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Transforming Four More Years
by Norman Solomon
November 10, 2004

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Right-wing trumpets are making a horrific racket across a ravaged political landscape. For now, hope is barely audible. Progressives seem like fledglings without feathers, weakly tapping from inside thick shells. Four more years sound like hell.

Words from Bertolt Brecht resonate:

 ... A smooth forehead betokens
A hard heart.
He who laughs
Has not yet heard
The terrible tidings.

Grief, fear, despair, rage -- only the emotionally deadened would have none of it. Bush’s victory is a huge defeat for humanity. The consequences will be extremely grim.

Ideological fanatics have extended their control over the Executive Branch while increasing their domination of Congress. The “leaders” who lied the country into war are plunging ahead with escalating carnage in Iraq. Soon they’ll take action to make the Supreme Court more authoritarian -- threatening abortion rights, freedom of speech, basic legal protections for defendants and other civil liberties. A theocratic stench is in the air.

This emergency has not been averted. It’s here.

While plenty of uncertainties loom ahead, the imperatives are not in doubt: We won’t give up. We’re going to fight back.

Progressives will challenge the Bush regime’s agenda in a wide range of venues. During the next months and years, the urgent task is to develop political coalitions that can effectively push back against the dominant right-wing madness.

Of course progressives will need to keep talking with each other, building counter-institutions, strengthening independent media outlets -- but that’s far from enough. We’ve got to greatly improve ongoing communication with the general public. We can find better ways to clearly advocate (without rhetoric or evasion) for social justice and peace. And we can generate far more pressure on elected officials. These are crucial goals in an era when the Bush administration and its allies are promoting policies with fascistic elements.

I believe that progressive movements should be independent of the Democratic Party while recognizing that it is not our main enemy. The main enemy is the right-wing power of the Republican Party. In this period, anachronistic fury at the Democratic Party is not going to get us very far.

When the New Left emerged during the 1960s, liberal Democrats were in control of U.S. foreign policy. Logically, activists viewed the war-crazed Johnson administration as their main foe. The New Left largely defined itself in opposition to the liberal establishment and the Democratic Party.

Forty years later, let’s “be here now.” In this era, liberals don’t control the policies of the U.S. government. For that matter, neither do centrist or conservative Democrats. The government has been commandeered by right-wing Republicans. Their domestic agenda is filled with repressive measures, and their extreme militarism shows no sign of abating. The Pentagon’s new murderous assault on Fallujah is a byproduct of the neocon grip on Washington’s levers of power.

We’ll need to build a much stronger antiwar movement that insists on swift and complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. While politicians and mainstream pundits offer their double talk, we have a clear message: This war, based on lies, is totally unacceptable. We support the troops; we want them to stop killing and being killed. We want them to come home. The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is a major cause of instability and violence -- especially since most Iraqi people believe the goal of the U.S. invasion was occupation and control over oil, not liberation.

We need a progressive movement that insists on blocking right-wing judicial appointees, especially for the Supreme Court. No compromise.

Movements that challenge Bush on domestic and foreign policies could change the social and political terrain of the country. The need for effective coalitions has never been greater, and the potential is enormous. While resisting Bush’s next efforts to move the country rightward, we’ll have opportunities to create new alliances including large numbers of young people, unions, people of color, and a wide range of other constituencies.

Progressives have the opportunity to win elections with platforms featuring economic populism. We’ll need to show how it can be done, not merely preach about the failures of past Democratic campaigns while touting the inevitability of triumphs for hypothetical campaigns.

If we believe that a progressive message can resonate with voters, let’s find ways to prove it. Proclamations of superior theory won’t be compelling -- particularly during the next several years, when the right-wing fires are raging and it’s imperative to douse the flames.

Clearly, the entire election system in this country needs a drastic overhaul: from equitable registration to uniform voting-machine technology with paper trails to independent legal oversight free of partisan control. Meanwhile, enclaves of “instant runoff voting” need to be expanded to show that IRV can work well. And the battle for genuine campaign finance reform is yet to be won.

The current news is a horror show that may seem to preclude realistic hope. But if history is any guide, we’ll move forward: while struggling with the grief, fear, despair and rage.

Speaking at the first World Social Forum, nearly four years ago, Eduardo Galeano told of a statement he read on the walls of a Latin American city: “Let’s save pessimism for better times.”

At quiet moments in this bleak November, it’s already possible to hear faint sounds of hope tapping from inside hard shells. We’ve got a lot to hatch.

Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His latest book is Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You (Context Books, 2003) co-authored by Reese Erlich. His columns and other writings can be found at: He can be reached at:

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