DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Hillary Rodham Clinton might well end up with the Democratic nomination for 2016, but that doesn't mean that progressives are buying what she is selling.
There's a reason why so many progressives would rather see U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) run for president instead of Clinton. That's because she is talking about the things Clinton won't talk about.
Economic inequality is the central issue facing our nation. The rich are getting richer. The middle class is slipping into poverty. And the poorest Americans see little hope of escaping it.
I still take Warren at her word that she won't run for president, and I believe she is needed and will be most effective in the Senate. I also believe that the Republican Party, having completely given itself over to the most regressive and repulsive elements in America, will not prevail in 2016 without resorting to voter suppression and assorted other dirty tricks.
So that means Clinton will likely be elected president as the lesser-of-two-evils candidate. But the lesser of two evils is still evil, and Clinton still represents the economic order that plunged the world into deep turmoil seven years ago.
So the job of progressives is to ask Clinton, or any other
candidate for any other public office, one simple question: Do you stand with the people, or do you stand with the powerful?
If the candidate replies, "I stand with the people," the
follow-up question is this: If you put people ahead of corporate
profits, will you fight for paid sick days and a $15 minimum wage? Will you advocate for Medicare for all? Quality child care and education? Increasing and expanding Social Security benefits? Local and federal budgets that promote shared prosperity? A vision of social, racial, and economic justice for all Americans?
The Populism2015 Conference held in Washington over the past weekend raised these questions in a brave attempt to make sure that these issues don't get overlooked as the presidential races heat up.
A group of 750 activists representing a coalition of progressive populist groups have coalesced around this 12-point agenda, taken from the populist2014.org website:
Rebuild America for the 21st Century and Create Jobs for All: America's public infrastructure - from roads to rail to water and energy systems - is increasingly dangerous to our health and a drag on our economy. National investment in rebuilding America and reinventing electric power will create millions of high-quality jobs, bid wages up, help close the racial jobs gap, and make America a better place to live and work.
Raise Wages, Empower Workers and Reverse Inequality: Inequality has reached new extremes as more and more jobs become contingent and part-time, with low pay and few benefits. We should lift the floor under every worker by guaranteeing a living wage, paid sick and vacation days, and affordable health care. We should empower workers to form unions and bargain collectively. We must curb perverse CEO compensation policies that give executives personal incentives to plunder their own companies and pay them hundreds of times what the ordinary worker earns.
Invest in a Green Economy: Catastrophic climate change is a clear and present danger. The United States should lead the global green revolution that builds strong and resilient communities. Public investment in alternative and renewable energy and energy efficiency can create jobs and opportunity, particularly in communities of color that have borne the worst consequences of toxic corporate practices.
To Open Opportunity to All, Eliminate Institutionalized Racism: In a society of increasing diversity, ending systemic racial disparities is vital to building economic prosperity. This begins with comprehensive immigration reform, expanded voting rights and an end to mass incarceration and the systematic criminalization of people of color.
Guarantee Women's Economic Equality: We will ensure that women are guaranteed the same pay, protections and opportunities as men in the workplace and in society. Families must have access to high-quality child care and paid leave from the workplace for childbirth, illness and vacation. Women must also be guaranteed affordable health care and a secure retirement - with Social Security credit for work in the household.
Provide a High-Quality Education to Every Child:Every child must have the right to high-quality, free public education from preschool to college. This requires providing the basics - preschool, smaller classes, summer and after-school programs and skilled teachers. Free four-year, post-high school education should be available for all who seek it. We must also provide relief to the generation now burdened with a student debt that they may never be able to pay off.
Expand Shared Security for the 21st Century: No child should go hungry in America. Health care should be a right, not a privilege. Every worker deserves a secure retirement. A job should be available to everyone willing and able to work. Let's strengthen and expand America's shared security programs 96 Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, food support and housing assistance. Greater
shared security makes the economy more robust by enabling entrepreneurs and workers to take risks, knowing that they can survive failure and create a more prosperous marketplace.
Enforce Fair Taxes on Corporations and the Wealthy: Our tax code rigs the rules to favor the few. Multinationals pay lower tax rates than small domestic businesses. Billionaire investors pay lower rates
than their secretaries. Top income tax rates have been lowered even as working people face ever-higher sales taxes and fees. It is time for the rich and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes so that we can invest in an economy that will work for all.
Forge a Global Strategy that Works for Working People: Our global trade and tax policies are rigged by multinational companies to drive down pay and worker protections while allowing them to harm the environment. We need more but balanced trade, global standards that protect the rights of workers, consumers and the environment. That requires a crackdown on tax havens, currency manipulation, and deals that allow corporation to trample basic labor rights here and abroad.
Make Wall Street Serve the Real Economy: Financial
deregulation has devastated our economy and protected banks that are too big to fail, too big to manage and too big to jail. The financial casino fosters ever more dangerous speculation, while investment in the real economy lags. The resulting boom-and-bust cycles devastate families and small businesses. We need to break up the big banks, levy a speculation tax, and provide low-income families with safe and affordable banking services. We should crack down on payday lenders and other schemes that exploit vulnerable working families.
Change Priorities to Address Real Security Needs: Our current national security policies commit us to policing the world. The result costs many innocent lives and drains public resources. We need a real security policy that makes military intervention a last resort, and focuses on global threats like climate change, poverty and inequality. We should reduce military budgets and properly support humanitarian programs.
Fight for Democracy and Curb the Power of Big Money: From big-money politics to the assault on the right to vote and a corrupted lobby culture in Washington, our democracy is under assault. It is no accident that the assault has escalated as a new majority of people of color, young people and working women has begun to emerge. We need to close the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, and expose the entrenched interests that buy our legislators. We need public financing of elections that bans corporate and big money. We must guarantee the right to vote, with easy access to registration and the polls.
Once upon a time, this 12-point agenda would be called the
Democratic Party platform. But that was a time when Democrats were bold and still cared about the working class, and Republicans weren't insane and still put the welfare of the nation ahead of political expediency.
Today, the Republicans have ceased to care about anything except pleasing plutocrats and winning elections by any means necessary, And most Democrats are too scared to run on a platform like this, afraid that they'll be smeared and red-baited by the conservative attack machine.
But the Populism2015 agenda is what Democratic candidates should be running on. The voters favor most of what it contains. The only people who hate it are the wealthy and the corporations who love the status quo and want it to continue.
The status quo is killing us. It's time for real change, and time for candidates bold enough to embrace real change, fight for it, and ultimately prevail over the forces who now have a death grip on our nation's democracy.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A .from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright 2016 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.