How should we, as individuals, respond to the increasing instability in our country? Our crisis requires a rebirth of the notion of civic duty; every progressive needs to try to become a bit more involved in the messy business of politics – Voting is not Enough.
1. As was the case with Roosevelt’s New Deal, the emphasis on change should involve long-term, structural changes in economic policies and institutions. Economic stress can only be reversed through conscious public intervention in the workings of the market.
2. The creation of structural changes requires the concerted efforts of a national political party. A party capable of passing progressive federal and state legislation, then administering that legislation with energy and intelligence through presidents and governors. This means state and local politics matter, as they are the incubators from which new leaders and policies will emerge.
3. Each election deeply affects vulnerable communities of people and marks a lost opportunity for addressing climate change. There is no time to gradually develop a third party. In our present crisis, the Democratic Party is the best vehicle for implementing structural change. There is an urgent need for economic progressives to win Democratic primary elections at every level. Progressives can respond to distress by identifying how they might get involved in their local politics – you can start by electing progressives to city councils and the state legislature. I am a member of my Town Meeting and serve on the Land Use Committee.
4. The process of creating a Democratic party with a progressive economic program will require consistent effort, including during non-election years. Dramatic breakthroughs may occur, but they can only be secured if people are prepared and engaged. Historic opportunities will not lead to significant improvements if there are no economic progressives organized and ready to take advantage of them.
5. The number one policy goal during this period is to pass legislation that strengthens social movements and helps the public participate in political action. In addition to encouraging union activity, our renewal movement should pass laws that encourage/allow more people to vote, such as making election day a national holiday.
6. A matching goal should be eliminating the ability of the very rich to buy influence through campaign donations. In 2014, the top 100 political donors gave $323 million to candidates, nearly as much as the 4.75 million individuals who gave $200 or less to political campaigns.
7. Social justice movements are essential during this renewal process. The debate over activism in political parties versus activism in social movements is not asking the right questions – both have a role to play. Progressives can respond to distress by getting involved in a specific way with a local social justice group – whatever cause moves you, aim to support responsive local politics and build from there. I have joined 350.org Massachusetts and am involved in efforts to reverse climate change.
In the effort to renew our society, steadfast candidates for political office ought to arise out of the social movements that are pressuring Republicans and Democrats to change their behavior. Intelligent political activists are those who can encourage and manage reciprocal interconnections between movements and political actors.
8. Media mergers and buy-outs mean that six corporations – Comcast, News Corp., Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS control 90% of the media. Their monopoly control means that mainstream ideas about “incremental change being all that is possible” are continually reinforced by media outlets of all types. Social movements should advocate against and legislation should seek to prevent national chains of media outlets and stimulate a greater diversity of media voices.
No one action on this list guarantees a progressive future, but the time to act is now. Do it for yourself – do it for your family – do it for your children’s children.