Make no bones about it -- I am a bona fide dyed in the wool progressive. I make no apologies. I am proud to be a progressive. It was progressives, not the party of big business that gave us social security, Medicare and unemployment insurance. It was progressives who championed virtually every increase in the minimum wage. It is progressives who are fighting for a living wage law. We must allowing neo-conservatives to define who we are. Progressives know who we are and what we stand for. If we are not overtly proud of the contributions of progressives to society we are not worthy of the name.
What has the party of big business ever done for working class people? They are the party that brought us the eighty-four hour work week; the twelve hour work day, sweat shops and child labor. They are not only the party that opposed civil rights; they are the party of choice of white supremacists everywhere. They are the party of class privilege. Let us remember that they are the party that produced the likes of Strom Thurman, Jesse Helms and Tom Delay. They have a lot to answer for.
Do not assume that I am a Democrat because I am a progressive -- I am not. The Democrats are no longer the party of progressives they used to be. Long ago they were the party that fought tooth and nail for social justice and for organized labor. They were the party that tried to curtail corporate power. Collectively, the Democrats of today are no longer the party of progressives, save for some very notable exceptions that include Cynthia McKinney. Once the norm, now progressives like Congress woman McKinney are an aberration -- a radical departure from the norm.
Progressives must come to the realization that we cannot continue to play the game of politics by rules that were rendered obsolete. We must understand that the Democratic Party abandoned us nearly three decades ago. Yet they continue to expect our support simply because they are not Republicans. It is getting more difficult to tell them apart. To hate fomenting neocons, Bill Clinton was Satan incarnate -- a flaming liberal with a forked tail and horns. Politically, however, Clinton bore a close resemblance to his tormentors. He was certainly not a progressive in any way, shape or form. Like his political counterparts, Clintonís policies clearly favored the rich and powerful over working class people of ordinary means.
As painful as it is for some, we must realize that the Democratic Party, as a platform for progressive values, no longer exists. The Democratic Party has deliberately aligned itself with the same business interests as the Republicans. It has chosen to abandon its traditional role of advancing progressive values and representing working class people. Like its old adversary, the GOP, it too was lured to the money and it has also fallen under its corrosive spell. In the process it sold its traditional identity and abandoned its customary values. Yet progressives continue to express an alliance to the Democratic Party -- a party that clearly does not share their values or advance its social agenda. How can this be beneficial?
In reality America no longer has two major political parties -- the Democrats and the Republicans. Sometime ago these two parties merged into a single party that only represents the interests of wealth and power. I refer to them as Republicrats. They share common financiers and common handlers. Campaign financiers always hedge their bets by contributing to both parties. They contribute significantly more to the party in power. They have created a win-win situation for themselves. The Republicrats do not represent the interest of ninety percent of the American people. This party has two right wings, both of them conservative. The more leftist wing is quite conservative; the rightist wing is populated by conservative extremists. They are the wing that is now in power; and they are seeing how far to the right they can push the envelope.
The system creates the illusion of separation and choice; but there is little difference in the ideology of wealth and privilege, and there is no real choice to be made within such a system. The Republicrats have no incentive to reform a structure that generates considerable wealth for them and their corporate backers.
It does not behoove us to contribute any more of our time, treasure, or political capital to the Republicrats. Continuing to do so only delays the inevitable revolution that is our only salvation. They sold us out, so they no longer deserve our support.
American politics is so awash in corruption and corporate money that it has degenerated into a form of legalized bribery -- a form of moral prostitution, if you will. It bears no substantial resemblance to the Democracy it purports to be. It is an imposter that is designed to deceive us. The idea of one person equals one vote -- all votes being of equal value -- is dead. Now it is money that buys access to power and determines outcomes.
By now it should be clear that there is no competitive opposition party to the Republicrats. The system virtually precludes the entrance of viable third party candidates. It is designed to maintain the status quo that bears no resemblance to a level playing field. Until we get the special interest money out of politics there is no reason to expect improvement. We will continue to play a game in which the outcome has been predetermined -- a game that ordinary working class Americans can never win.
Money buys ready access to legislators. Money allows industry lobbyists to self regulate, to fleece the people and to plunder the earth with impunity. The more money one has, the greater their access to power. Those without money are denied admission and have no real representation. Over time the clout of the dollar supplanted the power of the vote, with the result that the vast majority of the people, ninety percent or more, have only token representation in government. The system has generated enormous wealth and power for those at the top of the economic ladder, while fleecing the rest of us. What incentive is there for them to change?
So where does this leave progressives? We have several avenues open to exploration. We can continue to give our support to the Democrats as we have always done. This can only assure that we will continue getting the same results we have been getting for thirty or more years. We must ask ourselves if this strategy has produced a satisfactory result. Have progressive values waxed or waned within the Democratic Party during that time? The answer should be obvious. Progressives have lost influence.
We can attempt to force the Democratic Party back toward its progressive roots by temporarily withdrawing our support from it. This strategy will either force the Democrats to the left, or leave them twisting in the wind. Perhaps a mass migration to non-traditional third parties like the Greens or the Labor Party would get the attention of the Democratic leadership.
Lending our full support to one or more of these parties might breathe new life into them. But without a mass exodus from the party that has abandoned progressive values, none of these parties will ever be more than a protest vote with little impact upon the issues. One of the powerful attractions of these parties is that they do not rely upon corporate money. By lending them our ideas and our treasury could we make them competitive?
Progressives could register as Independents and run their own candidates under that umbrella. Ross Perot enjoyed considerable success as an Independent some years ago; but he was a wealthy man who could afford to finance a major campaign. Few of us have access to that kind of cash.
Another option is to build a new political party from the ground up. Some years ago West Virginia formed the Mountain Party and Maryland has recently created the Eagle Party. Both of these parties represent genuine grass roots efforts to bypass a political system that no longer represents ordinary citizens. This option may require the most time, a luxury we may not have. Only a mass exodus from the Democratic Party could significantly shorten that development. It is widely assumed that conservatives would not be interested in joining one of these parties. However, that might not necessarily be a safe assumption if enough of them realize, like us, that the system has betrayed them.
I proffer these thoughts in hope that they will engender genuine discussion about where progressives are and where we are going. Knowing this, we can begin thinking about how we are going to get there. One thing is for certain, however; we are not going to get where we need to be by running in place or by moving in the opposite direction. Let us jettison our obsolete ideas and move forward. Isnít this the very definition of progress?
Charles Sullivan is a furniture maker, photographer and freelance writer living in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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