Tuesday, June 12, 2007


by shamanic

Interesting read here on Congress's drop to a 10-year-low in popularity, with the suggestion that what we need is a whole other party.

Maybe you can see my skepticism via the formatting there, but then again, I was thinking the other day about the pre-9/11 activism that crystalized in the protests surrounding the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999.

Perhaps you also remember the odd sight on the news of loggers and machinists marching alongside environmentalists, liberal evangelicals, and assorted anarchist types. This type of anti-globalization unity persisted for a while, reasserting itself in Quebec at the Summit of the Americas in early 2001 and, to a lesser degree, Miami's FTAA negotiations in 2003.

When people say that the world changed on 9/11, one of the biggest changes was that "protest" was suddenly dangerous and possibly treasonous (again) in the eyes of a great many Americans. But the issues and policies that were being protested as dawn broke on the new century have persisted, and in many respects accelerated. And new grievances have cropped up, to be sure, in anti-war activism, government accountability, the use of torture, the power grab by the executive, and on it goes.

So reading the Examiner's article got me wondering whether we're in a situation where the sensibilities of the old order have fallen away from the standpoint of the people of the country (though we are obsessed with labels and the sense of identity they confer), while the parties in power continue to cling to the previous arrangement because, after all, it's what they know how to exploit.

Perhaps the shockwaves of 9/11 have finally passed, and we're returning to the state we found ourselves in a decade ago: the economy is humming along but working families don't seem to get ahead; the vocabulary of our faith discussion continues to be limited to just two words--gay and abortion; the signs of distress in the climate can only be ignored at our peril; and in the halls of power, the same old tunes are played while angry people grow angrier and the sense of powerlessness grows ever more powerful.

In general, I find discussions of third parties to be an awful lot of escapist fantasy. I've flirted with libertarianism and green party theology in the past, but at the end of the day I want pragmatic, solutions-oriented governance. I don't need radical, but I want representatives who occasionally act from their conscience.

And that's really the problem with a polarized leadership. Is there really a Republican Senator who has confidence in Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General? I'm skeptical, but they managed to filibuster the vote not as an act of conscience, but because Republicans seem to know only how to march in lock step with their leader of the day.

Are there really so few Republicans who think that putting timelines in place for Iraq might help clarify things for our partners in Iraq's government? Again, color me doubtful.

So we have two parties in America who take part in the leading thing (and several others who take part in the whining and/or complaining thing). One allows a pretty good measure of ideological diversity, while the other has seen nearly all of its moderates tossed out in favor of Democrats. The Democratic majority is small in the House and razor thin in the Senate. And nothing happens, because one party is interested in solutions, and one party is interested in marching lock step.

Could a third party solve this problem? Wouldn't that third party generally push for the legislative platform of Democrats (which is popular, let's remember), but put a greater emphasis than Democrats do on progressive inclusions in trade policy and other globalization issues? Putting wage standards and labor and environmental protections into existing trade agreements would go far towards ameliorating some of the issues faced by industries on the leading edge of the outsourcing revolution.

I feel like this third party would eventually just be absorbed by the Democratic Party, which is really only a few ticks away from these positions. The problem--sorry, I know I'm a broken record, and I know how this sounds--is Republicans in government. That party needs to be dragged kicking and screaming back to the Theodore Roosevelt center of yore so we can have some good progressive governance in this country.

Until that happens, or until the Democrats have 60 Senate seats and start to "overreach" by doing what the people want in the face of the Republican screech machine, we're stuck. Much to the delight of GOP.

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