Independent Media, Independent Political Movements,
and Independent Electoral Activity is the Path to the Paradigm Shifting
Change America Needs.
by Kevin Zeese / July 3rd,
If I had to pick one word for Americans who want real change, it
would be independence.
Not only because the United States was founded on the idea of
independence but because those of us who work to try and change the
country for the better and have studied American history have learned
this has always been the critical ingredient for real change.
First, we need independent media. Web based outlets like this one
are a critical ingredient to the success of advocacy efforts. Like so
many businesses in the United States, the media is controlled by a
concentrated group of corporations. A handful of companies own all the
hundreds of television stations on your cable TV. The same is true of
radio stations. More and more newspapers are part of syndicates. These
conglomerates have brought about a homogenization that only reports a
concentrated corporate perspective.
The media does not report on the incredible activism taking place all
around the country. They don’t want America to have another Martin
Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Ralph Nader and so many others who in the
past helped to move the United States, in part because the media
reported on their activities. Now we only hear about corporate CEO’s
and elected officials elected due to corporate donations – otherwise, it
is sports stars and entertainment.
The truth is there is more activism and organizing going on than even
those of us working for change realize. If you attended the U.S.
Social Forum in Detroit this month you could see it – at least 12,000
people attended, almost all were parts of organizations representing
many more people, each working on a range of issues from housing and
banking, to peace and criminal justice – people working to transform the
American economy and political system. Did the media report on this
conference? Does the media report on the movements these people are
This leads me to the second area of independence we need –
independent political movements. Throughout history it has been
independent movements that made paradigm shifting change happen.
Woodrow Wilson worked to prevent women from getting the right to vote.
Leading suffragists were jailed and tortured during his presidency for
protesting outside the White House. But in the end, woman got the right
to vote while he was president.
LBJ was a member of a political party dominated by southern
segregationists. They opposed African American voting, ending Jim Crow,
blacks and whites living together, going to school together, eating in
the same restaurants – but LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act because an
organized, independent civil rights movement demanded it. Richard
Nixon, a war hawk, did not want to end the Vietnam War, admitting defeat
of the U.S. military. He was forced to by a persistent and independent
anti-war movement that criticized both political parties for their
support of the war. The peace movement – and the people in Vietnam
resisting U.S. aggression – forced Nixon to end the war.
The Obama era has shown many Americans that advocacy groups that work
hand in glove with the Democratic Party sell out their base and claim
false victories. A prime example is the health care bill. This
“reform” protected the status quo – health care dominated by private
insurance was the problem before reform and remains the problem. The
bill will result in hundreds of billions of dollars going to the
insurance industry every year in tax payer subsidies and Americans being
forced to buy their flawed corporate products.
The cost of health insurance was not controlled, tens of millions
will be left without insurance ten years from now and every regulation
of the insurance industry in the law contains a poison pill that
protects the insurance industry. The coalition, Health Care for America
Now, spent tens of millions of dollars, donated by donors allied with
the Democratic Party, to support the Democratic leadership bill. It was
a sell out of their constituents who needed real reform.
Americans will not receive better health care, health care will
devour more and more of the GDP, and deficit spending by government will
continue because of a fraudulent “reform” that preserved market
dominated health care. This is happening on issue after issue –
corporations win, the people lose, and organizations supposedly working
for the peoples’ necessities claim victory while selling Americans out.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Americans need to declare
their independence from two parties dominated by concentrated corporate
power. Both parties take tens of millions from big business interests
every year, elected officials, their staff members and sometimes their
spouses profit going to work for corporations they “regulate” in the
revolving door between government and concentrated corporate interests,
receiving big checks for serving on their boards and feeding off the
trough of crony capitalism.
This is not a new problem for America. Big business interests have
always dominated government and the two parties have consistently
represented status quo business interests, but throughout our history we
have seen the people transform the government by creating independent
political movements that challenged the two parties.
When the most valuable industry in the United States was slavery, the
two parties – the Democrats and the Whigs – conspired to ensure that
abolition of slavery would not be considered in Congress. The
Democrats, dominated by slave holding plantation owners, and the Whigs,
dominated by Northern industrialists who profited from cheap cotton, did
not want to see slavery end.
More than a hundred years of abolition advocacy was unsuccessful in
breaking the grip of two parties whose political power came from
slavery. Some of those who opposed slavery decided to challenge the two
status quo parties. They formed abolition parties and ran to end
slavery. They were called spoilers – just as Ralph Nader is called a
spoiler for challenging the corporate parties today – but they ran and
ran. They never won. But gradually the Whig Party weakened. Finally,
the abolitionists evolved into the Republican Party and the most
successful third party president in history, Abraham Lincoln, was
elected president and slavery finally ended.
Looking back at this history would you have voted for either one of
the slave parties? Or, would you have voted to end slavery even though
your candidate had no chance of winning?
Look at many of the major paradigm shifts in history – farmers
fighting banks that were foreclosing on them, workers not allowed to
unionize and forced to work long, unsafe hours, the creation of Social
Security, health care for the poor, ending child labor – the list goes
on and on. All of these major changes in American history were first
brought into the electoral arena by independent electoral efforts.
The government is dysfunctional today. It is unable to deal with
pressing problems facing the country. People are losing their homes,
declaring bankruptcy, dying from lack of health care, suffering from
endless wars – but elected officials are stuck in inaction or fake
action that protects the status quo.
Independent politics means recognizing we have two corporate
dominated parties and that we need to have at least one party not
dominated by concentrated corporate interests in order to make progress
on the urgent necessities of the American people.
Independent politics does not necessarily mean winning elections, at
least not right away. It may mean that the greater evil gets elected –
an evil that will fund war and dole out taxpayer dollars to corporate
interests – much like the lesser evil will do. But the path to paradigm
shifting change has always included people willing to fight in the
electoral arena even if they lost the election. These parties lost the
election, but won the argument and in the end won real reform.
It is becoming more and more evident to Americans that the issue of
the day is concentrated corporate power. We are in the midst of a major
paradigm shift that will end corporatism – the combination of
government and concentrated corporations working for their interest and
not ours. Will you continue to vote for one of the corporatist parties?
Or, will you do as our ancestors did and create the paradigm shift we
need by challenging the powers that be.
So, on Independence Day remember the roots of the United States
declaring independence from the most power imperial power of the day,
remember Americans throughout history challenging two parties that
protected the status quo and look at the lessons of the last year when
the lack of independence has only led to change that corporations can
This weekend – Declare Your Independence – and work for the real
change we need.
Kevin Zeese is the executive director of the Campaign for Fresh Air &
Clean Politics whose projects include VotersForPeace.US,
ProsperityAgenda.US, GlobalClimateSecurity.org and TrueVote.US. He is
also a member of the board of Velvet
other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin’s website.