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UnCommon Ground – Searching For The Soul Of Populism

5:45 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

In recent weeks, I have schlepped across the aisle to Redstate.com in order to converse with our conservative counterparts. It has been an enlightening experience.

Specifically, I have joined conversations about repealing “Obamacare” and the “folly” of climate change theory. In many ways, the conversation has been predictable. I was immediately reviled and ridiculed for being a liberal. In fact, within a few minutes, I was identified as a progressive blogger, told to “go back to FDL,” and warned that I was already on a “watch list.”

Undaunted, I soldiered on despite the danger and made my progressive arguments as calmly and as patiently as I could. I was encouraged to discover that by hanging in there and being a respectful dissenter who was willing to take some abuse, I could actually have a decent conversation. I suspect that my experience was similar to what a conservative would face here in these pages.

But I was most surprised not by the grudging civility, but by an unexpected piece of common ground. Over the past couple of months, I have been writing a series called “UnCommon Ground.” It seeks to find points of intersection between progressives and certain traditional, small town conservatives – but not the hard-core neocons and Tea Party types that are typically found on conservative blogs.
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UnCommon Ground – When Big Business and Big Government Merge

2:02 pm in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

photo: Matt Stratton via Flickr

Just how much common ground is there between progressives and traditional conservatives? Not enough to bring them together, say some critics of my suggestion to forge a new type of political alliance. The two groups might share a distaste for the current state of government, they argue, but this distaste has come about for very different reasons.

Conservatives blame big government for our nation’s problems, while progressives blame big corporations. Conservatives want to reduce the influence of Washington on the business community, and progressives want to reduce the influence of big business on Washington. It might appear that the two are mutually exclusive philosophies that could never unite politically, even as strange bedfellows.

Supporters of my suggestion, however, say that this is a false dichotomy. They claim that in today’s political environment, there is little difference between government and business. The two are not competing powers with their corresponding constituencies on the left and the right. Instead, they now act as one unified interest, over and against the interests of the people. The only way for this unified interest to be stopped is for people from both sides of the old spectrum to recognize their common enemy and unite in resistance.

Oddly enough, I agree with both the supporters and the critics. The supporters are absolutely right in that government and big business have slowly merged into one all-powerful political force, manifest in both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The people, trapped in this corporate-controlled two-party system, have been consistently pitted against one another as the plutocrats have consolidated their power. Citizens from the left and the right, if they want their power back, have no choice but to look for some type of friendship with one another.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Watercooler – Congress Passes Local Community Radio Act

7:45 pm in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

Community radio promotion in Montevideo, Uruguay. (photo: alittlefishy via Flickr)

Here’s some news worth noting for progressives seeking to build a movement:

Little noticed but extremely important to progressives, on Saturday afternoon Congress also passed the Local Community Radio Act. This legislation opens up radio spectrum to hundreds, if not thousands, of local independent radio stations (also known as LPFM).

Its passing will bring new choices and voices on the radio dial nationwide, but is especially relevant to a broadcast area reaching 160 million people who lived in areas where these stations had previously been barred from local airwaves.

Anyone tracking the rise of radio personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage understands the primary political significance of gaining access to spectrum.

With the opening of the airwaves to LPFM stations, progressives can gain a small but consequential spot on the radio dial. The challenge now is to organize local groups to gain access to licenses. Follow and support the Prometheus Radio Project to learn more.

Hear! Hear!

What’s on your mind tonight?

Chris Matthews – A “Liberal” In Service Of The Status Quo

6:19 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

KindGSL posted this clip in a comment thread, and I thought it was worthy of posting on the main page:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The clip is full of the typical efforts to discredit and marginalize progressives, with terms like “crazies” and assertions that Obama “comes from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party” – which is a sneaky ploy to make a significant portion of the left seem like a fringe element.

Perhaps most telling of Matthews’ insiduous methods is when Joan Walsh finally starts making sense (at about the 5:00 mark) and asserts that Obama is not progressive, that both parties have shifted significantly to the right, and that both parties operate in service to Wall Street. It’s stunning how quickly Matthews shuts down that line of conversation and shifts to a different topic.

In addition, we get to see Howard Fineman make unnecessary references to Fox News, warning us that a challenge to Obama will be seized upon and supported by the Republicans. These guys could try to be a little less transparent in their defense of the two-party corporatist establishment. These not-so-veiled attempts to marginalize and discredit will only get stronger as the progressive movement continues to build.

UnCommon Ground – Conservatives For Economic Justice

8:21 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

photo: Matt Stratton via Flickr

Consider the following quote from a prominent American religious leader:

We look back on slave-owning churchgoers of 150 years ago and ask, “How could they have treated their fellow human beings this way?” I wonder if followers of Christ 150 years from now will look back at Christians in America today and ask, “How could they live in such big houses? How could they drive such nice cars and wear such nice clothes? How could they live in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they didn’t have food and water? How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn’t exist?

Is materialism a blind spot in American Christianity today? Surely this is something we must uncover, for if our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to question just how effective we will be in declaring the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth. More pointedly, if our live do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is really in us at all.

What kind of religious leader do you think would have uttered these words? Perhaps a liberal academic type? Or maybe a radical urban activist?

Would you believe that this was said by David Platt, an evangelical pastor of a 4000- member megachurch in Birmingham, Alabama? This is not a man who would ever be confused for a progressive, but these words offer a withering criticism of American church and society that fit rather well on the pages of FDL. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

A Note Of Encouragement For “The Movement”

2:54 pm in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

I’ve enjoyed reading all the diaries and comments about the third party and/or “Primary Obama” movement, and I share in the spirit that is driving each and every one of us.  My hope is that we can all stay in the conversation even as we hash out different opinions and ideas.

Like a lot of folks around here, I’ve stepped into some very unknown territory in the last few weeks with my writing about the 2012 campaign – and right now, I’m just trying to figure out where the heck I/we are.

I have a hunch is that it’s too soon to recruit specfic candidates, and that we need to focus on platform and widening our tent. We’ll have success only if our movement gets larger and more organized – but that’s just my hunch and I admit that it could very well be off-target.

I also have a hunch that MyFDL is the ideal location in which to germinate this movement. So far, the moderators have been very agreeable to our discussions and our strategizing, even though there are a variety opinions about what we are doing amongst the FDL leadership. We are very grateful to FDL for allowing us this space, which is something a lot of progressive sites would not do.

At any rate, I’m going to keep writing whatever is on my heart at each moment, and I hope all of ya’ll will do the same. We might not all be on the same page tactically at this point, but we are all progressives who know that our nation’s political system needs a serious overhaul, and we are finally pissed off about it enough to take action - and that’s what is really important!

Campaign 2012 – It’s Too Soon To Recruit An Actual Candidate

6:23 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

photo: Eva the Weaver via Flickr

I was pleased to see that Elizabeth Warren and Russ Feingold were nominated by the “Primary Obama” movement here within MyFDL. In my opinion, they are both solid representatives of the progressive point of view who have the political experience and the fortitude to get attention and make some waves. I applaud “malcontent” and those who have assisted him, and I encourage them to continue full-speed with their efforts to help build the progressive movement.

But it is too soon to actually approach either one of them and ask them to run. “welshTerrier2″ said it well in a recent diary:

How many votes did Ms. Warren receive in your poll? 50? 100? 200? Your plan is to approach a candidate and tell her you have 50 or 100 deeply committed bloggers to back her candidacy? Compelling? Well, no… not exactly.

No established politician with something to lose is going to hitch their star to a movement of this size. And neither is anyone going to jump on board when there is no explicit platform or strategy other than anger at Obama and the desire to have a truly progressive president.

In addition, it seems too soon to launch an explicit campaign when there is so much uncertainty in the air. In three to six months, we will have a much better idea of what the playing field looks like. With an economy that will still be in the crapper, and with a president who is bound to stick his finger in the people’s eyes a few more times, we will have even more people thinking like we already are.   . . . Read the rest of this entry →

UnCommon Ground – Breaking Free From The Liberal-Conservative Dichotomy

6:37 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

photo: Matt Stratton via Flickr

When I started this chapter, my intention was to outline the traditional sub-categories of the left and the right, and then to show how this false dichotomy needs to be broken apart and redefined in order to accurately describe the emerging political reality.

I broke down conservatives into four categories that I feel are still accurate – reactionaries, the religious right, neo-cons, and traditional small town conservatives. Breaking down the liberal half of the spectrum, however, has proven to be an impossible task - short of distinguishing those who support Democrats from those who want a third party. What we call “the left” is an incredibly complex web of factions and special interests that is difficult to classify and even more difficult to organize.

So instead of trying to neatly categorize the left, I am going to jump forward and show why such a description cannot work. It doesn’t work because what we call the progressive point of view has already broken free from the traditional left-right specturm. In my opinion, this break is a very good thing, but it is creating internal tension because as a group, we don’t yet realize that the old dichotomy is crumbling. Some of us do and are searching for new categories, but a lot of us are still clinging to the old ones.

This tension explains why progressives are having such a hard time coalescing their anger over Republican obstructionism, Tea Party craziness, and Democratic ineptitude. We’re trying to fit our outrage into that old liberal vs. conservative and Democrat vs. Republican  spectrum, and it’s just not fitting.  The paradigm is shifting, and we’re slow to catch up. We’re kind of like a clumsy young dog caught between being a puppy and being a full-grown dog.

To put it another way, what we’re feeling these days (simultaneous anger at Republicans and Democrats) is a new feeling for many of us who have been loyal Democrats. And it’s an intensified feeling for those of us who have long been suspicious of the two-party system.  To express these new or intensified feelings, we need a new language and a new set of categories.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Watercooler – The Stages Of Progressive Grief

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

Stages of Grief #4 (graphic: COCOMARIPOSA via Flickr)

Grief is a process of pain and healing that occurs after a profound loss. These days, it seems that most progressives are somewhere in the grief process over Obama’s betrayal and the loss of the dream his campaign represented.

So here’s one version of the stages of grief, with my interpretations:

1) Shock and denial – “This isn’t really happening.”

2) Pain and guilt  – “What did we do wrong?”

3) Anger and bargaining – “If we show him how upset we are, maybe he’ll change his ways.”"

4) Depression and loneliness- “Things are never going to change, no matter what we do.”

5) The Upward Turn – “Things can change, but Obama is not the answer. We must do it ourselves!”

6) Reconstruction and Working Through – “Let’s make a plan and let’s get to work!”

7) Acceptance and Hope

I don’t have a quote for stage 7, because I’m not there yet. I’m clearly in stage 6.

What stage are you in? What’s on your mind tonight?

UnCommon Ground – All Conservatives Are Not Created Equal

5:26 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

photo: Matt Stratton via Flickr

(This is a continuation of the first chapter of a book I am writing called “UnCommon Ground.”  The first part of the chapter can be found here, and the introduction can be found here and here.)

Before I dig any further into this shared space which I believe exists between progressives and traditional conservatives, it is necessary for me to define exactly what I mean by “traditional conservatives.” In fact, it will be helpful to define all the major categories on the American political scene. Starting with the conservative side, here’s the typical spectrum of views that needs to be broken apart and reorganized to reflect the shifting landscape of the 21st century:

The Reactionary Right – Currently represented by the insane half of the Tea Party, this group harbors intense anti-federal government sentiment; an overdeveopled sense of “don’t tread on me” individualism; and a not-so-subtle aura of racism, homophobia, and xenophobia. Many in this group would be happy to drag the country back to 1955 (or even 1855). They have typically aligned with the Republicans, but have recently become furious with the entirety of the Washington establishment, including the GOP rank-and-file.

Their political goals range from taking over the Republican Party to seceding from the union to violent rebellion, and their rhetoric is passionate and inflammatory. These are the people who were screaming at health care rallies, who call Obama a Nazi, and who have been talking openly about “watering the tree of liberty.” Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are prominent politicians who have courted the Reactionary Right, but they have no real national leader – a characteristic which fits well with their ideology. Progressives have zero chance of finding common ground here – and why would we want to?  . . . Read the rest of this entry →