Saturday, August 13, 2005

Power to the People!!

David Sirota: " The Resurgence of Movement Politics"

The Democratic Party is caught in a downward spiral and is using its supposed "big tent" as an excuse for its weaknesses. Democratic politicians have always said that "ideological diversity is the Democrats strength," but that refrain is now being shamelessly used as a way to obscure the fact that the Democratic Party is ideologically rudderless. The party often permits and even congratulates those within its ranks who sell out America's middle class, whether it be those who voted for the bankruptcy bill or those who consistently vote for corporate-written trade deals like CAFTA or NAFTA. The party elites--many of whom follow the corporate apologism of business-funded groups within its ranks--still believe they can ascend to power on the public's loyalty to a Democratic Party label, even as that party label is almost completely meaningless to much of the public.

The only solution, then, is for progressives to stop solely focusing on partisan politics, and start focusing on movement politics. On every single issue, we must have a clear position that articulates not just a policy stance, but an overarching progressive ideology. Because without a movement, we have no ability to hold politicians' feet to the fire, no ability to develop credibility with voters and no ability to win elections.

(Emphasis mine)

Since last November's presidential election, there has been no shortage of articles bemoaning the state of the Democratic Party and liberalprogressive politics. But Sirota's article really caught my eye. As a writer for the Nation - a magazine as far left as you can get in the US - Sirota does bring a - unique? - perspective to the issue of leftist malaise. Putting aside word games that he plays with "partisan" and "ideology", Sirota seems to be making a call to arms for progressives to forego conventional politics and join a movement. Power to the people!

Sound familiar? If you're over 45 it should - the country went through that phase during the 1960s, as the Baby Boom generation started to come of age. Sirota is not a Baby Boomer, but I suspect that he would have fit in quite well in an organization like the SDS had he been alive then:

...Though young, Sirota is well schooled in the art of Washington warfare. After college at Northwestern, Sirota—who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs—worked for Rep. Bernie Sanders, the vocal independent congressman from Vermont, and then David Obey, the senior Democrat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. There he started e-mailing his attacks on Bush, giving Democrats neatly packaged sound bites and journalists irresistible quotes...

But he wasn't - and as a protege of Bernie Sanders, he must have been made aware of how great the 60s were, and how much the Bush era sucks.

However, unless I'm missing something, there are already movements like those Sirota proposes in existence. There are movements both for and against abortion, as an example. So what Sirota proposes is nothing new, but as old as the Republic itself.

So what is Sirota's point? You've got me - perhaps his audience either wasn't around in the 1960s, or if they were, they weren't paying attention. In either case, it's selling old wine in new bottles. Most of Democrats' efforts these days seems to be repackaging liberalismprogressivism and then hoping that the public will buy it. Right! ;-)

PS - Sirota does seem to get around:

David Sirota, a former congressional aide who is forming a group of liberal state legislators, said the behavior has been learned. "Washington Democrats are afraid of their own shadow," he said. "They've internalized all the Republican attacks and made it part of their psychology. It's like if you're a kid and you've been bullied you begin to think you're a wimp."

(HT - PoliPundit)

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