I’ve been wondering why Americans who want a humane and just society have been so quiet. The Teabaggers – rabid racists who demand a society that oppresses minorities and ignores the sick and poor – have been all too vocal recently. And America’s politicians are cowering before them, terrified by their apparent popularity.
I figured there was more to America than that. After all, the country has elected its first black President. And previous Democratic administrations were able to pass civil rights legislation and implement programs to alleviate poverty, ensure the aged some dignity in their final years and provide lunches for hungry schoolchildren.
I could not believe this nation had completely changed in a couple of years, that it was the white majority who were militantly crusading to bring back Jim Crow and dismantle the country’s social safety net. But where were the “progressives”? Why weren’t they marching in the streets, waving placards and making speeches? (Photos at right show progressive groups protesting in the past.)
Finally, it looks like they’re showing up. Here come the “Brownbaggers.”
On February 17, Progressive Democrats of America will be joined by CODEPINK, AfterDowningStreet, Democrats.com, the California Nurses Assn./National Nurses United, and United for Peace and Justice in “brownbag” vigils in Washington DC.
Slogans on their placards will include: “Healthcare NOT Warfare,” “Corporations out of Politics,” “Bailout Main Street not Wall Street” and “Brownbaggers not Teabaggers.”
Tim Carpenter, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, said, “We have to choose between jobs and wars. The American people are on one side, but our so-called representatives in Congress are on the other. The Supreme Court is busy increasing corporate control of our elected officials. We need to be busy enforcing the people’s control before it is too late.”
Carpenter was referring to a recent Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to pour an unlimited amount of money into American elections. It was the latest in a number of recent triumphs by conservative forces.
It seems America’s progressives have been taken by surprise. Misled by the election of Barack Obama, they apparently assumed that the country had moved left of center, and they could sit back and watch the Obama administration deliver on their agenda.
They could not have been more mistaken.
The backlash against Obama has been vicious. And the Teabaggers are the most visible manifestation of this movement. To make matters worse, the mainstream media and right-wing propagandists have fanned the flames by giving the Tea Party movement lavish coverage.
Reacting to the apparent popularity of the movement and the intransigence of the Republican opposition in Congress, President Obama has moved increasingly to the right.
He has requested the largest-ever military budget since World War II, for example. This year the U.S. will spend more on its occupation of Afghanistan alone than any other country except China spends on its entire defense budget. Spending for Iraq and Afghanistan will top $1 trillion. That’s enough money to fund 10 years of universal primary education for all of the world’s children, according to UN statistics.
The President has also come out in favor of belt tightening, offshore drilling, nuclear power and other traditionally Republican policies (“drill, Baby, drill!” remember?). And the farther he moves to the right the harder conservatives push him.
It’s about time we heard from the left. But that won’t be easy. Apparently, American media aren’t interested in anything progressives have to say these days. They have so far ignored the Brownbag movement, for example. I can find no mention of the planned demonstration anywhere outside the web. Not even Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow (who routinely preach to the converted on putatively “progressive” MSMBC-TV) has given the Brownbaggers a shout-out.
In the prevailing climate of hostility toward liberals, launching a countervailing force to stem the right-wing tide in America will be hard to do. But at least somebody is finally trying.