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The Progressive Alliance -- A Proposal

Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers

February 15, 2005


"We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately."

Ben Franklin’s warning applies to the progressive opposition to the Bush regime, as much as it applied to the members of the Continental Congress in 1776.

The current political dominance of the Republican party is due to several converging factors, of which we are all-too familiar: enormous financial resources, control of the media, and quite possibly effective control of vote counting and tabulation.

Of equal importance, perhaps, and often overlooked, is the GOP’s ability to construct an alliance out of factions which, one would suppose, should be unlikely political “bedfellows.”

For consider: under the GOP’s “big tent” are atheistic libertarians and evangelical Christians, fiscal conservatives who somehow manage to support Bush’s “tax and borrow” extravagance, charter supporters of the United Nations and international law in league with neo-conservative imperialists and outlaws. In fact, the self-described “conservatives” who support Bush and his agenda, are, by this support, undermining traditional conservative values, such as small government, fiscal restraint, individual autonomy, judicial restraint, international lawfulness and respect, and allegiance to the Constitution.

And yet, amazingly, all these disagreements and principles are set aside for the sake of party unity. In this sense, at the very least, George Bush has in fact been “a uniter, not a divider.”

In contrast, coalition-building in the left has proven to be about as difficult as herding cats. There are just too many "incorruptible" souls unwilling to associate with others whose political convictions are less than 100% congruent with theirs. Such individuals apparently prefer uncompromising defeat to adulterated victory. There were a sufficient number of such "pure souls" devoted to Ralph Nader to cost Al Gore the White House in 2000.

With a facility at coalition-building approximating that of a Karl Rove, the progressives could put together an alliance that might sweep away all the abuses of the far right, and then restore the honor, integrity, and reputation of our Republic.

What this would require, in addition to an abundance of tact and basic strategic smarts, is a capacity for all allied factions to recognize the common threats to their shared interests, to prioritize their goals, and to keep their eyes on the supreme prize: restoration of our democracy and its founding principles, a return to the rule of law, and the renewal of an honored status and an honorable role in the community of nations.

For history has shown, time and again, that effective alliances are formed by the separate parties’ perception of a common threat, combined with an acknowledgment of common values violated or in peril. The advancing Persian armies united the ancient Greet city-states. The abuses of  King George III combined the thirteen separate colonies into The United States of America. And the rise of Nazism united the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union into the victorious Allied Powers.

We must never lose sight of the fact that the core values and interests of the ruling right-wing junta belong to a small minority of Americans. The sum-total of Christian “rapturites” and “dominionists,” though disconcertingly large, is still a distinct minority of Christians. Most Americans would not accept a legal ban on all abortions but instead support a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy. Most Americans do not wish to see the New Deal social programs dismantled, and most Americans support public education. Most Americans reject the imperialist ambitions of the neo-conservatives. And, even though most of those who voted for Bush falsely believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks and was in league with Osama bin Laden, 58% of Bush supporters who held these beliefs, also stated that if in fact Saddam was in no way involved with 9/11 or al Qaeda, the US should not have gone to war with Iraq.  In other words, their votes were based on a lie, and had the truth been told by the media, Bush would have lost decisively – assuming, of course, an honest and accurate vote count. 

The economic interests of a vast majority of Americans are ill-served by Bush’s policies – “reverse Robin-Hood-ism” which takes from the poor and middle classes and give to the rich. The tax burden, as it shifts from investment income to earned income, is falling disproportionately upon the middle class and the poor. Corporate executive compensation soars as the median family income declines.

How, then, do the Republicans keep on winning elections? (Or, as many contend, gather a sufficient number of authentic votes plus fraudulent “e-votes” to compile a false “majority”). They accomplish this with “the Mighty Wurlitzer” – the right-wing media Goliath composed of captive TV news, talk radio, and cable propaganda mills – which together concoct phantom domestic “enemies,” "the libruls,” and inflate foreign enemies, “the terrists.” The Right fully appreciates the unifying force of the public perception (however ill-founded) of common threats and common enemies.

Notwithstanding the remarkable ability of the radical regressive Republicans to keep these disparate factions “inside the reservation,” the Right Wing is nonetheless a fragile coalition. A skillful and relentless progressive attack can lead to defections from this coalition, and even its eventual dissolution. Still better, many or most of the defectors may well be persuaded to join the emerging progressive alliance.

For, the vast majority of Bush supporters have been enticed to vote against their economic self interest. When they come to realize this, they will be lost to the regressive coalition. And however much American public has been persuaded to reject the label of “liberal,” most Americans endorse the program of liberalism: Social Security, support of public education, government regulation of commerce (the administration of food and drug laws, the airwaves, securities, and so on), government support of scientific and technological research and development, progressive taxation, protection of civil rights and civil liberties, the separation of Church and State.  The progressive alliance need only proclaim their support of these popular programs, as it avoids the tarnished label of “liberal.”

The Religious Right must be confronted with the teachings of their most formidable moral adversary: the gentle rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth. In the recorded words of Jesus there is no mention of homosexuality, or of “the rapture” (an invention of 19th Century American preachers). Instead, Jesus spoke of peacemaking, of compassion, of humility, and of tolerance (read the Beatitudes – Matthew, Ch. 5), as he condemned violence, revenge, hypocrisy and wealth.

Libertarians must be asked why they continue to support a party which, through its theocratic faction, endorses a platform of individual repression: laws against abortion, repressive drug laws, regulation of sexual behavior, censorship, the rollback of civil liberties. To put it bluntly, just what do the followers of Ayn Rand have in common with Jerry Falwell? To be sure, libertarians also despise “the welfare state,” and regard taxation in support of the arts, national parks, and even education to be “theft.” But what are their priorities? Those libertarians for whom civil liberties trump property rights belong with the emerging progressive coalition. Once our democratic institutions are restored – a free and diverse press, and civil debate in our legislatures – they can resume their advocacy of the minimal state and supreme property rights. But first things first.

Moderate Republicans have been captivated by a name, “Republican,” and the historical traditions of that party, and thus are reluctant to leave it – to “betray” that party, as some would tell it. Thus they fail to appreciate that, in fact, it is they who have been massively betrayed by the radical regressive and theocratic faction that has captured their party. The ideological and programmatic content of the Republicanism of Theodore Roosevelt, of Dwight Eisenhower, of Jacob Javits, of Nelson Rockefeller, is now somewhere at the center of the Democratic party. What, then, keeps them in the Republican party, except a name or, perhaps, intimidation? “What’s in a name?”

Finally, intelligent and informed capitalists must realize that by persisting in their support of the regressive Republicans, they have elected to remain on a iceberg, floating south into the Gulf Stream. There is no future for them, not to mention the rest of us, in the fiscal and economic policies of the Busheviks. As one of their own, Herbert Stein, put it: “that which cannot go on forever, won’t.”  What awaits us, if we continue on the this economic road, is what Morgan-Stanlely’s chief economist, Stephen Roach, describes as “economic Armageddon.”  The vast majority of professors of economics, including ten Nobel Laureates, agree.  Economists and capitalists understand, above all others, the significance of “rational self-interest.” What, then, keeps them inside the GOP’s “big tent.”

Perhaps it is asking too much that these Republicans suddenly join the Democratic Party. No matter. It is enough that they sever themselves from the regressive theocratic Republican Party. As a third force, independent of both parties, they can ally themselves with the Democrats in the effort to throw out the usurpers, restore our civil liberties and our free media, reinstate our democratic institutions and our good name among the nations of the world.

It was, after all, as such a “third force,” that the original Republican Party emerged in the mid-nineteenth century.

Once this return to a sane, just and civil political order is accomplished, the Democrats and this new force (or dare we suppose, a reformed Republican party) can renew their productive opposition and legislative collaboration, through popular elective representation and orderly legislative debate.  However, not until, together in a new alliance, we slay the dragon at the gate: the regressive, oligarchic, theocratic regime that now “owns” our media and our government.

That alliance begins with an explicit statement of common and binding principles:

1. Allegiance to our founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

2. The assurance of open, fair and verifiable elections.

3.  Freedom of expression, with open access of diverse views to an independent media, free of government control and corporate conglomeration.

4. An affirmation of obedience to the rule of law, including international treaties. Bringing to justice those in public office who have violated the law.

5. A restoration, “with all deliberate speed,” of a balanced budget, and with it the securing of the integrity of our national currency, the dollar, in international trade.

These are the essentials. And all have been flagrantly violated by the Bush Administration and the ruling faction of the Republican Party. One is tempted to add numerous additional principles: e.g., a commitment to alternative energy, the protection and restoration of the natural environment, the separation of Church and State, etc. But the more basic principles enunciated, the less secure the alliance. It is best that the principles be few, and rock-solid amongst the parties of the coalition.

Let us secure first, the restoration of our democracy through strict adherence to these five principles. Then the particular reforms will follow. Then we may be assured that we will have, once again, the means at hand, in the words of the Preamble to our Constitution, “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”


Copyright 2005, by Ernest Partridge


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Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers".



Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances