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When the Leaders Lead, the People Have Sorrow

Norman Solomon

Many are familiar with the adage, "When the people lead, the leaders
will follow." But what happens when people enable leaders to follow the
dictates of the powerful?

These days, the answers are arriving in the form of a news drumbeat that's apt to seem like a dirge.

From Afghanistan to Wall Street to the Gulf of Mexico,
policies of military action and regulatory inaction are exacting
terrible costs: in human life, economic resources and irreplaceable
nature. Silence and inaction enable the destructive policies to
continue.

We're living in an era of crises so dire and unrelenting that
many souls must struggle not to shatter. At the same time, the election
cycle keeps turning.

Millions of us have received countless emails this spring
urging defeat of two corporate centrists now in the Senate. Those
messages contributed to positive results in Democratic primaries last
week: After giving mediocrity a bad name for decades, Arlen Specter
finally lost in Pennsylvania. And corporate shill Blanche Lincoln was
forced into a runoff election in Arkansas.

Now, overdue national attention should turn to the imminent
possibility of defeating a powerful Blue Dog in California's June 8
primary -- a war enthusiast, civil-liberties nemesis and Wall Street
collaborator -- Congresswoman Jane Harman.

While Harman may rank even worse than Specter or Lincoln on
scales of odiousness, Harman's challenger Marcy Winograd is far more
progressive than Joe Sestak (who beat Specter) and Bill Halter
(Lincoln's surging foe). Defeating Harman would be a huge victory to
show that progressives can send Blue Dogs packing.

Big money and longtime incumbency bring plenty of advantages.
But for a determined grassroots campaign, a sustained volunteer effort
can pull off an upset. That's the prize where tireless Winograd
volunteers
have kept their eyes. 

Not long ago, the conventional political wisdom pegged Sestak
and Halter as longshots. If progressive groups and individuals had
deferred to that "wisdom," Specter and Lincoln would have celebrated
victories last week.

Despite the weight of the Democratic Party establishment
thrown against Winograd, recent polling indicates that her energetic
campaign is within striking distance of a vulnerable Harman.

Such situations are unpredictable. A strong surge of support
for Winograd from progressives around the country in the days ahead
could undermine Harman's efforts to circle the wagons in her Los
Angeles area district.

The national press does plenty of "horseracing" coverage that
speculates on how many Democrats will win congressional seats in
November. But an unaddressed question is: What kind of Democrats?

Revitalizing the Progressive Caucus in the House will require
some new members -- not only to join the caucus but also to help it
cohere into a purposeful entity. Right now, when the chips are down,
many caucus members seem to be PINOs -- progressive in name only.

Back in the home district, Jane Harman is now desperately
straining to present herself as a "progressive" member of the House.
But she is a longtime member of the center-right Blue Dog Coalition and
has never joined the Progressive Caucus.

In sharp contrast, Marcy Winograd would not just instantly
join the Progressive Caucus -- she would immediately be one of its most
intrepid and resilient members. Anyone who has ever worked with Marcy
is sure that her progressive commitments are unshakeable. That's why
Democratic Party power brokers are doing all they can to defeat her.

Washington's policies are taking their toll from Afghanistan
to Main Street to the Gulf of Mexico. That's why so many people are
more determined than ever to lead from the grassroots by sending
genuine progressives to Congress.


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