War profiteers, housing profiteers, fossil fuel profiteers, climate “solution” profiteers, “health” industry profiteers, fuzzy financial instrument profiteers, drug war and prison profiteers, etc. have all worked their way so thoroughly into the Democratic Party machine that there is nothing else with any vitality. The genuine grassroots engines that powered Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign for President, Deval Patrick’s 2006 campaign for Governor, and Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for President are — by design — blowing in the wind because the causes they’ve been steadfastly fighting for have been scamming them the whole way.
The bright side of all of this is that these campaigns were successful BECAUSE of that legitimate sheen of real grassroots democracy. While Patrick and Obama offered a one-two punch of rhetorical majesty, it happens to be TRUE that “Together We Can” and “Yes We Can.” We NEED “Change We Can Believe In” and we depend on the “Audacity of Hope.”
But we will get nowhere, absolutely nowhere, if we do not wake up to the stark realities of an inherently unsustainable economy dependent on ever-declining reserves of fossil fuels, a swiftly changing climate that is nearing dangerous tipping points towards disaster, and a whole slew of policies from the town level on up through international policy that are geared towards maximized private profits, economic growth, and revenue growth. Martha Coakley represents the cut-off point of the political discourse, because she endorses this madly unsustainable trajectory. The Tea Baggers have legitimate grievances and by making fun of them and ignoring them we play into the hands of the reactionary Right.
The truth is that bi-partisan coalitions in Washington have sunk this nation into debts which it can never repay. From the household level all the way through the US Treasury, we are basically insolvent. And the Bushies and the Obamies have shaken hands on the solution — throwing all their political capital into propping up the failed system by borrowing from the future. Bail out Wall Street, stimulate the fossil fueled economy, and work like hell to ensure that the US military can maintain cheap access to oil and a threat to any country who might try to undermine US interests.
On Beacon Hill it’s even worse because it’s one-party rule with virtually no accountability, transparency, or competition. Uncontested elections rule the day, and our elected officials tend to care more about their own political fortunes than they do about their constituents. From regressive taxes to corruption at every level of government, we have cemented in a rotten system and we seem to lack the vision and dedication to change it.
That’s where the opportunity comes in. With a little bit of vision, ingenuity, and dedication, we can permanently reshape the political playing field. This is an easy task in Massachusetts. The current brand of politics is so vacuous, so tone-deaf to the concerns of Massachusetts voters, so inept and short-sighted and repulsive, that we can walk up to Beacon Hill and overgrow the government. The current brand of politics thrives on people feeling so disempowered, so disorganized, so stuck-in-a-rut that they can’t even go out and collect 150 signatures from their neighbors to simply put a name on the ballot to challenge their State Representative.
Loosely organized constituencies are so deferential to the current office-holders, even when those office holders have proven again and again that they are (for the most part) utterly useless. Underpaid and overworked activists scramble like mad across the state to get shit done, and then defer to these people who inhabit our State House and spit on our democracy. How else could Clean Elections have been thrown out on a voice vote — not even being forced to go on record to throw out the single best opportunity we had to restore democracy in Massachusetts. How else could we allow our state legislature to shirk the Open Meeting and Public Records laws? How else could we allow 75% of legislative races to be uncontested and a 98% reelection rate for incumbents?
The opportunities are endless but we have to see things clearly. We can’t allow ourselves to get thrown for a loop. Beacon Hill is masterful at throwing bones at this group and that group, playing divide-and-conquer politics like they were Olympic athletes.
That is why we need to get smart, and why we need to organize. And we need to do it outside the Democratic Party. Some of us will want to spend our time influencing the people in office. But I really think we need to push on changing the political system itself, at least to open it up to a second party in Massachusetts that can advance a more sensible vision for the rocky road ahead. At least to open it up to more voices and more choices. At least to build some institutions that will not put business interests ahead of the public interest. Building an alternative political party is the clearest opportunity to make permanent change. The Green-Rainbow Party is based on a set of values that most of the people in Massachusetts would agree with. And it is the only political party that is not running away from the frightening realities that confront us. The sooner we name them the sooner we can address them. Anything less is a dangerous avoidance of our responsibility to future generations.