In December 2010, I was involved in a wonderful, though provoking debate about the future of progressive politics in the wake of the November loss of the House of Representatives. In the midst of dealing with the realities that election brought upon the nation, (potential government shutdowns, legislative badgering of the poor and female) it seemed to me appropriate, and uplifting, to return to the lessons I took out of that election.
Of COURSE we need to continue fighting for progressives and progressive policy outcomes at the national level. We will all be better off with better policies from Congress and the President. That being said, the wall off 40 (or more) incorrigibles in the Senate represents a very difficult to breach dam holding back hundreds (no baloney there, the House passed hundreds more bills than the Senate in this past Congress) of pieces of progress on the American experiment.
This of course, begs the question of what we, today, here in Loudoun can do to effect better and more Change at the national level. As I see it there are six specific pressure points on which we can act to yield better outcomes in the medium and long-term.
1. President Obama – We can, and should, exert the pressure of popular Democratic opinion on President Obama. This means letters and resolutions. Sure, some will say that such things “have no effect” but that’s not true. These things have no effect in isolation or limitation. One letter, sent once, is a howl at the moon. A dozen letters, sent monthly, is a demonstration of unity and commitment. One LCDC Resolution, issued alone is a symbolic gesture. A dozen County and City committee resolutions, with similar wording, issued simultaneously is a shot across the bow.
(I, of course, assume that everyone venting their bile at our President has had the decency to let the President himself know how they feel in a letter or at least an email.)
2. The Senate, generally – You and I helped elect two entire classes of Senators, not just ours from Virginia. Our small donations made the difference in places like Alaska and Minnesota, not to mention Virginia and Montana. These Senators from 2006 and 2008 are more frustrated with the Dam of 40 Incorrigibles than we are, given that they actually try to legislate through it. As a result, they’re the ones most likely to support changing the filibuster. You may recall David Waldman telling us about this over the summer. At the time, he told us how to help. We CAN (and should) fix the filibuster in January. That means the time to exert pressure on Senators on this issue is TODAY, as in right now. So go to that link I just gave you, print out the letter sample you’ll find there, and mail it to every single Senator you gave money to in 2006 and 2008 – and Harry Reid while you’re at it.
(Now, if you have NOT written that letter, letting these Senators know that we are both paying attention to what is holding things up in the Senate, and we will reward those who fix it, I’ll kindly ask you to refrain from complaining about the Senate over this list any further until you have. After all, this is about making things better, not just complaining for the sake of complaining, right?)
[Sadly, the January deadline came and went with only a modest reform compromise reached, one which has proven insufficient, by any measure.]
3. Senators Webb and Warner – Here we have two Democratic Senators who we have the ability to directly and effectively influence with some concentrated effort. That means regular letters, regular pressure. These are also the BEST places to put our filibuster reform pressure. We will make a huge difference in the re-election chances for both of our Senators. They need to know that Loudoun County Democrats care, and will say so. Sen. Warner wants to be a “radical centrist” let’s let him know that the center is to the left of where he thinks it is – because IT IS. Similarly, Sen. Webb says he’s for income equality, let’s let him know that we listened, and have expectations.
(Because of course it makes no sense to tell someone “you’re doing it wrong!” until and unless you’ve told them the right way to do it. I believe everyone in this discussion has made their views on the right way to do these things clear, in writing, to our elected officials, because all it would take is printing the email they wrote to this list, addressing it to our Senators and putting a stamp on the envelope. Otherwise these complaints are just arbitrary, rather than constructive, criticism.)
4. The 10th Congressional District – I am really done with hearing Democrats say “Frank Wolf is unbeatable.” That’s patently not true. He’s very, very difficult to beat but not unbeatable. That means not doing things the way we have for thirty years, but building the popular infrastructure in 2011 to defeat him in 2012. We need to hold Frank Wolf accountable at every turn. This means letters to the Editor asking why Frank Wolf didn’t fund interchanges on the Leesburg Bypass as part of his beloved “Journey through hallowed ground.” It means letters to Frank Wolf that we cc: to every major paper in his jurisdiction (not just the Post) on behalf of the LCDC, Clarke Dems, Warren Dems and FCDC, together, calling him out on his failure to create jobs and defend Government workers from mindless, baseless slander from his own party. It means fighting tooth and nail for every precinct in 2011 and making an enormous database of volunteers from every one of our candidates ALL OF WHOM are enlisted in the fight against Frank Wolf on November 9th, 2011 with a thank you Email that has a “please sign and send this to Frank Wolf” letter attachment detailing the Democratic policies we want to see extended and supported in 2012, like health care reform and student loan reform. It means giving the 2011 volunteers a sense of ownership in the 2012 fight against Frank Wolf, a sense which was absent in 2010.
The campaigns we build in 2011 will be our army for 2012.
5. Virginia Assembly – Ultimately, if we want to sustain progressive policies, we need a Virginia Assembly which will implement them. Heallth Care reform depends on state implementation, so we need a Democratic Assembly. If you want a public option, then let’s put one in place for the state of Virginia and use that as our argument for the implementation of one nationally! If you want more progressive taxation, then let’s implement a millionaires surtax to pay for roads in Virginia! (A surtax which will fall most heavily on Northern Virginia, and so should benefit Northern Virginia the most.) And to all those who say “that will never happen here!” I will remind you that Virginia now has a restaurant smoking ban. The home of Phillip Morris outlawed smoking in restaurants, folks. Nothing is impossible.
(So I assume everyone who wants to see change happen has already contacted our excellent Assembly members and candidates (Sen. Herring, Dave Butler, Mike Kondratick, just to name a few) to volunteer their time and energy. Or at least written a check? Or a letter to the editor on their behalf?)
6. Democratic Party – Finally, we can change the Democratic party, because WE ARE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. The moment we engage in debates that externalize the Democratic Party, and imply that it’s some other, and not us, we abdicate our own power and abandon our own responsibilities. Who do you think the “Democratic Party” is that is led by President Obama, that negotiates poorly, that does all the things that piss us off? It isn’t our elected leaders, folks, it’s not Party Chairs, it’s you and me, knocking doors, making phone calls, writing letters, or just wearing a donkey pin in public to see who smiles and feels a bit more connected to progress. We are the party. And if you don’t like the Party, then work to change it!
No one ever promised that leadership and governance would be easy. No one said we’d have everything fixed in two years. Hell, no one ever said we wouldn’t fight with each other about how to get it done. But our only disagreements are on speed, not direction! So let’s stop slinging mud at each other and approach our leaders with whom we disagree in the mode of dear friends in need of reminders, because that’s what they are. And if you think you can do better? Then run. Because ultimately, Democratic leaders, be they Party officials or public electeds, are just you and me a couple years removed.
You want change? Then make it happen. Here’s a plan. Go do it. I’ll help.