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The “Liberal” Netroots: An Army Beholden to Democrats or an Independent Political Force to Be Reckoned With?

10:31 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Here at Firedoglake, one blogger, one_outer, has struck a chord with his post on Netroots Nation 2011. And, since I attended as a Democracy for America scholar (and thank DFA immensely for their support), I would like to add more to the discussion by republishing what I wrote about a year ago on Netroots Nation 2010.

First off, here is one_outer’s post, “Beyond Netroots Nation: The Progressive Blogosphere vs. the Democratic Establishment.” One_outer suggested the conference was one presented by organizers as a choice to adhere to “deeply cherished principles and our understandable concern in accidentally empowering an insane and openly fascist Republican Party over a corrupt, ideologically conservative, and fully propagandized Democratic Party” or not. As one_outer ticked off the many aspects of the conference that were perturbing, one_outer concluded with a question that could serve as a call to action: “Will progressives now take the chance to jump ship, chart a new course in keeping with our independent spirit, or will be be subsumed by scare tactics and stern talking to’s?”

As mentioned above, reading this post reminds me of the thoughts I had as Netroots Nation began last year. I was particularly concerned about the sponsorship of the conference by the Democratic National Committee. I recognized that the sponsorship may not be a problem if one focused on the individual people coming together and worked to connect and have conversations with them. But, I noted then the Democrats had gradually become more and more the party of “no” to progressives.

Now, after being present at Netroots Nation 2011 and witnessing the reaction of some progressives or liberals to the “What to Do When the President is Just Not That Into You?” and Dan Pfeiffer’s conversation with DailyKos’ Kaili Joy Gray, I think some progressives have become the people of “no” to fellow progressives.

A sizeable segment of the “netroots” is servile to the president and does not find it comfortable to challenge or criticize the president. They see criticism as sabotage and not part of holding his feet to the fire.

They cheer loudly when people like former Sen. Russ Feingold or Howard Dean say we need to hold Obama’s feet to the fire. They stand up on their feet when Van Jones (whom the Obama Administration threw under the bus) declares we need to “liberate our president” from himself but, when they see people who are essentially doing what could be characterized as “holding Obama’s feet to the fire,” they work to shut down those people. And, in some cases, they write blogs and try to turn opinion against individuals or groups in a way that could turn those individuals or groups into pariahs for even daring to offer viewpoints against the Administration.

Where do those who want progressives to be managers of democracy instead of citizens of the United States who have a right to dissent think we are to get momentum or energy if they are working to silence or stifle criticism? Because, it is exactly the criticism and pressure from the far left and left-liberals that counterbalances the most vocal and reactionary conservatives. It is their voices that tugs the center to a place where Obama can have cover to make the type of policy decisions on issues that we would be more likely to support—if Obama and his administration had the guts to make such decisions.

I enjoyed the conference. I walked way with several good video interviews that I will be sharing over the next few fays. But, the conference did lead me to further realize that we do have to decide which side we  are on.

We have to understand that Obama works for the very interests, which destroy and disembowel the social fabric of American communities. We have to realize that on issues of civil liberties, the law & technology there is power being granted to the few who govern to control the many. And, we have to decide whether we want to work with power or to influence power.

Working side by side may be next to impossible anymore. We have to remain a separate entity and not form coalitions with agencies or agents of government if we expect to win real change. Leaders running for political office may be able to offer great assistance but they should not be chief sponsors we rely on to get closer to our goals.

It is stunning but perhaps unsurprising that one year later most of what I wrote on Netroots Nation 2010 could be copied and pasted into an article and titled something that had to do with Netroots Nation 2011. That’s why I invite you to look back, reflect on this post. And then, I encourage you to keep commenting on one_outer’s insights to keep this conversation going on how to continue to build momentum in the face of a Democratic Party content and dead set on undermining advancements for social justice, liberty and equality.

***

Published to OpEdNews on July 19, 2010

Each year, for the past five years, members of what has become known as the “netroots” [a term that almost exclusively means progressives, liberals or Democrats that regularly blog and organize on the Internet] have come together for an annual convention known as Netroots Nation to participate in a forum for progressive activists and candidates to strengthen communities online and grow the progressive movement. It has attempted to inspire action and help those in attendance grow new ideas to affect change.

As the “netroots” prepare to meet in Las Vegas to once again discuss what they could be doing (and have been doing) to “amplify” their “progressive voice” by using “technology to influence the public debate,” one wonders if this convention will have any potential long-term value at all to movements in this country desiring more change from the Obama Administration.

David Lightman of McClatchy Newspapers aptly presents the dilemma the “netroots” currently face, “Activists in the liberal blogosphere face a crossroads: They had tremendous success in 2008 helping to turn voter anger into votes for Democrats, but persuading Congress and the White House to adopt their agenda is much harder.”

Lightman adds during the convention “members will quiz House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., among others, about why Washington doesn’t move more quickly to end the Afghanistan war or give more help to the millions who are out of work” and the “netroots” will likely be told ” (a) Washington works in complex, deliberate ways, and one should be happy to achieve 80 percent of one’s goals, and (b) since Democrats took control of Washington 18 months ago, they’ve won the enactment of historic legislation on health care, economic stimulus and financial regulation — no small achievements.”

Lightman’s preview of Netroots Nation indicates the convention will be another Democratic exercise in the lowering of progressives’ expectations of what is possible in terms of change in this country. There’s also indication that the focus will not be on Democrats at all. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), who reassures readers in the McClatchy article that the party is in “no danger of being a captive of the left” believes in unifying “this year’s congressional candidates behind an anti-Republican message: that if the GOP were in charge, things would be much worse.” The DCCC is a sponsor of Netroots Nation.

Rep. Van Hollen appeared on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Here’s a glimpse at the story the Democratic Party will likely be promoting as it seeks to ensure Americans will vote for them in November:

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, what you’re, what you’re hearing is–as, as Bob said, look, we know that we have a long way to go on the economy. People are still hurting, that’s absolutely clear. But we also know what the American people know, which is the day George Bush lost–left office, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. And during the full eight years of the Bush administration we lost private sector jobs. We are now beginning to climb out. And what we are saying is yes, let’s focus on the policies, because why in the world would we want to go back to the same economic agenda that created that mess, that, that lost jobs for eight years? And I think the challenge that our colleagues have here, Pete and John, is to say to the American people, how do you expect to do the same thing and get a different result? I mean, that, that’s Einstein’s definition of insanity, right? [emphasis added]

 

Such a message hinges upon whether or not the financial reform legislation can be viewed as shifting the country away from the same economic agenda that created this mess. Robert Reich, who was the Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and is a fairly outspoken progressive voice, asserts, “Congress has labored mightily to produce a mountain of legislation that can be called financial reform, but it has produced a molehill relative to the wreckage Wall Street wreaked upon the nation.”

Also, should we be so certain that the Republican’s are following “Einstein’s definition of insanity”? What they are doing may not be working out for certain sections of the American population, but it is most certainly, politically, paying off. As a tactic, crafting a debate on issues that ranges from what the Tea Party is not willing to accept to what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and other private interests fear will infringe on their precious free enterprise system today has effectively defanged every piece of legislation that has come up for debate in Congress.

Representatives like Rep. Van Hollen ignore the tactic that the Obama Administration has practiced, the courting of Republican votes for legislation the party will continue to oppose no matter what concessions the Administration grants them.

The Administration has decided Republican voices are more important than any liberal or progressive voices in the Senate or House that might be making demands.Instead of seeking to silence the conservative echo chamber that effectively skewers any progressive agenda items that could potentially be put on the table, the Administration has gone out of their way to assure and reassure Republicans that they can move the debate in their direction.

Progressives, on the other hand, have learned that they will incur the wrath of those in the Administration like the brawny and rugged Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other Obama advisers if they dare to oppose the Administration’s attempts to sterilize legislation on behalf of the corporations they are attempting to regulate.

Given the record of scorn displayed toward progressives who organize with their own agenda in mind (e.g. Emanuel calling liberals “fucking stupid” as they ran ads against Democrats opposing the public option), it’s no surprise that progressive voices would be reluctant to tug the conversation in their direction. Instead of incurring the fire of the Obama Administration, many probably would rather focus on the reactionary Tea Party faction growing within the Republican Party and simply tackle that instead of the failures of the Democratic Party during Obama’s first two years in office. Unfortunately, this ignores the reality that Democrats have failed to rebuff the growing rancor of anti-government sentiment in the GOP and offer an alternative message; in fact, that Tea Party message is effectively dragging the Democrats toward supporting a political agenda more conducive to a vastly unregulated free market system that Democrats admit has gotten us into the mess we are in today.

Democrats have gradually become more and more the party of “no” to progressives. Their admission of running on a message that is anti-Republican is an indication that their campaign strategy for these elections will also be a strategy of “no.” How is this any different than what Republicans have been doing as they claim Democrats are the party of “no”?

What we have in this country is a political establishment discourse that has devolved into discussions from Democrats on why the population should reject Republicans and a discussion from Republicans on why the population should reject Democrats. It does not allow for real talk on the issues any more than a domestic dispute between a husband and wife allows for real discussion on who was responsible for escalating the situation and why there was yelling and screaming in the first place.

To some extent, both parties are right: neither offer an agenda for a future that will go to the root of the problems this country faces and take on the private and powerful interests that are further entrenching these problems in the fabric of American society.

This failure produces a “trickle-down” effect that has a detrimental impact on the “netroots.” Articles and postings like Eric Alterman’s recent essay are published and proclaim that America cannot have a progressive presidency right now. They debilitate, demoralize and produce comments demonstrating an acquiescence to this meme.

The “netroots” will meet and focus on primaries and electing better Democrats, using blogs, Twitter and other social networking technologies to turn “red states” “blue”, how to improve online organizing, the current state of progressive media, etc. There is no doubt that many will take home some valuable knowledge and insight they did not have before they attended. And most likely they will network with other people who are part of the “netroots” community and gain the opportunity to be more effective at what they do. However, this is an event receiving sponsorship from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which contribute to the maintenance and polishing of the Democratic Party’s image.

There would be nothing wrong with these committees supporting this event if wedding this event to those committees did not automatically limit the scope of debate at a time when the dimensions of discussion in politics need to be expanded.

Only in America do political activists (especially ones who call themselves progressives) limit their visions for change to what can be passed legislatively this year or the next. Only in America do those committed to organizing consistently coach themselves to accept terms for organizing that will not alienate the very politicians who have contributed to the situations organizers seek to address.

An event that organizes those who are the most vocal section of society has great potential. But, the dominance of politically-safe sessions (in the aftermath of the Citizens United v. FEC decision, no abolish corporate personhood now workshop), the absence of any sessions on reforming the broken electoral system, and the lack of discussions around the very few differences between Republicans and Democrats and what to do about that reality warrants skepticism.

If the “netroots” leave ready to do more to defend Obama and Democrats from Republicans, this convention will have massively failed. But, if they leave ready to advance small-d democratic policies and items that often appear on proposed progressive agendas, if they leave committed to creating space in the public sphere for real progressive organizing to take place, there is a chance that this event will not have just been an opportunity for Democrats to revitalize support for their increasingly stale politics in this country.

The New Republic’s Sean Wilentz Greatly Misunderstands Movement Politics

8:39 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


People from various social movements gather for “One Nation Working Together,” a rally held on Oct. 2nd that demonstrated movements in America are convinced they must depend heavily on the Democratic Party for success. | Photo by Kevin Gosztola

Sean Wilentz, writer for The New Republic, thinks he understands why the Obama Administration has floundered: movement politics has undone and unraveled his presidency. To a point, Wilentz would be right, but the conclusion that Wilentz comes to is to utterly disregard movements and engage in “‘status quo’ politics” to save his presidency and ensure re-election in 2012.

A look at recent columns on “movements” and “activism” in the country would likely reveal that there is nothing all that exceptional about Wilentz’s view. It’s conventional wisdom in professional journalism. All the more reason to dissect his viewpoint.

His article titled, “Live By the Movement, Die by the Movement,” characterizes social movement politics as “Obama’s doomed theory.” The outline of history on how a veteran union organizer and lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Marshall Ganz, was “hired as an Obama campaign official and charged with training volunteers” may be interesting to some who are unaware with how Obama developed his campaign.

Peter Dreier, a member of Progressives for Obama and a politics professor at Occidental College, also receives some attention as a publicist who posted articles to The Huffington Post, The American Prospect, and Dissent. Dreier apparently channeled “memories of the civil rights and farmworker union movement, imbued with high moral as well as political purposes,” to help develop a campaign that could “transform the very sum and substance of the political system.”

Readers are reminded that President Obama, as president, would be “organizer-in-chief” tapping into movements that elected him to “reform health care, end global warming, and restore economic prosperity.” The movements would provide President Obama with the opening to bring change the people believed in. But, unfortunately, as progressives or liberals know, things didn’t go as planned.

After the midterm election, Ganz, according to Wilentz, charged that President Obama “lost his organizer’s fire and neglected to deliver the wonderful speeches that would frame the political course for the movement.” He “lamely sought reform”inside the system structured to resist change” and ignored, in fact, scorned “liberal and leftist advocacy groups.” Networks on MyBarackObama.com were demobilized and he became “transactional” instead of “transformational.” (President Obama acknowledged this reality in his post-midterm election press conference saying he had hoped to change processes but in the end his Administration had been in such a hurry to get things done that they didn’t change how it was done.)

Wilentz argues that Ganz does not understand is that bringing movement politics into the presidency “may have been a dead end” and that it may have “helped foster an inevitable disillusionment.” Here is where Wilentz starts to misunderstand and craft a false understanding of movements and politics in America.

If Ganz is right that President Obama and his administration ignored and scorned advocacy groups–which they did—Wilentz is proceeding a premise that doesn’t exist. In order to criticize movement politics in the White House as a failure, movement politics would have had to be employed by its members. Say one entertains the idea that movement politics were tried, what about Wilentz’s concepts on movement politics?

Wilentz’s suggests “fundamental to the social movement model is a conception of American political history in which movements, and not presidents, are the true instigators for change. Presidents are merely reactive. They are not the main protagonists.” He says Obama “endorsed” this idea when he proclaimed, “Real change comes from the bottom up.” He adds an example: people who believe this model claim President Abraham Lincoln would “never have been the Great Emancipator had the abolitionists not pushed him to do so.”

Interwoven in this article is the deep-seated contempt Wilentz had and still has for the late Howard Zinn. He was asked by the Los Angeles Times to provide his opinion on Zinn’s work as a historian. Wilentz told the newspaper, “To a point, he helped correct mainstream popular conceptions of American history that were highly biased. But he ceased writing serious history. He had a very simplified view that everyone who was president was always a stinker and every left-winger was always great.”

Wilentz also told the newspaper, Zinn “saw history primarily as a means to motivate people to political action that he found admirable. That’s what he said he did. It’s fine as a form of agitation — agitprop — but it’s not particularly good history.”

If one knows that Wilentz utterly rejects the notion history has been determined by people at the bottom, it becomes obvious that his essay will likely be one designed to disparage the idea that political leaders allow movement politics to influence their governance.

He argues that “Abraham Lincoln did not have to be awoken to the evils of slavery; he hated slavery all his life” so “the idea of change coming from below, of course, is simplistic.” If one ignores the recent history books published (which are featured in this article from US News & World Report), Wilentz is correct. But, President Lincoln did not believe that the Constitution granted states and territories the freedom to abolish slavery. He thought he had to avoid the issue of slavery as president to preserve the Union. Black abolitionist and “radical” Republicans helped shift the political climate and create the opening that led President Lincoln to propose the idea of emancipation.

After providing his version of history on President Lincoln and the abolition of slavery, Wilentz shoots down Ganz and Dreier’s idea that what had been liberal or Democratic politics had been suffering a “values” problem. There’s reason to criticize Ganz and Dreier, who were likely responding to conventional wisdom promoted by the corporate media in 2004 that “moral values” influenced people’s votes. But, Ganz and Dreier were smart to try and ignite a movement based on “feelings and values.” If the Bush Administration had done anything to citizens, it had made them feel powerless and wary of government. The people desired a leader to campaign and contend they could put this country back on the right course and ensure government returned to upholding the values and principles it should uphold.

Wilentz correctly brings out a paradox: that the movement leader, President Obama, would now push politicians to create change when he was in the White House. Such a paradox compels one to ask, did his position in the White House effectively mean whatever “movement” built up prior to his election was destined to splinter and dissipate completely? Possibly.

What’s missing from this analysis of movement politics is a mentioning of the influence of corporate and special interest money, especially money from Wall Street, which Obama used to fund his campaign. And, what’s missing is an understanding that the people in his “movement” ceased to be “grassroots” when they began to take marching orders and go to “Camp Obamas” run by campaign leaders. This meant the “movement” was now under the control of the Obama campaign and their votes were not up for grabs and they could be counted on to be foot soldiers for the campaign.

Typically in history, movements have run leaders to wage electoral struggles for social justice. The Anti-Slavery Party (which later became the Republican Party) and the Liberty Party were both parties that ran against slavery in the mid-1800s. They made it possible for the issue of slavery to become a mainstream issue and understood they had to have an electoral component as well as a social movement component to their struggle to end slavery.

A better analysis from Wilentz would suggest that because the “movement” didn’t run a leader for president the dynamics of movement politics were different. While Obama appeared to understand bottom-up or grassroots politics, the campaign still expected to exact a level of control over the people who wanted to see him win. The campaign did regulate what issues were important to the campaign and what were not. And, when factions of the campaign took issue with Obama (like when he voted for the FISA Amendments Act and supported the expanded use of wiretapping), those factions were mollified quickly.

In concluding his essay, Wilentz illuminates how Obama’s post-partisan attempts to work with the Republican Party failed and then proceeds to suggest that Obama must engage in “day-to-day political trench warfare” like President Clinton did after 1994 in order to survive politically. Such a conclusion raises the question: Can a historian understand movement history if he or she is not a participant in any movements?

Wilentz’s solution sounds very similar to other commentators’ suggestions that Obama must uphold centrist politics because liberalism or “left-wing politics” lost severely in the midterm election. His prescription for Obama is a liberal intelligentsia answer to solving the current woes the president faces. It does not consider how “day-to-day political trench warfare” would impact citizens and it does not ask why citizens should favor that tactic.

Ultimately, his essay is lazy. He doesn’t address any of the interest groups that have tried to influence Obama since his election. He offers no insight on how groups advocating for healthcare for all or a public option were asked to remain in a proverbial veal pen so the Administration could continue to get away with backroom deals with private insurance and drug companies designed to prevent the companies from killing the health reform legislation. He does not discuss all the organizing unions have engaged in for President Obama and how the Administration has opted to protect Wall Street instead of showing interest in improving the wellbeing of workers in America and what that might mean for movement politics. And, he does not discuss the environmentalist movement or the peace movement and how they have been valiantly trying to organize in a climate where independent activism is becoming more marginalized.

Oddly, the Tea Party doesn’t enter into this analysis at all. He doesn’t address their impact on the public’s conception of movement politics. Are Americans to assume they aren’t really a movement? Or should Americans be informed of how corporations are using fearful Americans to co-opt and revise the history of social movements in this country to fit their capitalist agenda?

The people’s interests aren’t and will never be the same as the interests of political leaders in America. The people are not politicians. They are citizens. They don’t have corporate financiers. They don’t need to worry about getting re-elected or staying on message. They don’t need to craft an identity. Their interests involve fixing communities and upholding values that do not provide cover for the destruction of humanity. Their interests should be survival and, therefore, when the top 1% seek to concentrate all wealth at the top and keep it out of the hands of the lower classes, that should be regarded as an affront to survival.

If, in fact, Obama sought to utilize any “movement” over the past two years, the failure isn’t because he was inept or didn’t know what to do. The reality is history indicates movements have been managed and herded into supporting Democratic presidential candidates for decades. Movement leaders have willingly allowed the Democratic Party to herd their movement and then splinter it in two by proposing reforms that will divide movements (e.g. proposing a public option which splintered those who favored “Medicare for All” lessening the impact of health care activists).

Faced With Mosque Madness, Democrats Invert Frederick Douglass’ Key Rule for Change

9:09 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

 

The response to developers and supporters with connections to the Muslim community in New York City, who wish to construct an Islamic cultural center that many now refer to as the "Ground Zero Mosque," has a toxicity that is repulsive and entirely objectionable. Unfortunately, Democrats have shown an utter lack of leadership and continue to fail to confront the right wing’s whipping up of hysterical patriotism that has translated into fear and hatred toward Muslims.

 

This isn’t the first time they have been spineless or weak on an issue (which is why they should consider changing their mascot from a donkey to an invertebrate). And, normally, one may want to suggest that they are actually in agreement with Republicans so their words in opposition to the GOP are to appease Democratic voters because in the end they know they won’t be able to build political support in Congress to stop Republicans from getting their way. However, with leaders like Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Howard Dean out in front on this, it’s quite clear that many Democrats empathize with the Muslim community but subscribe to an inversion of a key belief that American abolitionist, orator, writer, statesman Frederick Douglass had about change.

 

Douglass is remembered for saying, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning."

 

Howard Dean, who clearly subscribes to inverting this Douglass’ quote, suggested that the "mosque" be moved:

 

"This center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are "justified" or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal, because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right-wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully, whether they are right or whether they are wrong"

 

Dean’s position subverts the tradition of progress in America. Glenn Greenwald suggested to Dean that is position was similar to if African-Americans, who wanted to sit at the front of the bus, had been told to be sensitive because some people weren’t ready for equality so why not compromise and sit in the middle of the bus. Certainly, if people like Dean had handled the situation during the civil rights era, they would have sought to minimize the struggle being waged against white supremacists by those who were for equality. And how much change would have taken place? What important conversations would have been avoided? What injustices would not have been corrected?

 

But, this is typical Democratic Party gutlessness and not surprising; it’s how Democrats approached the debate on health care. They maintained Democratic politicians needed to compromise with politicians promoting fear of a government takeover of health care and the notion of "death panels." They allowed Republicans to obstruct their health care agenda and, ultimately, Republicans won because no public option or Medicare buy-in made it into the final legislation.

 

This is also the same frail and hapless ideology Democrats have adopted in the face of the conservative media echo chamber who have won victories and hung the scalps of Van Jones, Dawn Johnsen, and Shirley Sherrod on their "hunter’s wall" as a testament of their power over Democrats. They’ve also successfully imposed career barriers for Yosi Sergeant, Shepard Fairey, Patrick Gaspard, Cass Sunstein, John Holdren, and Mark Lloyd all people who were going to be part of the Obama Administration until the right wing began to make insane claims about what the aforementioned people stood for.

 

The Democrats have treated this as a problem. Rather than work to shift the anti-Islam consensus growing in this country, party leaders have negligently hoped the resistance to the "mosque" would go away (liberal op-ed writers have even promoted this hope).

 

Sen. Reid (D-NV) has stated, "The First Amendment protects freedom of religion" but "the mosque should be built some place else."

 

Jeff Greene, a Democrat running for the Senate in Florida, has claimed, "President Obama has this all wrong and I strongly oppose his support for building a mosque near Ground Zero especially since Islamic terrorists have bragged [about] and celebrated destroying the Twin Towers." He makes a distinction between the right to build the mosque and the need for common sense and respect for those who lost loved ones in 9/11.

 

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) has said, "There should be some discussion about what is right morally, as well as just what you’re allowed to do"I think that the people who are supportive of putting the mosque there are missing the point of the impact and the devastation that [Sept. 11] had to us as a country."

 

A number of New York Democrats have chosen to not stand up to those opposed to the project, who advance the belief that Islam is an entirely objectionable religion (as some in the movement against the "mosque" would contend, a "cult" religion from "the pit of Hell").

 

Rep. Mike McMahon has said, "Muslim Americans deserve the right to practice their faith — as we all do. I believe a new location is the right compromise so that Muslim Americans can worship without eliciting feelings that push us away from our country’s basic tenet of religious acceptance while the families of 9/11 victims obtain the peace of mind they deserve."

 

Rep. Steve Israel has explained, "While they have a constitutional right to build the mosque, it would be better if they had demonstrated more sensitivity to the families of 9/11 victims. I urge them to do so before proceeding further."

 

Rep. Tim Bishop, has asserted, "As a New Yorker, I believe ground zero is sacred ground and should unite us. If the group seeking to build the mosque is sincere in its efforts to bring people together, I would urge them to seek an alternative location which is less divisive. I dispute the wisdom of building at that location, not the constitutional right."

 

And, Democratic Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY) actually forced Republican challenger Richard Hanna to flip-flop. Hanna had said, "It’s extremely easy to understand why people are upset by this, but this country was founded by people who were running away from religious persecution." But, Arcuri asserted, "The pain felt by many Americans from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is still very real, and I can understand how the thought of building a mosque near Ground Zero could reopen those wounds. For the sake of the victims and their families, I think another location should be chosen."

 

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) lack of leadership has muddied the situation by writing a letter with an incoherent position saying he supported the "constitutional protection of religion from the overreach of government" but that he wanted sensitivity and concern for 9/11 families to be displayed.

 

One Democrat from New York, Jerrold Nadler, has been sharp in his statements in favor of the Islamic cultural center. Nadler said on CNN’s "State of the Union":

 

NADLER: [W]hat they are saying essentially is how can you put a mosque there when, after all, Muslims attacked us on 9/11, and this is ripping open a wound? Well, the fallacy is that Al Qaida attacked us. Islam did not attack us. Islam, like Christianity, like Judaism, like other religions, has many different people, some of whom regard other adherents of the religion as heretics of one sort or another. It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit, as opposed to Al Qaida as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. And there were Muslims who were killed there, there were Muslims who were killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help. And we cannot take any position like that. [emphasis added]

 

Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) has been out in front on this. So has House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, but she didn’t help. Her statement, which was a call to investigate the "mosque opposition," was red meat for the wolves, who likely heard Pelosi and immediately thought Pelosi should be investigated to see if she is funded by radical Islamic charities.

 

The two Muslim-Americans in Congress have voiced support. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has urged Americans to not let those opposed to the Islamic cultural center "write the recruiting script" for al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups. And, Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) supports the "mosque" and asked, "Are we a country of laws and principles? Or are we a question who will be moved by the winds of emotion each and every time there are issues that come up to divert us from the true meaning and intent of the Founding Fathers?"

 

Americans have heard Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rep. Peter King, Rudy Giuliani, Rick Lazio, Carl Paladino, Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, William Kristol, and a plethora of members from the anti-Islam industry who have appeared on FOX News and CNN (all supporters of the group, Stop911Mosque.com, which has made this a controversy. Unfortunately, when Democrats fail to provide a distinct position and alternative to the agenda of hate being put forth by right wing leaders and scholars, they become complicit and partly responsible.

 

The seething and venomous mob that has taken over the discussion on what Muslims will do if a cultural center is built near Ground Zero will not accept compromise. They don’t deserve any sympathy or understanding. They will never sit down and listen to the reasons why Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and others want to build the center. They will only make more citizens in the world think America supports a war on Islam.

 

Democrats, and, more importantly, Americans must use this struggle as opportunity to make progress. It is a chance for truth and reconciliation with the Muslim community in America, something Americans desperately need so they can abandon the post-9/11 mentality that has shackled this nation in chains of fear and anxiety and produced phobic movements like the one we are witnessing in New York against a so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" and other Islamic places of worship in the country.

 


The following is from the "Stop the Islamization of America" Rally held against the "Ground Zero Mosque" on Sunday, August 22nd. It shows protesters mistaking an African-American man for a Muslim, a prime example of the hatred fueling this movement against Islam.

Progressivism Fails Because Democrats are Afraid to Advance a Progressive Agenda

7:14 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

WI: Sen. Feingold speaks in support of Barack Obama in Eau Claire, August 24, 2008 by aflcio

 

USA Today/Gallup poll based on "telephone interviews conducted June 11-13, 2010, with a random sample of 1,014 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S." suggests a majority of the American population does not know if the term "progressive" describes their political views. The poll represents the possibility that many Americans have no idea what it means to be "progressive" or why one might enjoy anointing one’s self with the label of "progressive."

 

 

 

One conclusion from these results could be that this provides an explanation for why progressivism has failed so far in the United States. However, that idea seems to ignore the fact that those responsible for advancing progressivism through the passage of legislation, for example, are politicians. Politicians in this country are most certainly aware of the presence of "progressives" and what they stand for, as they are a potential constituency to be won (and divided) in elections.

 

 

 

A failure of understanding among Americans of what a "progressive" is might have more to do with a political failure among Democrats to articulate specifically what a "progressive" stands for. And, is that necessarily a bad thing? In the "Bottom Line" section of the poll results, the analysis reads, "Given the high degree of public uncertainty about what the term means — as well as the lack of opposition to it from the political center — that could be a successful strategy, at least if the goal is to avoid being pigeonholed."

 

 

 

In an article posted on Salon.com titled, "Does the left even know what "progressive" means?" Ned Resnikoff, an NYU student, further illuminates the results of this poll. First, he addresses what the term means noting that, after the left allowed conservatives to turn "liberal" into a slur, "progressive" has replaced "liberal." Essentially, "progressive" has been a political faction’s attempt at re-branding in this country.

 

 

 

Resnikoff looks at how progressives have failed to define what a "progressive" is and suggests asking what is a "liberal" in order to gain some insight into what a progressive’s worldview happens to be. He highlights the modern conservative movement’s ability to articulate their worldview and how progressives have quite often been "a morass of factions and interests that sometimes work in harmony and often don’t. A ragtag group that can never seem to find a consistent frame for the policy proposals it puts forth."

 

 

 

Glenn Beck and President Obama, as Resnikoff also points out, have offered definitions of the progressive worldview. Beck’s definition of the progressive worldview is unfortunately, for those wishing to become informed, much easier to find than Obama’s definition (that’s likely because he hasn’t talked specifically of progressivism in any interviews or speeches).

 

 

 

Beck thinks, "Progressivism is a cancer in America" and "it is meant to eat our Constitution." Beck delights in offering his own version of the history of progressivism in America and never hesitates to set his sights on President Woodrow Wilson and the progressive ideas he believed in.

 

 

 

This could be part of the reason progressivism has failed. Those who articulate and explain what progressivism is often have as much of an idea of what progressivism is as the people who have no idea what the label "progressive" means. Also, there’s a tendency for people like Hillary Clinton to anoint themselves with the label "progressive," which masks real views and can be confusing because it appears progressive just means a willingness to support progress and move forward; to a certain extent, that is progressivism but really it’s a lot more than that.

 

 

 

The Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive think tank, has published reports on "The Progressive Tradition in American Politics" seeking to articulate the originations of the progressive worldview in America. This report points to the slow transformation of Woodrow Wilson into a national progressive president as what "solidified progressivism within the Democratic Party." CAP also notes that "the most distinctive progressive faction" happened to be "within the Republican Party and most fiercely advocated by prominent voices such as Theodore Roosevelt and Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. (Both Roosevelt and La Follette formed outside Progressive Parties to promote progressive ideas after failing to transform the Republican Party from inside.)

 

 

 

CAP claims (in the above cited report) progressives were responsible for: the 8-hour work day and 40-hour work week, civil service tests to replace political patronage, worker’s compensation for on-the-job accidents, national supervision of banks and the creation of a flexiblenational currency, unemployment insurance, regulation of the securities industry, prohibitions against child labor and workplace exploitations, federal insurance of bank deposits, the legal right of people to organize within labor unions and engage in, bans on speculative banking practices collective bargaining for fair wages and benefits, the constitutional right to vote, full legal equality, and the elimination, refinancing and foreclosure protections for home and farm owners of formal discrimination for women and minorities, national infrastructure including electrification, railways, airports, the graduated income and inheritance tax bridges and roads, and the Internet, protections against contaminated food and medicines, Social Security and Medicare to aid the elderly and Medicaid and CHIP to help low-income families and children, hundreds of millions of acres of protected wilderness areas, waterways, minimum wage laws and income support for the working poor and national parks, antimonopoly and anticompetitive regulations of corporations, public education, college loans and grants for students, and the GI Bill, direct elections of U.S. senators, direct primary elections of political candidates, and the initiative and referendum process in the states.

 

 

 

With a list like that, it’s not hard to figure out what a progressive might stand for: workers’ rights, unions, bank regulations, social programs, equality, the building and re-building of infrastructure, economic protections, antitrust laws and the abolition of corporate personhood, and the strengthening of democracy.

 

 

 

Ask yourself: How many of those issues do you hear Democratic Party members discussing openly? What in that list is taboo to the interests and campaigns of Democratic Party politicians either because they fear Republicans will out-message them or they will alienate interests they must court in order to be re-elected?

 

 

 

If that’s what progressives stand for, then progressives should be ready and willing to go out and sell their visions for the future to the people of America. According to an April 2010 Gallup poll, support for regulating Wall Street banks was at 50%.A poll conducted as part of Gallup’s annual Work and Education survey in August of 2009 found that "48% of Americans now approving of unions" (and while that represented the first sub-50% approval since Gallup first asked the question in the 1930s" that could easily be reversed if there was more defense of unions in this country by political leaders).A 2009 New York Times/CBS poll found that "59% [of Americans] say the government should provide national health insurance, including 49% who say such insurance should cover all medical problems."

 

 

 

Social Security continues to enjoy wide support (although President George W. Bush’s push to privatize Social Security four years ago planted doubts in the minds of younger people). Another Gallup poll conducted in 2009 found 68% of Americans think major corporations should have less influence in this nation.A Pew Research Center poll from 2007 found a surge in support for the social safety net with 57% saying they were in favor of helping more needy even if debt would increase. (Interestingly, the poll found 48% of all conservatives were willing to accept deficit spending to help those who could not help themselves.).

 

 

 

In the face of conservative, libertarian, and free enterprise/free market think tank campaigns perpetuated through media and by the politicians of this country, the levels of support for "progressive" ideas and programs, which progressives started, is still high. Those who believe in these "progressive" ideals now need to speak to Americans about progressivism in a way that will lead them to support such a democratic, socially responsible, and much more egalitarian agenda.

 

 

 

A big problem is Democrats’ failure to connect the reality they and others are experiencing to the reality the Obama Administration is perpetuating. Gallup published a poll on July 16th that showed Democrats’ score on Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index at -14 (down from -3 in June and +3 in April) yet no "meaningful change" in approval of President Obama. Such a disconnect may be conscious to Democrats — perhaps, deep down they no longer wholeheartedly support Obama but say so publicly to not get lumped in with Tea Partiers. Whatever the case may be, progressivism cannot become more understood and rise in popularity and support if what the Obama Administration has done or failed to do is not connected to the situations we all face in society today.

 

 

 

Progressivism has likely failed because of fears that pushing progressivism may result in debate that tarnishes "brand Obama," a brand that managed to excite the grassroots without diminishing the possibility of influence and support from boardrooms and American CEOs (who Democrats depend on for re-election). Much of the left still cling to a belief that, despite his inability to incorporate progressive agenda items into legislation, Obama is still can bring real progressive change to the country.

 

 

 

Robert Scheer, Truthdig editor-in-chief and journalist, said in a Live Chat last week, "criticism of the president will only strengthen [the Obama Administration] if it comes from the grass roots and the people around him have to deliver to the people who vote."

 

 

 

That Americans are not supportive of progressivism is largely a conjured up fear to excuse a failure to advance a progressive agenda and win support from Democratic Party leaders for progressive change. The American people support progressive ideas. They just need real progressive leadership that, independently from Democratic Party interests, promotes a vision and future where these progressive ideas are indeed viable and practical.

 

The “Liberal” Netroots: An Army Beholden to Democrats or an Independent Political Force to Be Reckoned With?

2:57 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Fmr. Pres. Bill Clinton speaks at the 2009 Netroots Nation Convention in Pittsburgh, PA | Flickr Photo by kyleshank

 

 

Each year, for the past five years, members of what has become known as the "netroots" [a term that almost exclusively means progressives, liberals or Democrats that regularly blog and organize on the Internet] have come together for an annual convention known as Netroots Nation to participate in a forum for progressive activists and candidates to strengthen communities online and grow the progressive movement. It has attempted to inspire action and help those in attendance grow new ideas to affect change. 

 

As the "netroots" prepare to meet in Las Vegas to once again discuss what they could be doing (and have been doing) to "amplify" their "progressive voice" by using "technology to influence the public debate," one wonders if this convention will have any potential long-term value at all to movements in this country desiring more change from the Obama Administration.

 

David Lightman of McClatchy Newspapers aptly presents the dilemma the "netroots" currently face, "Activists in the liberal blogosphere face a crossroads: They had tremendous success in 2008 helping to turn voter anger into votes for Democrats, but persuading Congress and the White House to adopt their agenda is much harder."

 

Lightman adds during the convention "members will quiz House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., among others, about why Washington doesn’t move more quickly to end the Afghanistan war or give more help to the millions who are out of work" and the "netroots" will likely be told " (a) Washington works in complex, deliberate ways, and one should be happy to achieve 80 percent of one’s goals, and (b) since Democrats took control of Washington 18 months ago, they’ve won the enactment of historic legislation on health care, economic stimulus and financial regulation — no small achievements."

 

Lightman’s preview of Netroots Nation indicates the convention will be another Democratic exercise in the lowering of progressives’ expectations of what is possible in terms of change in this country. There’s also indication that the focus will not be on Democrats at all. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), who reassures readers in the McClatchy article that the party is in "no danger of being a captive of the left" believes in unifying "this year’s congressional candidates behind an anti-Republican message: that if the GOP were in charge, things would be much worse." The DCCC is a sponsor of Netroots Nation.

 

Rep. Van Hollen appeared on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Here’s a glimpse at the story the Democratic Party will likely be promoting as it seeks to ensure Americans will vote for them in November:

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, what you’re, what you’re hearing is–as, as Bob said, look, we know that we have a long way to go on the economy. People are still hurting, that’s absolutely clear. But we also know what the American people know, which is the day George Bush lost–left office, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. And during the full eight years of the Bush administration we lost private sector jobs. We are now beginning to climb out. And what we are saying is yes, let’s focus on the policies, because why in the world would we want to go back to the same economic agenda that created that mess, that, that lost jobs for eight years? And I think the challenge that our colleagues have here, Pete and John, is to say to the American people, how do you expect to do the same thing and get a different result? I mean, that, that’s Einstein’s definition of insanity, right? [emphasis added]

 

Such a message hinges upon whether or not the financial reform legislation can be viewed as shifting the country away from the same economic agenda that created this mess. Robert Reich, who was the Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and is a fairly outspoken progressive voice, asserts, "Congress has labored mightily to produce a mountain of legislation that can be called financial reform, but it has produced a molehill relative to the wreckage Wall Street wreaked upon the nation."

 

Also, should we be so certain that the Republican’s are following "Einstein’s definition of insanity"? What they are doing may not be working out for certain sections of the American population, but it is most certainly, politically, paying off. As a tactic, crafting a debate on issues that ranges from what the Tea Party is not willing to accept to what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and other private interests fear will infringe on their precious free enterprise system today has effectively defanged every piece of legislation that has come up for debate in Congress.

 

Representatives like Rep. Van Hollen ignore the tactic that the Obama Administration has practiced, the courting of Republican votes for legislation the party will continue to oppose no matter what concessions the Administration grants them.

 

The Administration has decided Republican voices are more important than any liberal or progressive voices in the Senate or House that might be making demands.Instead of seeking to silence the conservative echo chamber that effectively skewers any progressive agenda items that could potentially be put on the table, the Administration has gone out of their way to assure and reassure Republicans that they can move the debate in their direction.

 

Progressives, on the other hand, have learned that they will incur the wrath of those in the Administration like the brawny and rugged Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other Obama advisers if they dare to oppose the Administration’s attempts to sterilize legislation on behalf of the corporations they are attempting to regulate. 

 

Given the record of scorn displayed toward progressives who organize with their own agenda in mind (e.g. Emanuel calling liberals "fucking stupid" as they ran ads against Democrats opposing the public option), it’s no surprise that progressive voices would be reluctant to tug the conversation in their direction. Instead of incurring the fire of the Obama Administration, many probably would rather focus on the reactionary Tea Party faction growing within the Republican Party and simply tackle that instead of the failures of the Democratic Party during Obama’s first two years in office. Unfortunately, this ignores the reality that Democrats have failed to rebuff the growing rancor of anti-government sentiment in the GOP and offer an alternative message; in fact, that Tea Party message is effectively dragging the Democrats toward supporting a political agenda more conducive to a vastly unregulated free market system that Democrats admit has gotten us into the mess we are in today.

 

Democrats have gradually become more and more the party of "no" to progressives. Their admission of running on a message that is anti-Republican is an indication that their campaign strategy for these elections will also be a strategy of "no." How is this any different than what Republicans have been doing as they claim Democrats are the party of "no"? 

 

What we have in this country is a political establishment discourse that has devolved into discussions from Democrats on why the population should reject Republicans and a discussion from Republicans on why the population should reject Democrats. It does not allow for real talk on the issues any more than a domestic dispute between a husband and wife allows for real discussion on who was responsible for escalating the situation and why there was yelling and screaming in the first place.

 

To some extent, both parties are right: neither offer an agenda for a future that will go to the root of the problems this country faces and take on the private and powerful interests that are further entrenching these problems in the fabric of American society. 

 

This failure produces a "trickle-down" effect that has a detrimental impact on the "netroots." Articles and postings like Eric Alterman’s recent essay are published and proclaim that America cannot have a progressive presidency right now. They debilitate, demoralize and produce comments demonstrating an acquiescence to this meme.

 

The "netroots" will meet and focus on primaries and electing better Democrats, using blogs, Twitter and other social networking technologies to turn "red states" "blue", how to improve online organizing, the current state of progressive media, etc. There is no doubt that many will take home some valuable knowledge and insight they did not have before they attended. And most likely they will network with other people who are part of the "netroots" community and gain the opportunity to be more effective at what they do. However, this is an event receiving sponsorship from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which contribute to the maintenance and polishing of the Democratic Party’s image.

 

There would be nothing wrong with these committees supporting this event if wedding this event to those committees did not automatically limit the scope of debate at a time when the dimensions of discussion in politics need to be expanded.

 

Only in America do political activists (especially ones who call themselves progressives) limit their visions for change to what can be passed legislatively this year or the next. Only in America do those committed to organizing consistently coach themselves to accept terms for organizing that will not alienate the very politicians who have contributed to the situations organizers seek to address.

 

An event that organizes those who are the most vocal section of society has great potential. But, the dominance of politically-safe sessions (in the aftermath of the Citizens United v. FEC decision, no abolish corporate personhood now workshop), the absence of any sessions on reforming the broken electoral system, and the lack of discussions around the very few differences between Republicans and Democrats and what to do about that reality warrants skepticism.

 

If the "netroots" leave ready to do more to defend Obama and Democrats from Republicans, this convention will have massively failed. But, if they leave ready to advance small-d democratic policies and items that often appear on proposed progressive agendas, if they leave committed to creating space in the public sphere for real progressive organizing to take place, there is a chance that this event will not have just been an opportunity for Democrats to revitalize support for their increasingly stale politics in this country.

With Change, Americans Shouldn’t Make the Enemy the Good of the Perfect

7:26 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

4159180191_d0e4314abf.jpg

Flickr photo by Steve Rhodes

 

A lot of individuals keep telling me not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. I’m being told that when it comes to health care we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This means that incremental change or reform is what we must accept.

Through experience with several issues, I think this is where many Americans are at when it comes to America’s political process. They think that incrementalism or pragmatism should be the way. They hold up Obama, Clinton, and past people who have passed "reforms" to suggest that we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good on many issues: the Afghanistan War, bank bailouts, etc.

But, I think far too many are sorely confused. The words of this overused idiom should be rearranged.

No, it shouldn’t be don’t let the perfect be the good of the enemy. That doesn’t make sense. That would be like if in health care we established a single-payer healthcare system that benefited private insurance and pharmaceutical companies. We don’t want that but most Obama supporters and Democratic Party apologists right now would probably be for that because it is a compromise and progressives love to talk about "the way things work" in Washington and tell people what Americans can and cannot have and if we ever had single payer, they would probably suggest we have corporations run it so we can, in fact, get "single-payer."

It shouldn’t be don’t make the good the perfect of the enemy either. We will never convince Big Pharma, insurance companies, or some of these health care special interest groups or lobbying organizations that there is any reason to give up the profits they are enjoying in this lucrative for-profit sick care non-system they participate in on a daily basis.

You can’t ask a born-again Christian to give up Jesus Christ. He derives his whole existence and purpose in life from Jesus and so do these people whose very lives depend on squeezing out the most money possible from poor, working class, middle class, and, most importantly, old people and young people who are on their way out of or on their way into a system of terrible inequities.

They love to weigh old people down with debt as they are about to leave this world and they love to weigh young people down and turn them into corporate slaves as they enter the world and come to think of it they just want people to be in debt so people have to pay them on a weekly or monthly basis for years and years and they hope people never get healthy because where’s the profit in that?

The line on every American’s mind should be we should not make the enemy the good of the perfect. And, by that, we should make sure that any reform, plan for change, or answer to any single problem being promoted in society doesn’t give a role to the very thing that created the problem in the first place.

So, with health care, for-profit insurance or pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t be given the chance to be a savior when they have spent decades proving they will always be more interested in profit care and not patient care. Yet, Americans including progressives are willing to let health reform provide a bright future for for-profit health care companies, willing to let Congress and Obama shower them with millions in subsidies and even let them enslave consumers by letting them force consumers to purchase private insurance under penalty of law.

When it comes to the banks, Americans too often allow the fox to guard the henhouse. Or, as I like to say, they let the terrorists run the Homeland Security checkpoint.

Matt Taibbi wrote about how Obama packed his "economic team with Wall Street insiders intent on turning the bailout into an all-out giveaway." He wrote about how Obama replaced those who had been emphasizing populism during the campaign but were replaced with "a group of Wall Street bankers."

Obama, Taibbi points out, chose to build his team around the one person most responsible for the economic turmoil experienced in 2008—Bob Rubin. Rubin’s history with Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, or the Hamilton Project, a think tank he led to promote his philosophy of balanced budgets, free trade, and financial deregulation, didn’t send off signals to Obama to keep him out. Neither did the fact that he was a driving force behind the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act or the deregulation of the derivatives market bother Obama.

And, with Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal is leading the newly ignited Obama "surge." The man who some call "the Pope", who shares close connections with Gen. David Petraeus who was President George W. Bush’s guy for keeping the Iraq War going and promoting it to the public, is in charge.

Gen. McChrystal allegedly witnessed torture and refused to let the Red Cross into the military prison Camp Nama (which stands for Nasty-Ass Military Area), a conscious violation of the Geneva Conventions. He also played a role in covering up what really happened to Pat Tillman when he died and he typically chooses military action over counterinsurgency operations, which are tactically less brutal (although all war or conflict is brutal).

Americans have acquiesced and agreed to support a strategy for ending a war in Afghanistan that involves escalating the war to ultimately withdraw at some point in some amount of years that has been stated but altered by individuals in the higher-ups of government who have the power to change and alter these terms for withdrawal as they please even if they make pledges that the people usually expect they will keep.

Surges, McChrystals, Rubins, bailouts, the individual mandate, a market-based approaches to health reform, Big Pharma, HMOs, etc all have one thing in common — They are included by Obama and Democrats who think they should play a role in solutions to problems which they played a huge part in creating.

All perpetuate the problem that got America to a point where political leaders were seeking to make "change" in the first place.

They make the enemy the good of the perfect. And, Americans need to ask themselves:

When it comes to making change, wouldn’t it be nice to just reform some of these damn things and be done? Or do we have some self-interest in watching political farces play out on issues like Afghanistan, banker bailouts, health care, Iraq, the war on terror, torture, etc for decades until we finally can’t take it anymore, give up, pull the plug, and exit this world?

We are not career politicians. We will not be signing book deals or be making appearances on Jay Leno or David Letterman or Jon Stewart. We will not be holding fundraising dinners or be taking donations from lobbyists who have special interests (although if anyone has a special interest in padding my bank account, I will gladly take money).

We do not have an image or a brand we need to keep pure and untainted so we shouldn’t temper our energy or zeal when fighting for real change that goes to the root of the problem and fixes that problem.

We are citizens first and foremost, therefore, our approach to change or reform will be and must be radically different from our political leaders.

So, the next time you are told you are making the perfect the enemy of the good look at that person and say, "At least I’m not making the enemy the good of the perfect."