This is for those of you who consider yourself to be progressive but have given up on politics because it seems rotten to the core. You may prefer Obama to Romney but don’t think there’s a huge difference between the two, so you may not even vote.
Your cynicism is understandable. But cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you succumb to it, the regressives who want to take this nation back to the 19th century win it all.
The Koch brothers, Karl Rove, the rabid Republican right, CEOs and Wall Street titans who want to entrench their privileges and tax advantages – all of them would like nothing better than for every progressive in America to throw in the towel.
Then America is entirely theirs.
The alternative to cynicism is to become more involved in politics. Help create a progressive force in this nation that grows into a movement that can’t be stopped.
We almost had it last year in the Occupy movement. We had the arguments and the energy. What we lacked was organization and discipline.
I’ve spent years in Washington and I know nothing good happens there unless good people outside Washington are organized and mobilized to put pressure on Washington to make it happen.
This isn’t new. In the election of 1936, a constituent approached FDR with a list of things she wanted him to do if reelected. “Ma’am,” he said, “I’d like to do all those things. But if I’m reelected, you must make me.”
We must make them.
I suggest a two-step plan.
Step one: Vote for Barack Obama for President and vote for every Democratic senator and representative in Congress. Get off your ass and make sure your friends and relatives do the same.
Step two: Starting Election Day, regardless of who’s elected, commit at least three hours every week to political organizing and mobilizing. Connect with other progressives in your city and state. Help find and recruit new progressive candidates to run against Republicans in swing states, and against conservative Democrats. Support the members of the progressive caucus in Congress. Raise money. Raise a ruckus.
Make it our goal to reverse Citizens United, even if it takes a constitutional amendment. And have public financing of elections (including requiring the media to provide free political advertising as part of their commitment to public service).
Also break up the biggest banks and resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act.
Put a 2 percent surtax on wealth in excess of $3 million. And a one-tenth of 1 percent transaction tax on every financial transaction. And restore top tax rates to what they were before Ronald Reagan became president.
Use half this revenue to pay down the national debt and half to make sure every American has a world-class education.
Put a tax on carbon, and use the revenues to reduce or replace payroll taxes.
Have a single-payer health-care system that delivers care at far less cost than our current balkonized and inefficient one.
And much else.
You say it can’t happen — the system is too rotten.
It won’t happen if you wallow in the comfort of your cynicism. But it will happen if you and others like you get fired up.
We’ve done it before.
I remember when progressives joined with African-Americans to get enacted the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. I remember when progressives stopped the Vietnam War. When women finally got freedom of choice over their own bodies. When the Environmental Protection Act became law.
Who would have imagined two decades ago that America would elect an African-American as President of the United States? Who would have supposed gays and lesbians would begin to achieve equal marriage rights?
All politics aside, I wanted to take a moment out of this ridiculous election cycle to say thank you. You have entertained and instructed four generations of children in over 140 countries. You have revolutionized the way we think about education and childhood development. You are an American institution, and you have made the world a better place.
Wall Street gets all the money, and Main Street gets all the love, but Sesame Street has steadfastly been going about its fundamental purpose of preparing kids for school since 1969. It is without a doubt the most important children’s program in the history of television, and all of its denizens — be they Muppet or human — deserve a certain measure of respect.
Big Bird, you certainly deserve better than to be made a political symbol. The last two weeks have marked a low point in the national discourse as pundits and political operatives on both sides have played a big, yellow, feathery game of tug-of-war. It would be silly if it weren’t so degrading, and all because the tiniest fraction of our tax dollars account for a small percentage of Sesame Street’s budget.
It’s fine if the grown-ups want to squabble over whether federal funds should be used to subsidize public television, but let’s not forget where we learned our 1-2-3’s. Sesame Street is one of the single greatest cultural achievements in American history, and there’s not another instance where we’ve gotten so much educational impact for so little money. (If the Count helped us do the math, no doubt he would laugh at how good a deal we’ve all gotten. You can almost hear him now, “AH! AH! AH!”)
On behalf of everyone who understands the importance of early childhood education (and everyone who loves the Muppets), thank you for doing your job, and for doing it so well.
I’ve spent some time savoring the new Mumford & Sons. “I Will Wait” is a respectable centerpiece, but “Holland Road” is hands down the best track on the album. It’s pure passion, heartbreak, and redemption. I get fucking goosebumps when they start harmonizing with the horns around 2:50. Goddamn, those boys know their way around a crescendo.