Sam Smith – As we move into the last month of this bizarre presidential election, it may be a little hard to remember that our choice is not just between two individuals but between the admittedly more boring but realistically more important issue of the politics they represent. Not voting for Hillary Clinton – her substantial faults notwithstanding – is not about refusing to select the lesser of two evils but is turning one’s back on over 80 years of progress thanks to the Democratic Party’s periodic command of the White House. It is about putting at risk decades of policies towards women, blacks, latinos, unions, the poor, and the environment, among others.
It is not that a President Clinton will do an ideal job of protecting this progress, but that she will respond to the pressure she is under and if that can be defined by those of the aforementioned ilk and interests there is no doubt that we’re in for a better four years.
This is all happening at a moment of substantial demographic shift in our politics. Consider that approximately 60% those 29 and younger support Clinton while only 30% support Trump. The latter are in their last years of influence in our politics. Trump is their last gasp.
But what will replace them?
That will depend in no small part on the skill with which progressive groups of highly varied specialties come together to define a common agenda. These organizations have increasingly restricted their interests to their primary concerns, not recognizing that the success of these concerns in no small part depends upon a broader common agenda.
I was reminded of this the other day when I asked a leader of a Maine women’s group whether it will be supporting a referendum on ranked choice voting which is on the state ballot. She explained to me that they had decided not to because it was not sufficiently connected to their agenda.
But while ranked choice voting is not a specifically women’s issue, it is especially clear in Maine that had we had this system in our last two elections, the current dumb, right wing governor would never had been elected, something that would have helped women along with everyone else.
This is a common problem within today’s liberal and progressive groups: too little attention to the larger concerns and common issues of other movements.
The potential Clinton election allows us to change this approach.
I’ve seen a hint of how it can work. Before the national Green Party got off the ground a group of us held a conference in the early 1990s that many would have said was doomed to failure. We had 125 people from over 20 different third parties ranging from the Socialists and Greens to the Libertarians and Perot people. It was clearly asking for trouble.
But we also had two rules: first, we were there to discuss what we agreed upon, not what divided us and two, we would discover it by some form of consensus. And we did; by the end of the weekend we had come up with 17 points of unanimous agreement.
It was as simple as sitting around tables based on issues and everyone having three yellow stickers with their names on them to paste on the white board list of policies those around the tables had recommended. If yours was one of only a few yellow stickers on a policy you got to move it until we reached a clear consensus.
Something like this could happen now at the national and/or state and local level. Labor, blacks, women, latinos, environmentalists and others could come together, propose ideas they’d like others to support and then have everyone select the ones they like the best. These may not be the top choices of the groups that propose them but would be the ones easiest for all the other groups to support. A broadly supported progressive agenda could be completed by the end of a day.
It would be great if something like this happened before the election because it would give discouraged progressives a reason to vote for Clinton. One can imagine Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Robert Reich as well as representatives from Black Lives Matter and heavily woman labor unions – just to name a few – coming up with a pre-election conference to get the movement going.
It doesn’t have to be perfect – more meetings can follow the election, but it would be the start of progressive unity such as we haven’t seen in over forty years. And well worth a try.