During the course of the soon-to-be-former Bush-Cheney interregnum, millions of Americans resisted the worst excesses of a lawless and irresponsible administration that led this country into wars of whim, sanctioned torture and extraordinary rendition, embarked upon a spying regimen that made a mockery of the right to privacy and destroyed the system of checks and balances that was supposed to protect the republic from monarchical abuse.
Each year during a period of democratic decline that was so aptly anticipated by Jefferson with his 18th-century reference to “the reign of the witches,” we honored Most Valuable Progressives — groups and individuals that had boldly challenged the worst policies of an imperial White House and its pliant congresses, as well as an opposition party that frequently failed to oppose. There will, of course, still be MVPs in the new Obama-Biden era; in fact, they will be more needed than ever.
But as Bush and Cheney leave Washington, finally finished and thoroughly discredited (even if they have not been held to account for their high crimes and misdemeanors), it seems appropriate to propose one last Most Valuable Progressive designation.
As someone who covered the opposition to this worst of all presidencies, from the fight over the Florida recount, to the battle against Cheney’s energy task force secrecy, to Chalmers Johnson’s struggle to explain the concept of “blowback” in the post-9/11 moment, to Russ Feingold’s lonely Senate vote against the Patriot Act and the brilliant campaign by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee that got communities across the country to call for the renewal of basic liberties, to the great anti-war demonstrations of 2002 and early 2003 (including one in Chicago where a state senator named Barack Obama voiced his objection), to the “After Downing Street” movement (including Congressman John Conyers’ “basement hearing”) that so ably exposed the administration lies that led to an unnecessary war, to the arrival at Crawford of the righteous Cindy Sheehan, to the development of a media reform movement and a new radical communications infrastructure that refused to accept the big lies of big media, to the brilliant battles of Tim Carpenter and Progressive Democrats of America to forge a genuine political pushback against Bush and the Republicans – and to the Democrats who compromised with the administration, to the essential work of Dan DeWalt, Ellen Tenney, Rocky Anderson, David Swanson, Diane Lawrence and all the defenders of the Constitution who dared to propose the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, to the fights by Marcy Kaptur and Bernie Sanders to block bailouts for contemporary robber barons, to the sit-down strike by Latino members of the United Electrical workers union in Chicago who refused to quietly accept the assault on working Americans that was the hallmark of the Bush-Cheney economic agenda, I was privileged to tell the stories of those who believed as did good Tom Paine that the proper response to tyranny was “a long and brave resistance.”