By David Swanson
I’m a progressive and you’re a progressive, but I’m starting to find reason to hope as you’re coming off a giant sugar high and plunging into the deep despair of one betrayed and scorned. What gives?
1. I don’t expect much of elections, whereas you imagine each time, contrary to all preceding evidence, that they create transformative change. If you expect elections alone to do much, then you’re guaranteed to be very excited and then very disappointed, repeatedly, and almost frequently enough for people to catch on.
2. I don’t expect much of presidents and don’t want presidents to have the power to enact transformative change, whereas you think of presidents as properly making laws. I want Congress to recover the powers to make laws, begin and end wars, raise and spend money, ratify treaties, and so forth. I don’t want presidents making laws with signing statements and orders and secret memos, and each subsequent president deciding which of these laws to overturn. I also don’t want Congress asking a president what sort of laws to make. I want Congress asking us.
3. When I watched what candidate Obama did and said, I mostly paid attention to what he did and said, whereas you mostly paid attention to what you wished he’d said or what you fantasized that he was secretly thinking. And when he said the right things, I didn’t believe him.
4. When President Obama, whose campaign had taken well over 10 times the money from the (un)health industry as most senators, quietly told Congress what to do on healthcare, and when the progressives in Congress self-censored and pre-compromised with Obama before opening the discussion by proposing the weakest reform they would support, I didn’t dream about a lone superhero championing the cause of healthcare against a corrupt legislature.
5. You, and all of those joining you in a growing sense of disappointment and despair, are an active participant. Most of you are not going to abandon the cause. You’re going to shift gears and push forward. That’s how your disappointment becomes my hope, and hopefully your own. While I don’t expect elections alone to change everything, I do expect huge changes from active people in between elections.
6. Most struggles for peace and justice have been harder and longer than this one and have advanced in fits and starts, with set-backs and losses along the way. If we actually make major progress toward taking control of our government in Washington, D.C., we will be met by a crackdown on civil rights, all variety of police abuse and intimidation, and more lies than Fox News could spew in a decade. I will take those set backs as encouraging compliments to our progress, because final success never comes without that sort of reaction coming first.
7. We have prevented the widening of the wars beyond where they are. We have prevented a war on Iran. We have turned the American people against war, including in Afghanistan. We have saved Social Security. We have stopped Bush’s possible pardoning of his subordinate’s crimes. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is for the very first time taking a firm stand on something — which is far more significant than the weak healthcare measure on which they are taking the firm stand. Our positions are advancing in the polls, and we are building media outlets that will increasingly be able to communicate them.
8. Courts are beginning to turn against the crimes of the Bush-Cheney regime, with recent rulings that threaten the immunity of John Yoo and John Ashcroft, and the Justice Department has opened an investigation into torture that could be expanded into something useful if we work at it.
9. The current Congress will soon have been in session as long as a woman carries a baby, and yet with very little to show for it. People are catching on, and they are realizing how much more effective it is to lobby their congress members than it is to lobby the executive. They are learning the value of independent organizing to take their demands to their representatives, rather than being told by DC-based astroturfers how to ask for only what their congress members want to be asked for.
10. Nobody imagined 10 years ago a world in which we would have presidents and vice presidents confessing to torture on television. Nobody imagines now the radically altered progressive nation we can bring into being 10 years hence. Except us. We imagine it. And therefore we can create it.
11. If 51 senators were to eliminate the filibuster rule, the Congress could pass a progressive agenda within a month, including healthcare and the Employee Free Choice Act. A few months from now, the labor movement is going to realize that. A few years from now it is going to be a labor movement worthy of the name. Then, look out!
12. When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run, there can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun, yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one, for the union makes us strong.
David Swanson is the author of the new book “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: http://davidswanson.org/book