  The media, as he apparently noticed some time after he left the White House, had been overly compliant, hadn’t asked enough questions.  The lefty political blogs were in their infancy. 

McClellan says he is now answering to a higher truth.  And certainly speaking out now (and having his book shoot to #1 on Amazon) will likely push President’s Bush ratings down even lower.

But gads, what we wouldn’t have done for a clear, articulate, courageous truth teller who’d come from a position like Scottie’s within the administration?  We got a bit of it from Paul O’Neill with his “The Price of Loyalty” but he was pretty well marginalized well before he’d left.  Would it have been as easy to marginalize McClellan, one of the folks who'd come with Bush from Texas?  Perhaps, but then if Colin Powell or Richard Armitage had done the same?  “No, don’t do this Iraq thing!”  “This is wrong!” 

What the heck happened to plain old common sense and integrity?  Could we have that back, please?  Or are there no Republicans with common sense and integrity at that level any more? 

A few months ago, a friend sent a link to her cousin’s blog in Canada.  He was passing along a plug for Darcy’s “Responsible Plan”, not knowing that my friend was an avid Darcy supporter already.  When I followed the link, the first thing I noticed was that on that Canadian blog was a count-down to the end of George Bush’s term – to the minute. 

Can’t come soon enough, for me, for us, for the world. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 29, 2008 at 08:20 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 16, 2008

Another Brick in the Progressive Infrastructure

This evening the Northwest Progressive Institute is holding its first ever Spring Fundraising Gala.  It's a pretty heady marker, not just for the 4-year old organization but for the entire progressive community in the Northwest. 

NPI, under Andrew Villeneuve's leadership, has grown from a few young people fighting Tim Eyman, quite successfully, to a group of more than ten people writing, researching, lobbying and holding panel discussions with bloggers and legislators.  They will know shortly whether or not they will be getting credentials to attend the Democratic convention in Denver. 

And this gala is not just for the usual bloggers, many of whom will be there.  But Andrew and Rick Hegdahl, a wonderful NPI character in his own right, have invited Chip Hanauer, a former champion hydroplane driver to come along and bring his unlikely progressive friends.  Chip also gathered up Mike West, local radio personality to MC the event and Don Mock, guitarist, to provide the music. 

Add in favorite speakers Darcy Burner and General Paul Eaton.

So join in the festivities and broaden your picture of who our local progressives are.  7:00 Redmond Town Center Marriott, buffet, music, no-host bar.   Cost is $60, payable online or at the door.

P.S. -  I think in this case, gala can include dressing in everything from jeans to more formal attire.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 16, 2008 at 08:59 AM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 03, 2008

ILWU Strikes to End War

Thursday, on May 1st, the rank & file of the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) reminded us of what happens when Unions take leadership on big issues.  The ILWU's 25,000 members voted in January to take the action and walked out at 29 ports up and down the West Coast yesterday despite an arbiter's orders to report to work and despite some subsequent opposition from their own leadership.   They struck for the cause of ending the Iraq War.

From its May Day press release, the ILWU said:

We're standing up for America, we're supporting the troops, and we're telling politicians that it's time to end the Iraq war now!

<snip>

Big foreign corporations that control global shipping aren't loyal or accountable to any country.  For them it's all about making money. But longshore workers are different. We're loyal to America, and we won't stand by while our country, our troops, and our economy are destroyed by a war that's bankrupting us to the tune of 3 trillion dollars. It's time to stand up, and we're doing our part today.

From an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Jack Heyman, an official with the ILWU says:

Well, yeah. We were really proud here on the West Coast, as far as the longshore union, the ILWU, making this stand, because it's part of our legacy, really, of standing up on principled issues. And this, I think, is the first strike ever-well, I would call it a stop work, work stoppage, whatever you want-workers withholding their labor in demand-and demanding an end to the war and immediate withdrawal of the troops. 

The protest was mild by some standards.  In many ports, there were no speeches, signs, or noisy protests.  Labor folks joined other anti-war protesters in Seattle and San Francisco but not too many other ports.  The strike only lasted one shift and impacted very little commerce.   

Heyman noted that the Union appealed for solidarity actions.  Some college teachers at a New York community college did some teach-ins with students and a few other Labor organizations took a few moments of silence BUT the port workers in Iraq struck in solidarity.  How amazing is that?

The ILWU struck despite the fact that they have a contract expiring in two months and they will have to negotiate with the Pacific Maritime Association, which filed a complaint about the work stoppage. 

They showed nice leadership.  An LA Times article has a quote from Nelson Lichtenstein, a UC Santa Barbara history professor, about the ILWU:

This union looks at itself as the vanguard of the working class on the West Coast, and I think there was a sense that they needed to participate in this event.

So, let's follow along with the ILWU next time.  Maybe more unions, more progressive organizations and churches could do another, quiet, thoughtful protest.   It's time to make it clear that we as a nation are against this war.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 3, 2008 at 09:17 AM in National and International Politics, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (1)