Amy B. Dean – Co-Author, “A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement” – Posted: December 21, 2010 09:50 AM
There’s no sugarcoating it: 2010 was a rough year for progressives. Looking back, there were plenty of bad and some downright ugly moments for us, culminating in the Republican victories in the November midterms. But pointing fingers and looking for places to lay blame doesn’t get us very far.
There are lessons to be learned from our failures and hopes to be drawn from our successes that can point to how we can have better political results in 2011 and 2012. Just look at the actions taken in the Senate this weekend. The failure of the DREAM Act and the successful repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) are indicative of the roller coaster ride we have been on with Congress this year. They are also examples of how persistence and a strong grassroots program can pay off in the long run. The fight to repeal DADT failed before it succeeded and I have hope that the DREAM Act has only hit a stumbling block on the path to passage.
One of the highlights of this year for me was Senator Bernie Sanders’ eight-and-a-half hour filibuster on the Senate floor in defense of the American middle class. Regardless of whether you think that President Obama’s tax cut deal was a wholesale sell-out or that extending unemployment benefits was important enough to compromise for, the Sanders filibuster showed how progressives can make a strong, clear stand against corporate privilege and for working families.
Sanders’ stand should provide a lesson for the White House. We could have imagined the president and his surrogates holding public meetings across the country this fall to say, “This is where we’re going to extend tax cuts to the middle class, and this is where we are going to draw the line.” By mobilizing his base, getting outside Washington, and refusing to play inside baseball, Obama could have produced a different national discussion about taxes and created a very different set of possible policy outcomes. Sanders showed how to do it right in the future.
Washington was not entirely devoid of bright spots over the course of the year. For one, while we might not have been entirely satisfied with the health care reform that finally passed, it will nevertheless extend health coverage to over 30 million Americans who would have otherwise been uninsured. This is no small change. Moreover, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in the House of Representatives put up a steadfast fight for the public option. Viewed as an isolated effort, it was a failure. But if we look at it as a model for future behavior, it is far more promising. Our elected officials need to push for what’s right on an on-going basis, instead of accepting what’s already on the table. Because it is by continually pushing the envel