Victory in 2004--and Beyond
5. The Way Forward
The first imperative is to re-defeat George Bush in the 2004 presidential election. That will require fierce, passionate and smart efforts by progressive forces. Bush isn't much interested in the world, and surely doesn't concern himself with running the government. His passion is political campaigns, and, as a student of Lee Atwater, he is famous for running disciplined and vicious campaigns. The Republican attack machine will gear up to turn John Kerry into a Frenchman, Teresa Heinz Kerry into an alien and John Edwards into a cat's-paw of the trial lawyers lobby.
While laboring for victory this fall, progressives should harbor no illusions about a Kerry presidency. This election will represent the defeat of the right, not the victory of a progressive movement. As the Clinton years taught us, progressives must gear up to hold the administration accountable and be prepared to fight pitched battles to forward progressive reforms and counter backsliding. Central to this effort, progressives must put forth their own bold reform agenda, and campaign for it. It should include kitchen-table concerns like affordable healthcare and high-quality education; challenges to the vapid national security debate; and strategic reforms to empower workers, challenge media concentration and reaffirm the right to vote. If MoveOn joined with progressive unions to drive the plan, we could hold candidates accountable to that agenda in 2006.
Real progress will depend on the left's doing a far better job at forging coalitions across racial lines. Any enduring progressive majority must enlist enthusiastic leadership and participation from minority communities. Progressive organizations and activities must reflect the coalition we hope to build. Forging that coalition will enable progressives to begin targeting districts and states in the South and Southwest, where Republicans can be taught the perils of being a party of white sanctuary. The end of the conservative era is clearly in sight--even as the right uses its political machine to fight a rear-guard action to maintain power. Perhaps the worst legacy of that era is the shackles it has put on our imagination. The corporate domination of both parties suffocates possibilities. The staggering weight of our military budgets and global apparatus distorts America's role in the world. The conservative assault on government still cripples our sense of what is possible.
But victory in 2004 can open a new chapter. That will require continued mobilization and continued invention and continued struggle. Conservatives say "TINA"--there is no alternative. But they are wrong. A better America is possible, and 2004 can mark the turning.