Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stepping Up vs. Paying Up

Discussing the prospects of passing substantial health care and greenhouse emissions legislation, Matt Yglesias starts out soundly enough:

The crucial thing to remember is that Barack Obama didn’t emerge out of the ether with progressive policy proposals. Commitments to things like an aggressive carbon emissions target and a strong public option emerged over the course of a presidential primary campaign wherein activists affiliated with the environmental and labor movements created an incentive structure that led the main candidates to make those promises.
Only to arrive, curiously enough, at this:
[I]n general, what’s needed is more persuading and more organizing by the kind of people who did the persuading and organizing that got us the Obama agenda in the first place. [emphasis mine]
I realize what I'm about to say is anathema, heresy, terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad in some circles, but I actually think that now is precisely not the time for more persuading and more organizing. Now is the time for advancing the legislation for which all that effort was expended leading up to the 2008 elections. Now is the time for the president and the large Democratic majorities favored by all that organizing to enact the agenda those activists were promised.

This is especially true of matters currently before congress that were, as Yglesias outlined in the first passage cited above, the substance of so much organizing, persuading, strategizing, and campaigning leading up to the 2008 elections.

Grassroots organizing in the context of electoral politics is the vehicle by which favorable politicians gain power, whereupon it is their duty to use that power to make the changes that animated all the organizing and persuading. If it is not that -- if it exists merely to set the stage for more grassroots organizing, let alone on the same controversial political questions, then it is a complete waste of time. In which case it is even less something of which to say, "now is the time."

After much organizing and persuading, our side won. Now is the time for congress and the president to repay the hard work of those who organized, fought, persuaded, and voted them into power.

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