That headline, borrowed from the Jefferson Airplane classic “Volunteers,” neatly summarizes what I’m asking each of you to do in this post: Pick up the cry!
Last fall, you – MyFDL readers and diarists - chose ten prospective opponents to Barack Obama in the 2012 Democratic primary. You spelled out five relentlessly Progressive platform points, each of which stands in stark contrast to the compromised “progressivism” this president and his corporate-owned, hapless party have force-fed Americans for more than a generation. You even gave this fledgling effort a name: the New Progressive Alliance.
The FDL family of sites was officially neutral during the effort’s founding and remains so, but gave the effort a place to grow - when other purportedly “progressive” sites were banning readers and diarists who even dared to suggest the Democrats have gotten it completely wrong.
Since last fall’s nominations and voting took place, a few volunteers have continued to work on the effort, and last week, they received via e-mail a “sneak peak” at the very first NPA Update. We now share it below, right here - where nearly 150 unique readers participated in the NPA’s founding.
We’re all frustrated about the sorry state of America and the lack of voice given to Progressive policy objectives. Those ideals, time and again, are shown in nationwide polling to be overwhelmingly supported by the American people. And certainly, it is great when we “Look what’s happening out in the streets” – in the Mideast and our own Midwest - to borrow another line from the song.
But “now it’s time, for you and me” to take that frustration and apply its energy to the hard work needed to establish, maintain, and expand truly Progressive, social democratic reforms – here, in the land that inspired such reforms overseas two generations ago.
“One generation got old. One generation got soul!” Will we be ready for what comes after the fall of the corporate empire in America? Will we have a ready supply of leaders who put people before profits? Or, like our Egyptian brothers and sisters, will we find ourselves wondering what’s next – and whether the ersatz leaders we have chased from office are merely taking an extended vacation?
In other words: Are you ready join Cindy Sheehan, Jill Stein, Cornel West, Richard Winger, David Swanson, United Progressives, and the NPA’s small corps of Volunteers in promoting electoral activism, and in uniting Progressives hungry to lead America – as long as we’re in it anyway – into the 21st Century?
C’mon people! Pick up the cry!
And thanks for all you do.
Anthony Noel, NPA Facilitator
The NPA Update
Newsletter of the New Progressive Alliance
Early March, 2011
Steering Committee Meets
The NPA was founded at “MyFDL,” the readers’ diary site of FireDogLake.com, in November and December 2010, after which invitations were sent to prominent activists. Would they help chart our course?
By the end of January, a steering committee of people interested in increasing collaboration among progressive third parties and independents took shape. It includes:
- Cindy Sheehan, “Peace Mom” and 2008 opponent to Nancy Pelosi in CA-08
- Princeton University Professor Dr. Cornel West
- The Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein, 2010 Massachusetts Gubernatorial candidate
- Richard Winger, editor and publisher of Ballot Access News.
- Anthony Noel (facilitator)
After its first phone conference in early February, the committee added David Swanson, author and press secretary to Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign; and, as an “observing member,” the group United Progressives(Paul Barrow, Communications and Policy Director; Laura Jaynes Hoffman, Public Relations Director).
Noam Chomsky graciously declined due to schedule demands, but conveyed via e-mail his enthusiastic support of the NPA effort.
(Editor’s note: The next issue of The Update will formally introduce United Progressives and explore potential synergies between UP and the NPA.)
In its initial conference, the NPA steering committee discussed ideas for leveraging the 2012 election cycle into a broader, lasting progressive movement.
On the call in a facilitating role, Noel noted the practice of legacy party primary challengers “throwing their support” to the incumbent after losing.
“That’s been a big factor in perpetuating the two-party system and subverting dissent,” he said. “I think FDL readers see that, and support finding a challenger who will break away from the Democrats when denied the party’s nomination.”
Winger noted Sheehan’s 2008 challenge to Nancy Pelosi, in which Democrat Shirley Golub challenged Pelosi in the primary, garnering 11 percent of the vote. Pelosi faced Sheehan and five others in the general election, and Sheehan finish second with over 16 percent of the vote.
Sheehan confirmed she is contemplating a third-party or independent presidential run in 2012, but said that, on ideological grounds, she could “under no circumstances” participate in the primaries as a Democrat.
Stein agreed that it would be hard to participate in Democratic Party politics without appearing to condone it, and suggested the 2008 Golub-Sheehan example as a possible template: “How about seeking a primary challenger who will agree to throw support to the NPA-endorsed candidate in the general election?”
So, launch the third-party campaign as soon as possible, with a candidate who will agree in writing to run and and govern based on an NPA-endorsed platform. In the meantime, find a primary challenger to oppose Barack Obama – one who embraces that platform as well, and will agree to back the NPA candidate in the general upon being denied the nomination.
The approach would allow a direct challenge to the Democratic Party’s ensconced hierarchy during the primaries, “and our issues would attract Progressives who are disillusioned by the Democrats’ pattern of triangulation and needless compromise,” Noel said.
A Sheehan Run?
Winger and Stein expressed interest in a possible Sheehan candidacy.
Admitting he cannot support a Progressive economic agenda, Winger – a longtime member of the Libertarian Party – said his interest in dramatically widening ballot access for all third parties takes priority, and he will “will help you get on the ballot with great happiness and eagerness.”
Stein thanked Winger for his willingness to overlook policy differences in the interest of empowering the American electorate. “I think Cindy would be a great choice,” she added.
Sheehan finished tied for 10th in last fall’s voting at FDL before the instant runoff process gave 10th to the site’s founder, Jane Hamsher. Among non-Democrats, Sheehan finished second only to Cynthia McKinney (now a Green), who polled 6th.
In her 2008 challenge to Pelosi, Sheehan ran a broad-based, populist campaign espousing the full range of Progressive values.
Sheehan told the committee that Labor must be a prime consideration in any third-party or independent campaign. Stein agreed, lamenting “establishment” Labor’s willingness to continue supporting Democrats despite the Party’s shameful neglect of Labor and employment in general.
Funding a Campaign
Noel next asked if refusal to accept donations from PACs should be a default position for the NPA.
Sheehan said doing so would be a mistake, particularly in view of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which enables corporate interests to have unbridled influence on the outcome of elections.
“That’s not to say we should take money from just any donor,” she stressed. “But there are many green economy-related donors we can and should encourage to support us. We’d have to look at each donor on a case-by-case basis.”
After the call ended, minutes were prepared and signed off on by all participants. Dr. West, whose schedule prevented him from joining the call, was copied.
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