How progressives can finally make this country ours

How progressives can finally make this country ours
Image via Creative Commons.



To get past our anguish and fear about the future of our country we Progressives must get beyond our repetitive talk about how and why the country is coming apart and take decisive steps beyond just educating, informing, and appealing to corporate politicians. Today the Progressive drug of choice is a self-defeating strategy of reaction, resistance, and appealing to the powers that be rather than doing what we must to become the powers that be. This defensive strategy has utterly failed to put meaningful restraints on corporate rule now more entrenched than ever. Think of it, after decades of hard work, what exactly has it gotten us beyond scattered local success and possibly keeping things from getting worse. Is that what we signed up for as Progressives?

Do we really believe we can keep beating up on the bad guys without securing the means to remove them, or saying hooray for our issues without the power to implement them? If we’re serious, finally serious about subordinating Wall St to Main St, making real investments against our climate threats, strict antitrust enforcement, guaranteeing our voting rights and the rest, the simple truth is we MUST have the VOTES, or there is no Progressive future- period! To get there we have to shift to an offensive strategy for power in balance with resistance otherwise the certain outcome is for more of the same and deservedly so.

So WHAT to do and HOW to do it?

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First, without UNITY we’re going nowhere so must get off our butts, stop with our defensive mindset, focus beyond social media, and do the work that finally builds a national multiracial electoral organization, and directed for the first time by a UNIFIED Central Progressive Command, that binds us together with regional coordinators, guiding and providing resources to our candidates around the country.

This new national organization would originate in each state beginning with very doable Progressive Unity Summits linked together under a national umbrella giving us the means to actually apply our collective power.

However, at the very start, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and answer honestly - is it really in me to take on corporate power for at least the next decade given my current preference for the easier route of resistance? And if so, where exactly is the leadership beyond personalities, specifically the structure, strategy, tactics and resources needed to succeed? Without it we will continue to operate as incremental Centrists remaining Progressives in name only.

But most importantly, do we really care about each other and trust enough to want to do the hard work with people we don’t feel connected to? Before Trump/Covid, social scientists were telling us that we are more divided, more isolated from one another than at any time in modern history with less than a third of us trusting each other and one in 5 suffering from persistent loneliness, and these are pre-Trump 2015 stats, imagine what those numbers look like today, hardly the foundation for building a Progressive country. As Bernie once asked "Are you willing to fight for a person you don’t know as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?" or as Gandhi put it - Do we fight to change things OR do we fight to punish? In other words as a Progressive, am I out there for us or am I out there for me?

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In truth, we the people are in a world of hurt beyond our material circumstances and this will not be reversed even if our entire Progressive agenda is enacted into law tomorrow because it doesn’t address the source of our deeper discontent, the increasing pain of separation from one another that shadows our material needs.

The key to it all is connecting more personally with others beyond their material circumstances, getting to know the person behind her opinion and beyond what he does. It doesn’t matter how inspiring our program, if people don’t trust the source.

So here’s what I suggest on the political side. In all future campaigns, in all we say and do at the door and beyond, our conversation must be more visceral, rooted in and led by our shared American values of democracy, justice, equality and freedom, and our human values of kindness, empathy, and just looking out for one another. Then we link those values directly to our issues and candidates so the public knows WHY they matter to us and gives them a reason for us to matter to them.

Bottom line - we need to find a new way to each other, connecting beyond the surface to get a sense that we know one another and that what we know can be trusted. In Part 2 I’ll add a COMMUNITY design that would operate independent of but in tandem with our political agenda, focusing on the PERSONAL connections that are vital to our emotional, physical and collective well-being.

So as Shakespeare once urged, “to thine ownself be true”. How committed are we to our vision and to each other? How willing are we to urgently take the offensive with a dual approach that secures both our material necessities and the deeper meaning needs of our human communities?

My fellow Progressives, all of this is achievable if we believe in ourselves, in one another and are willing to do the work. Let's get off the wrong train and onto the one heading toward the future we deserve. In Part 2 I’ll provide more specifics inside the above particulars and what each of us can do RIGHT NOW. I genuinely look forward to your thoughts and recommendations.

Rich Cohen has been an ACTIVE Progressive dating back to his participation in the student strike at San Francisco State College in 1968. Since then he has built Progressive groups in Los Angeles and Portland Or. supporting Progressive candidates and issues including setting up a speakers bureau for Bernie Sanders in 2015 and then preparing to do the same for Elizabeth Warren before she ended her Presidential campaign in 2020.

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