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At Last, a Progressive Alternative to Obama

by STEVEN HIGGS

Americans who feel betrayed by timid, capitulatory leadership from Democrats like President Barack Obama now have a candidate to consider at the presidential level. On Dec. 12, 2011, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson announced his candidacy on the Justice Party ticket and the next day laid out a cogent progressive agenda on Democracy Now!

“Although hailing from a solidly red state, Anderson has been known as one of the most progressive mayors of any major U.S. city in recent years,” host Amy Goodman said in her introduction to the report. “During his two mayoral terms from 2000 to 2008, Anderson was an outspoken champion of LGBT rights, environmental sustainability and the antiwar movement in opposition to the Iraq War.”

On both Democracy Now! and in a Dec. 12 article in The Guardian, the former Democrat embraced the Occupy Movement.

“There is clearly a convergence of interests regarding the concerns we have and the concerns of Occupy Wall Street,” he told The Guardian. “There’s little I’ve heard from the Occupy movement that I would disagree with, and I think there’s little we support that they would disagree with.”

***

The Justice Party is needed because the American political system is “corrupt” and “diseased,” Anderson told Goodman.

“We know that the public interest is not being served by anyone in the system right now, particularly the two dominant parties who have sustained this corrupt system and who are sustained by it,” he said.

Obama’s Kansas speech on income inequality last week was “total hypocrisy,” Anderson said. The president has accepted more Wall Street money than any other candidate in history, and he is surrounded by alumni from Goldman Sachs.

“All any of us have to do is look at our pension plans, our 401(k) accounts, and we can see the direct impacts of this economic disaster, brought to us through, by and large, these criminal acts committed by these Wall Street firms and their employees,” he said. “And not one of them has been brought to justice under the Obama administration.”

Anderson compared Obama’s Wall Street contributions and subsequent timidity to his relationship with polluters, from whom he took money and then vetoed EPA efforts to strengthen air quality standards.

“We know that’s not in the public interest,” he said. “President Obama has to know that’s not in the public interest. He’s serving the interest of those polluting industries.”

The corrupting influence of money from the medical insurance industry is the reason America is the only country in the industrialized world without a single-payer health care system, Anderson added.

“The failure – in terms of every major public policy issue – to serve the public interest can be attributed to that corrupting influence of money,” he said. “Just follow the money, and you’ll see why Congress and the White House are pursuing these policies that are so inimical to the interest of the American people.”

***

The same day Anderson announced his candidacy in Washington D.C., Donnelly, the Second District Indiana congressman seeking incumbent Republican Richard Lugar’s U.S. Senate seat next year, lent credence to the characterization of Democrats and Republicans as two faces on the same tarnished coin. In comments made at a diner in Indianapolis, he expressed support for the Keystone XL Pipeline through the Western United States, according to an Indiana Public Media report.

The pipeline would transport synthetic oil from the Alberta Tar Sands in Northeastern Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries from Illinois to Texas. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, has said it will be “game over” for the climate if the Alberta oil sands become a major source of world oil.

“President George W. Bush said that the U.S. was addicted to oil,” Hansen said in an Aug. 29, 2011, story posted on the Reuters website. “So what will the U.S. response to this situation be? Will it entail phasing out fossil fuels and moving to clean energy or borrowing the dirtiest needle from a fellow addict?”

Choosing the dirty needle would show Obama “was just greenwashing, like the other well-oiled, coal-fired politicians with no real intention of solving the addiction,” he said.

Donnelly linked his Dec. 12 comments to Republican efforts to legislatively tie the pipeline to an extension of the payroll tax cut. “If that being in this bill makes it impossible to get this bill done, there are other points at where we can get the Keystone Pipeline squared away,” he said.

The next day, Lugar issued a news release one-upping Donnelly on Keystone. The ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tied the pipeline to national security and jobs as he argued the State Department’s decision to delay action until at least 2013 was motivated by presidential politics. “America’s workers and security takes a backseat to the president’s effort to save his own job,” Lugar said in the release.

Anderson told The Guardian it is clear that Democrats do not represent the change Americans need.

“There are lots of good individuals in the Democratic Party,” he said. “[But] without Democrats voting the way they did in Congress, we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. We wouldn’t have suffered as a nation because of these Bush tax cuts.”

 

***

 

Two-party collusion on retroactive immunity to telecom companies is another example of bipartisan decay and Obama’s failed leadership, Anderson said on Democracy Now!.

“Then-Senator Obama promised this nation, before the primary, before he won the Democratic primary for the presidency, that he would join a filibuster against telecom company immunity,” he said. Not only did he not filibuster, he voted for the legislation. “Who in this country gets Congress to grant them retroactive immunity for committing clearly felonious acts?”

The same goes for Obama’s about face on domestic “war criminals” who engaged in torture in violation of international and domestic law, Anderson told Goodman. “We have this special class of people who aren’t even held accountable under the law.”

To politically counter the corruption, the nation needs elected officials “who are pledged not to just represent the people’s interest in the same system, but to change the system and get the corrupting influence of corporate and other concentrated wealth out of our electoral system and out of our system of governance,” he said.

Anderson told Democracy Now! that the Justice Party’s agenda reflects input gathered from all over the country that demands a new direction for American society.

“It seemed that the notion of justice – economic justice, social justice, environmental justice – that’s what the people in this country want,” he said. “They want an equal playing field. They want the laws to apply to everyone equally. And they don’t want our Congress and our president simply serving the interests of the economic aristocracy in this country any longer.”

Today’s politicians are not leaders, he said. They defer to polls and political considerations, not the public interest.

“You see these people bouncing back and forth,” he said. “They’re unrecognizable from one moment to another. And it’s because of the basest political considerations. How are they to be trusted?”

Steven Higgs is the editor of the Bloomington Alternative. He can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.

Steven Higgs is an environmental journalist and photographer living in Bloomington, Ind. He owns and operates Natural Bloomington: Ecotours and More. His new book A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana is scheduled for release by Indiana University Press on April 20, 2016.

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