In his book Reason, Robert Reich describes the challenge facing liberal Americans today in blunt, accurate terms:
“There are tens of millions just like us – Americans who have had enough of the radical conservatives: their intolerance, their mean-spiritedness, their moral righteousness, their arrogance toward the rest of the world. But they see little or no alternative – many are almost as fed up with comatose Democrats: their lack of conviction, their spineless shift toward a rightward moving ‘center,’ their week-kneed incapacity to tell it like it is.”
Yesterday, one of our Irregular Times writers described just the kind of Democratic behavior that has liberals disgusted: Hillary Clinton’s calculated declaration of war on videogames.
There is a shameful weakness in many Democrats in Congress right now, but there is also a growing grassroots movement to take back the Democratic Party and realign it with America’s tradition of liberal values. This is not just a talking liberal movement, with endless committee meetings tasked with drawing up mission statements over months of endless deliberation. This is an action liberal movement, putting forward liberal candidates for important public offices to challenge the weak-willed wafflers in the Democratic Party to get a spine or go away.
Yesterday morning, I brought news about John Orman, the progressive candidate for United States Senate in Connecticut. John Orman is challenging the wealthy and powerfully-connected Joseph Lieberman, who has served as President Bush’s Democratic lap dog in the Senate for five years.
Yesterday evening, I spoke with another true progressive Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. Paul Richards is running to become Montana’s Democratic candidate for Senate in 2006. Richards is no mush-mouthed pseudomoderate. He’s aiming to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator by promoting a set of bold liberal policies with no apologies. He is pro-peace, for alternative energy development, and promotes full financial compensation for resources that were taken from their lands. Word is that Richards has vowed that if he is elected to the United States Senate, he will engage in a hunger strike in the Senate cafeteria until American troops are brought home from Iraq.
Paul Richards is not a kook out to run a mere protest candidacy. He has political experience, having served as a member of the Montana state legislature after unseating an incumbent candidate. I’ll have a longer conversation with Paul Richards this coming Tuesday, and will bring more information to Irregular Times readers about the policies Richards is promoting soon afterwards. In the meantime, Richards will address the Montana State Democratic Convention on Saturday, to make the case for a stronger progressive identity for the Democratic Party.
Richards is no fool. He knows that it won’t be easy for him to achieve victory over other candidates who have more established connections to Montana’s power elite. Reflecting on his strategy for victory, he has commented, “I’m still of the belief that Montana is a small town, and we all know each other. If I’m correct, I can win on a grass-roots campaign budget. If Montana is buyable by big money, I likely won’t win.”
This kind of balance between idealism and realism is exactly the right path for American liberalism to follow in order to mount an effective challenge to Democratic fatalism about the Republicans’ monopoly on federal power. Liberal candidates like John Orman and Paul Richards might lose in their efforts to reclaim the Democratic Party. However, they would be sure to lose if they never tried.
Each one of us can make a similar effort. We may not be running as candidates for the United States Senate, but we can all, as Paul Richards advises, speak truth to power.
Please, whether you live in Montana or not, give your support to Paul Richards as he speaks up for liberal values in the Democratic party.