Tens of thousands of Americans will gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow to stand for jobs, education, equality, and justice and put forth a distinct alternative to the Tea Party narrative that the media has become captivated by | Photo by wikimediacommons
Organizers of a liberal event called "One Nation Working Together" expect a hundred thousand Americans to gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, October 2nd, to advocate for jobs, education, equality, and justice. One month before the midterm elections, hundreds of organizations–many of them major organizations the Democratic Party needs to help them get-out-the-vote (GOTV) for November–will send a message to Democrats: No matter how much you beat upon the base for raising its voice and offering healthy criticism, progressives will still vote for you.
NAACP President, Ben Jealous, expressed the main concern of the organizers and told the Associated Press, "It’s critical that as we stand there on Oct. 2, that people think about Nov. 2, that they own the fact that what happens on Election Day is up to them"We need people to stand up now, at this key moment in this country, when there’s so much at stake."
There is definitely much at stake. But, as each year progresses, it becomes less and less clear why Americans think they can squeeze any sort of meaningful reform out of a political or electoral system, which continues to be increasingly controlled and influenced by corporate and special interest organizations (most recently, shadowy organizations like American Crossroads that use millions to go after true advocates for the people like Sen. Russ Feingold).
The lead organizers have chosen to organize under the belief that all Americans "deserve a just and fair chance to achieve the American Dream" and America’s "national identity is rooted in the ideal that all people regardless of race, class, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, heritage or ability should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential." That is a belief, one that a number of Americans unfortunately would quibble with.
It is a belief worth defending and entrenching into policy proposals and agenda items that progressives can advocate for and push President Obama and Congress to support. Yet, the coalition says, "One Nation Working Together will chart a bold, pragmatic path toward a more unified, sustainable, prosperous future by building support for these core principles and policy ideals." [emphasis added]
In other words, it seems like the coalition seeks to extend the political culture, which has diminished the capability of the Obama Administration so greatly. It hopes for compromise or consensus to create a way forward when there are certain ideas, like the ones this coalition purports to stand for, that Republicans and Democrats will fashion to suit corporations with boards who will never let shared ideals get in the way of profit. It seems like the coalition wishes to uphold a rationale for tolerance and diversity and apply checks and balances to efforts to make ideas correspond with reality.
Organizations endorsing this event break down into categories: environmental, GLBT, education, unions, college, immigrant rights, and peace and justice. Each of issues-based organization within each category likely has a mission that they wish to achieve. And, each likely understands the importance of attaining certain objectives especially since there are very few among non-profit organizations that would say they are in it for the money.
It is hard to accept that any organizations in any of these categories would be pragmatic in their endeavors especially in these times.
Environmental organizations share a commitment to the preservation of the planet and taking measures to prevent further environmental destruction. They understand the science of global warming and intend to contribute to human efforts to curb the impact global warming. They can never find common ground with those in the Christian Right and those who work for energy corporations or free market enterprise think tanks paid to produce pseudo-science to create support for their conscious destruction of the Earth.
GLBT organizations share a dedication to achieving equality for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. They understand that America’s Constitution does not prohibit them from loving and marrying someone who is the same gender as they are. And, they believe they should enjoy the equality that most Americans especially white Americans have always enjoyed. They can never compromise with military generals that would prevent them from serving in the military or Mormons who would use theology to prevent gay and lesbian couples from having a family.
Education organizations share a pledge to preserve access to education for all Americans. From history, education organizations know public education has been the very system that ensures all Americans get an education. They understand the way to improving education is through enriching public schools and not charter schools or merit-pay proposals that have proven to little to improve the education of students. They can never compromise with for-profit education institutions or Secretary of Arne Duncan and President Obama, whose Race to the Top schemes pit students and teachers against other students and teachers in America.
Union organizations share an allegiance to the workers who are members of their organization. Presumably, those who fill their ranks need them to stand up to Big Banks, fight for moratoriums on foreclosures, health care for all, and living wages for all, preserve the right to collective bargaining, be on the offensive when it comes to expressing the value of unions to a free and democratic society, etc. They cannot compromise with business executives on Wall Street, free market think tanks like the American Enterprise Foundation, or even the officials who work for regulatory agencies and the political leaders who fail to stick up for unions when they are most in need.
College organizations function under the idea that every young American has a right to a college education. They believe that all banks should be able to provide loans to students so students can go to school. They also believe in colleges being affordable. They cannot compromise with banks that refuse to give money to students, political leaders that cut funding to grant programs that help students pay for college, or universities that are more interested in profit than education.
Immigrant rights organizations operate under the notion that they have just as much right to citizenship in the United States as other Americans do. They deserve to be given human rights just like other hard working Americans. They cannot compromise with architects of state and federal laws like SB1070, defenders of ICE raids which tear apart families, and bigots who cling to a brand of nationalism that does not include them.
Finally, peace and justice organizations share the idea that wars should not be prosecuted especially when they involve the investment of money that could be put toward fueling an economy. They especially understand that wars waged on false pretenses, that entail incidents that violate laws and treaties are unacceptable. They cannot compromise with the military-industrial complex, Pentagon leaders and military generals craving victory in the Middle East, or political leaders who haven’t the moral fortitude or courage to end funding for wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan now. They also cannot compromise with agencies, which spy on and seek to infiltrate them, or leaders that support spying and infiltration by agencies like the FBI as they seek to organize.
Pragmatic tactics have been what has dragged this Administration’s approval rating down. It and President Obama’s failure to, as Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Network for Spiritual Progressives pointed out, "consistently speak the truth, tell us and the country what was really happening in the corridors of power and what the constraints are that he was facing," has made it impossible for changes to get through unscathed by obstructionist Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans, lobbyists, and corporate interests.
All Americans hoping this event brings forward new changes or revitalizes the prospect of real change under an Obama Administration should ask leaders of this event what they mean when they use the word "pragmatic." They should ask them to explain what they expect to get out of Democrats and how they expect to get it especially since, recently, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" failed to be repealed, the DREAM Act, a small business bill, and a 9/11 First Responders health care failed to pass and a vote on a climate change bill or middle class tax cuts failed to happen. And, all because the Democratic Party leadership refused to stand up against moneyed interests and be champions for the people.
Organizers have unfortunately been swept up in another election frenzy. It is, therefore, reasonable to re-read the fine words of the late Howard Zinn and commiserate over the fact that we still have yet to "free ourselves from the election madness engulfing the entire society, including the left" and the reality that "we should be taking direct action against the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
It is an understandable reaction to wonder why organizers are not willing to give Americans who are discontent with this country’s two-party system an outlet for expression. After all, nowhere in the organizers’ list of policy principles is there any mention of advocating for instant run-off voting or other electoral reforms that might make it possible for Americans to vote for what they believe in instead of always voting against individuals in elections.
I will be at the "One Nation" event tomorrow. I intend to post updates, which feature interviews with people. While I am skeptical of the tactics organizers want to use to achieve these ideas, I wholeheartedly support the values and principles that the coalition has come together to support. I am especially pleased to see the economy being connected to peace and justice groups.
I look forward to reaching out to all those who are working to create change from the bottom up and hope to see tens of thousands of people in front of the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow.