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.
How we’ll win
To win on elections and win on policy, we must combine passion, participation and performance. These traits characterize the promise of a progressive movement built on shared community values.
American’s care deeply about each other. Seeing our fellow man suffer activates our compassion. This principle is not Democratic so much as it is…
We are all in this together. When anyone who wants to work is working, everybody wins. When every person that comes to this country in search of the American dream has the right to be treated fairly and with respect, society as a whole benefits. We’ll get there by working together to achieve our shared goals.
President Obama articulated this the day before MLK Day:
Let us broaden our coalition, building a confederation not of liberals or conservatives, not of red states or blue states, but of all Americans who are hurting today, and searching for a better tomorrow. The urgency of the hour demands that we make common cause with all of America’s workers — white, black, brown — all of whom are being hammered by this recession, all of whom are yearning for that spring to come. It demands that we reach out to those who’ve been left out in the cold even when the economy is good, even when we’re not in recession — the youth in the inner cities, the youth here in Washington, D.C., people in rural communities who haven’t seen prosperity reach them for a very long time. It demands that we fight discrimination, whatever form it may come. That means we fight discrimination against gays and lesbians, and we make common cause to reform our immigration system.
These times call for bold actions. The time for incremental, strictly rhetoric responses to the challenges we face has long since passed. Under-girded by our community values and shared responsibility, we must boldly pursue the agenda that our communities clamor for. Community Jobs. Comprehensive immigration reform. A fair economy.
The surest path to under achievement is inaction. The guaranteed path to cynicism is exclusion. We are ready to work and ready to fight for the values we believe in. Let’s take action together and make the political ineptitude of timidity clearer than ever.
One Love. One II.