To seize the initiative in the struggle to reverse the prominence and dominance of the conservatives, a liberal/progressive counter-offensive must capture and hold the attention of the nation. In an age where the media is the message, to gain national notice, liberals/progressives need a significant gathering, a happening, an event that will garner significant and sustained mainstream media coverage. Now that the 2012 election season is underway, I believe the time is ripe to inject a third political convention onto the political playing field as a focal point of national deliberation on the policy priorities and direction of the nation. Therefore, I am proposing the convening of a Progressive National Convention (PNC) prior to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
With the right cast of participants and proper marketing, PNC could be the event that commands media attention and conveys the liberal/progressive message to a mass audience nationwide. Accordingly, to be successful the who’s who among liberals and progressives should sign-on to play various roles in PNC – luminaries like Paul Krugman, Arianna Huffington, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Robert Reich, Katrina Vanden Heuval, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow, Ed Shultz, Congressman Bernie Sanders, Bakari Kitwana, Congressman John Conyers, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Bill Maher, Cornel West, Richard Trumka, Van Jones, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Laura Flanders, Congressman Keith Ellison, Amy Goodman, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Tavis Smiley, Congressman Michael Honda, Congressman Louis Gutierrez, Randi Weingarten, Jon Stewart, Congressman Raul Grijalva, Keith Olbermann, Congresswoman Nydia Valazquez, Mark Lamont Hill, Mary Kay Hentry. PNC should be marketed as the most significant gathering of liberals/progressives of our time.
Liberals/progressives would utilize the stage of PNC to offer an assessment of the “state of the nation” as reflected by social indicators on the status of workers, the middle class, people of color minorities and the poor. The question to be addressed is how are the majority of Americans faring, “the many,” in the wake of the “Great Recession” precipitated by the reckless and reprehensible behavior of “the few,” the corporate and financial elites on Wall Street. PNC would afford an opportunity for liberals/progressives to advocate for an inclusive, expansive democracy which provides ready access to and encourages participation in the electoral political process by everyone in our society. And, of paramount importance, especially in this period, liberals/progressives could vigorously articulate the vision, values and broad contours of a “socially responsible economy” which ensures economic justice and security for all. PNC should adopt a three to five point “popular” platform of policy priorities for the 2012 election. Finally, liberals/progressives should unfold a plan and strategy to influence the proceedings of the Democratic National Convention (it is not likely that Republican/conservatives can be budged at this point), to impact the outcome of the 2012 election and create a mechanism to function as an independent force to advocate and advance policies for progressive change beyond the election.
In composite, the principal goal is to draw a sharp contrast to the vision, values, priorities, policies and history of the conservatives. The objective is to assist the majority, the many, within the American electorate to understand on whose side they should stand in the 2012 election and beyond in terms of extricating the nation from the current economic abyss and building a better future. This should involve a clear expose of efforts to limit voter participation in past elections and the anti-democratic nature of current schemes being advanced by conservatives to restrict the franchise, e.g., requiring specific forms of identification to vote and efforts to repeal voting by mail that has made casting a ballot easier in a number of states. Moreover, denying the franchise to formerly incarcerated persons who have completed their sentences is a form of double
Jeopardy - depriving them of their most basic right as Americans, the right to vote. This injustice must be corrected.
The U.S. has the lowest level of voter participation of any western democracy. The large number of non-voters is an embarrassment and national disgrace that one would think would be addressed by bipartisan initiatives to encourage rather than discourage voter participation. This is not the case. Taken collectively, the net effect of the restrictive voting measures initiated by conservatives is to constrict rather than expand participation in the electoral process. These measures are advanced out of fear that if properly motivated and mobilized the majority will side with liberals/progressives to the detriment of conservatives, thereby constraining their capacity to effectively advance and protect the interests of the few. Liberals/progressives must be on the offensive, not only exposing the reactionary, anti-democratic character of restrictive measures proposed by conservatives, but promoting reforms designed to dramatically expand voter participation, e.g., election holidays, same day on-site registration, cumulative voting, instant run-off voting, permanent registration, proportional representation, fusion. Liberals/progressives must demand that the voices of the people, the majority, be heard as a check/counter against the machinations of the few!
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com.