I remember a few summer ago, sitting at a table eating breakfast with a group of Ph.D's before a day of talks from science policy professionals. I was the only undergraduate student present and largely remained quiet, choosing to listen and learn. In this particular morning I was feeling a little spirited and began a discussion on where and how society needs to move forward. I presented my opinion that some sort of radical movement needs to occur in order to truly mitigate climate change, make the economy more just, and so forth. The looks I received were, at the time, terrifying to me. They were followed by a backlash of how naive I was, in much the same, stuffy, elite tone of voice that should be expected of upper echelon academics.
I'll never forget that moment. Fast forward to what has occurred since then and I wish I could see them all to smile and say, "told ya so."
It seems to me and a growing number of other (well respected) thinkers, that the United States is on the cusp of a new, progressive movement. This movement began at the grassroots level and manifested itself in the netroots. It continued at the local government level as voters looked past the superficial arguments (see previous post) and started voting for progressive candidates in both primary and general elections. More and more candidates and issues oriented groups have continued the discussion on corporate greed, climate change, an unjust economy, and universal health care. A wave of progressive thinkers are beginning to fill the halls of our policy making institutions.
Coupled with an unpopular war, financial meltdown, housing crisis, credit crunch, and increasingly negative natural disasters, many in the U.S. who previously were "unwilling" to act are saying enough. An uprising has been born.
The public trust in both the private and governmental sector are at record lows. Polls show wide agreement on the need for action on a suite of issues that have been unattended to for well over a decade. Jobs are being lost, retirement accounts purged, and debt is skyrocketing, so voters are say enough of the politics as usual - this year is different.
The tragedy of the community - where broad, yet important issues have gone largely untouched due to large swaths of the population being unwilling to act - is gaining attention. Comparable uprisings occurred in much the same manner in 1932 and 1980 - bringing about long lasting changes to both liberal and conservative ideologies, so this isn't a new phenomenon.
As the media solely focuses on the Presidential election, it is important to note that the U.S.'s citizens are speaking...albeit finally. So, while the result of the election is far from certain, there are greater forces at work here. Incumbent politicians aren't safe. Corporate bosses won't be given a free ride. Important issues will no longer be brushed aside for political gamesmanship. Bill McKibben pointed out the need to mobilize the communities to move the country and world forward and it looks like it may be coming soon.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008