Progressive Revival

Progressive Revival


American Liberals and Progressive Never Miss an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity — or Are We ready to Change Directions

posted by Michael Lerner

Progressives have been blessed in the past two years with three
significant opportunities to change the fundamentals of American
society. We’ve already blown the first and are missing the second and
third.

The first, of course, was the economic meltdown. What a moment that
could have been for progressives in Congress or the White House to
challenge the ideology of “leave it to the marketplace” or “leave it to
the states” to work things out. Imagine if President Obama had told
Wall Street and the Republicans, “OK, lets test your theories right now
— lets just let the marketplace work its wonders as the banks fail.”
And had they pleaded for relief, it should have been given on condition
that they enthusiastically and simultaneously back and help implement a
single payer health care plan, the creation of a national bank to fund
no-interest loans to people on the verge of losing their homes from
deceptive mortgage loan offers and to fund socially useful and
environmentally sound new projects to offset unemployment, the funding
of a massive new WPA-style full employment program to make sure that
everyone who wants to work can and can use their talents in ways that
are societally useful, and to encourage small businesses, and the
creation of a whole new set of laws restricting banking and investment
company operations to make them respond to the needs of the society and
not just to the profit motivations of their investors. Well, that
chance was blown.

The second opportunity is now being blown by the Obama
Administration: the Gulf Oil spill. Here is a moment in which the logic
of capitalist exploitation of the planet is exposed for everyone to see.

The President should be calling this a national emergency as serious
as that of 9/11, and should declare a war on those who are destroying
the environment. He should call for a special session of Congress and
ask for emergency powers to suspend any corporate activity here or
abroad that threatens the planet Earth, under his war powers and as a
manifestation of his sworn obligation to protect and defend the United
States.

Obama should explain to the American people that we are literally
living through what environmentalist Paul Wapner calls “the end of
nature” unless we change the fundamentals of how we organize our global
economy and our relationship to the planet. Instead of seeing Earth as a
resource for human exploitation, we need to think of Earth as our very
bodies, and the damage we do to it similarly to what we might be doing
if we were cutting off limbs from our bodies. We need to cultivate in
ourselves and each other the capacity to respond to the universe with
awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of All
That Is.

That conception should be matched by environmental policies aimed at
cutting carbon emissions to 350 in the next ten years, scrapping
“pollute and trade” for a powerful carbon tax, the creation of a
national environmental board which must verify that every product made
or sold in the US is produced, marketed, and sold in an environmentally
sound way with an ES (environmentally sound sticker), the elimination
of all trade agreements that favor the US at the expense of local
farmers around the world, the use of the armies of the US as part of a
UN Force with the mandate to prevent the destruction of rain forest and
other environmentally vital parts of the globe, and the implementation
of a Global Marshall Plan to eliminate the extremes of poverty and
hunger that contribute to some of the poor being willing to destroy the
planet just so that they can (quite reasonably) feed their own
families.

The third opportunity remains: the decision of the Supreme Court in
its Citizens United ruling to overturn constraints on corporate
donations to candidates for office. The right wing majority on the court
boldly proclaimed that corporations are persons, persons’ speech is
protected by the first Amendment, and spending money is a form of
speech.

Over 80% of US voters oppose that decision and understand that its
implementation is likely to end the last vestiges of democratic openness
in American society and replace it with corporate advertising
manipulation of our consciousness.

The process of undermining democracy and control of elections by the
corporation and elites of wealth and power was already quite advanced
before this recent Supreme Court decision, so if we confine our
attention to overthrowing Citizens United we will not thereby restore
real democracy in the U.S.

Unfortunately, most progressive and liberal groups are following this
mistaken path. Correctly understanding that any legislation on the
issue of democracy for ordinary people and not for corporations is
likely to be overturned by the right-wing court we have at the moment.
But then they propose narrowly framed amendments to the constitution
that would do little more than return us to the status quo ante.

For that reason, we at Tikkun and our educational arm The Network of
Spiritual Progressives will be putting forward a new approach. We are
inviting secular progressives and liberals to join with spiritual or
religious liberals and progressives at a Strategy Conference in
Washington, D.C. June 11-13 to develop a coherent strategy for the Obama
years ahead. And a central part of that strategy is a campaign for the
ESRA: Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution.

The first Article, the Pro-Democracy Clause, of the ESRA proclaims
that protection of freedom of speech only applies to human beings nor
shall money be considered a form of speech. It then goes on to regulate
the expenditure of money in elections and to fund national elections,
prohibit anyone from buying time or space in the media during the three
months before the election but mandates major media to provide equal and
free time to major candidates, and other steps to ensure that
differentials in money will no longer be a factor in determining how
much of a candidate’s message is communicated to voters.

The second Article is the Corporate Environmental and Social
Responsibility Clause.

This would require corporations with incomes of over $100 million per
year (not smaller companies or “mom and pop” stores) must get a new
corporate charter every five years which will only be granted to those
that can demonstrate a satisfactory history of environmental and social
responsibility (toward its workers and toward the communities in which
it functions) to a jury of ordinary citizens chosen at random (because
we already know that regulatory agencies become dominated by
representatives of the very corporations that are supposed to be
regulating). Along with corporate management, employee groups and
stakeholder groups from wherever that corporation or its products reach
would present their information about the level of corporate
environmental and social responsibility.

A “Positive Requirement to enhance human community and environmental
sustainability constitutes Article three. Most notable in this Article
is that it requires of any school that receives federal support that
they teach the skills and capacities necessary to develop a caring
society manifesting love, generosity,kindness, joy celebration,
thanksgiving, forgiveness, non-violence, rational and scientific
thinking, awe and wonder at the universe, and the recognition that our
well-being depends on the well-being of everyone on the planet and the
well-being of the Earth itself. It further mandates the teaching of all
knowledge and skills required to assure that all students can contribute
to the implementation of policies that enhance the long-term
sustainability of Earth.

It will take just as long to get the shorter more narrowly framed
attempts to overthrow Citizens United as it will this broader ESRA
version. Yet in the actual struggle for change, the ESRA goes far deeper
and is far more likely to stir the enthusiasm of the American people
and the activists necessary to carry a campaign for Constitutional
reform to every corner of the country. What Obama should have learned
during the fight for health care reform — that the full weight of
corporate power gets mobilized just as heavily for moderate reform as it
would for a more appealing broader and deeper reform. And the broader
reform, precisely because it spells out what we are seeking, is much
more likely to generate popular support and to educate people along the
way to a vision of a different, more democratic and more environmentally
responsible, society.



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Comments read comments(7)
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joe

posted May 28, 2010 at 7:19 pm


get a grip



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The Critical Cleric

posted June 4, 2010 at 10:50 am


All three of these missed opportunitis are the manifestation of the biggest missed opportunity which is the decision to be Democratically COURAGEOUS! I hope your efforts this month change this progessive tendency.



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John

posted June 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm


How in the world did this… faintly disguised as something to do with a relationship with Jesus Christ manifesto calling for a Godless earth worshiping society that would have most of our economic freedoms eliminated and controlled by a government bent on basing all human activities on the total lie of mankind being the cause and effect of climate change…..misguided rant get posted under the heading of “CHRITIANITY” ???
The author obviously is far from being in “one mind with Christ”on all accounts and is attempting to lead the unknowledgeable down the path to a socialist / progressive governance which will destroy all the tenants that our freedom loving Republic was founded upon . This must not be !!!!



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Travis

posted June 9, 2010 at 4:23 am


I am Canadian, and I wanted to say that this article sounds like something out of the Green Party! For crying out loud, you folks need to figure out that Free Enterprise is what makes Canada and the USA great countries, and why so many people pin their hopes, dreams, and livelihoods on coming here.
The only people discriminated against are those who produce nothing and only take from those that do (no offense to government employees); it’s unfortunate that people are broke, but they are broke for a reason, and it’s usually not curable with money.
….and, with all due respect, Obama has made a mockery of what I remember your country to represent. I am sorry, but it is true.
God Bless (Yes, GOD bless – not the ‘environment bless you,’ but God Bless You).



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Bart

posted June 14, 2010 at 6:49 pm


Um, uh, John, I’m not sure how you encountered this posting by Michael Lerner, but you might be interested to know that Rabbi Lerner is Jewish.
I don’t know how relevant that might be to you, because I don’t get the feeling that you’re terribly open to what he has to say anyway, but complaining about this being poorly connected to Christianity sort of misses the point.
Maybe you could enlighten us about Jesus’s teaching on corporate personhood or which of the tenets our country was founded upon cover allowing BP to cap its liability for environmental catastrophe at $75 million?



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Freedom is not Fair

posted July 22, 2010 at 6:58 pm


Being shallow and having the attitude that giving someone money gives that person a good life or rather “Earning large amounts of money is wrong and evil.” Money does not measure self worth or talent.
Money is only a measure. Money can measure how well someone can manifest with their time & energy with their passion and produce something of value. That is all. Money is a illusion and is only paper.
If you take away all the money a CEO earns, every penny, then who cares. The CEO does not care. WHY? On one can take away all the personal and professional relationships they’ve made, you can’t take way the person passion they have, or talents, beauty and you can’t take away their freedom to manifest it all over again.
Liberal & progressive can not handle the unfairness of life. Freedom gives poor people a chances everday to become RICH and Freedom gives Rich people the liberty to fail and live in the streets & under bridges dependant on drugs.
But, one thing is clear. American is no longer a free country. Our government has taken these last 40-50 years and has taken away every opportunity for another country to every become so great and so Rich in such a litle amount of time. America Shocked the World and it will never happen again. These are the good old days.
Sad, but I am happy I got to live in American when it was Free & Great



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Kevin

posted September 2, 2010 at 12:04 am


I think it’s just sad that a majority of Americans think ideas like yours Mr. Lerner are evil. I just don’t understand. Did Jesus heal only the people with good jobs? What did he tell the rich young man? Just give away the possessions’ you don’t really won’t, and give what money you can. Did he preach free market society? The only market I remember him going to, in the temple, didn’t go over so well. Why can’t everyone do with just a little less? Do the super rich need several homes and cars because they can afford them? This is the richest country in the world and people still die because of the effects of poverty. This summer in Memphis 19 people died from heat, simply because they couldn’t afford air conditioners or electricity. And companies spend billions of dollars on advertising, to get more billions. It makes me sick. We as Americans are selfish and inconsiderate. As long as we have our little comforts in our own little bubble of a life we don’t care about the suffering citizens of our Country. I pray Jesus convicts our hearts to become the Christ-like society we could be. Instead of the Pharisee society of moral judgments that we have now. Please Lord, open our eyes!



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