It's Time For Independent Progressive Convention

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Ras Baraka should host progressive Convention

[Commentary]

“Our cities are crime-haunted dying grounds. Huge sectors of our youth -- and countless others -- face permanent unemployment. Those of us who work find our paychecks able to purchase less and less. Neither the courts nor the prisons contribute to anything resembling justice or reformation. The schools are unable -- or unwilling -- to educate our children for the real world of our struggles. Meanwhile, the officially approved epidemic of drugs threatens to wipe out the minds and strength of our best young warriors.”--The Black Agenda - The Gary Declaration: Black Politics at the Crossroads 1972

In March of 1972 several thousand African Americans from all walks of life, class, social and political philosophies convened in Gary, Indiana for the Black Political Convention, the “Gary Convention”.  The preamble to the National Black Political Agenda that was generated at the Convention stated in part, “The American system does not work for the masses of people, and it cannot be made to work without radical fundamental change...”

As America kicks off the 2016 presidential campaign season Americans of all classes, ethnicities and backgrounds find themselves confronted with the same problems that were articulated in Gary in 1972. America is faced with a “system (that) does not work for the masses of people…” High unemployment, mass incarceration, ineffective public schools and an increase in prescription drug abuse is fueling a rise in heroin addiction.  These are just a few of the issues confronting Americans in today’s political landscape.

According to Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, a 5.6% unemployment rate is “the Big Lie”. There are actually more than 30 million Americans unemployed or severely underemployed.  That’s closer to 11% of the population not the 5.6% being touted by the White House.  The “official” unemployment rate for African Americans is 11.4%.  If the actual national unemployment number is 11%, history tells us that the actual number in the African American community must be closer to 22%.

According to Clifton, small businesses in America, the real engine of the economy, are dying. Four hundred thousand new businesses are now being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 are dying annually. Other issues such as extrajudicial police killings, the exportation of jobs, income disparity, home foreclosures, and homelessness are other issues plaguing America.

What are the contenders for the 2016 presidential race articulating?  What solutions are they putting on the table?

On the Democratic side Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 kick off speech was filled with the typical Democratic populist themes and very short on bold policy initiatives. “Prosperity can’t be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers. Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations. Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain too... Now it’s time -- your time to secure the gains and move ahead.” She did not take a position on the TPP, the Keystone XL pipeline, new drilling in the Artic or extrajudicial police killings.

She praised her husband’s administration, “When President Clinton honored the bargain, we had the longest peacetime expansion in history…”

Don’t forget that he ushered in a rash of neoliberal policies such as welfare reform and the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill that resulted in more African Americans being incarcerated in the history of this country and the state withdrawing its support for social welfare programs. He continued the Reagan agenda.

For the Republicans, Jeb Bush has finally entered the 2016 presidential field.  During his campaign announcement he said the Democrats, “…are responsible for the slowest economic recovery ever, the biggest debt increases ever, a massive tax increase on the middle class, the relentless buildup of the regulatory state, and the swift, mindless drawdown of a military that was generations in the making… Our country is on a very bad course. 

Yes, the country is on a very bad course. What he fails to acknowledge is that it was his brother, VP Cheney and his minions that charted that course and set sail.  Who wasted the “peace dividend,” invaded two sovereign countries and expanded the national security state based upon lies and disinformation? Where would the American economy be if it were not bogged down in paying for the illegal wars in Central Asia and the Middle East?

According to Jeb, he’s his “own man”. How he can this be when his father is raising most of his money and so many of his key foreign policy advisors, people such as Paul Wolfowitz, John Negroponte, Peter Goss and Stephen Hadley are the same people who so poorly advised his brother?  

Where has the progressive leadership gone? America needs an independent progressive convention, similar to the Gary Convention of 1972. Grass-roots organizations such as Black Lives Matter, Code Pink, Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI), Occupy Wall Street and Business for a Fair Minimum Wage need to convene in a city such as Newark, NJ under the leadership of a progressive mayor such as Ras Baraka. They need to develop a national strategy to change the dominant narrative and develop a progressive platform that addresses the real issues facing average Americans.

This coalition could take this platform to the Democrat and Republican conventions and demand a seat at the table as Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer did with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in Atlantic City, NJ in 1964. Understanding that neither of the major parties will allow a coalition of this type into their platform committee meetings; it’s about the process and effort. It’s that a coalition of this type with a national strategy and platform could develop momentum, capture the imagination of progressive individuals and change the narrative in this country.

Where is progressive political leadership in America?  Can the leadership in these progressive organizations put their egos aside, organize, coalesce around a substantive policy agenda and pressure the political establishment to respond to Main Street instead of Wall Street?

If not, it will be more of the same.  The lesser of two evils is still evil.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio channel 126 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email:wjl3us@yahoo.com. www.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com  (c) 2015 InfoWave Communications, LLC

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