Thursday, December 29, 2005

Progressive Zeroes and Heroes

Ah, the end of a long, complicated year in politics. Time to do the good ole cliched "year in review!"

The lovely Katha Pollitt, whom I had the pleasure of seeing at Bowdoin in December, did a wonderful piece for The Nation in which she points out that 2005 actually wasn't all bad for progressives. Check out her piece for yourself, it's quite good.

I won't bother doing a comprehensive "year in review" piece, because I simply don't have the time right now, and others have done a better job than I probably can. But I will start a new feature for the site, now that I will be regularly updating again. The feature: Progressive Zeroes and Heroes.

Readers of The Nation will be familiar with David Sirota's regular "Minority/Majority" section, in which he points out progressives who deserve kudos, as well as supposed liberals who deserve to be criticized. So, in a similar note, I'd like to award a Progressive Zero and Progressive Zero award for the past year. And starting after the New Year, I will attempt to do these weekly, if all goes according to plan. So, without further ado, the awards....*Cue drum roll

Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat from Wisconsin, is my undisputed pick for Progressive Hero. Feingold voted against both the war AND the Patriot Act, which alone is almost enough to give him undisputed first place. But not only that, he has continued his vigilancy against the Patriot Act, building a bi-partisan coalition to reform it.

Furthermore, and more importantly for the long-term viability of the progressive movement, he has launched one of those ubiquitous leadership PACs, much like other presidential hopefuls such as Kerry, Edwards, etc. But the Progressive Patriots Fund is the most progressive of the bunch, and it deserves your support. Kudos to Russ for realizing that it's not just about candidates winning elections, it's about ideas and building a movement. Let's hope some of his hapless colleagues in the Democratic Party learn a little something from him.

Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party leadership in general receive the Progressive Zero award. They have failed to capitalize on the huge openings created by Republican incompetence and corruption. Most importantly, they have failed to articulate a plan for getting us out of Iraq. Even my old hero, Howard Dean, has been weak on the war. It's time for the Dems to get with the program, if they want to get back into power anytime soon.

There are notable exceptions to this weakness on the war, namely Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy. But by and large, most Democrats have come across as cowards on the war. The majority of Americans want an exit plan, not politically expedient rhetoric. It's time to grow up and support John Murtha and Feingold's courageous calls for an exit plan. Democratic ineptitude on the war is Exhibit A in how the Dems can win back America.

Here's hoping for more Feingolds and fewer Liebermans in the new year!