Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Progressives Really Need - A Cable Channel Of Our Own

After the election defeat this year, I'm reading tons of articles giving progressives advice on what to do to make a comeback.  Organize, start a movement, sign lots of online petitions, send this or that group money, teach, educate, etc. etc.  All doomed to failure if we can't get the word out beyond our own and right now, we can't.

Let's face facts here - all the left-leaning magazine articles and books in print and online aren't doing the job.  Sure, we read them, nodding our heads in agreement but the fact remains that the people who need this information aren't getting it -- in fact, they are avoiding it.  We moan and groan about Fox Noise, how the cowed-by-cons mainstream media has become not much more than a piece of the rightwing echo machine and how news channels on cable have become a parade of right-leaning radio talk shows with pictures peppered with a few actual news headlines crawling along the bottom of the TV screen.  

It's a bummer but, as Walter Cronkite used to say, that's the way it is.

What we need to combat this is to join the fray.  As radio talk show host Randi Rhodes says, nothing happens unless it happens on TV.  So let's get our asses on TV then.  My suggestion is to start a cable news channel that doesn't play at leaning left by tossing a few hours out of the broadcast day to the liberal viewpoint, get one going that actually is. 

Think of the benefits - we'd finally have a place to present our actual ideas instead of reacting to the conservative media's distortions of it.  Democrats and progressives would have a safe place where they can present their agendas without fear of being ridiculed after they go off the air.  All those news stories that we pass among ourselves could actually be seen by someone who has never heard of them and never would given our current media situation.  Less bubble boy and more about economic bubbles that are destroying our poor and middle class.

Make it splashy and entertaining too - there's no reason for any of this to be presented like a sleep-inducing lecture.  Shout about it if need be, you'd probably catch the people scanning the channels and give them some real information for once. 

We like petitions - let's start some urging people like George Soros to finance this and get it going.  George, the right is going to demonize you no matter what - you may as well give them a reason to do it.  As a foundation, I suggest naming it something that already has a sound reputation as a progressive stalwart - The Nation magazine or NationTV.  It wouldn't have to exist on donations to keep it on either:  as progressive radio stations have shown to advertisers, we liberals buy stuff too and are a market worth pursuing.  Then market the hell out of it so people will watch - no more word of mouth only.

Pass the word and let's get this going.  Our alternative is what just happened on election day - people who are voting based on unanswered myths and lies about Obama and the Democrats' agenda from the RNC and their paid or otherwise spokespeople.  The truth doesn't set anybody free if they don't know about it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What To Do About That Man In The White House

I have been a fierce supporter and defender of President Obama in the past.  I want to still do that but after the midterms it's becoming more and more difficult.  If the next two years are going to be a repeat of the last two, it'll be impossible.

What I mean by that is if Mr. Obama continues to try and reach out to Republicans (read: appease) then I'm done with him.  I defended the President to the left as a pragmatist but it appears I was wrong on that.  The President is an idealist - one who really thought he could unite the country all by himself.  Nothing wrong with that on its face but idealism has to be seasoned with reality for it to work.

The reality is that turning one's cheek only works twice.  The Republicans have shown time and time again that they are only interested in regaining power and they'll obstruct any and everything to get it.  To them, it's party over country and they don't care who they hurt as long as they can stop the Democrats then blame them for not doing anything.  Repeatedly saying that no matter what you'll "strive to work with" them only encourages them.  The days of bipartisanship are over - now it's time to fire up the machine and steam roll over them.

That this should have happened well before we lost the House and a ton of state legislatures should be self-evident.  The opportunities and advances we could have made beyond the impressive number of things the Democratic Congress accomplished is breathtaking but instead we wasted time trying to make conservatives, outside of our party and within, happy and willing to work for the good of the country.

So much for that idea.

What actions Obama and the Democrats can do now has been limited but still do-able.  There's still executive orders to make more advances and the veto pen to protect what progress we have been able to make.  Given the limits, it's time to jump on the bully pulpit and cable TV and start going on the offensive.  Call the Republican claims what they are - lies.  Point out the very real differences between the nutcases on the right and the fact that all the Democrats did was what they were elected to do in 2008.

This is going to have to start at the top with real leadership from the White House.  Professor Obama is going to have to become President finally and fight. 

If he is unwilling or unable to do that, then I say it's time to look for someone else to lead the party and the nation in 2012.  Primary challenges don't always have to be divisive and split the party - in order for that not to happen Democrats are going to have to be willing to say that if a primary challenger gets Obama turned into a fighter and going the right direction but loses the challenge then its mission accomplished.  That's what happened last election in the governor's race in Oregon.  Then-Governor Kulongoski seemed to be turning right and was challenged by two primary candidates.  Gov. Ted won the primary but got the message.  He emerged a better governor and candidate and his party primary opponents unified behind him to win him a second term.

President Obama was elected on a platform of hope and change.  The change is underway, the hope is that he finds the steel in his spine to get us through the next two years with minimal damage from the Tea Party crazies the Republicans have become.  This time President Obama really does only have two years to get this done.  If he does, he'll bring back the enthusiastic base who elected him in '08 but stayed home this year to win another term.

If he doesn't, and there is no challenge in the primaries, then pay close attention to the Republican presidential primaries.  It'll show us who our next President will be.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Election Day 2010 Post Mortem - The Democrats Go Spineless Again

We sure blew that one.  According to the polls showing us where voters actually stood when it came to issues (they still don't like Republicans and their ideas), this should have been another Democratic win.  Well, if you define "win" as keeping both houses of Congress that is.  I think we Dem types understood that we'd lose some seats but we apparently were hoping against hope that we'd pull it out at the end.  Then reality hit on Tuesday.

Reason #1
Too many of us stayed home and gave away the election by default.  29 million people who voted for Obama in 2008 couldn't be bothered to go to the polls this year.  The majority of people who did manage to schedule in a few minutes at a polling booth were the Fox Noise demographic - angry old white people.  They won. Surprise!

I put this down as yet another failure to know how our government works and not being taught Civics in school.  I know that it's sexy to get out to vote for someone charismatic and intelligent on a national level and it's hard to convey that passion onto Representative Huff N. Puff and Senator Speaks Alot locally.  It's also just as obvious that the vote avoiders don't get that in order for that national leader they were so hot for two years ago to get things done he or she needs a Congress that will pass the bills to do it.  From the opinion pages of major national newspapers to news channel chat to bloggers, Obama has been blamed for things that are the fault of Congress.  And here we are.

Reason #2:
This is a major one - the communication failure of the Democrats.  That's the nice way of putting it.  I'm calling it more the failure of the Democrats to call out the myriad of Republican lies they campaigned on.  There was an article that came out shortly before the election - Eight False Things the Public "Knows" Prior to Election Day  - that summed up the myths and outright falsehoods being pushed by the Republicans before election day.  What did the Democrats do to dispell them?  Not much if anything. 

You'd think that after Gore and Kerry we'd have learned by now.  Both presidential campaigns were slandered and smeared as expected by the GOP and both seemingly took the positions that such charges were ridiculous on their faces.  They both decided that voters would see through such nonsense on their own and so there was no need to dignify those claims against them with a response.  That might have worked back in the days of three TV networks and ranters such as Limbaugh, Beck etc. were considered cranky crackpots howling at the moon.  Now the right has bought up enough airtime and cowed what used to be the reliable mainsteam news media from even hinting that what they say may not exactly be on the up-and-up so that those charges are repeated enough that voters got the idea that the Democrats couldn't respond because the charges were true.

I think you know who won that argument and who lost.  It just happened again this year.

Reason #3:
The economy, stupid.  This has and will be discussed ad nauseum so no need to repeat it here.

You may have noticed a theme here in this posting.  I'm disappointed at how the election went but if there's anyone to be angry at, it's the Democrats.  What the Republicans did in this campaign is what they always do so there's no news flash there.  What I'm angry about is that the Democrats let them get away with it.  Again.

Of course, there was a small silver lining to all of this.  What the Republicans won this year was just one House of Congress.  We still hold control of the Senate and the White House so the crazier planks of the GOP Tea Party platform won't go anywhere.  Healthcare insurance reform won't be repealed, there will be no privatization/destruction of Social Security and Medicare, the Department of Education will continue to exist, public education will not be eradicated, etc. etc. What's most likely to happen over the next two years will be gridlock and not much of anything else, legislation-wise.

Cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless.  Will the Democrats get it together to make a comeback in 2012?  That remains to be seen.