Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thoughts on a Strategy

Thoughts on Strategy

By Ted Glick

Future Hope column, Dec. 3, 2006

It is instructive to think about a few key differences
between where the country and the progressive movement
are at right now, several weeks after the 2006 mid-term
Congressional elections, and where we were at the same
time after such elections in 2002.

Four years ago, the Bushites were getting their ducks
in a row moving towards the invasion of Iraq. The mass
media were overwhelmingly complicit in allowing that
invasion to happen by their parroting of the
government's positions about "weapons of mass
destruction" and other lies and half-truths. Congress
had voted in October to give Bush the political cover
he needed for his pre-emptive war, although close to
30% of Senators and Congresspeople had voted "no," a
larger number than political pundits had expected.

On the Left, debate had begun to open up about what
should be done to get the Bushites out of office. Some
of those who had supported Ralph Nader and the Green
Party in 2000 were beginning to publicly urge Nader/the
Greens to forego a Presidential campaign so that we
could all unite to get Bush out of office behind
whomever the Democrats chose and to try to influence
that choice.

Today, four years later, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are
seriously weakened. Their anticipated quick and easy
war has now gone longer than U.S. involvement in World
War II, and the U.S. is losing. Rumsfeld is gone, Bush
is at 31% in the polls, Cheney is in the low 20's, the
Republicans are seriously divided and Congress is in
the hands of the Democrats.

As far as Presidential politics, the big thing of the
moment is Barack Obama, preaching the need to overcome
the "red/blue" division, reach across political
differences and find the ways to "move forward together
as Americans." At the same time, non-progressive voices
like Thomas Friedman and Lou Dobbs have been writing
and speaking, from different standpoints, about the
need for a Reform Party-type, "middle-class"
alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. And
recent articles have reported that there is a
noticeable increase in the number of people who are
registering as independents.

Within the progressive movement, there's been almost no
debate so far that I've seen over the question of what
should be done or who might be progressive Presidential
standard bearers to get behind, whether as Greens/third
party or within the Democratic Party.

It seems to me that this combination of political
realities--a very weakened Bush/Cheney administration,
broad discontent at the grassroots with both
corporate-dominated parties and less vitriol among
progressives over the third party question--provides
some very real openings over the next two years, and
beyond. We can take some big steps forward as far as
the cohering and strengthening of a consciously
progressive, grassroots based, independent political

One very concrete manifestation of these improving
possibilities is the development of the U.S. Social
Forum movement, building towards a gathering of an
expected 20,000 or more people in Atlanta, Ga. in late
June, 2007 (www.ussocialforum.org). And its
significance is not just in the large numbers being
projected. The U.S. Social Forum is of note because
much of the leadership for this effort is being
provided by grassroots organizations rooted in
low-income communities and communities of color, those
most affected by the ravages of global corporate
policies. Two well-attended regional social forums have
already been held, in the Southeast and the Southwest
(not New York and California), indicating in a very
real way that this is something new and important
emerging on the U.S. progressive scene.

Strategizing is part of what will go on at the U.S.
Social Forum. The third party question and what to do
in 2008 will certainly be part of the discussion. But
this is, ultimately, only one of a number of possible
tactics in our arsenal. It seems to me that there is a
need to look for other kinds of campaigns, approaches
to building a massive issue-based movement that can
unite people who may have differences on the strategy
and/or tactics of Presidential politics but who are in
agreement on issues and who agree that we should aim to
have a political impact in 2008, present a common front
to the country.

Over a year ago I was in discussions with some people
about the idea of an organized campaign of town
meetings convened for the purpose of discussing and
developing an up-from-the-grassroots people's agenda on
issues. I continue to think that this is a good idea.
What if, leading up to and emerging out of the Atlanta
Social Forum, a broad cross-section of groups agreed to
work together on such an effort, raising the funds,
recruiting well-known speakers and musicians willing to
travel, organizing a network of local grassroots-based
groups and coalitions, putting together a skeletal
initial draft of some possible planks in a people's
agenda to help focus local town meetings? Then, as the
Presidential primary debates begin in the fall of 2007,
we can be out there with our effort, building up steam
and engaging more and more people, with the ideas
emerging out of our campaign washing over, potentially,
into both the Democratic (and even Republican) primary
debates as well as the Green Party's process of moving
toward its decision. And, just as importantly, we will
be about the process of continuing to bring together
the potentially powerful, organized national political
force that rejects corporate politics-as-usual as it
puts forward its emerging vision of an alternative.

It is true that another world is possible; indeed,
another world is emerging out of the misery and
oppression of the present. Let's step up our efforts
here in the belly of the beast to advance as quickly as
possible toward that new world!

Ted Glick works with the Climate Crisis Coalition
(www.climatecrisiscoalition.org) and the Independent
Progressive Politics Network (www.ippn.org). He can be
reached at indpol@igc.org or P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield,
N.J. 07003.

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