Magazine article In These Times

Hope Is Not Change

Magazine article In These Times

Hope Is Not Change

Article excerpt

Patience is not a virtue-and good things don't come to those who wait

When you look honestly at what's going on in our government right now, it's not clear that "change" was anything more than a cynical campaign slogan on a colorful t-shirt.

People are right to be angry. While we have certainly seen some encouraging progressive policy successes, the average person is nonetheless looking at an economy with a real unemployment rate of 17 percent - the highest since the Great Depression. And if they hear news of politicians at all, they either see them taking 15 different positions on the most simple issues, or raising boatloads of cash from the same corporate fat cats who got the country into this mess.

We must realize that politics is serious, and at this time it behooves us to change our attitude and adjust our perspective.

Parties and politicians are means to an end - not an end unto themselves. Some Democratic partisans insist that efforts to pressure President Obama and congressional Democrats are disloyal or traitorous - as if the objective in American democracy is to preserve a politician's power.

That, of course, isn't the goal - the goal, as Barack Obama's fellow community organizers know, is to turn peoples "hope" into real "change."

If passing a serious Wall Street reform bill means embarrassing every member of Congress to the point where their approval ratings are in the toilet, then that's what we have to do. If passing a universal healthcare bill means humiliating our senators into consistently strong stands, then that's what we have to do. If passing the kinds of tax and spending policies that can get us out of the recession means constantly pressuring Barack Obama, then that's what we have to do. And the good news is, the more all of these political leaders listen to this grassroots pressure, the better they will fare at the polls come election time. And should they not listen, perhaps it is time for them to face a primary challenge.

Some say contested Democratic primaries weaken the electoral chances of Democratic candidates in general elections. That's untrue on many levels.

The last hotly contested Democratic U.S. Senate primary in the Mountain West occurred in 2006 in Montana. You'll recall that the Democratic Party's Big Money tried to force a guy named Jon Tester out of that primary race. Had Tester not run that race, Democrats would have coronated Tester's opponent, State Auditor John Morrison - a candidate with a potentially devastating personal scandal in his closet who would have been crushed in the general election by the Republican Incumbent, Sen. Conrad Burns. As Tester told the Senate Democratic Caucus when he arrived in Washington, primaries make candidates stronger. …

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