Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Tea Party Energy vs. Progressive Lassitude in Congress

by RALPH NADER

The difference between the sheer energy levels of far Right and the progressive Left in Congress is stunning. There is no comparison. The extreme Right know who they are: bulls. Their pathway to public recognition comes by defying the Republican Party leadership, thereby securing major media attention. This helps these extremists advance their minority-supported goals of privileges for the few at the expense of the many.

Progressive Left activists, on the other hand, make good speeches and statements but generally defer to their Party leaders who are largely out of gas, except when it comes to raising money from commercial interests.

Let’s go to the specifics and proper names. Whatever your opinions may be, it is hard to argue that Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Mike Lee, Representative Justin Amash and about 35 other Tea Party fighters aren’t getting the daily attention of the mass media and setting the agenda for their Congressional leaders.

Republican Representative Amash even managed to get both House Republicans and Democrats within a whisker of properly stopping some of the NSA’s blanket snooping on Americans in July.

The high-energy extreme Right-wing in Congress can nullify the effects of overwhelming public sentiment on many matters that benefit the American people. Where is the pushback by the fifty single-payer (full Medicare for everyone) supporters in Congress as represented by H.R.676 and supported by a majority of the American people, physicians and nurses? Nowhere. The Congressional drums are being beaten against Obamacare. Both Right and Left believe, for different reasons, that Obamacare is seriously flawed. But the progressives have left this best alternative on the shelf.

Where is the progressive Left’s political energy in Congress behind raising the federal minimum wage? Thirty million workers are making less today than workers made in 1968, adjusted for inflation. Had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation over these forty-five years, it would be $10.56 per hour instead of the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. A few members of Congress have put their modest bills in the hopper, but not on the Table. Meanwhile, the far Right opponents can focus their energies on their agenda, unworried that the progressive-Left activists are even going to seriously bestir themselves on what should be a signature issue for them.

After much exhortation by worker-allied groups, Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over three years. Remember over 70 percent of the American people support such an increase. Even Republican Rick Santorum, the 2012 presidential candidate, supports raising the minimum wage.

Speaking with the Democrats’ leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, earlier this year at a social gathering, I raised the need to “catch up with 1968” for thirty million American workers. “That’s a good thing,” she said smiling and moving to the next series of handshakes.

Apparently, not enough of a “good thing” for the comfortable veteran Democrats, with their secure Congressional seats, to aggressively champion the cause of thousands of workers picketing fast food chains, Walmart and federal contractors who pay low wages, while many of their CEOs make millions of dollars a year. Dozens of non-profit advocacy groups and social service associations for the poor, whose members lean heavily Democratic, want an increase in the minimum wage to meet the necessities of life. Even that support, with majority poll-backing, is not enough to get progressive members of Congress to go ‘hell-bent for leather’ like the Tea Partiers.

The self-styled progressive Democrats actually outnumber the self-described Tea Partiers in the Congress. But the latter vastly outhustle their opponents and pressure their own leadership either to go along or be neutral.

Great majoritarian issues such as cracking down on corporate crime, ending tax havens for corporations and the rich, creating public works programs with good paying jobs, pulling back on the Empire abroad, and rejecting corporate welfare and bailouts cannot seem to arouse what is left of the Left in Congress. Sure, here and there these lawmakers are on the record. But they’re not on the ramparts. The mocking Tea Partiers, along with the corporate opponents, know the difference.

Even the best of the Left, legislators such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown, seem unable to vigorously network their like-minded colleagues and allied citizen groups and rev up the horsepower behind their beliefs. At best, with few exceptions, they are Lone Rangers.

Long-time Congressman, now Senator, Edward Markey has taken many a leading stand warning about climate change and the Greenhouse effect on the planet. Yet when Republican Senator James Inhofe, who has called climate change a “hoax,” agreed to debate the then-Congressman Markey, Mr. Markey said he too was willing to debate but then found every scheduling excuse he could to avoid the debate over a period of 18 months! The willing sponsor, Politico, was kept waiting to no avail.

Legislators like Senator Markey are losing the public opinion battle over taking hold of the climate change issue, notwithstanding the issuance of more reports that more extensively confirm the science and point to the already damaging effects on the polar ice caps and the acidification of the Oceans.

Citizen groups are frustrated that their allies on Capitol Hill are continually defeatist and unwilling to shake the place up as the Tea Partiers have been doing even as their financiers in the big business community have become appalled by the Tea Party’s leveraged partial government shutdown and its curled lip against the upcoming debt ceiling crisis.

Progressive words must never mask the absence of progressive action in Congress. The people deserve better than progressive sinecurists in Congress who are so smug that they increasingly do not return calls from civic leaders who press them to move out of their comfort zones and from words to deeds. Many can learn from the very few determined, energetic exceptions within their ranks like the wave-making Congressman Alan Grayson from Florida.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]