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The Tragedy of Under-Reaching

After the Election Disaster: Back to Basics

We need to build a grassroots progressive movement -- wide, deep and strong enough to fight the right and challenge the corporate center of the Democratic Party.

The stakes are too high and crises too extreme to accept "moderate" accommodation to unending war, regressive taxation, massive unemployment, routine foreclosures and environmental destruction.

A common formula to avoid is what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the paralysis of analysis." Profuse theory + scant practice = immobilization.

It's not enough to denounce what's wrong or to share visionary blueprints. Day in and out, we've got to organize for effective and drastic social change, in all walks of life and with a vast array of activism.

Yes, electioneering is just one kind of vital political activity. But government power is extremely important. By now, we should have learned too much to succumb to the despairing claim that elections aren't worth the bother.

Such a claim is false. As bad as the election results are, they would have been much worse across the country if progressives hadn't worked hard against the right-wing juggernaut.

For instance, consider the many hundreds of on-the-ground volunteers who rejected the paralysis of analysis by walking precincts and making phone calls to help re-elect progressive Congressman Raul Grijalva. He won a tight race in Arizona's southwestern district and will return to Congress next year -- much to the disappointment of the corporate flacks and xenophobes who tried to defeat him because of his strong stance against the state's new racial-profiling immigration law.

The mass-media echo chamber now insists that Republicans have triumphed because President Obama was guilty of overreach. But since its first days, the administration has undermined itself -- and the country -- with tragic under-reach.

It's all about priorities. The Obama presidency has given low priority to reducing unemployment, stopping home foreclosures or following through with lofty pledges to make sure that Main Street recovers along with Wall Street.

Far from constraining the power of the Republican Party, the administration's approach has fundamentally empowered it. The ostensibly shrewd political strategists in the White House have provided explosive fuel for right-wing "populism" while doing their best to tamp down progressive populism. Tweaks aside, the Obama presidency has aligned itself with the status quo -- a formula for further social disintegration and political catastrophe.

The election of 2010 is now grim history. It's time for progressives to go back to the grassroots and organize with renewed, deepened commitment to changing the direction of this country. If we believe that state power is crucial -- and if we believe in government of, by and for the people -- it's not too soon to begin planning and working for change that can make progressive victories possible in future elections.

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