As I write this, I’m still in shock at what’s happening on Capitol Hill. 57 Democrats joined with most Republicans in the House to vote for the “Cromnibus” budget bill. The bill contains provisions that invalidate D.C.’s legalization of marijuana, put Washington on the hook to bail out risky banks, and increase party campaign donation limits from $100,000 per person to $800,000. Rather than taking a stand against these items and other junk in the bill, Obama actually pressured Democrats to vote for it. Obama sacrificed D.C.’s democracy, financial regulations, and campaign finance reform for (among other things): “$5 billion to fight ISIS“. So an unending and unauthorized war in the Middle East was worth this bill? Hell no.
With Democrats like these, it’s about time we clean house. We need a progressive Tea Party movement, one that fights tough on behalf of the people, not the corporations. I propose we call it the “We Party” because whereas Tea Partiers support selfishness and hyper-individualism, we support the common good.
This is what I’d like the We Party to do to get our country headed in the right direction:
1) Build a grassroots movement to hold elected officials (including our allies) accountable on the issues.
- Make the movement progressive but non-partisan and focus on issues, not political personalities. Even if the Congressman or State Senator is an ally on immigrants rights, that doesn’t mean we’re silent when he or she sells us out to Wall Street. We win or lose together.
- Instead of just training our fire on Republicans, we need to expend more of our efforts on Democrats who have no backbone. They need to hear from us and understand that betraying their constituents’ interests is unacceptable no matter what their party label is. Every elected official needs to know that we will hold their feet to the fire.
- We shouldn’t be afraid to engage in civil disobedience and progressive patriotism. That means making ourselves heard in the streets, with tweets, and with our feet. It’s time to stir things up!
2) Primary crappy Democrats (that’s 90% of them) and support good ones.
- Most Democrats coast to office on a series of progressive promises and then fail to live up to them. Once they’re in office in their (often) very safely Democratic districts, they tend to forget about their constituents. Primaries are a good thing and force elected officials to listen to their constituents.
- If even a relatively good Democrat isn’t afraid of being primaried, there are so many awful interests pushing him or her in a conservative direction (read: lobbyists) that we need to create a countervailing force to hold them accountable.
- The few good Democrats out there deserve our support (even as we insist on holding them accountable). People like Elizabeth Warren deserve our urging to run for President. Same with Bernie Sanders or other truly progressive candidates. That doesn’t mean we won’t have to pressure them as well, but it does mean we need to give them some extra muscle in Congress and elsewhere when they’re trying to fight for us.
3) Pressure advocacy groups to do their job.
- Having worked at several advocacy groups and interacted with many more, I can say that some groups are better at advocating for change than others. We must hold our advocacy community responsible for their actions in representing our interests. For instance, that means they need to stop accepting donations from morally reprehensible companies. See: Human Rights Campaign and National Council of La Raza. That means putting the people’s interests above corporate interests.
- We must insist that advocacy groups stop working in silos and start working in solidarity. Rather than insisting that gay rights consists only of partnership benefits (but not human rights for others) or that immigrant rights doesn’t include LGBT people, we must realize that we are all fighting the same fight. Too few people hold too much power in our country and we must create a more equitable society for all. That is the issue- everything else is connected to that fundamental problem.
This fight is a winnable fight. People thought so many of our progressive accomplishments weren’t possible until we achieved them. A slave 200 years ago could hardly have imagined black people holding property, let alone running for office.
To win we must come together in solidarity and build a movement for change, unafraid to take on cowardly corporate interests wherever they may hide. While I wrote this blog post, this isn’t just about me. It must be about us. The We Party isn’t on the ballot (yet!), but I hope you cast your vote by joining me in conversation about how to get this done. Share this blog post with your friends and family and share your ideas with me. It’s time to get this party started.