Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Robert Reich: Why we must try

Subtitle: You shouldn’t listen to the “we-must-not-try” brigade. They’ve lost faith in the rest of us.

The take-away message from Robert Reich's post at CommonDreams.org is to dream large and act boldly. But to do that, we have to stop listening to Democratic Defeatists.

Instead of “Yes we can,” many Democrats have adopted a new slogan this election year: “We shouldn’t even try.”

Here are just a few examples.

We shouldn’t try for single-payer system, they say. We’ll be lucky if we prevent Republicans from repealing Obamacare.

We shouldn’t try to restore the Glass-Steagall Act that used to separate investment and commercial banking, or bust up the biggest banks. We’ll be lucky to stop Republicans from repealing Dodd-Frank.

Most of all, we shouldn’t even try to get big money out of politics. We’ll be lucky to round up enough wealthy people to back Democratic candidates.

Those excuses results from a reactionary, not a progressive, view of the world.

Reich argues for a revival of the spirit that brought us voting rights and EPA and ended the Vietnam war.

“We-shouldn’t-even-try” Democrats think it’s foolish to aim for fundamental change – pie-in-the-sky, impractical, silly, naïve, quixotic. Not in the cards. No way we can.

I understand their defeatism. After eight years of Republican intransigence and six years of congressional gridlock, many Democrats are desperate just to hold on to what we have.

And ever since the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision opened the political floodgates to big corporations, Wall Street, and right-wing billionaires, many Democrats have concluded that bold ideas are unachievable.

In addition, some establishment Democrats – Washington lobbyists, editorial writers, inside-the-beltway operatives, party leaders, and big contributors – have grown comfortable with the way things are. They’d rather not rock the boat they’re safely in.

I get it, but here’s the problem. There’s no way to reform the system without rocking the boat. There’s no way to get to where America should be without aiming high.

Reich then lists a long agenda for action that begins with addressing the economic inequality and the concentration of political power among the wealthiest few.

... time and again we’ve learned that important public goals can be achieved – if the public is mobilized behind them. And time and again such mobilization has depended on the energies and enthusiasm of young people combined with the determination and tenacity of the rest.

If we don’t aim high we have no chance of hitting the target, and no hope of mobilizing that enthusiasm and determination.

The situation we’re in now demands such mobilization. Wealth and income are more concentrated at the top than in over a century. And that wealth has translated into political power.

The result is an economy rigged in favor of those at the top – which further compounds wealth and power at the top, in a vicious cycle that will only get worse unless reversed.

It calls for bold action indeed. Heading into the Presidential primary, one must ask which candidate is prepared to move on Reich's agenda with "bold idealism" and "determination and tenacity." For starters, ask which candidate will move on policy changes needed to prevent the pitchforks from coming.

We must get big money out of our democracy, end crony capitalism, and make our economy and democracy work for the many, not just the few.

But change on this scale requires political mobilization.

It won’t be easy. It has never been easy. As before, it will require the energies and commitments of large numbers of Americans.

Which is why you shouldn’t listen to the “we-must-not-try” brigade. They’ve lost faith in the rest of us.

We must try. We have no choice.

Try this take on Reich's message. It is said that perfect is the enemy of good. We must not let practicality become the enemy of better.

Read about other items on Reich's list here.

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