First published as a Guest Editorial in today's Beyond Chron
Dotty LeMieux 02.NOV.05
At the October 2005 Executive Board meeting of the California Democratic Party, a quiet but important event occurred. The Progressive Caucus received official recognition of its bylaws and newly elected Executive Committee. This Caucus had been a long time coming and proved to be a hard sell for the half dozen Democratic activists who started it last year. As one of those activists, I am especially gratified to have been a part of this momentous achievement. Why was it so difficult to persuade Democrats that a Progressive Caucus was not only viable but necessary to Party growth?
Some viewed us as divisive, at a time when Democrats were courting moderates in an attempt to capitalize on the many scandals and foibles of the Bush and Schwarzenegger Administrations. When the Kerry campaign faltered, many of us were left saying, “I told you so,” having begged the campaign to appeal to the progressives in swing states, not move toward the middle in order to appease phantom moderate voters.
As we saw, people would rather vote for someone they perceive as standing for something than someone whose principles are difficult to detect. Even in the face of the upset Dean election as Chair of the DNC, our road to official recognition was a rocky one.
We persevered and ultimately won through force of numbers. We were the Caucus with more than 400 people in attendance at the State Convention in April. We are growing by leaps and bounds, as we take on issues like single payer health care and clean money election reform. We were instrumental in passing a resolution to end the Iraq War, which received only token opposition on the Convention floor. Without progressives bringing big ideas forward, it’s questionable when or whether our Party would get around to it.
So progressives have shown we are a catalyst for growth within the Party. I hope we can also be a catalyst for coalition building with other like-minded individuals and groups. As a campaign consultant and activist trainer in the Bay Area, I urge those I work with to reach out beyond their base for allies in their cause.
It’s just as important to recognize who your base is. Sometimes, it’s not just those of the same Party affiliation, but those who care deeply about the same values and issues. So it was especially exciting to read about Green Party activists joining with Ron Dellums. The Democratic platform, especially in California, is filled with lofty ambitions and high-sounding principles. We share many if not most of them with those of the Green Party.
Isn’t it only natural for us to join forces when a progressive candidate of either Party (or oh horrors, an independent like Vermont’s Bernie Sanders) steps forward with a real chance of moving our shared values forward? We need to do more than denounce the Bush Administration, which we can never do enough in my opinion. We need to offer a clear, well-defined alternative. Not just “don’t dismantle Social Security.” And not just our own version of “fixing it” either. But a clear unapologetic vision for where we want this Country, this State, and our localities to go.
Randy Shaw in his Oct. 12 comments in Beyond Chron poses the question: “Does the backing of Democrat Dellums signal a strategic shift by Greens?” And answers it this way: “That depends on whether progressives join the Greens because they believe Democrats are the greatest evil (the Camejo view) or as a signal to Democrats that they risk losing votes unless they promote a progressive agenda.” I like to think it’s the latter, and that people join the Democratic progressive Caucus for the same reason.
We can transform our Party into the Party of its potential, not the Party of its mistakes. I believe a part of this potential is the very real and necessary task of building coalitions with other progressives, whether Greens or like-minded Independents, those ‘decline-to-state’ voters, who trust no political Party to represent them. Progressive politics is popping up all over; I must get two invitations to join new groups every couple of days. Progressive weblogs are sprouting like mushrooms. Clearly we’re on to something.
Progressives need to avoid burnout just like any other activists. Working together, rather than splintering into a thousand different directions will be key to making this a movement for real lasting change in our State and our Country.
Dotty E. LeMieux Dotty E. LeMieux runs political campaigns for progressive candidates and causes in Northern California and is an officer-at-large in the California Democratic Progressive Caucus. Her Blog is www.greendogdemocrat.blogspot.com.