240, Not Just 60, Days

Future Hope column, Sept. 7, 2008

by Ted Glick

Now that the conventions are over, the media tells us that it’s all about the “60 day sprint” to the finish line of the November 4th elections.

For those of us who want truly progressive change, however, the number we should have in mind is not so much 60 but 240.

240 days from now will be 100 days after the new President has been inaugurated. If that president is Obama, which I hope it will be, those first 100 days will be decisive as far as what we can expect from him and the new Congress over the next four years. Accordingly, it is critical that the progressive movement prepare itself to keep up issue-oriented organizing from November 5th on. We must mobilize the independent grassroots pressure which will be required if we are to get anything close to what our struggling peoples and our threatened ecosystem desperately need.

If McCain wins, our organized pressure will have to be primarily directed at the likely- more-Democratic Congress. Given’s McCain’s voting record of 90% or more support of Bush/Cheney and his pandering to the hard-right of the Republican Party with his Palin VP pick, it is unrealistic to expect very much from “fight for change” former “straight talker” McCain. But we know from the experiences of the last two years that a Democratic Congress is a weak reed when it comes to standing up to a Republican President. They need to feel the heat of a progressive movement that, while disappointed, does not allow a McCain victory, if it happens, to de-energize us.

Indeed, whoever wins the Presidency, a key way to let Democrats in Congress, and the Democrats generally, know that we want results, not rhetoric and excuses, is for large numbers of us to make clear that we are ready to strategically jump ship via independent progressive Congressional campaigns in 2010. United behind a common program, what if we had Green Party and other independent candidates challenging large numbers of stuck-in-their-ruts Democrats—as Cindy Sheehan is doing to Nancy Pelosi this year–as well as progressive Democrats challenging them in DP primaries? If this was a broadly-based and coordinated effort, if significant numbers of those who have been wedded to the Democratic Party began to assert their independence, this would do more than anything else we could do to advance a progressive agenda.

For the next 60 days, those of us who understand the importance of not just November 4th but the first 100 days of the new Presidency—particularly if it is Obama—need to go about our political work in a way consistent with that understanding. For Obama supporters, even those working within his campaign, this has to mean critical support, a refusal to quietly and meekly support the positions of someone who has made it very clear that, absent grassroots pressure, he cannot be counted on to do the right thing on a wide range of issues.

For those supporting the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney/Rosa Clemente campaign, it is tactically important to keep making the point that in the 35-40 states where it is virtually certain that either McCain or Obama is going to win, if a person believes in consistently progressive politics, and since this is really 50 different state-by-state elections to the electoral college, they shouldn’t waste their vote on Obama. It is also important to stress that while McKinney will not be entering the White House in January, 2009, the Green Party campaign is important to keep alive the future prospect of a strong, consistently progressive, non-corporate independent party and movement whoever takes office. Similar arguments can be made for the Nader/Gonzalez independent campaign.

There are also many activists working not in support of candidates for President or any other office but in support of issues like peace, action on the climate crisis, economic justice, reproductive rights and single-payer health care, organizing to get candidates for office to come out publicly in support of the right positions on these issues. In many ways these efforts are laying the basis for the kind of work necessary during those first 100 days, and beyond.

“Change we can believe in” and “fight for change:” these are the mantras of the Presidential candidates of the two dominant parties. Within such a political environment, with ¾ of the U.S. public believing the country is moving in the wrong direction, there are many openings for building the political pressure which can force strong legislation on a number of key issues within the next 240 days. And if we do this work well, we will be laying the basis for a strengthened, democratic, grassroots-based power to the people movement that will be able to fight for the kind of change we can believe in and, over time, win it.

Ted Glick is active in the climate movement and has been a social change activist since 1968. Past Future Hope columns are archived and contact information for him can be found at http://www.tedglick.com.