On the Spot: Searching for Money for Progressive Candidates

Peter Coyote said the U.S. has military bases in 130 of 190 countries and that looks like an empire to him. Daniel Ellsberg called Bob Borosage "the best informed, most right-thinking man in American politics." Borosage asserted that Democrats are losing elections to the right wing because "too often the voters can't tell the difference between the candidates."

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey reminded this gathering -- on Sunday, May 2 in the heart of Woolsey's liberal district in bucolic Marin County, north of San Francisco -- that they were gathered to support Gloria Totten and Progressive Majority, the fast-growing Washington-based candidate incubator that is quickly becoming the darling of progressives and Democrats with the "long view."

The casual crowd, garbed mostly in grays and tans, fit in nicely with the lush green hills, the beauty of Mt. Tamalpais forming the backdrop. In fact, the only bright color in sight was the wild orange of Totten's spiked heels. But there were plenty of bright ideas. Alas, there were no Republicans in sight.

As Totten points out, even if Kerry is elected, Republicans will still likely control Congress. She described Progressive Majority and its political action committee PROPAC "as recruiting and electing the next generation of America's progressive leaders," as "serving as a counter weight to the DLC" and to some extent modeled on GOPAC, the famous political instrument of Newt Gingrich. The reader may recall that Newt took the country by storm midway during Bill Clinton's first term by helping to win a House majority for the Republicans. But he also set in motion efforts that resulted in dramatic Republican gains over the past decade -- Republicans have now achieved parity in legislatures, in contrast to the 60% majority enjoyed by Democrats as recently as 1990. Totten is aiming a chunk of the organization's resources on winning stage legislative elections and building the candidate "farm team," particularly in three states in 2004: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Washington. Totten's take-away line was: "Let's stop whining and start winning." (An interview with Totten will be published on AlterNet in the next week.)

Borosage, in his remarks, lamented the fact that progressive values are held by a large majority of Americans, yet conservatives, by striking a clear image and campaigning aggressively, and with plenty of dough, are able to overcome their electoral disadvantage. A founding board member of Progressive Majority, Borosage is the co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, which will be hosting what has become the premier gathering of progressive leaders in America -- in Washington June 2-4 (look for coverage of the event on AlterNet).

Coyote, who seemed razor sharp politically, remarked that he had come from a passionate household as a youth, and described how the US system has tipped from the necessary balance between corporations and the public interest to an overwhelming dominance of corporate priorities, moving the country toward a third-world model of immense wealth at the top, and widespread poverty.

Ellsberg thought he was attending a party for Woolsey, but was happy to learn of Progressive Majority. He talked about the Katherine Gunn case in Britain, where, while working within British security, Gunn went public with information that the US and Brits were tapping the phones of U.N. delegations around the time of the Iraq vote. Gunn was prosecuted under Britain's Secrecy Act. Ellsberg said Gunn was much braver than he was in leaking the Pentagon Papers, and wished he had done the leaking years before, when it would have made more of a difference. Surprisingly, charges were dropped against Gunn, and support from Americans was very helpful, according to Ellsberg.

All in all, a stimulating sunny afternoon, aided by great food and a cozy environment.

Don Hazen is executive editor of AlterNet.

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