Five Ways Progressives Can Do Better in 2021

As years go, 2020 was a dumpster fire. Here are just a few of the year’s lowlights…

  • Senate Republicans decided asking a foreign leader for dirt on his political opponents in exchange for military aid wasn’t enough to put Trump out of office.
  • Our president dallied and downplayed a deadly pandemic for months… even though he’d known how serious it was since February.
  • Moscow Mitch McConnell blocked scores of bills from coming to the Senate floor. Including bills to strengthen election security and to send out $2,000 relief checks.
  • The Republican-led Senate rammed through Trump’s third Supreme Court pick just before the 2020 election. In spite of refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination in early 2016.

And so it went.

While our nation is deeply divided, there’s one thing most of us agree on. We can’t wait to see 2020 disappearing in our rear-view mirrors.

Meanwhile, here are five ways we Progressives can do better in 2020.

  1. Stop Squabbling With Moderates

For the last 20 years – or more – progressive and moderate Democrats have shot themselves in the foot over and over. Need a good example? Bernie Sanders.

In 2016, Bernie drew a large and dedicated band of followers. Moderate party leaders rallied behind Hilary Clinton, fearing Bernie would be “unelectable.” And they may have put their thumbs on the scale just a bit.

The result? Angry “Bernie-or-Bust” voters didn’t turn out… or, in some cases, turned out for Trump. And we all know how the next four years have gone.

I’m not saying the more Progressive elements of the party should cow-tow to moderate sensibilities. I’m saying we have to be honest with one another… and compromise. If we don’t, the next Trump is right around the corner.

  1. Change the Districting Game

How does the minority party control so many state legislatures? And seats in Congress? In a word, gerrymandering.

Austin, TX is full of Democrats, but the Republican legislature has carved it into several districts, diluting Progressive votes in the region’s more conservative outlying districts.

Proportional Representation is just one of many ways to overcome this problem. In one form, a party would get seats in a legislature based on the proportion of the total votes it received. So if Party X received 75% of a state’s votes, 75% of the seats in its legislature would go to that party.

Proportional Representation ensures each party would have representation based on the number of voters who support that party.

The result would be parties that sought to win voters hearts and minds… instead of parties that demanded blind loyalty from voters.

  1. End the Electoral College

We directly elect our Congresspersons. We directly elect our Senators. Why shouldn’t we directly elect our President?

Our current Electoral College system puts a handful of “swing states” in the driver’s seat. And this system hasn’t worked well lately.

George W. Bush won the presidency with a minority of the popular vote. So did Donald Trump. In fact, since 2000, Democrats have won the popular vote twice while losing the Electoral College vote. The result?

Out of six elections, Republicans won the popular vote only once (16.66%). But a Republican was sworn in as president three times (50%). Which means the Electoral College subverted the will of the voters in one-third of this century’s elections.

That’s not how democracy works.

  1. Overturn – or, at Least, Defang – Citizens United vs. FEC

The Citizens United decision was a game changer. In simple terms, the Supreme Court ruled unlimited election spending by individuals and corporations amounted to free speech. And, therefore, it could not be banned or regulated.

As long as big spenders don’t “coordinate” with a candidate’s campaign, they can spend as much as they want. In other words, it’s okay to buy an election.

Since then, the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors have flooded election cycles with cash. Donors are disguised by Super PACs that suggest they are grassroots movements. And that don’t disclose the source of their funding.

Many of these Super PACs also play fast and loose with the truth.

There’s no reason Congress can’t pass laws to require PACs and Super PACs to reveal the sources of their cash. Or to penalize those who publish false or deceptive claims about their opposition.

After all, we may have freedom of speech… but that doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. I’m free to (falsely) claim that Donald Trump murders babies and bathes in their blood. But, if I did, I should expect to face a lawsuit and financial ruin.

Buried under lawsuits, the worst Super PAC offenders would have to dissolve.

  1. Bring Back the Three-Martini Lunch (for Congress)

This may sound crazy, but hear me out…

Once upon a time, both Houses of Congress lurched awkwardly forward on an idea called “compromise.”

Compromise is the crazy notion that you’ll give me some of what I want, if I give you some of what you want.

Is it perfect? No. But does it work? Yes. It’s not a direct path to anybody’s goals. But our nation’s history is riddled with progress made via compromise.

Sometimes compromise sucks for everyone. But, more often than not, it makes one side pretty happy… while not making the other side totally miserable. That’s hardly ideal. But look at the mess we have now.

In the 1980s, House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill was famous for hammering out compromises with his opponents. O’Neill even got Ronald Reagan to compromise on the president’s plan to hamstring Social Security.

O’Neill and Reagan are also said to have regularly shared a few post-negotiation beers.

Alcohol is known to cloud judgement. But it’s also known to lower inhibitions. Based on past experience, this may include resistance to compromise.

Maybe – just maybe – a few lubricated lunches are exactly what our government needs to end the current gridlock.