Glenn Greenwald has two articles that need serious reading. Article number 1: The motivation for blocking investigations into Bush lawbreaking
give a taste of a new book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Hardcover)
, which chronicles how some of the highest ranking Democratic leadership were complicit in Bush's torture and other lawbreaking, and thus had powerful incentives to vote for the Patriot Act and FISA, as well as run away from the very possibility of impeachment as fast as they possibly can. Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman, Jay Rockefeller, and more, knew about illegal surveillance and torture from the very start, and thus, quote obviously, do not want investigations that reveal many inconvenient truths. The details are shocking, and revealing. Please, go get informed.
You may come away from that revelation feeling discouraged and disillusioned about the political process. You may even decide to drop out and say that politics is a dirty business anyway. But you can't. You really can't. You don't have the luxury to do that anymore. You need to act. Here is one idea how, from Article number 2: Accountability Now and Strange Bedfellows: The strategy and rationale
As the 2006 election and these subsequent events conclusively demonstrate, mindlessly supporting and electing more Democrats for its own sake doesn't solve or even mitigate anything. But it's also true that actions which result in handing Republicans control over any branches of the Government -- including supporting third-party candidates or abstaining from the process altogether -- makes matters worse still. Nobody who finds the above-documented events objectionable can rationally embrace a course of action that directly or indirectly empowers those who are the prime forces behind these events: namely, the mainstream GOP in its current incarnation.
All of that, in turn, leads to this pressing question: what is the best course for those who want to battle against these civil-liberties-destroying, rule-of-law-trampling, war-making policies that the GOP leadership pushes and the Democratic Party leadership supports, enables, and/or passively accepts? In a two-party system where blind support for either party will do nothing but perpetuate these policies, how can they be undermined?
The campaign we announced back in March to target "Bad Democrats," which has now evolved into Accountability Now and the Strange Bedfellows coalition, is designed to develop strategies for addressing that dilemma (I first announced and detailed how that coalition works here). Grounded in the premise that the Democrats are going to control both houses of Congress for the foreseeable future -- a premise virtually nobody disputes -- the primary objective has to be to alter the behavior of those who control the Congress.
Increasing the Democrats' margin of control doesn't achieve that goal. It does the opposite. Conveying to Democrats that you will support all of them no matter what they do, no matter how egregiously they trample on your values, only ensures that they will ignore your political priorities and values even more.
You can read about the groups accomplishments and future plans here
Finally, Via Open Left, I came across the notion of Fusion Voting. What is that?
Voting issues instead of personalities
Fusion Voting is an old and time honored system used throughout the United States in the late 1800's and early 1900s. Fusion voting allowed some of the most progressive political leaders in America to be elected to public office because the Populist Party and Democratic Parties were able to "fuse" their nominations. Under fusion voting more than one political party can nominate the same candidate for the same office in any particular election. Therefore, a voter could, for instance, vote for Joe Solidarity for governor as either a Populist or as a Democrat as both parties are able to nominate the same candidate. Joe Solidarity's name could appear on the ballot twice for the same office, once as a Populist and then again as a Democrat.
This is what the ballot would have looked like:
Jack Bigbucks Republican
Joe Solidarity Populist
Sam Poor Socialist
Betsy Lost Independent
Joe Solidarity Democrat
The voter would mark one choice for each office just as the voter does now.
In this example the voter could vote for Joe Solidarity as either a Democrat or a Populist. The voter in effect chooses both the candidate and the party. First the voter chooses the candidate to vote for. Then the voter looks to see if that candidate is on the ballot for more than one party and, if so, chooses which party to vote for. In choosing the party, the voter declares his support for the principles of that party. The votes are tallied separately for each party, and Joe Solidarity gets the combined total votes from both ballot lines. If the race was especially close, the winner could see that without the votes cast on the "third Party" line, he might not have won. Third parties thus have leverage over that candidate.
Apparently, the tack was so successful that the Republicans succeeded in effectively banning it in most of the nation starting in the late 19th century
In addition, the Supreme Court decided in 1997 that fusion voting is not a constitutionally protected right. (So much for Democracy.) Anyway, it is now legal in seven states, but the one in which it seems to be most successful is New York.
The Nation published The Power of Fusion Politics
in 2005, which takes a look at the Working Families Party in New York, and how they have worked to enact progressive policies by playing Democrats against Republicans, and getting more progressive Democrats into power, to the benefit of the People of New York.
A few months earlier, the WFP operation hit Westchester County. Volunteers trawled suburban streets delivering the message: "We're telling State Senator Nick Spano that New Yorkers need a raise in the minimum wage." A few residents cursed and slammed doors. But more often than not they agreed, and received a sheet of paper, a pen and a chance to handwrite a plea to the Senator. "It's about time!" exclaimed an expensively groomed woman as she took a clipboard.
That wasn't the first or last time Spano, a high-ranking Republican, heard from his constituents--and the greeting wasn't always so polite. A few weeks earlier, Spano had endured an "accountability session," a public event community organizers use to extract commitments from elected officials. In a YMCA hall packed with some 150 union members and other activists, filled with cries of "$5.15 is not enough!" Spano expressed surprise at the turnout--and, knowing he had little choice, signed a poster-size pledge to push legislation raising New York's minimum wage to $7.10. "I am on your side," Spano declared. "I will deliver this personally to the majority leader."
But it was not just because he was caught on the spot that Spano came around on this issue--he knew that the Working Families Party, which organized the session, had a card to play: the ballot line in elections throughout New York State that it has wielded since 1998. In New York, election laws allow "fusion"--candidates for any public office can run as the nominee of more than one political party. The votes candidates receive are tallied separately by party, then combined. Like many candidates in New York State, Spano was hungry for the extra boost of that additional ballot line, which could make all the difference on election day. With the WFP's progressive seal of approval, Spano could expect some votes from people who might never otherwise support a Republican.
But the Working Families leadership was satisfied. In exchange for the endorsement of Spano and other Republicans in a tight race, state Republicans relented after years of opposition and hiked the minimum wage, which raised pay for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. By wielding the power to make or break one of its top leaders, Working Families pushed the Republican Party to take a progressive stance.
Items on the party's legislative agenda include universal healthcare, rent regulation, a living wage and closing the income gap through progressive taxation. Founded and led by a coalition of labor unions and community organizations--including the Northeast regions of the United Auto Workers and the Communications Workers of America (CWA), locals of the garment and hotel workers' union UNITE HERE and the service workers' SEIU, ACORN and Citizen Action--Working Families claims an organized bloc of voters committed to economic populism, and the party uses them to get major-party politicians to follow the Working Families agenda. Its organizers strive to appeal simultaneously to Nation-reading liberals, people of color alienated by the Democrats, and working-class whites.
The WFP's ability to reach that third group, which Republicans have so successfully wrested from the Democrats, says a lot about what fusion can accomplish. A poll of New York State CWA members found that non-Democrats were likelier than Democrats to use the WFP ballot line to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton in 2000--of the 38 percent of that group who went for Clinton, eight in ten cast their vote under Working Families. Votes on the WFP line helped Democratic challenger Tim Bishop beat a conservative incumbent Republican Congressman on Long Island--in a district that went overwhelmingly for Republican Governor George Pataki on the same ballot.
WFP executive director Dan Cantor and a leadership circle of labor union political directors, community organizers and staff hunt for practical legislative and policy campaigns that will resonate with the party's target constituencies. "What issues do you want to move?" asks Cantor. "What moral disgrace brings issues into the electoral moment?" They then put those issues into play with a one-two punch: a grassroots field operation anchored by local chapters in the state's biggest counties, coupled with the ability, through fusion voting, to cross-endorse Democrats or Republicans for public office. Targeted politicians can't afford to ignore the party's agenda.
Imagine, ladies and gents, if more progressive organizations were pulling stuff like this during the FISA debacle. Imagine if we the people had been fighting using this and more tools for the cause of universal healthcare, or for or against any number of issues that are very important to our welfare and wellbeing.