Thursday, January 31, 2008

Will progressives respond?

By Terrie Albano, editor,

Barack Obama's run for the White House has captured the imagination of a wide swath of Americans. The question is, will progressives respond?

The answer is not clear, yet. There have been great signs from many who count themselves on the progressive side of life. Tom Hayden, for example, endorsed Obama. He emphasized the multiracial movement that has blossomed around him.

The Progressive Democrats of America have said many favorable things in the wake of Hayden's endorsement. Hayden is a PDA board member and many in the PDA are so excited to see the numbers of young people involved in Obama's campaign.

But looking on OpEd News front page, where no mention of the incredible turn of events in the Democratic primaries have taken place, I have to ask myself, are all who claim the progressive mantle responding to the moment? I don't think so.

What could be the reason? Why wouldn't there be a screaming headline: "U.S. on track to elect first woman, or first African American" ?

These giant steps would transform the country in and of itself. But what would take the country further in a progressive direction is the election of a candidate that has the most diverse electoral coalition this nation has seen in 50 years.

Is it that many who count themselves on the progressive side of life feel above the Democratic Party? Probably. I personally, and so many of my colleagues have had discussions ad naseum on why it is important to defeat the worst, most backwards administration – even if that means working for, being a part of a coalition that is led by (at this time) the Democratic Party.

"Oh heaven forbid I touch a Democrat" many sneer.

That is one possibility why there hasn't been a reaction to the events since Iowa.

Another is an obvious blindness to gender and racial equality and how crucial that is to ANY progressive movement. It's not just a feel good thing. It's not just about diversity. At our country's essence, at democracy's essence it's about guaranteeing EVERYONE has an equal say. And anything that prevents that, prevents the full flowering of democracy.

I think that many who consider themselves progressive take for granted the issue of unity and diversity. That it's a given in the progressive agenda.

And in many ways, the progressive agenda embraces equality values.

But it's not just about embracing it. It's about taking concrete action and initiative to realizing it.

That's the difference.

The movement that has exploded around Obama is so important. It's antiracist in essence. It's deep and broad and multiracial and multigenerational. It has insightful and sophisticated everyday people active in it. It's the cream rising to the top after the long horrendous period of the Bush administration and ultra right rule since Reagan.

But even if Obama doesn't win and Hillary Clinton does, getting rid of any ultra rightist will take this country forward. And the movement around Obama will influence Clinton.

This kind of upsurge comes around just once in a lifetime. I hope for all progressives – each of us – get involved. Don't stand on the sidelines. Be active. Don't let history pass you by.

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