After Massachusetts, Hope Finally Has a Chance

The historic loss of Ted Kennedy's seat to Republican Scott Brown can signal the start of the successful Obama Presidency. But he needs our help to make it happen.
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Bill Clinton's success as a President began when he lost the House and Senate to the Republicans in 1994. That loss forced the necessary bipartisan collaborations that drove a decade of economic prosperity and social and environmental gains, all while eliminating the federal deficit.

The historic loss of Ted Kennedy's seat to Republican Scott Brown can signal the start of the successful Obama Presidency. But he needs our help to make it happen.

Republican party leaders have been ruthless in wedge politics this year, threatening moderates who dare admit that there may be bipartisan solutions to climate or health care.

But many Democratic leaders have been equally ruthless, placing party politics above the interests of the country and world.

Let's admit it: both parties are straitjacketed by the special interests that own them - the GOP donors whose interests will never be tread upon by GOP-backed bills, and the Democratic donors who are equally well protected by their party.

When Obama was elected, moderates and liberals were too quick to proclaim him the Messiah, after eight years under Mephistopheles. Instead of building the bipartisan movement he would need to be independent of special interests an govern effectively, they sat back and waited to for bread and wine. Meanwhile, opponents worked hard to discredit and destroy the Obama administration as quickly as possible.

As one of the few people who attended both the PowerShift and CPAC conferences the same day, I saw it first-hand. Obama's supporters spent their time celebrating, while opponents were working with enormous determination to undermine the new President.

As a green fiscal conservative and social libertarian, I still believe in the President. But he cannot be a transformational leader without followers ready to work hard to defeat the backwards social conservative ideologues who are busy destroying my Republican Party.

More than half of the American people are fiscally conservative, socially liberal or libertarian, and green. They want to protect the environment, are pro-choice, like technology, and believe in small, smart government. And, with a little more time, they will fully support gay marriage.

The mistake the Democrats have made to date is to focus on big government "solutions" on health care and environment that scare middle Americans, both Democrats and Republicans. The smart policies that set strong standards, but harness a dynamic and competitive marketplace to drive actual solutions, have been sidelined as "moderate" - they don't provide the political wedge that will assure more Democrats are elected next time.

Of course, they haven't chosen "liberal" solutions either, like single-payer health care. That's would be encouraging, if it were for the right reasons. But their alternative has been corporate-friendly and interest-group friendly proposals that just drive up costs.

It's time to put smart solutions to work - even those that don't line the pockets of contributors. The only ways they can win is by bringing together the forces of the left and right who are genuinely interested in solutions.

With no cohesive left-right alliance to pressure Congress, Obama has no choice but to deal with the political powers-that-be, on both the left and the right.

But it is not too late. This mistake was predictable, and perhaps inevitable. Now it's time to learn from it, before the mid-term elections. If we want real health care reform, real climate protection, real change, we need to build a powerful grassroots alliance of the left and the right, right now.

I have said it in past posts: The left and the right are the feminine and masculine of American politics -- the heart and the head, the purpose and the power, the meaning and the means. Liberal compassion is the heart of American politics -- it tells us what we want to be. Conservative discipline, the type that Bush forgot about, that derives from scientific rationalism, is the means of American politics -- it tells us how to get there. When progressive transpartisans unite the "what" and the "how," they gain the power to birth new ideas, and grow them to fruition.

We can't achieve the liberal goal of health care for all, for example, if we don't apply the conservative principle of fiscal responsibility, and drive down today's costs. We can't create green jobs, without green profits to pay for them. We can't stop global warming, if we don't build an information-based and clean tech economy to replace our consumptive industrial one.

What would a Red Blue (and Green) Alliance do?

Decide elections, that's what. The political purpose of a left-right alliance would be to capture the so-called "radical middle" -- the voters who are socially progressive, but fiscally conservative; who believe business and the environment can be compatible; that social and economic objectives are entwined.

Like a political party, a Red Blue Alliance would endorse candidates who support our agenda. Republicans could not get away with offering zero alternatives. Democrats could not get away with cow-towing with lobbyists. Both would be pressed to support policy options that are socially progressive and fiscally responsible.

We don't need 51% of the vote. We need to capture the middle, the swing vote that decides elections. A coalition that can bring together people like Michael Lind and Ted Halstead, journalist Mark Satin, philosopher Ken Wilber; and organizations like the Progressive Policy Institute, the New America Foundation, the U.S. Climate Task Force, Radical Middle, NDN, New Policy Institute and many more. (See especially Mark Satin's list of organizations that have advanced selected radical center ideas.)

These groups and others develop many of the policies we need. But they don't build the grassroots support that makes them viable. We need a political movement of progressive transpartisans dedicated to advancing these collaborative solutions.

We won't win over everyone on the right, or the left. But with ten percent, we will hold the balance of power, and gain a governing majority with its eyes on the future, not the past.

It's our time.

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