Sunday, December 31, 2006

Looking Forward

Posted by olvlzl.

Still a left entrance into the national political arena should not start with a presidential candidate. Left presidential campaigns are inherently episodic. Starting at that level greatly increases the danger of a pattern that has already plagued the left – one of indifference to national politics between presidential elections and then frantic, mindless efforts to do something when it’s too late for anything beyond token gestures. And even if the effort creates a constituency it is ephemeral and quickly defuses if not followed up with activities and campaigns for Congress.

James Weinstein: The Long Detour, 2003

I’m really looking forward to the new congress. When’s the last time you could honestly say that? Even before Newt Gingrich hoodwinked the American electorate the dismal eras of Tom Foley and Tip O’Neill were relieved only by the very short period of an opposition congress under Jim Wright . He’s hardly a liberal but, as I’ve said here before, the only real leadership opposition Republicans have faced in decades.

The 100 Hour Agenda, the oversight hearings, the reforms of House rules..... There are all kinds of interesting and useful things planned*. The focus of the media will be on the Senate and the presidential race. But I agree with the late James Weinstein, the House of Representatives is the logical place for us to concentrate on. Holding it and increasing the Democratic majority will pay off for the left. It is one place where we can really have an effect on laws passed and policies made. Success in the House will be easy, it would be hard to do worse than the Republicans have in the past twelve years. We have to support Nancy Pelosi and other leaders, even if we don’t agree with everything they do. They are already under the full attack of the Republican lie machine, big media, in two words. We shouldn’t go into this believing that we are going to get all or even most of what we want from this congress. That is simply not going to happen. We should go into it insisting on getting something, an expectation that we have had no rational reason to have for more than a decade.

There are several reasons for concentrating on congressional elections. First, presidential politics is dormant for three out of every four years. Engaging in campaigns like Nader’s entails a start-and-stop politics that leads only to wasted effort and disappointment. Then, too, this style of politicus interruptus requires starting at the top, which in turn requires a national recognized leader – someone like Jackson or Nader. But candidates as good as these are rarely available, and in any case a well-known candidate not of the left’s own making may well tend to have a private agenda at odds with it. [Weinstein 2003]

Weinstein wrote this before 2003. He died last year and I don’t know what his further thoughts on Ralph Nader’s candidacy might have been. Needless to say, neither Nader nor Jackson had any chance of winning a presidential election. Dennis Kucinich, who I respect and who would be a great president, has no chance of gaining the nomination or winning the election in 2008. After several decades of watching symbolic candidacies, isn’t it clear that they are worse than a waste of the left’s limited resources? A representative’s time would be better spent on addressing issues in the Congress, not in collecting money and volunteer time that would be better spent on what can actually be accomplished. Symbolism in leftist politics carries only one guarantee, it will be distorted by the corporate media and the Republican party and used against us and our agenda.

The House of Representatives and, to a lesser extent, the Senate are the grounds for leftists to make any progress in the coming year. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that they are as much a part of the federal government as the presidency. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the House has a Progressive Caucus larger than the last congress. That is even with two of its members, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders now in the Senate. A socialist in the Senate, something I never, in my life, expected to see.

* Just an example, there are Barney Frank’s planned hearings on requiring credit reporting agencies to actually correct their misinformation. A member of my family was the victum of inaccurate credit reports based on having the same name as someone else. It was a nightmare. The burden belongs on the corporations who spread false information, not on the hapless target.