On November 14, I was the guest speaker at the first of a new series of conversations with journalists, policy-makers and activists sponsored by Democracy for NYC–a local coalition group of Democracy for America, the organization founded by Howard Dean after his presidential campaign to channel grassroots energy into vehicles for social change. It was a spirited evening. I spoke briefly, see below, and then a lively Q & A followed.
It’s terrific to be here with Democracy for NYC – a key part of the progressive grassroots infrastructure in this country. For me, this election was a “how sweet it is” moment. And I’ll never feel the same way about a “thumping.”
As Bill Greider wrote this week in The Nation, this was “a deliverance election…the great retribution.” It was that accountability moment we’ve been waiting – and working – for. Progressives all across this country – from old-fashioned precinct workers to bloggers – brought in hundreds of new activists and thousands of new voters. Many of them are disenchanted by machine politics and hungry for a radical break with status quo politics.
This election showed people got it. It showed that Americans are a far better people than this cynical White House took them for with its divide, distract and scare tactics. I’ve always believed that any politics – especially a progressive one – that takes a “blame the people” attitude as its starting point is, well, dead on arrival.
We celebrated on November 7th. But on November 8th, at The Nation, we understood it was time to get to work. Yes, the political space has been opened; we are back in a reality-based world. Brought back in through what was a revolt – a great “thumping” powered by voters’ opposition to open-ended and disastrous occupation in Iraq; rank corruption, metastasizing scandals and ethics problems; and an administration that was out of touch with how people are working harder than ever to keep up. And then there’s that trans-partisan issue: incompetence. Whatever trace of competence this White House had was buried in the sands of Iraq and drowned in the floodwaters of New Orleans.
We also know that we can’t leave the building of a more humane and progressive future to timid or wobbly politicians in Washington. After all, some of this nation’s finest moments, reforms and changes have come when political parties are pushed into action from outside –by independent reporting, by passionate people and popular movements driving their ideas and principles into the electoral arena.