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If You Succumb To Cynicism, The Regressives Win It All – OpEd

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This is for those of you who consider yourself to be progressive but have given up on politics because it seems rotten to the core. You may prefer Obama to Romney but don’t think there’s a huge difference between the two, so you may not even vote.

Your cynicism is understandable. But cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you succumb to it, the regressives who want to take this nation back to the 19th century win it all.

The Koch brothers, Karl Rove, the rabid Republican right, CEOs and Wall Street titans who want to entrench their privileges and tax advantages – all of them would like nothing better than for every progressive in America to throw in the towel.

Then America is entirely theirs.

The alternative to cynicism is to become more involved in politics. Help create a progressive force in this nation that grows into a movement that can’t be stopped.

We almost had it last year in the Occupy movement. We had the arguments and the energy. What we lacked was organization and discipline.

I’ve spent years in Washington and I know nothing good happens there unless good people outside Washington are organized and mobilized to put pressure on Washington to make it happen.

This isn’t new. In the election of 1936, a constituent approached FDR with a list of things she wanted him to do if reelected. “Ma’am,” he said, “I’d like to do all those things. But if I’m reelected, you must make me.”

We must make them.

I suggest a two-step plan.

Step one: Vote for Barack Obama for President and vote for every Democratic senator and representative in Congress. Get off your ass and make sure your friends and relatives do the same.

Step two: Starting Election Day, regardless of who’s elected, commit at least three hours every week to political organizing and mobilizing. Connect with other progressives in your city and state. Help find and recruit new progressive candidates to run against Republicans in swing states, and against conservative Democrats. Support the members of the progressive caucus in Congress. Raise money. Raise a ruckus.

Make it our goal to reverse Citizens United, even if it takes a constitutional amendment. And have public financing of elections (including requiring the media to provide free political advertising as part of their commitment to public service).

Also break up the biggest banks and resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act.

Put a 2 percent surtax on wealth in excess of $3 million. And a one-tenth of 1 percent transaction tax on every financial transaction. And restore top tax rates to what they were before Ronald Reagan became president.

Use half this revenue to pay down the national debt and half to make sure every American has a world-class education.

Put a tax on carbon, and use the revenues to reduce or replace payroll taxes.

Have a single-payer health-care system that delivers care at far less cost than our current balkonized and inefficient one.

And much else.

You say it can’t happen — the system is too rotten.

It won’t happen if you wallow in the comfort of your cynicism. But it will happen if you and others like you get fired up.

We’ve done it before.

I remember when progressives joined with African-Americans to get enacted the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. I remember when progressives stopped the Vietnam War. When women finally got freedom of choice over their own bodies. When the Environmental Protection Act became law.

Who would have imagined two decades ago that America would elect an African-American as President of the United States? Who would have supposed gays and lesbians would begin to achieve equal marriage rights?

Of course we can take America back.

Stop complaining and start organizing.

And by all means, vote.

Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

One thought on “If You Succumb To Cynicism, The Regressives Win It All – OpEd

  • Avatar
    October 28, 2012 at 12:38 pm
    Permalink

    Dear Robert Reich,

    A few Americans working in my country asked me – why I so bother who is going to be next American president? This question was probably inspired by some my comments written at the time, in which I strongly opposed re-election of Bush Jr.

    I simply replied to them that the role of the American president affects every corner of this globe. Despite my opinion doesn’t matter, but I would like eagerly to see President Obama to be re-elected, even he was waging more wars than Bush Jr. did.

    Many cynics worldwide,including in my country,
    would be happy to see Mr. Romney as the new American president, under rationale that it will additionally ruin American image across the globe …

    Any comments?

    Sincerely,

    Dusan Babic, media and political analyst,
    Sarajervo

    Reply

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