Saturday, March 29, 2008

What is Mad Progress?

by: Harry Waisbren

Mad Progress is the official blog for Forward Forum, a Madison based progressive talk radio show that covers issues of civil rights and social justice. The show airs every Sunday night 7-9 P.M. on 1670 WTDY, and is also available via live stream or podcast. The show was founded by John Quinlan, and I have recently joined as a co-host as we both aspire to speak truth to power over the roar of the right wing noise machine. Both the show and the blog aim to achieve these goals, and we hope to integrate the two to increase our prospects for success.

Mad Progress is also the virtual headquarters of UW-Madison's Chapter of Campus Progress, the student arm of the Center for American Progress. Campus Progress has two main goals for our grassroots efforts on campus:

1. To take part in the Iraq/Recession effort through our True Cost of War campaign
2. To advocate for the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq

But what else is Mad Progress, and why do we feel utlizing the power of the progressive blogosphere can help us reach our goal of bursting through the Open Left? The answer lies in the three different meanings we take from its name:

Mad i.e. Madison progress

Madison in particular and Wisconsin in general have been integral to the progressive movement for more than a century. This is the birthright of all Wisconsinites, and we aim to ensure that Madison will once again be a leader in a historical moment so ripe for progressivism. Although Fighting Bob La Follette has long since passed, a new generation of Wisconsin progressives are taking the mantle and making progressives across the nation proud. This includes perhaps the most progressive politician in all of Washington, Sen. Russ Feingold, who has already ensured his place in history through his staunch opposition to the Iraq war, his solo-filibuster of the Patriot Act, and his courageous fight against warrantless wiretapping and the surveillance state. Wisconsin’s governor Jim Doyle has also proven to be quite important to the progressive movement in his prescient leadership on stem cell research, making Wisconsin one of the leaders in the entire industry. Rep. Steve Kagen, despite being only a freshman in congress, has already become one of the prime leaders on health care reform, as his 30 year career in medicine has given him a vital perspective necessary to achieve universal health care. Rep. Tammy Baldwin has also been the embodiment of the progressive movement, not only for her unwavering support for universal health care, but also for her status as the first open lesbian in the United States congress.

However, despite such important leadership emanating from the state capital, Wisconsin has been underrepresented in the blogosphere and the progressive movement in general. It is time to reassert our birthright by focusing our passions and energies onto national issues that can create real change, and if we do, I am certain that the progressive blogosphere and the progressive movement as a whole will be that much better for it.

Mad i.e. lots of progress

There has never been a time in my lifetime where progressives were making such gains as we have been recently, and this is in large part due to the strength of the progressive blogosphere. We're here to help, as many still do not know about the importance of many of these seemingly modest gains. Individually these gains may seem small, but together they represent a sea-change in the way politics function in America. This includes the historic 2006 midterm elections, showing that despite an entirely negligent mainstream media, the people no longer believed in the Iraq war and were no longer susceptible to the baseless fear mongering that sometimes seems like the only purpose for big media in this country.

This success was followed by a blogosphere powered campaign to prevent retroactive immunity amidst preceisely that fear mognering, as such an unprecedented decison would shut down the last avenues to achieving accountability for the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping. This mandate to defend the constitution has also become manifest in the House filing a criminal contempt resolution against former Bush administration cabinet members Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers, which hopefully is evidence of the growing political will on behalf of the democrats to demand accountability for the politicization of the department of justice. The growth of the political power needed to demand accountability can also be seen in the growing attention given to Rep. Robert Wexler’s call for impeachment hearings for Vice President Cheney.

The increasing political power of the progressive movement has perhaps been most apparent through congressional elections around the country though, especially when a strong progressive like Donna Edwards was able to defeat a corporate and establishment connected incumbent like Al Wynn in a democratic primary. This was also made further evident by Bill Foster winning in former Republican Speaker Denny Hastert’s district, which a GOP lawmaker compared to the “toppling of the Saddam statue in Baghdad for Republicans.”

Edwards is already making good on her great potential to be a strong progressive leader by arguing for a Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. Although this plan was crafted outside the bubble of the beltway system, it has already gained the support of 54 Democratic congressional candidates, but don't take my word for it, read it yourself and see what an incredible plan it is. Very importantly as well, the prospects for ending the war as well as for achieving many of our goals as progressives are enhanced extensively by the election of Barack Obama due to a progressive movement symbiosis with the movement Obama is creating. This is especially important as there are a multitude of other reasons to be hopeful about the prospects for a Barack Obama presidency.

It is a great time to be a progressive in America, and although we should never underestimate the ability of the Democrats to capitulate or for the Republicans to criminally and blatantly defend treasonous policies, we should recognize how far we have come despite how far we still have yet to go.

Mad i.e. anger at prevention of progress

Digby made what I believe will be considered a historic speech about the blogosphere and the progressive movement at the 2007 Take Back America conference when she accepted an award on behalf of the progressive blogosphere. Digby described progressive bloggers and the movement at large like this:

We are, in short, something of an enigma. I like to call this phenomenon irrational fear of hippies. And this has, in my view, become irrational fear of political passion. Of all the criticisms I just mentioned, that is one we are all willing to accept. We are passionate about politics, and in this era of Republican corruption, excess, and failure, that passion sometimes manifests itself as anger. But how could you not be angry? So many institutions have failed us in the last decade that being vitriolic seems the only sane response.

As usual, Digby is completely right. Vitriol is entirely warranted, and those who have prevented progress for so long need to be exposed and held accountable. Anger is not something to be ashamed of, as anyone who is not angry is just not paying attention. Furthermore, the pacification of the people following Vietnam, Watergate, and Iran Contra prove that such atrocities to the rule of law will continue unless true accountability is achieved.

I refuse to apologize for my anger, just as I refuse to appologize for my beliefs that the Republican Party has become nothing more than a criminal organization, or that our mainstream media system is so easily manipulatable that it has essentially become a finely tuned propaganda apparatus. What I promise to do, though, is to utilize my passion for achieving a more perfect union to work to stop the degradation of our democracy, and I hope that I can help others become inspired to do the same!

No comments: