A two-fold strategy: ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside’
By Robby Stern
As the summer approaches, the election campaigns are heating up. PSARA has not historically endorsed candidates. We do not want to be inundated with candidates seeking our endorsement. The exhausting process of evaluating candidates would greatly diminish our ability to focus on the significant issues we work to influence. But as PSARA members, we share some fundamental values that draw us to PSARA and can serve as a screen for evaluating candidates and issues.
Elections do matter! While we have directed our activism to issues, the outcome of our efforts at the local, state and national levels is greatly impacted by elections. Take a look at the Budget Reconciliation bill that just passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. In supporting the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, the majority in the House voted to restore the $55 billion that had been cut from military spending in last year’s debt ceiling deal and instead make many more cuts to vital programs that serve the poor, the elderly, the working class and the vulnerable.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where we are told it will go nowhere. However, we are also told that many of the majority Democrats in the Senate are also opposed to cuts in military spending. While the Democratic leadership in the Senate is promoting the “Buffet” proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest among us, they will not have the votes to overcome the ridiculous filibuster rule that essentially gives control of the Senate to a minority of senators.
A deal will eventually be cut between the House and the Senate. It is likely that the deal will take care of the defense industry and lead to significant pain for many in the 99%.
What can we do?
We need an “inside and outside strategy.” The “inside” strategy involves engaging in the electoral process with our time and, if we can, our money. We evaluate who is closer to our values and try to get them nominated and elected. Often, these are people we can’t always rely on to stand with us on policy issues that are important to us. Often they are the least bad rather than the good. But the action going on in the House of Representatives demonstrates that we cannot stand aside. Elections do matter.
At the same time, we have to hold these elected officials accountable and demand that they do the right thing. We have to have an “outside” strategy and help build a movement that will politically strengthen the interests of the 99%.
For example, we know that in the next nine to twelve months, critical decisions will be made regarding Social Security and Medicare. With regard to Social Security, politicians like Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Representative Adam Smith will be forced to make a choice. Will they support the Simpson-Bowles proposal to raise the retirement age and reduce the cost of living increases for those who rely on Social Security? Or will they support Scrapping the Cap? We have been seeking the support of these three elected officials for Scrapping the Cap. Representatives Jim McDermott and Rick Larsen and many Democratic candidates for the open seats have committed to support Scrap the Cap, but the two senators and Representative Smith have not.
We must be prepared if necessary to demonstrate to these elected officials that their failure to embrace an overwhelmingly popular stance (that is, Scrapping the Cap) will lead to public demonstrations that will target them for their failure.. So far they have refused to embrace a solution that will allow the protection and strengthening of Social Security for the remainder of this century, rather than cutting the Social Security benefits that are becoming more and more critical to the 99%. That is one example of an “outside” strategy that we can consider using in any local, state or national issue where it is required.
I remember fondly the demonstration PSARA held at KVI radio during the debate over health care reform, when nearly one hundred of our members turned out to demonstrate that we would not be scared off by the people who were trying to turn seniors against health reform. We received broad coverage and were able to make our point very clearly.
In the fight to preserve and strengthen Social Security, and in other critical battles down the road, we will need to show our determination again!