Does it really matter who becomes President of the United States? It sure does!
The Republican Party is traveling down the road toward the destruction of our democracy by chipping away at our democratic principles. As progressives this is a valid concern during this period in the history of our nation.
Democrats allow for sustainable ongoing organizing around issues and concerns that impact our communities and the working class. In other words we can work with Democrats to move forward a progressive agenda. It won’t be easy but change never is. There are major differences. We may not agree with every approach taken by the Democrats but Bernie Sanders has said it well: “it takes a political revolution.”
As progressives we need to take a real look at the short-term and long-term effects of electoral politics, especially now: 2016 will be a benchmark for our democracy. There is no doubt that our democracy is under attack. Let’s take a look at this.
Democracy under attack
Republicans in many states are making policies and implementing laws that make it harder for individuals to vote. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls. Many of these people are now non-voters through no fault of their own. The concept of one-person one-vote-universal suffrage – is a building block for our nation’s participatory democracy, but it is now a thing of the past for many people, especially people of color and millions that are in prison or ex-offenders. In 21 other countries incarcerated individuals can still vote. Voter suppression is a direct attack upon our democracy.
Corporations and the billionaire class are now able to influence elections without any accountability or limits on spending. Buying politicians has always been a part of our election history, but now the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling along with the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling making corporations ‘persons,’ have provided new rights and privileges to this class. The January 2010 high court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision said that it is OK for corporations to spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate. It is now legal to fully influence elections in the interest of the 1 percent. Can our democracy survive under the repressive profit-driven policies of the 1 percent and their politics of exclusion?
Our democracy is also under attack when the police are militarized and surveillance by various agencies both private and police agencies supersedes the privacy rights of people. The principle of personal freedom is being chipped away as exposed by whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. A direct assault on our democracy takes place when military style equipment is used by police agencies to confront the people’s right to peacefully assemble. Democracy is threatened when our community police stations begin to look like armed military outposts. Democracy is threatened when people live in fear of those paid with tax dollars to protect them.
A basic tenet of our democracy is advise and consent, the authority given by the U.S. Constitution to the Senate to ratify treaties and confirm presidential cabinet, ambassadorial, and judicial appointments. However the Republicans are now turning their backs on the Constitution by refusing to advise and consent. This is a dangerous trend.
Push for a progressive agenda
In order for our democracy to thrive, full participation of the people must be protected and advanced. This will take an understanding of our particular conditions today. It will take many to be engaged in organizing for a broad based social movement promoting a progressive agenda. What are some ways to be engaged to push for a progressive agenda?
How do progressives work in collaboration with others to bring in the broadest sectors of society to support a community-based progressive agenda? There are several key movements that progressive are working with and encouraging further participation in. These movements need to be fully engaged by progressives.
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter is an important movement that must be expanded and supported. Black Lives Matter is a youthful surge from the bottom up holding police and authorities accountable. This movement has direct links to a fight back against the incarceration rate of minorities in prison and the unjust sentencing laws. Most importantly it is social movement with direct community passion and historical relevancy. It is the most outspoken voice for people who are mobilizing to stop the killing of our youth and adults in our communities and the community-at-large.
Climate change movement
There many important issues that must be address that have an impact on our communities but none more important than climate change. The majority of the American public believes that climate change is real. In fact those denying climate change evidence or who believe that climate change is some conspiracy are wrong. For instance the Republican Party hostility to climate change science is now a minority viewpoint.
Broad sectors of society are now concerned that our planet is endangered. Many understand that addressing other issues is important but nothing will be resolved if there is no planet. Progressives working within the climate change movement allow for broad based organizing. This movement allows the opportunity to work with groups locally, nationally and internationally. In many cases individuals and groups are not always in line with a progressive agenda but clearly understand the importance of climate change. As progressives we need to challenge our organizing and accept climate change as a worldwide issue that connects to the grassroots. It is an issue of the life and death for our planet.
The Peace movement has been around for sometime and has a great history of organizing. The potential for bringing in and working with a broad sector of society for a progressive agenda is renewed given the fact that neo-cons and the Republican Party view military might and intervention as the best way to resolve conflicts in place of diplomacy. These individuals and groups emphasize and entertain the use of nuclear weapons.
The issue of peace is as important as climate change because people understand that nuclear destruction of our planet is at the finger tips of a few world leaders. At anytime a world leader or a mistake in nuclear preparation can end life on our planet as we know it.
Dreamers and immigration right struggle
One major achievement coming out of the mass struggles and protest of the immigrant rights movement in 2006 was the activism of the Dreamers. Many young people in the struggle for the first time went on to actively confront the political powers on the state and national level to promote the Dream Act. This was an effort to provide legal status for young immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Now 1.2 million young immigrants have been allowed to stay and work freely in this country.
The immigration rights and Dreamers movement is a struggle that saw wide-spread demonstrations and marches, sit-ins, hunger strikes, and confrontation tactics that forced policy-makers to take up their issues. This would not have happen had it not been for the millions of participants, many undocumented taking to the street to demand immigrant reform. The struggle for immigration rights and immigration reform continues. Millions of immigrant workers and their families will be engaged in the fight for equality understanding that immigrants are and continue to be important participants in the economic development of the United States.
Low wage workers and the Fight for $15
Closely linked to the immigrant struggle is the fight for $15 an hour wages. Millions of low wage workers, many undocumented and minorities, are organizing and mobilizing for economic justice and to lift wages. Raising the wage floor is important in order to lift workers out of poverty and especially to grow the economy. A broad sector of society is now working under extreme low wages. They are now demanding better wages, benefits and union rights.
The labor movement has taken an active role in organizing campaigns for low wage workers. The Fight for $15 and the right to join a union is important to bring in millions of workers into the labor movement. This is not the main focus of labor but it is a natural outcome when millions of workers become empowered by organizing for better wages and to better their working conditions.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of movement involvement only to offer some suggestions in areas where progressives are involved and can continue to move forward.
Photo: Fight for $15, Chicago rally of home health care workers and supporters, May 21, 2015. | Earchiel Johnson/PW