By Ron Daniels
ABOVE PHOTO: People protest at the Tea Party Movement : The Next Wave at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Ore., Sept. 12, 2009.
(AP Photo, Statesman Journal, Matt Gillis)
With the “Tea Party Convention” concluding in Nashville with wall to wall coverage by the mainstream media, it is clear that the right continues to outmaneuver the left in terms of capturing the limelight to promote the conservative cause. One has to admit that the concept of having a “Tea Party Express” was a brilliant stroke which rightwing talk show hosts and Fox News could propagandize to the hilt. The cold fact is, for all of the intellectual capital and organizing genius, there has been no equivalent concept or response from a liberal/ left/progressive “movement” that is disgruntled, disjointed, disoriented and ineffective. If a return to power of the conservatives in 2010 is to be blocked, there must be far more innovative thinking, meaningful messaging and creative organizing on the left.
I would not begin to claim to be an innovative thinker, but I could envision rallying “Rainbow Warriors” to vigorously defend the historical legacy of liberal/left/progressives fighting to improve the quality of life for the majority of working people, the middle class, women, people of color and the poor. Unlike the virtually all White “Tea Party Movement,” the “Rainbow” symbolizes the promise of a 21st century “patriotism” rooted in the commitment to a multi-racial/ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural, inclusive and expansive democracy with a “socially responsible” economy. The Tea Party crowd represents a dying order. Rainbow Warriors could represent the birth of a new future. It occurs to me that somehow, minds that are more gifted than mine could take this concept and shape it into a vehicle that could capture the imaginations of millions of Americans who have been wounded by eight years of Bush-Cheney; millions who are focusing their anger/frustration on President Obama and the Democrats rather than the villains whose misguided policies and misdeeds are responsible for the pain/suffering vast numbers of Americans are experiencing.
Redirecting this anger/frustration must be the first order of business for Rainbow Warriors. No matter how distasteful to some, it is imperative that we circle the wagons around the Obama administration and accentuate the positive contributions made despite the grave economic crisis the President inherited. We cannot allow the American people to have a lapse of memory about who created the mess that is ruining their lives. To expect any administration to end joblessness in a year is simply unrealistic and we must fashion a message which respectfully conveys this reality while charting a path to recovery that offers hope for the future. As Congresswoman Jan Shakowsky of Illinois recently warned at the Annual Nation Institute Dinner, to abandon Obama is to invite disaster in the 2010 midterm elections. Circling the wagons is a crucial tactical choice while the progressive movement gathers itself to forge a more visionary, viable and popular alternative.
What if the progressive movement were able to rise above its splintered state to develop a popular, populist, progressive agenda centered around “economic common ground” policies, calculated to ameliorate the pain and suffering of millions of Americans and generate jobs and economic opportunities? Green jobs in a modern 21st century economy with a living wage and benefits should be at the top of the list. Such an agenda might also incorporate proposals to rigorously rein-in/regulate Wall Street; provide meaningful assistance to homeowners victimized by the sub-prime lending scam; and, increase Pell Grants and low interest loans direct from the Government to students (cutting out financial institutions that make billions as middlemen). Some of these proposals are already before the Congress but require robust support from outraged but organized constituencies. In addition, there is a need to press for enactment of proposals of critical importance to key constituencies within the liberal-progressive umbrella, the base, like a massive jobs program targeted to end depression level unemployment and underemployment in Black communities across the country; immigration reform that creates a gateway to citizenship for millions of undocumented persons in our society; passage of the Employee Free Choice Act; and, re-emphasis on a people-oriented health care system.
What if a million Rainbow warriors, armed with a Common Ground Agenda, mobilized a march on Washington to call attention to a movement dedicated to advancing policies to win the allegiance of ordinary people who are currently alienated and turning to the right for answers? What if a million Rainbow warriors committed to engaging and registering millions of unregistered and unorganized voters, Congressional District by Congressional District, to counter the attack on wobbly Democrats, oppose conservatives and support liberal/progressive candidates to stem the tide of the Tea Party reactionaries and other rightwing forces? If the progressive movement could gather itself to meet that challenge, it would be a game changer in American politics. Then the Rainbow Warriors could fulfill the role/function that the National Rainbow Coalition should have achieved two decades ago – emerging as an independent political organization, a “third force” in American politics capable of mounting protest and organizing campaigns around important progressive issues/causes and supporting or running viable progressive candidates of various parties – a movement that tends toward but is not tied to the Democratic Party.
Certainly, this is only a sketch of what a new “Rainbow Movement” might achieve. Danny Glover and Bill Fletcher put forth some ideas about a similar proposition a few years ago that generated some buzz and then fizzled. Now is the time for those in the liberal/left/progressive establishment to provide the resources required to promote and implement such a vision. It will take millions of dollars to market the idea, train organizers and build the infrastructure/capacity to sustain a new, futuristic Rainbow Movement with the potential to advance an agenda for far ranging change in America. At this critical juncture in history, however, it’s time to move from “what if” to “therefore.” It’s time to act! “Somewhere over the Rainbow…..”
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com . To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at [email protected].