In response to The Straw that Breaks The Elephant's Back? , suggests the possibility of a third party, and asks "any ideas?" It got me to thinking.
Norman Thomas, Henry Wallace, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Ralph Nader won certain percentages of the vote of the American population because their positions resonated, at the time, with a minority (in some cases, larger than others) segment of the voters. In other cases, "independents," not aligned with a national Third Party, like James Jeffords, Jesse Ventura, and Bernie Sanders actually won their races because a sufficient number of voters in their states were ready to "throw the bums out," meaning the Democrats and Republicans.
But overall, third parties have remained marginalized and unsuccessful. I believe it will be easier to build a majority by working within the Democratic Party than otherwise.
Ralph Nader's basic political analysis and positions were sound. It was his denunciation of the Democratic Party as being as bad as the Republican Party that was unconvincing and unappealing. Some say his personality hurt him, others that the press never covered him adequately. Nevertheless, Nader knew what was wrong with the Democrats. And, most importantly, he was right about the substantial influence in both parties of corporate power. And we owe him and others, like Bill Moyers, for communicating early and often to us about the threats of corporate control of our government and intrusion into our lives.
What we need is the moral persuasion of Nader and Moyers, encapsulated in a few compelling issues, combined with a renascent and motivated Democratic Party. We need a movement directed toward the American people that speaks of their lives, in their everyday terms, not in sound bites of extremism and division.
The Republicans used the language of good and evil very effectively. They appealed to the lowest common denominators in the American people, and they won. In 2004, the GOP juggernaut attacked Kerry as a fake soldier and traitor. It fearmongered the American people with another terrorist attack -- vote for us or the terrorists will win. It defended God, painting Kerry as anti-God, unbelieving, pro-gay sex, and a baby-killer. It pounded on these few simple issues over and over and over, in every forum possible, in TV and radio ads, in churches, at political rallies, everywhere, always. It sustained this message with hundreds of millions of dollars for months on end.
Bush and Cheney basically avoided talking about the failures of the Iraqi war, and its consequences. They avoided talking about universal health care. They avoided talking about alternative energy solutions for America. They avoided talking about poverty and economic justice. And they avoided talking about the intrusive ownership and control of America's political, economic and social life by corporations. I suggest that choosing these five most important issues that affect the everday lives of the average American and beating the drums constantly on them might be our best strategy right now.
1. The War - Lies, lies and more lies -- dead American men and women, making us less safe not more safe, ruining the future of our children's lives, bankrupting us now, and bringing shame to America's vaunted democratic ideals.
2. Health care -- the more the country ages, the more this one issue cuts across party lines -- oppose big PHARMA and its theft from the American taxpayer -- emphasize the influence of big PHARMA money, AMA money, and hospital chain money on preserving a system that benefits the wealthy over the working class. Make health care a right, not a privilege. Support universal health care and show why and how. Contrast our system with the health care systems of all other industrialized nations.
3. Energy -- Pound this one for all its worth -- alternative energy sources, wind, solar, biofuels, a national Marshall Plan is needed -- pull out all the stops. Show how the influence of the oil industry and its allies serve to retard America's progress in developing alternative energy resources.
4. Poverty and Economic Justice -- If Katrina showed the American people one thing, it was that we live in a country where the disparity between the haves and the have-nots is worse than it has ever been. Economic democracy should be the cornerstone of our message. It is something that the majority of Americans can understand. We don't want give-aways, but we want equal pay for equal work, and we want to be paid well and treated well for the work we do. Support trade unionism and explain why. Show that in every field of employment where trade unions exist, workers have higher wages and better working conditions. Educate the American people about what trade unions have helped produce for all of us -- social security, medicare and medicaid, the five-day work week, outlawing of sweatshops and safer working conditions for all workers, the minimum wage, the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act, the right to bargain for federal employees. How can we have political democracy without economic democracy?
5. Corporate Domination of Our Lives -- I saved the most important one for last, but it is actually the first thing we need to concentrate on. This one is not easy, but it is absolutely a sina qua non of any success in any other endeavor. If we do not reclaim our democracy from the plutocracy, we cannot succeed.
We need to get corporations out of our government, we need to get them out of our Congress, we need to reform electoral giving, we need to take back the airways from them, we need to control their charters and make them responsible and accountable to the people of this country. This challenge, more than any other, is the most difficult and complex, but also the most indispensable. If we continue to allow corporate control of our media, our elections, our culture, our consumer choices, our energy choices, our transportation choices, our courts, our family life, and our children's educations, we will not regain our democracy, political or otherwise. This is the most difficult because most people in this country don't feel the way some of us do about corporations. They don't view them with the same antagonism and concern. They do not personalize the negative effect of corporations on their lives. And certainly, the vast majority of Democratic officeholders, beholden to corporate coffers, don't feel the same sense of urgency I do.
I am not suggesting that we eliminate corporations. I am not suggesting that corporations play a hugely important role in our daily lives. I am not suggesting that there should not be a relationship ebtween corporations and government. I am not, per se, against the corporate model. I am saying that their influence on our lives and our democracy has gone way, way beyond what our forbears imagined when they permitted the creation of corporations.
The marriage of government and corporations - this plutocracy -- has become an insidious partnership that serves a very narrow range of interests. Corporations behave now as if they have the same rights as people. They behave as if money is free speech. It is not, and it is an insult to our founding principles and our democratic ideals to suggest it is. If that were so, then we should endorse the idea of one dollar, one vote, instead of one person, one vote. We need to explain why this is anathema to democracy and freedom. America is a democracy of, by, and for the people, not of, by, and for corporations.
Can a progressive/liberal/Democratic/labor/working poor/minority movement be built on these five issues? Is it enough? Is it too much?