US Progressive’s 2012 Campaign Challenge

In November 2010, US progressives pouted, sat on their hands and stayed home (same in the UK, as the Conservative Party won control and started the austerity movement). The end result was not just a sweep of the House, but a control of key governorships and state legislatures (county councils here) that continues to wreak havoc across the board. The most recent being Governor Chris Christie, the man every Republican wants to see run, gutting state employee benefits in New Jersey the other night.

Progressives have a choice in 2012. Win the intellectual arguments and sit on the sidelines yet again while watching the continued theft of the USA (and by extension the UK) governments by corporations – or get out there, support this president and give him the targeted help he needs to slow a juggernaut given ever more credence by a corrupt Supreme Court and Citizens United. Romney created a SuperPAC this week. That is scary, because that enables unlimited corporate money to come his way.

Progressives need to stop pouting and (in no particular order):

• Force Clarence Thomas off the bench on ethics charges

• Put a stop to SuperPACS and stop the out-of-control campaign funds

• Bring back Glass Steagall – on steroids – and other regulatory reforms

• Point out that the Senate and House have not sent one meaningful bill to President Obama’s desk in 6 months of the 112th Congress

• Urge President Obama this summer to make 100+ recess appointments and call the Senate’s bluff on judges and Cabinet positions

• Issue executive orders/sign statements to put teeth back into agencies/shut down lobbying assaults

• Put strong recall pressure on emboldened and out-of-control GOP governors and legislatures

• Put pressure on the corporate-controlled US House and Senate to work for the people vs. the lobbyists

• Stop the increasingly isolationist/protectionist path the US is heading down

• Reject the false American ‘exceptionalism’ doctrine driving GOP thought and recognise, as we do in Europe, that ‘stakeholders’ mean more than just ‘shareholders’ and ‘share price’

• Recognise you are in a global economy that is kicking the USA’s butt and closing borders and forgetting the global impact will not save you!

• Demand the FCC act and go after news outlets that continually lie with impunity

• Also insist they break corporate media strangleholds of FOX, ClearChannel, GE, Disney, Comcast and others

• Understand that healthcare is not for profit (any more than prisons or schools are)!,

• Push forward quickly and strongly on renewables to break the oil junkie habit stronghold, and

• Get out the ’12 vote and defeat the GOP/FOX juggernaut with dogged determination, solid and simple messaging, powerful linguistics and a reliance on fact vs. fiction.

Oh, and give the president a break. If he loses, the USA is flushed down the drain and Michigan special ‘emergency administrators’ will become the norm. Corporate America already is the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany – do you want it running unfettered? And it will have happened on our watch.

You can only count on so much help from GOP/Tea Party candidates stepping on their own appendages. While it is cool to snicker at their misstatements, we need to turn them into the same linguistic bumper stickers with teeth the GOP message machine does to the Dems. We need to mobilise on the streets even stronger than in ’08 and more than talk amongst ourselves about how bad it is in a giant pity party, show the real dangers of the corporate sponsored GOP/TeaParty.

Last week on Tavis Smiley, Robert F Kennedy Jr. gave the most riveting and brilliant 24-minute appearance dissecting what is wrong with the USA. There is a lot. And folks, it ain’t a perceived sneer by President Obama in a national address!

Entire interview is here on the PBS website.

Watch. Listen. Learn. Take every single phrase and boil it into a call for action. Demand of the Democrats that they follow it and go after the GOP and bludgeon them to death with their own words and actions. I share a bit of the RFK Jr. transcript below. VERY powerful and a simple call to action Progressives need to follow.

Washington is broken. I keep praying President Obama does not wake up one morning and just say “Aww f*** it, life is too short, I give up, let someone else fix it!” You should too. Democracy itself is at stake. Failure is not an option in 2012.

Transcript of RFK Jr.’s key points:

“…there’s been a tension in our country between the idealism that created our democracy, the first democracy in the history of mankind. At the time of the Civil War, there were six democracies in the face of the planet. Today, there’s 120 and they’ve been inspired by the American exceptionalism. So we’ve made a ton of mistakes.

We’ve created a model for human beings governing themselves with institutions of justice and by the creation of informed public in the middle class and all these things are components of a good democracy. We lost our democracy almost completely in this country in the gilded age, in the 1880s and 1890s. We had large corporate, what they called, trusts back then, the steel trust, the oil trust, the sugar trust.

John D. Rockefeller was the richest man, far richer than Bill Gates is today, the richest man in the history of the world. It was said about John D. Rockefeller that he had done everything to the Pennsylvania state legislature except for refine it. The legislatures were literally owned by the corporations and they chose the senators back then. So the Senate was owned by corporations.

You know, Warren Harding in 1921 when there was union strikes in West Virginia, 10,000 union workers, he used the United States Air Force to drop bombs on them and poison gas and he was in the pocket of the coal industry. So that’s what happened. We completely lost our democracy then.

How did it get restored? A few really courageous journalists who do what you’re doing today, Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, who started exposing these and informing the public and inspiring outrage and indignation. And you had a politician back then, a very tough politician, Teddy Roosevelt, who was willing to stand up to what he called the “malefactors of great wealth” and the corporations.

You know, they passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. They put the bit into the mouths of corporate power. They passed the graduated income tax that forced corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share of operating our country. They passed union laws that allowed unions to organize which created a middle class in this country and created the prosperity and the stability that made American democracy the envy of the world.

They created, among other things, direct election of senators and they created, the most importantly, in 1907 a law they passed that forbade corporate contributions to federal political officeholders or federal political candidates. That law has been in place for 100 years. Now we have a Supreme Court that is the most – it’s not a right wing Supreme Court. There’s no coherent right wing philosophy to this Supreme Court.

The only coherent philosophy to Alito, Scalia, Roberts and Clarence Thomas, one thing, the corporations always win. If it’s government against an individual, the government wins. If it’s corporations against the individual, the corporation wins. If it’s corporations against the government, the corporation wins. Show me one exception to that in any decision written by that Supreme Court.

We have the Supreme Court and last year they repealed this 100-year-old law and made it legal for the first time in a century for corporations to flood our federal political campaigns with a tsunami of money and that is the beginning of the end.

H.L. Mencken used to say a journalist is someone who can’t tell the difference between a bicycle accident and the end of civilization. Well, that decision is the end of civilization in this country.

You know, we’ve been spending the last year talking about Charlie Sheen and Brittany Spears instead of talking about what’s really about to destroy our democracy, which is this huge flood of corporate money which is gonna put corporations in the driver’s seat.”


“…now you have five giant corporations that control virtually all 14,000 radio stations in our country, all 2,200 TV stations, 80 percent of our newspapers, all of our billboards and most of the large internet content providers.

So you have five guys who are deciding what Americans hear as news. They no longer have an obligation to serve the public interest. Their only obligation is to their shareholders. They serve that obligation not by informing us, telling us the things we need to understand to make rational decisions in a democracy, but rather by entertaining us.

So they appeal to the prurient interests that all of us have in the reptilian core of our brains for sex and celebrity gossip. We know we’re the best entertained, the least informed, people on the face of the world. They got rid of their investigative reporters. 85 percent of them lost their jobs in the last 15 years.

They got rid of their foreign news bureaus so the Bush and Cheney administration can say to the American people, “Oh, we’re gonna go into this 800-year-old fist fight in Mesopotamia and they’re gonna meet us with rose petals in the streets” and the Americans believe them.

The Canadians didn’t believe them because the Canadians still have a fairness doctrine. Fox News can’t go to Canada. It’s illegal to lie on the air in Canada. So Fox News can’t go there.

England has the same kind of rules and in Europe, but in our country, we lost those rules and, as a result, we know a lot about Brittany Spears’ gradual emotional decline and we know a lot about Charlie Sheen, but we don’t know much about global warming or the fact that the Appalachian Mountains essentially no longer exist.

So much of the media is really dependent on corporate money, so you’re not gonna see – like Air America failed not because it wasn’t popular. In every jurisdiction where it was operating, it was beating right wing radio. There was a huge appetite for it.

The problem was, it couldn’t get advertising because the corporations, the oil companies, the biggest advertisers, the pharmaceutical companies which is now 70 percent of the revenue for news shows on TV is pharmaceutical companies. So it’s very hard to criticize them on the news.

Automobile companies which is the other big player and many other of these companies wouldn’t advertise. They all boycotted Air America, so Air America was like relying on like, you know, hair growth products and this kind of stuff and they were scrambling for money and they couldn’t find it and it killed them.

So it’s hard to find right now – MSNBC, I think, is a good place to go, this show, and there’s a few other, Rolling Stone Magazine and Vanity Fair even have great investigative reporters. And there’s places that people go on the internet and find this stuff, but it’s not well organized yet.”


Tavis: When I go to the internet after this show airs, I can bet you all the money that I have, which ain’t much, but I would bet you all the money that I have that I’m going to get a litany of people – I know this because it happens every time you come on this program – who watch you and say you are so knowledgeable, you are so passionate, you are so committed, you got that Kennedy legacy to build upon and you’re doing that in your own way.

But with all of this, why not elective office because so many others in your family have seen that as a platform to redress the issues that you’re concerned about?

Kennedy: Well, you know, I look at doing elective office many, many times. I have family issues. I have six young kids and they’re now older and I would look at that kind of opportunity now. If I thought I could be more effective there, I would do it.

But, you know, it’s hard these days, Tavis, to make that choice because even looking at the Senate, at one point, I had the opportunity when David Patterson was in there to get that Senate seat in New York. You know, I looked at it and Washington, D.C. in many ways is paralyzed in a way that we’ve never seen it before.

I have so many friends who are in the Senate and the Congress and are just frustrated because they feel like they’re just wasting their lives up there. There’s no real changes.

I know Obama hit the same wall. Obama came in really wanting to change things, but he hit a wall of corporate money, oil and coal money. When he tried to pass the Cap and Trade system of pharmaceutical money, when he tried to pass the Obamacare which, of course, then got watered down into a much less effective, much less economical, program.

Republicans made it that way. You know, he wanted a single payer plan and that’s what we have with Medicare which actually works. You know, it’s a quarter of the cost. He hit that wall of money. You know, I think in Washington, D.C., you hit it.

The places where I’m most active these days is at the state governments because there’s a little bit more freedom for innovative governors to actually get programs through.”


“… Martin Luther King said the tools for advocacy were agitation, legislation, litigation and education. I would add to that, innovation. We are seeing today a wave of innovation in this space and the energy space which is gonna democratize our energy system in this country and take it away from big coal not because of legislation on Capitol Hill, but because solar and wind can make electrons cheaper and deliver them cheaper than coal can.

Right now, one of the companies I’m involved with is called BrightSource and it’s building one of the biggest power plants in the world in the Mohave Desert, 2.7 gigawatt plants. We’re building it in three years. It takes ten years to build a coal plant, 30 years to build a nuke plant. We’re building it at $3 billion dollars a gigawatt. That’s the cost of the plant. That’s the same as a coal plant. It’s one-fifth the cost of a nuke plant.

Once you build our plant, it’s free energy forever because the photons are hitting the earth every day for free. All we have to do is pick them up. The sun’s not gonna stop shining, the wind’s not gonna stop blowing. It’s cheaper to build a wind or solar plant that it is to a coal plant.

Once you build that coal plant or oil plant, now you got to go to Saudi Arabia, punch holes in the ground, bring up the oil, refine it expensively, genuflect to local sheiks who despite democracy and are hated by their own people, get in periodic wars that cost trillions of dollars, ship it across the Atlantic with military escort that we pay for, not Exxon, spill it all over the Gulf, spill it all over Valdez, burn the oil and poison everybody in our country. So the big costs happen after you build that plant.

Once you build a wind or solar plant, it’s free energy forever. We have 500 gigawatts of carbon-generated power in this country. To replace them with wind and solar is about $1.5 trillion dollars.

That’s two years of oil exports, you know, of the export of U.S. cash to bring in oil. We can pay for a whole system that gives us free energy forever. And despite the efforts of the incumbents, these disruptive technologies today are at a tipping point and they’re cascading and I’m watching it on the ground and that gives me a tremendous amount of hope.

Tavis: I love this guy and I think you can see why. His latest project is called “The Last Mountain” about coal in America and corporations versus democracies we’ve been discussing tonight. I’m always honored to have you on this program.

Kennedy: Thank you, Tavis, for what you’re doing.

Tavis: Thank you so much. Oh, man, thanks for what you’re doing. Wow.”

Wow indeed. For those of us who remember his Dad, this is what a progressive movement can really do. Inspiration vs. negative kvetching and hand wringing.

Denis G Campbell View more

Denis G Campbell
Denis G. Campbell is founder and editor of UK Progressive magazine and co-host of The Three Muckrakers podcast. He is the author of 7 books and provides Americas, EU and Middle Eastern commentary to the BBC, itv, Al Jazeera English, CNN, CRI, MSNBC and others. He is CEO of Monknash Media and a principal with B2E Consulting in London. You can follow him on Twitter @UKProgressive and on Facebook.

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