In the third part of my “Silver Lining” series, trying to find some hope in moving forward after a mid-term election in which Conservatives gained a lot of power, I will reiterate the first points: Its not insignificant that the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) largely stayed intact, and its in our favor that this election was an anti-incumbent election and decidedly not an election that either rejected progressive values nor embraced the pro-corporate, privatization agenda of the republicans.
On a psychological level, big losses in the CPC would have a terribly demoralizing effect on Progressives. Practically speaking, they are still the biggest caucus within the democratic caucus, their majority over the conservative Dems is now significantly larger, and they are still important allies and venues for our ideas and for the campaigns of social movements
Some things can still be done inside the of Washington and a lot can be done outside. One does not preclude or contradict the other. We all are stronger banding together and working all fronts in a complimentary way.
Let’s first look inside:
Inside. Encourage Democrats to get as much done in the “lame duck” session as possible. For example:
1. Extend Unemployment Insurance before it expires Nov 30
2. Extend the job-creating life-saving, state fiscal relief program of the TANF ECF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund)
3. Pass the Child Nutrition Act. Restore funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP, formerly known as food stamps)
4. Push on a moratorium on foreclosures.
5. End the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Extend tax cuts for low and middle income.
6. Get pieces of Immigration Reform and try to improve and pass comprehensive Immigration Reform
Here are some less likely, but just as necessary goals that we continue to push, this session and next:
1. Pass the Miller Jobs Bill or another good, bold public jobs bill
2. Pass a Financial Transactions Tax
3. Cut military and war spending, this is much more likely now than ever before. Some Republicans and Tea Partiers are on our side in this. It was the only good recommendation to come out of yesterday’s Chairman’s’ Mark from the Deficit Commission.
With Regard to the Administration:
• Press Obama on Executive Orders. There is much he can do without Congress. The Center for Progressive Reform outlines more of what can be done: Protect children form toxic chemicals. Ban non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in agriculture. Institute more effective provisions for work-place safety. Regulate coal companies. Make EPA work under the Clean Water Act to have states hold agri-business liable for nutrient pollution. For more see the Center’s white paper, Obama’s Path Forward: Impart a Sense of Urgency to Regulatory Agencies Protecting Health, Safety and the Environment.
• The Progressive Caucus Foundation’s Darcy Burner puts it neatly. She highlight’s this that the Administration can do..TODAY if it wanted to:
End Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, implement net neutrality, stop separating families through deportation, require that all future Federal Reserve appointees agree to prioritize full employment as equally important as price stability, change procurement processes to reward the creation of American jobs, aggressively prosecute war profiteering, begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as promised, rescind executive orders restricting access to legal abortions, throw the book at companies that break the law to thwart worker organizing, and enforce existing laws and safety regulations for oil and mining companies as a start.
• Join movements across issue areas (or “silos” as has become the term of the day). The Domestic Human Needs communities are coming together with Anti-Military spending communities and working to reduce the military budget and fund desperately needed domestic programs
• Use Social Media to get our message and stories out. YouTube is a tremendous resource too. Research tell us that people remember and feel an emotional connection to an issue more if we see it and hear it, rather than to just read about it.
• Hold town hall and community meetings. One of the last strongholds of liberals is at the local level. Incubate ideas there; create a groundswell of support for progressive national policy through locally elected officials.
• Join and support Unions
• Create and support local and state-owned banks. the Bank of North Dakota is a great model
• Frequent local business that are a part of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. Urge businesses to join.
• Document our and our neighbors experiences. Publish them; bring them to local, state and federal lawmakers.
These are just a few ideas. Our challenge is not to despair. The Congressional Progressive Caucus survived. More importantly, We the People, progressive movements, survived and are potentially very energized. We can thrive. If we quickly get good public jobs, more of us can thrive.
This election was decidedly NOT a referendum on progressive ideas such as those illustrated above. Polls show time and again that most Americans desire fairness, do not favor tax cuts for the wealthy, want Wall Street regulated, want food safety, adequate nutrition for our children, strong public schools, decent affordable health care for all, government that can levy our tax dollars to extend income supports to those who are out of work when no jobs are available. We are still a tolerant, liberal society. Progressives are still in a winning position in many ways, especially outside of “the Beltway.” And with work, will win in a way that we can keep moving the country forward.