We Must Fight
June 27, 2002
By Christopher Harrison
Being a progressive aint easy these days.
The country is being run by a tinhorn dictator, a spoiled
brat of a man who is either too ignorant or too cold to care
that he is pushing the world to the brink of catastrophe.
The so-called "opposition party" is too busy cheering
on unilateralist action in Iraq to put up a real fight on
the overt malfeasance and utter lack of morality exhibited
by the reactionary elements of the Republican Party. Some
of the Democratic members of Congress are too afraid of their
own unethical activity coming to light to push for badly needed
Meanwhile, different factions on the left are so busy fighting
amongst themselves that they lose sight of the real objective.
There are some on the left who think that we should not criticize
our party leadership they believe that we should put aside
all of our grievances and unite under the Democratic Party
banner. There are others on the left who think that the Democratic
Party is antiquated that it is a slightly less shadowy version
of the Republican Party and that it should be eschewed in
favor of the Green Party and its "pie in the sky"
idealism. Neither of these strategies will help one bit toward
fighting the real enemy.
The real enemy isn't Ralph Nader, as many centrists decry.
The real enemy isn't the Democratic Leadership Council, as
many leftists proclaim. The real enemy isn't even the Republican
The real enemy is the army of special interest lobbyists
camped out on Capitol Hill. These lobbyists have twisted and
perverted our political process into a mere shadow of the
Democracy it was meant to be.
The lobbyists and their backers are a formidable enemy. They
have near-limitless resources. They are ruthless. They have
succeeded in making the majority of the population feel ineffective
within the political process. But the citizenry has one advantage
over them, crying out to be exploited. That advantage is:
Numbers is the one thing that we have going for us. Numbers
is the one weapon that we can use to overcome the corrupt
influence of the special interests and make this truly a government
"of the people, by the people, and for the people."
The question remains, "How do we do it?"
First, we must presently unite under the Democratic banner.
A formidable Green Party on a national scale is, in the "best
case" scenario, twenty years away. The Democratic Party
is the only vehicle we currently have to effect immediate
change on the national stage. However, we must work together
to ensure that our unity within the party is done on our terms,
rather than on the terms of the politicos.
Many of the politicians on Capitol Hill came into office
with their idealism somewhat intact. I would say that, based
on his involvement in the Civil Rights movement, a centrist
Democrat like Joe Lieberman ran for national office because
he wanted to make a difference. I would also venture to guess
that somewhere, deep down inside, that idealism is still there.
The problem is, that this idealism has been so overcome with
pragmatism, even cynicism, that it remains totally hidden
from the light of day.
Our Democratic leaders operate in the information age of
politics. Listening to constituents' concerns and proposing
real, workable solutions has become a lost art. Sure, a few
noble spirits, such as Vermont Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders
still have it but such examples are in an extreme minority
these days. Instead, listening has been replaced by incessant
polling, and the lobbyists have been allowed to drive the
polling process. The end result is an approach to governance
that promotes "nibbling around the edges" rather
than confronting real problems with our current system.
When it comes to voting time, the lobbyists are the ones
out there twisting arms, rounding up votes. Running a political
campaign has become so expensive these days that the lobbyists
hold an incredible amount of sway. "Vote against this
regulation bill, and our clients will make sure you're taken
care of. Vote for it, and well throw all our money at your
opponent," the lobbyist says.
The politicians are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
They don't hear support from the people. They are afraid that
if they cross the special interests too drastically, they
will lose their jobs. They are all too willing to err on the
side of caution, rather than to take chances to affect meaningful
change. I don't fault them for this they are simply acting
according to basic human nature. I fault all of us the concerned
citizens of this nation for allowing this sad state of affairs
But it doesn't have to be this way. We can change the system,
if we really work together to do so. We should also be out
there, twisting arms for votes like the lobbyists do. We should
let the politicians know, in no uncertain terms, that they
are there to protect our interests. We must let them know
that we will unequivocally support them, so long as they support
us. We must encourage, or even force them to stand up and
fight for what is right. We must push them to always support
the public interest over the special interest.
All of us on the left need to unite, and we need to unite
immediately, before the right wing completely subverts our
political process. We also must be extraordinarily careful
to avoid stifling debate within our ranks. We must continue
to encourage a vigorous exchange of ideas, with each one being
weighed according to its merits. We must adopt an attitude
of greater public interest over simple ideology. We must strive
to truly be the "big tent" that we like to characterize
The people are waiting to be inspired. So are the politicians.
We must come together now to inspire them, whether it is with
the carrot or the whooping stick. If the followers are willing
to lead, then the leaders will have no choice, but to follow.
The writer is a Fair Trade activist in Westchester County,
NY, and an overly irate citizen. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org