A Moment To Celebrate! Hope Is Back!!!
A Moment To Celebrate! Hope Is Back!!!
From Rabbi Michael Lerner
Dear Colleague ,
It’s good to celebrate!...and contemplate a victory for Spiritual Progressives.
Liberals and progressives sometimes have a tough time taking “yes” for an answer. Yet that’s just what the American people have been saying to our critique of Bush’s policies in the polls, and now in the midterm election.
Despite all the worries about an October surprise (the death sentence to Saddam two days before the election didn’t do it), rigged voting machines (some may have been—we don’t know for sure), vote theft by dishonest electoral officials (particularly in Ohio and Florida), and other dirty tricks (and there were plenty, some even rewarded as in Tennessee where race was once again successfully manipulated against African American candidate for the Senate), the American people sent a strong message of critique to the Bush Administration.
So liberals and progressives ought to be celebrating and using this moment to clarify and affirm their deepest beliefs—and insist that their worldview shape the behavior of their elected representatives these next two years. And it’s a particularly important moment for spiritual progressives who have been working hard these past two years to revive a religious left.
Among the lessons that we can draw from this election:
IT’S NOT THE ECONOMY, STUPID. The negative impact of the economy on middle income families was just as apparent in 2004, yet voters did not give this their top attention—despite the insistence of many Democrats that people’s “real” bottom line is economic security.
WHAT’S AN ETHICAL ISSUE IS CHANGING. For much of the past two decades, the religious right was able to convince Americans that the great ethical issues were about sexuality and abortion. In this election, voters in many states repudiated local initiatives sponsored by the Right. Spiritual Progressives convinced many that war, poverty and the environment are central issues. So if pundits try to convince you that the “ethical issues” folks lost, tell them that Americans are growing more sophisticated about what IS an ethical issue.
OPPOSITION TO THE WAR WAS AN ETHICAL ISSUE. After the Vietnam war ended, cynical realists attempted to pooh-pooh the idealism of tens of millions who had demonstrated against that war, claiming that the opposition to the war was merely “self-interest” of those seeking to protect themselves from the draft. While they were demonstrably wrong at the time, they are not able to make that argument after the 2006 election, because there is no draft and those 2,800 Americans sacrificed on the alter of Bush’s political expediency and neo-con global-domination-fantasies are drawn from the economically marginal and politically powerless sections of the society. The growing death tolls in Iraq are overwhelmingly Iraqi civilians, and antiwar outrage today is at least in significant part comes from a growing capacity of Americans to identify with the suffering of others around the world. This is an ethical maturity that gives hope to spiritual progressives who understand that our well-being as Americans depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet as well. And it should make us proud of many of our fellow citizens who two years ago were (in my opinion, unfairly) being denounced by liberals as bigots or moral idiots.
MONEY ISN”T ALL THAT COUNTS IN ELECTORAL
It’s true that it takes a huge amount of money to get your ideas in front of the public, but it appears as if many liberals and progressives were able to raise enough money to make that happen, and then, despite all the vicious negative advertising and distorting of the record of one’s opponents, most voters responded to the issues that were important to them and not to negative ads (possible exception: Tennessee). The next two years will be a particularly important opportunity to introduce the Spiritual Covenant with America that spiritual progressives have been developing for the past two years.
FIX THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM. Third parties can still manage to elect their worst enemies. The Greens in Virginia may have taken enough votes away from the Democratic Party to elect a Republican and give control of the Senate to the Right once again, just as their votes in Florida in 2000 gave the election to Bush. Yet they have every right to pursue their own political beliefs and not compromise with candidates whose views they oppose. A better solution is that of the Working Families Party in New York, where the electoral system allows progressives to vote for the Democratic Party candidate on a Working Families Party ticket (the same candidate can be endorsed by more than one party). That makes it possible for the progressives to show that their votes were significant in the ultimate outcome, without forcing them to defeat the lesser of the two evils. That kind of electoral reform, along with publicly financed elections for all parties (not just the majors), should be at the top of the agenda for both major parties in the next two years, and a focus for referenda and popular initiatives. Another variant also works--instant run-off, as implemented in San Francisco, so that in a situation in which neither candidate gets a majority of the votes, the votes of those who voted for other candidates get allocated to their second choice (!!!) candidate.
WE HAVE A POWERFUL OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE THE PUBLIC DISCOURSE IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS. I have no illusions that Democrats in power are going to suddenly develop a back bone. They will need a powerful movement from below pushing them and Republicans (remember, we are non-partisan) toward taking seriously a Spiritual Progressive world view, as articualted in our Spiritual Covenant with America.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO
MAKE THAT HAPPEN? Here are some concrete steps:
1. Invite your friends over for an evening or weekend party to discuss American politics and the perspective of spiritual progressives. Start it with one of the NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) video tapes (you can get them by calling our office and speaking to ANU or ALLYSON at 510 644 1200 or anu @ tikkun.org, allyson @ tikkun.org or members @ tikkun.org. Then discuss the Spiritual Covenant (we can send you copies, though it is easy to download from our website (www.spiritualprogressives.org). Urge your friends to join the NSP (and of course, if you haven't done so yet, please do it now--you can do it online at www.spiritualprogressives.org or by calling our office.
2. Take the Spiritual Covenant or just our pt. 7 (the Global Marshall Plan) and ask your local city council, professional organization, union, church, synagogue, mosque, civic organization to officially endorse it. Then collect signatures and put it on the ballot. The goal is not to win, but to introduce the perspective into public discourse--so don't compromise on the language of love and generosity!
3. Form a local NSP chapter in your area (we'll send you the member's guide if you haven't yet received one and you have joined--it has detailed ideas about what to do to build the chapter.
4. Meet with your elected officials and bring with you a copy of the Spiritual Covenant with America, and ask them to endorse it. Keep working with them and bringing it to their attention in the coming two years.
Most of all, rejoice, thank God and the universe for the opportunities we have to heal and transform the world and to save our planet from ecological destruction, and appreciate and celebrate the growing goodness in the American people at this moment in time! And the great value of American democracy, with all its many limitations, for giving an opportunity for that goodness in people to shine through all the deceptions and all the distortions. Hope is back in America
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun
Magazine, national chair of the Network of Spiritual
Progressives (www.spiritualprogressives.org) and author of
The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the
Religious Right (which was on the NY Times Best Seller list
this year). He is rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in San
Francisco and Berkeley (www.beyttikkun.org). RabbiLerner @
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