Challenges have the uncanny ability to sharpen our focus. A knee injury will make you more mindful of walking than ever before. Bad food introduces you to taste buds you never knew existed. Adrenaline enables amazing physical feats.
The same is true for political movements. Progressives are smarting now. Many on the left are disenchanted with the President, disappointed in the pending health care legislation and disillusioned about the 2010 mid-term elections. What’s a movement to do?
We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our renewed focus is an opportunity to build a foundation for future success, resilience and empowerment. This means taking stock of the real progress being made in this moment while simultaneously fighting to transition society from its peppered past to a progressive future.
President Obama was mindful of this when he said in his Martin Luther King, Jr. address that:
…our predecessors were never so consumed with theoretical debates that they couldn’t see progress when it came…Let’s take a victory, he said, and then keep on marching. Forward steps, large and small, were recognized for what they were — which was progress.
What victories have we won? A few include:
- Passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, bringing us a step closer to fully realizing equal pay for equal work.
- Expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, an important step in providing health care for all of our nation’s children.
- Softened Federal restrictions on stem cell research, opening the door for potential cures to innumerable diseases.
Where do we go from here
Martha Coakley and others’ recent electoral defeats echo the sentiment of the 2008 Presidential election: candidates who proactively or passively represent a broken status quo will fail. Insiders can no longer combine tepid emotions and bland appeals with party machines and expect victory. They instead must take the hope demonstrated by the 2008 election and marry it to action.
The infinite hope that Dr. King spoke of us present within the progressive movement. Young people are organizing like never before in favor of comprehensive immigration reform reflective of America’s ideals, not its demons. Their hope is moving them to action.
That infinite hope is present in the hearts of millions of ambitious yet unemployed Americans. People are coming together to petition their government to work on their behalf to create jobs rather than give handouts to industries that have turned their backs on their employees. The hope of these workers is moving them to action.
That hope still exists in health care. Amidst the angst of the centrists, the exasperation of many Progressives and the perverse cynicism of corporate and conservative interests, the American people remain thirsty for quality, affordable health care. The current proposals have their differences and flaws, but our communities are speaking up in unison when they demand a health care system that works for them. Listening to the practical, conscientious voice of constituents would have led to a substantive debate that disregarded idiocy while embracing the courageous optimism of the American spirit.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made an unfortunate mistake when he said privately:
Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his light-skinned appearance and speaking patterns with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one…He [Reid] was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.
The comments and the response to the comments have been laughable, disconcerting and indicative of the broader race-related issues that our country continually kicks down the road.
I’m frustrated that the only tellers at the Bank of Apologizing to Black People are still Rev. Al Sharpton and/or Jesse Jackson. Many have used the fact that Rev. Sharpton accepted Reid’s apology as grounds for vindication. Rev. Sharpton is as much a proxy for Black America’s social consciousness as the CEO of Goldman Sachs is a proxy for the interests of community banks. Just like there’s a movement to move our money out of big banks, Black folks should be moving their representation away from Rev. Sharpton and to community voices.
It’s further frustrating to think about how the latent prejudice of our politics has contributed to structural inequity reinforced by public policy.
Take health care reform. Why is there disagreement between the House and Senate over the need for reform to narrow disparities in health care coverage? The House bill does this; the Senate bill does not.
Take unemployment. A community jobs program would work wonders for communities over-represented on unemployment roles: Black and Latino people. Yet the current debate on public job creation has shown little interest in this regard.
Perhaps there is more at work than the latent racism that leads to remarks that are at their best in poor taste and at their worst indicative of utter moral failure. The way to work through a controversy like today’s uproar is to put these incidents into a larger narrative about the consequences of entrenched racism and prejudice. Once that narrative is constructed, we can create a solution.
One Love. One II.
What’s up fam, Long time no see I know. First let me say that I have started law school at UDC so any SuperSpade fam in the DMV, let me know what’s up. Moreover, my partner in crime Garlin got married and would you guess it, moved to DC!!! Suffice it to say that a ton of change has happened in the past couple months and our posting has been….well let’s just get back into it.
So I am really smarting over the Van Jones resignation and the implications it has on the next twenty years of political life in America. President Obama is wrong for allowing this to go through. This has nothing to do with Van’s liberal values but it is pure politics. Jones was ousted in large part to the enraged and deranged rhetoric of Glenn Beck…of all people. I get it you that can’t fight every fight but come on. I will even give you some slack if we are talking about appointments that need the consent of the Senate but this was not the case. Then, the communication’s director of the National Endowment for the Arts, Yosi Sergant is forced to resgin in part due to Glenn Beck. Obama, you can’t allow Glenn Beck to pick off your staff one at a time. This is crazy!!!!
The larger problem is what this says for the generation coming of and preparing to take the reins. What Van said about Republicans pales in comparison to what I hear Republicans have said and say about Obama. The signal being sent though is that if you are left/liberal/progressive, keep your mouth shut. We live in the information where even the most insignificant speech is recorded, and who knows what to think of what is going to happen to all the emails/facebook posts, blogs, blog comments, etc. I say that to say that anyone talking themselves out of politics (or influencing politicians) took the wrong lesson from the Jones resignation. We have to be bold in our principles. Seriously, I don’t know when this happened but “birthers” get regular play over the media airwaves. Where are we?
Let’s be honest shall we?
- Have you deleted or re-worded a comment or email because while what you said was perfectly reasonable you didn’t want to be branded as a crazy liberal? -When in conversation have you bashed a liberal idea that you really support?
- What rally did you want to go to but you didn’t want to risk being photographed?
My only point is that you are wrong if you are waiting for progressive values (that is the word I use, don’t get caught in semantics) to become mainstream, stop waiting! Politics doesn’t work when you don’t show up so don’t let this moment go to waste. Let principles guide you, not random reactions to the absurd.
Stay up fam,
Who’d you call on Inauguration Day?
The MIT Senseable City Lab analyzed phone call data from Inauguration day. In addition to some very cool visualizations, they found that a lot of Black people made phone calls when Obama was inaugurated.
Most interestingly, comparing these results with U.S. demographic statistics shows that the percentage of African Americans in each U.S. state is a predominant factor determining increase in call activity and therefore participation in the event, which instead was not necessarily influenced by the state’s proximity to Washington, D.C. or its political leaning.
One Love. One II.
We will have a new Supreme Court Justice by October 2009, and her name will be Sonia Sotomayor. This is a plain, simple fact.
I waited to write about this because I wanted to see the full range of juvenile, senseless, and viperous statements made be conservative critics of this nomination.
A laughable argument
The most ridiculous and confusing argument against soon-to-be-Justice Sotomayor is that she is unfit to be on the Supreme Court because her personal positions, ethnic heritage, and life experience could influence her decisions. Show me a person who’s life experience doesn’t reflect in their decisions, and I’ll show you a person’s life that is a rudderless, abject failure.
Last I checked, judges are people. Persons even. People, like you, me, your mother, your brother, your neighbor and everyone else you know all have histories, opinions and talents. To deny this is to deny the value of life, family, friendship, education, work, and everything else that happens during our time on this earth.
It is beyond ridiculous then to think that people’s decisions are not impacted by the things that they have seen or that have happened to them. Why must judges divorce themselves from their humanity in the name of something as transient and subjective as the law? Are these people saying that they want law machines and not judges? (Note: I’m absolutely not a lawyer, so I’d love to hear from lawyers on this.)
We elect/appoint people
The actual world and the movie world are different. We don’t live in the world of Terminator or iRobot. When we look for ways to solve problems, to explain happenings, or to interpret law, we look to people, not robots. The idea that judges appointed by conservatives apply no personal thought or empathy when deciding cases is as dishonest and supported neither anecdotally or statistically. The most recent example is [current & most recently appointed] Justice Sam Alito’s comments during his confirmation regarding applying his personal and family experiences to his judgements.
Should disagreement disqualify?
Maybe, maybe not. Disqualify is probably the wrong word, but in the real world, this is about more than qualifications. No one has said that Sotomayor is unqualified because that would be the only argument weaker than the laughable one described above.
Elections have consequences. The should have consequences; that’s the point. It is perfectly legitimate to vote against a judicial nominee because you disagree with their ideology as demonstrated in their record. It is not, however, legitimate to vote against a nominee because they do what all other people do: think about their history when making decisions in the present.
I pray that one day we can have an honest dialogue in our government and body politic without the salacious, counter-productive, dishonest rhetoric. If you don’t like her record, say you don’t like her record. That’d be a lot easier on all of us.
One Love. One II.
Being fake is like driving the wrong way on the freeway: dumb, dangerous, and destructive. This is true in life, relationships, and public policy.
Last week I signed a letterto the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) calling each out for stopping the acceptance of PAC & lobbyist money for one day — the day President Obama comes to fund-raise for them.
Why this is a problem
Private money perverts politics. It destroys electoral integrity by weighting the outcome in favor of moneyed interests. The DSCC & DCCC are perfectly fine with this. President Obama is not. I’m not either.
Campaigns & elections should be publicly financed. Our taxes pay the salaries of elected officials already, so why don’t we pay for their selection too? That way, things won’t get too out of control (we won’t waste money), and we’ll be more likely to hold people accountable (because we literally paid for them to be there).
Remember: nothing changes until something changes.
One Love. One II.
Photo Credit: tideswimmer on Flickr
Take a look at this 2 minute video explanation of Thomas Schelling’s Models of Segregation. The model demonstrates that even a mild preference for the colour of your neighbour can lead to extreme segregation.
The moral of the story:
Although we as individuals may be rational and we may be tolerant, the society that we produce together may be neither rational nor tolerant.
Think about this the next time someone tells you that because Barack Obama’s the President, we live in a post-racial society.
One Love. One II.
I was recently asked to comment on an article by Linda Burnham about how the Left, specifically the anti-Capitalist Left, should feel about and work with the Obama Administration. It’s called “Notes on an Orientation to the Obama Presidency”.
There is real debate about how ardent Leftists, Progressive activists, think-tanks, etc. should approach the government under President Obama. Groups that have felt alienated by American politics and the pervasiveness of Conservative ideology have been frustrated & cynical for the past 60 years. They are not content with incremental solutions to big problems. They are almost offended when with presented with nuanced distinctions in policy or rhetoric that at the end of the day is not demonstrably different from the status quo.
While I find myself in this group much more often than not, there are some real opportunities to make progress on a fundamentally Progressive agenda. We must take proper advantage of these times, lest this once-in-a-generation opportunity pass us by.
Here is my full response: Read More…
The current debating and posturing on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the “Obama Stimulus Bill” is troubling and unproductive. All of the partisan rhetoric and time-wasting by Republicans, Democrats, and the President could have been avoided by framing this bill properly and sticking to that frame.
The bill is going to pass. No one, not even Conservative critics, dispute this inevitability. It would have passed with little opposition if one thing would have been done differently: if they would have called it from jump a Jobs Bill, not a Stimulus Bill.
What’s the difference between a Jobs Bill and a Stimulus Bill?
No Congressperson, no matter how much they hate it, can make a justifiable political argument against job creation. Politicians and pundits can, however, make arguments against stimulus. By the way, what exactly is stimulus? Is it spending? Is it tax cuts?
President Obama and I think it’s the former, but the problem is there is room for debate. There is room for conservatives to attempt [with some success] to recast this bill as a spending bill, which to hardcore conservatives make it the Devil’s bill.
Winning the War on Policy happens when you win the War of Words
The President in recent days has gone on the offensive to defend this legislation. This is the right thing to do. What would have been even better to do was not even talk about stimulus plans in the first place, even during the campaign. After all, saying stimulus plan conjures up images of the Bush “Stimulus Checks”, which barely evened registered on any scale of positive economic impact. When you describe your plans and policies with the same language as failed plans and policies, it gives people the wrong mental images. And it is those mental images that are crucial for achieving buy-in in politics.
I’ll be watching this administration and how it frames policy debates. The Obama team was pretty good during the campaign season at framing. They shouldn’t forget that going forward.
One Love. One II.
The Inauguration of Barack Obama was an historic, life-changing, captivating experience for nearly everyone who refers to themselves as a citizen of this country or an inhabitant of this planet. Unfortunately, a seat in history’s theater was denied to myself and hundreds of others that wanted to watch the ushering in of an epoch of a renewed American spirit. Amidst the tears of joy, achievement, and progress, existed tears of pain and missed opportunity. Alongside the jubilation, frustration. With triumph, tribulation.
I write here to tell my story of the Inauguration. It may differ from most others that have been written, but all accounts are important. I especially want to thank the angels that were in the crowd to help Ellen and I on Inauguration Day. Warning: this post is very long.