The Progressive Agenda: 9 things progressives should focus on now that the election is over - Pt. 1


By Jeff Waldorf



Last week, Americans made their voices heard in one of the most important elections I've ever taken part in. It was a rebuke of the obstructionist tactics of the right and a clear sign that the Tea Party movement that took the nation by storm in 2010 is largely over. Many of the Tea Party Congressmen were hoisted out of office to be replaced by progressive champions like Elizabeth Warren. It appears the political pendulum has finally swung back to the left.

It's now an opportunity to bring forth a progressive agenda to counter the 30-year-old Reagan revolution that has led to so many of our current problems. This is a list of some of the problems we need to tackle to bring the country forward.


1. Citizens United

There is no doubt that this election was the most expensive election in history. The Atlantic Wire had a breakdown of just how much this election cost. Even though people power won this time, there's no guarantee that the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will not try it again. Just imagine if the Republicans had run a better candidate than Romney and had all of that dark money. Scary, and a lot of that corporate money went to defeat some very important ballot initiatives in the states, like California's Proposition 37, which would mandate that GMOs be labeled. Companies like Monsanto and Hershey's contributed $44 million to fight prop 37 compared to their opponents, who raised $7.3 million. That money went to ads that warned consumers that GMO labeling would cost them more money in the grocery store, as well as costing small businesses and hurting grocery chains.  

Another ballot initiative that failed due to the ad blitz of big corporate ads was Michigan's Proposition 3. Prop 3 aimed to create a renewable energy standard within the state constitution. The law is aimed at reducing the states consumption of coal which makes up 58% of the energy usage in Michigan. It also aims to make 25% of the energy Michigan uses come from clean, renewable energy sources by 2025. The Koch brothers group Americans for Prosperity chipped in $1.5 million into ads that opposed the measure. Citizens United needs to be #1 on the list of things to overturn on the Progressive agenda to make sure that corporations can no longer give money to campaigns used to mislead the public into voting against their own interests. Also I'm a huge proponent of and their effort to amend the constitution to remove the influence of money in politics. I strongly suggest signing up with them and getting involved in the fight. 

2. The Drug War 

With the recent election came great news for proponents of marijuana. Colorado and Washington State fully legalized recreational pot. And Massachusetts legalized medicinal pot, joining the other 17 states that now allow for medical marijuana. Regardless of that, Federal law still considered marijuana to be a schedule 1 drug and therefore still illegal under federal law. That needs to be changed.

The Progressive agenda involves ending the drug war completely and no longer putting people into for-profit (or any) prisons for nonviolent drug offenses. That not only saves money but it's the right thing and the progressive thing to do to end the prohibition of something that is not as dangerous as alcohol, and has been proven to have medical benefits such as helping with the pain of arthritis and helping to control spontaneous epileptic seizures, as well as having countless other industrial uses. Classifying marihuana as being as dangerous as cocaine and other schedule 1 drugs is ignoring the facts. Marijuana is much safer alcohol, according to professor Robert Gable, who wrote an Op-ed in the New York Times: 

"When it comes to the chances of immediate death by chemical toxicity, marijuana is about a hundred times safer than alcohol or cocaine."

NORML, the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, has a great chart on some of the potential medical uses of Marijuana as well. Pushing President Obama as well our congress to end this war on drugs and fully legalize Marijuana at the Federal level. should be a big part of the Progressive agenda for the next four years. History and public opinion are on our side

3.Climate Change

Hurricane Sandy finally brought the discussion back to climate change. It had been absent save for a joke during the RNC by former candidate Mitt Romney who said:

"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise … is to help you and your family."


I don't think tax rates are going to matter much when climate change gets through with us. Climate change needs to be jumped on now. Right now we're already at the point where we're too late to stop the damage we've already caused to the environment, but that doesn't mean we can't do more to stop further damage and disruption of our planet. This July was the hottest on record, and this summer was the third-hottest ever. We broke hundreds of heat records, had a record drought that will soon be impacting food prices, devastating fires, and lost over 600,000 square kilometers of arctic sea ice. More than has ever been recorded. 


This is probably the most important thing we can do now to help future generations, and the time to act on it is now. The Progressive agenda involves getting as many of our politicians to begin passing legislation to reduce the amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere, such as opposing the Keystone XL pipeline that would ferry the extremely dirty tar sands oil from Canada to Texas at great environmental cost. The tar sands hold the largest amount of trapped carbon in the world. In a New York Times Op-Ed James Hansen writes:

"If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk."      

Not exactly a rosy picture to paint for the future, but we're very well on our way to destroying ourselves for cheap oil. 

Even though carbon emissions are now at a 20-year low, partly thanks to hydraulic fracturing, natural gas is still adding to our global warming problem, as well as a host of other problems related to the process widely known as fracking. Hydraulic fracturing is a method of injecting water, chemicals, and sand into underground shale rocks in order to fracture them and release natural gas that is trapped in them for use. Although the process doesn't emit carbon, it does emit methane, another gas that contributes to global warming. Although natural gas doesn't emit as much carbon as burning coal, you're still releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Slowing the inevitable. Not to mention is has some other problems, like how it has led to the contamination of drinking water, as well as being linked to earthquakes. It's hard to get an honest description of fracking and its effects because the companies that do it are Halliburton and Shell. Not to mention that the fluid used is a proprietary mix that is kept secret. For a great breakdown on how fracking works I suggest checking out the movie Gasland by Josh Fox

Another part of the climate change portion of the progressive agenda is aggressively developing and championing renewable energy. That means supporting ballot initiatives such as the previously mentioned Proposal 3 in Michigan. So far, over 30 states have amendments that are similar to Proposal 3, but we need to do more to champion clean energy and ensure it has more than adequate funding. 

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Showing 3 reactions

commented 2012-11-14 20:46:56 -0500 · Flag
Well I mean Climate Change won’t ever really be resolved in a growth (read: capitalist) economy, but yeah it’d be nice to actually do something about it and then build on it. Ultimately we need to stop growing, like, now.
commented 2012-11-13 16:43:54 -0500 · Flag
Absolutely, the real work begins after the election!
commented 2012-11-13 13:34:50 -0500 · Flag
Let’s hope people don’t turn off their attention to the issues like 2010.

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