Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Casting of the President

We can do better than Donald Trump. We all know it. But I'm not talking about his politics. I'm talking about his performance and entertainment value. After all, he's just a reality TV star who has played the corporate version of Judge Judy. Before that it was all bit parts and walk-ons, mainly self-promotion for his gaudy real estate empire.
    No wonder his presidential campaign feels like a political sitcom featuring Biff Tannen, the Back to the Future bully to whom Trump is often compared. The plot, gags and catch phrases are already wearing thin, as if Veep morphed into Breaking Bad.
    But seriously (not), if we want an entertainer-in-chief, at least let's get first-rate talent. Personally, I'm for Bernie Sanders. Not showy, but believable and increasingly entertaining (and right on the issues). But if being believable and entertaining are what make you electable these days, actors and other performers may have an edge. We’ve already had one actor in the role, Ronald Reagan, who knew how to sustain his appeal and sell almost anything – from Borax to Star Wars.
    For a while we also had an actor in the 2008 race, Fred Thompson. He had even played a real president, although it was Ulysses Grant in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. But Thompson's real problems were that he couldn’t find a decent script and seemed uncommitted to the part.
     What about someone who has played a fictional president? That could provide experience imagining and handling a crisis, especially one that hasn't happened yet. Feels like some sort of advantage. Remember when  Bill Pullman saved us from an alien invasion in Independence Day, or when Harrison Ford faced off terrorists in Air Force One? Those were terrifying times, they boldly took charge, and everything worked out. Or how about John Travolta? He played a charming, fictional Bill Clinton and he can fly a plane. 
    For a while Martin Sheen seemed destined for the role. First, in The Dead Zone, he played a presidential candidate whom Christopher Walken foresaw blowing up the planet. Years later he returned as the longest running president in TV history, keeping America witty, safe and fast-talking on The West Wing. Clearly, he had learned from “experience.”
     Other qualified prospects, all of whom have played the President at some point, include Sam Waterston, James Earl Jones, Jimmy Smits, Alan Alda, Morgan Freeman, Tom Selleck, William Petersen, Dennis Haysbert, Tim Robbins, Michael Douglas, Rip Torn, Robert Duval, Michael Keaton, James Brolin, Billy Bob Thornton, two Quaid brothers, both Jeff and Beau Bridges, and even Kris Kristofferson.
    Want a comedian, someone far more entertaining than Trump? You can't do better than Chris Rock, a stand up president in Head of State. Imagine his State of the Union speech.
    A female alternative to Hillary? The supply of tested candidates is growing. Julianne Moore almost crashed the glass ceiling as Sarah Palin in HBO's Game Change. But let's not forget Geena Davis, who kicked ass on Commander in Chief – and won a Golden Globe for Best Actress. Glenn Close, Patty Duke, Patricia Wettig … they all have recent presidential experience, plus acting chops. 
     We must also seriously consider Meryl Streep, who nailed an Oscar as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady -- with a flawed script. Sure, Thatcher was a British head-of-state, but Streep is pure American, born in New Jersey. 
     Some names on this list are past their box office dates. But it's just a starting lineup. Look at it this way: In addition to serving as commander-in-chief, the president must now deliver a sustained public performance on the biggest stage of all. Whoever gets the job will be in our living rooms almost every day for at least four years. That's something to consider. The role calls for believability, authenticity, a bit of star quality, and a talent for conveying both compassion and righteous outrage, plus a talent for improvisation and an instinct for public taste. Oh yes, also good judgement and such...
     Anyway, restricting the field to amateurs -- governors, senators and other so-called political "insiders" -- clearly isn't working out. The best they can deliver is awkward guest shots on SNL and The Daily Show. What do they know about building a fan base, staying in character, and looking comfortable on TV? Isn't it time to for someone who can really handle the role?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Emergence of World Citizenship

Proposals to prevent war and enlarge human freedom have been advanced for centuries. Even before the industrial revolution transformed aggression from a regional tragedy into a global threat, philosophers and politicians looked beyond the borders of their own nations.
     In 1792, for the French revolutionist Jean Baptiste du Val-De-Grace, the answer was a World Republic that would place human rights above the rights of individual states. Three years later, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant proposed a similar but more modest plan: a confederation of nations. Urging world citizenship and freedom of movement, he envisioned a “covenant of peace” would some day make national conflict obsolete.
     Diplomats and statesmen struggled with formulas for transnational order for the next century. Finally, in 1899, at the urging of Czar Nicholas, an agreement – The Hague Treaty – was reached between 24 states. Recognizing that modern warfare and weapons posed a threat to humanity, these nation-states pledged at least to attempt the settling of their differences through “pacific methods” rather than force and violence.
     Ten million people died during World War I anyway. The massive violence of that conflict was a sign that few nations could ignore. 
     In the aftermath, the League of Nations was established. Like plans before it, however, the League was complex and largely ineffective, burdened with responsibilities while deprived of real authority. Despite human rights declarations dating from 1789 in France, the League still represented only states, with no mention of the sovereignty of ordinary people. Within four years of its creation, it began to split into hostile alliances.
     During the next World War, at least 60 million people died, more than half of them civilians, and in 1945 the “nuclear age” crashed into existence when atomic bombs were dropped on Japanese cities. The nature of war had become global and the survival of humanity was now at stake. Yet the nation-state war game continued unabated. By this time, the idea of some global authority could no longer be shrugged off. The possibility of nuclear warfare made the choice clear: global coordination or oblivion. But what kind?
     The United Nations, also launched in 1945, was more like a forum than a government. It could not legislate on worldwide problems, nor enforce its views through any means but military action. Its members, all nation-states, still remained absolutely sovereign, free to make treaties or declare war without a nod to the UN.
     Over the next half century, whenever UN decisions or Charter provisions stood in the way of some “national” agenda, they were ignored. As the Cold War gave birth to a nuclear arms race, as more than 50 armed conflicts between nations “great” and “small” created millions more victims, it became apparent that this latest attempt to create peace through a confederation of nations was a sterile and often deadly exercise. War, deprivation and torture gave grim daily testimony to the fact that the UN was largely powerless to protect and promote peace or human rights. 
      So long as the nation-state’s self-imposed amnesia persists, wars are inevitable. Like previous attempts to “rationalize” conflict without a fundamental transfer of sovereign power, the UN can only succeed in rare cases, when armed conflict no longer serves the selfish interest of the belligerents. Mainly, it is a hostage of the system it is expected to transform.
     But if the confederal approach isn't the form of “higher authority” that can break nationalism’s spell, moving us to a workable and democratic world order, what will?

Declaring World Citizenship

We live in a geocentric world of nation-states, preoccupied mainly by “national” problems of the economy, society and politics. No matter where we live, for most of us the “nation” is the center of our political universe – the point around which revolve other nations and, supposedly, the rest of the world.
     Our attachment to our nation, whether by birth or adoption, is not merely legal; it is profoundly emotional. Yet when nations deal with other nations, these attachments are given no weight. In the “international” context, the individual is nowhere to be found. Yet all nations claim to represent the very people they so often ignore. And ironically, most nations actually claim to derive their very legitimacy from their citizens. But if the people themselves are truly the source of each nation’s authority, it follows that the highest authority is humanity as a whole.
     In any case, the power of nation-states certainly doesn't make them the only legitimate participants in decision-making. In a world threatened by war and injustice, responsible citizenship means a powerful assertion of humanity’s sovereignty. As Thomas Paine put it, “individual human beings, each in his or her own personal and sovereign right, enter into a compact with each other to produce any government.”
     For such a higher authority to become a reality, however, a new compact is also needed, a global civic contract that transcends the national paradigm. The good news is that such a contract already exists, both naturally and legally.
     Founded by Garry Davis in 1948 and formally established in 1953, the world citizens movement is both an extension of the individual and an expression of humanity as a whole. It grows from your sovereignty and mine, and from our shared commitment to each other’s protection and survival. It is a horizontal network based on natural rights and the human rights affirmed by national constitutions and international agreements like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also “vertical,” the political expression of a world community by those who recognize the limits of the planet itself.
     In 1945, while observing delegates at the founding of the UN in San Francisco, E.B. White wrote: “Whether we wish it or not, we may soon have to make a clear choice between the special nation to which we pledge our allegiance and the broad humanity of which we are born a part.” World citizens make the second choice. 
     At the start, declaring yourself a world citizen was often symbolic, a way to embody a new transnational civic identity, one adopted by millions of people who registered as world citizens beginning in 1949. Gradually, however, it became more: an embryonic structure for the evolution of a global movement. An administrative arm, the World Service Authority, was established in 1954, and began to identify people from all corners of the planet, issuing documents to anyone who pledged allegiance to the new global compact.
     In the decades since then, world citizens have worked to overcome the psychological barriers imposed by the polarized nation-state system. For example, the movement and the documents used by world citizens expose the anti-democratic core of most nation-states. But for many people – especially refugees and other victims of nationalism – world citizenship is more basic. For them, it means global political asylum.
     Today the world continues to endure the incessant roar of chaos and conflict. But the primary causes of the chaos are nation-states themselves. Appeals to nationalism won't solve the problem. They are the problem.

A Global Response

It doesn't require much, certainly not the surrender of any personal  freedom, the renouncing of “national” citizenship, or disloyalty to the nation of one’s birth. World citizenship simply replaces allegiance to an outdated political system that emerged in the 18th century with a modern global contract that recognizes the dynamic interdependence of our time.
     We are linked across many artificial frontiers; communication, science, commerce and ecology don't recognize borders. In these areas and more, we already have one world. Many barriers are crumbling. World Citizenship makes our politics more consistent with reality.
     To help build the movement, the World Service Authority responds to the needs of world citizens not only by issuing documents such as birth and marriage certificates, visas and passports. It has also sponsored study commissions, established a court and experimented with a monetary system.      
     The World Court of Human Rights was established in France by a General Assembly of World Citizens in 1972. A provisional statute for the court was drafted, and later the World Judicial Commission was set up to handle preliminary complaints filed by world citizens. The International Court of the Hague only handles cases between sovereign states, and only if both parties agree to the litigation. The UN Commission on Human Rights is powerless to help individuals when their interests and the arbitrary will of a nation-state collide.
     World citizens, whose exercise of their human rights can contravene existing “national laws,” need a new kind of court, one grounded on the legal defense of global rights and accessible to all. As the first Chief Justice of the World Court, Dr. Luis Kutner explained upon accepting the post, “The international community has come to realize that human rights are not an issue to be left solely to the national jurisdiction of individual states. These rights obviously need protection at a higher level within the framework of international law.
     Over the years, a number of study commissions have also been formed to deal with specific issues. Experts, all advocates of a just and democratic world order, have been recruited to pursue research in areas such as health, space, culture, economics, women, education, forestry, political asylum, communication and cybernetics.
   The World Passport remains the most widely used document, a practical symbol and a useful tool for travelers. Contributors to the WSA's Refugee Fund have made it possible to issue passports for free to thousands of refugees and war victims, at least half of them women and children.
     In sum, world citizens constitute a self-empowered global community of sovereign individuals who support an emerging body of “common world law,” including human rights covenants, the Stockholm Environmental Declaration and the Nuremberg Principles. This is not a parallel government or a supra-national federation. It's a meta-government of free human beings.

Written with Garry Davis for Passport to Freedom: A Guide for World Citizens

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Thinking Globally: Beyond Fear and Loathing

Looking at the behavior of many political leaders, it's easy to conclude that government itself isn't to be trusted. Whether the men (and occasionally women) in charge head regimes dominated by military cliques or ethically-challenged bureaucrats, they rarely inspire much faith that the State will consistently promote fairness and protect individual rights in exchange for the power it assumes and penalties it imposes.

     In the US, this suspicion dates back to the colonial secession from England - a primal rejection of illegitimate central authority. Since then, distrust and fear of government has fueled many forms of resistance - from Daniel Shays' 1786 tax revolt to Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. But as Gary Wills argues in his study of government distrust, A Necessary Evil, the real victims of this attitude are the millions of poor or shelterless or medically indigent who have been told, over the years, that they must lack care or life support in the name of their very own freedom. Better for them to starve than to be enslaved by 'big government.' That is the real cost of our anti-government values.
     In the late 20th century, this distrust - often buttressed by specious constitutional arguments about state's rights, individual freedom, and the sanctification of private enterprise - has fueled a global crusade to privatize services, shred safety nets, and turn management of the planet over to a corporate and bureaucratic elite with its own rules. Since Ronald Reagan successfully redefined the US federal government as the problem, not the solution, we've been told that government is basically wasteful and ineffective - if not crooked - while business is dynamic and effective, the best way to protect liberty and produce wealth.
     As I've mentioned before, anti-government attitudes make people susceptible to reactionary, often isolationist appeals. Even though they may understand that no single nation can control violence, reverse environmental destruction, or protect basic rights around the world, many also believe that any form of global management is either fantasy or a potential nightmare - the dreaded One World Dictatorship.
     Only one problem: it's already here, operating behind closed doors and accountable only to those managing its administrative agencies. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund virtually run the economies of many countries, primarily in the interest of transnational industries and global financial interests. Sure, the UN plays a small role, as a forum for dialogue and a convenient place to dump problems. But even there, the real power lies with the five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, Britain, France, China, and Russia.
     Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization (WTO) continues the transfer of economic decision-making to the global level, turning human beings and the environment into tools for expanding trade and commerce. Rather than worrying about secular humanists or black helicopters, those concerned about the New World Order might want to consider the open conspiracy to create a Corporate World Order.
     Some suspicion of government's potential power is certainly legitimate and relevant. Yet, the form of centralized power that most threatens us today isn't public, it's private: the negative power of big business and elite financial institutions. These interests, influencing and sometimes even determining the actions of governments, ought to be the main focus of scrutiny and action. Conveniently, the same interests lead the campaign to convince us that freedom means me against the world or me against the government. Appealing to fears of government intrusion is a convenient way to derail intrusions on the right to profit at the expense of the general health and well-being, and exploit in the name of freedom.
     One step in the right direction is certainly the emerging movement to challenge our de facto world government, the mobilization against globalization that protested the [1999] WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle. More accountability, as well as consideration of environment, labor, and human rights impacts, is the least we should ask. Beyond that, however, we need to move beyond fear of government and work for democracy at the world level.
     Clearly, we need some planet-level guidance, to ensure health and freedom for all, and deal with arms proliferation, malnutrition, toxic materials, and genetic engineering, among other problems. Rather than continuing to accept the myth that government is inherently evil, let's begin the new millennium by working for effective and participatory global governance, a high authority that nurtures children, helps poor regions develop along sustainable lines, and defines and enforces global standards of human rights.

By Greg Guma, originally published as an editorial in Toward Freedom, December 1999

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Is a Progressive/Libertarian Movement Possible?

If a multi-issue movement could bring people together across the usual ideological barriers around galvanizing issues, how about this list: end corporate welfare, bring the troops home, new economic priorities, roll back repressive laws, and full financial transparency.
When was the last time a politician came across like the lone voice of principle railing against the dangers of an imperial presidency? That’s what it looked in Spring 2011 when Ron Paul, the Texas libertarian running for the Republican presidential nomination, wrote candidly about the War Powers Resolution, the Patriot Act and mission creep after 9/11. The column was called “Enabling a Future American Dictator.” At times he sounded a lot like Bernie Sanders.

In the column Paul noted that the 60-day deadline for getting congressional approval of military action in Libya under the 1973 War Powers Resolution had passed without notice. Predictably, he chided President Obama for not seeking a congressional OK and wondered whether he ever would. Forget Paul’s party for a moment. Wasn’t he right?

The Constitution, specifically Article 1 Section 8, clearly states that the power to declare war rests with the legislative branch. The original idea was to prevent the president from exerting the powers of a king. But presidents have been manipulating and ignoring such constitutional limitations for more than a century. Given the expansive nature of the federal government, Paul warned that “it would be incredibly na├»ve to think a dictator could not or would not wrest power in this country” at some point in the future. A bit of negative extrapolation there, but still, many people across the political spectrum do worry that it could indeed happen here.

It’s the kind of argument you expect to hear from Sanders. Actually, the two lawmakers did sometimes join forces when Bernie was a Congressman. Later, the godfather of the Tea Party movement and the junior Senator from the People’s Republic of Vermont teamed up to propose military budget cuts and push for a more thorough audit of the Federal Reserve.

Were these just isolated moments of Left and Right collaboration? Or could a movement that attracts both progressives and libertarians actually develop?

Paul also pointed to the Defense Authorization bill. It “explicitly extends the president’s war powers to just about anybody,” he claimed. The problem --- Section 1034, which asserted that the US is at war with the “associated forces” of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Bringing in civil liberties, Paul asked how hard it would be “for someone in the government to target a political enemy and connect them to al Qaeda, however tenuously, and have them declared an associated force?” It’s an argument that Left-leaning activists should find relevant.

His forecast was that even if we assume the people in charge at the moment are completely trustworthy – a major assumption – the future is far from certain. “Today’s best intentions create loopholes and opportunities for tomorrow’s tyrants,” Paul warned. Given the current crop of potential national leaders, it’s hard to disagree.

While a Texas Republican may not be the best messenger for a new alliance, Paul did have a following, based largely on his strict libertarianism and 2008 presidential run. Then the financial crisis seemed to spark something new: the potential for a convergence between progressives, liberals and traditional libertarians. In January 2011 Ralph Nader called the prospect of such an alliance the nation’s “most exciting new political dynamic.” Another element was generational change. Sparked by the excesses of elites and the wealthy few, a resistance movement fueled by youthful energy – an American Spring? – began to show the potential to catch fire and break down political boundaries. Among the issues that framed its agenda were intervention and military spending, individual freedom, and financial reform.

One of the unifying themes is the desire to limit, and whenever possible reverse the influence of centralized wealth and power. Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, has frequently expressed this perspective, forging alliances that cross party lines to challenge corporate secrecy and the powers of international financial institutions.

Much of Sanders’ early legislative success came through forging deals with ideological opposites. An amendment to bar spending in support of defense contractor mergers, for example, was pushed through with the aid of Chris Smith, a prominent opponent of abortion. John Kasich (now Ohio governor), whose views on welfare, the minimum wage and foreign policy as a congressman could hardly be more divergent from Sanders’, helped him phase out risk insurance for foreign investments. And a “left-right coalition” he helped to create derailed the “fast track” legislation on international agreements pushed by Bill Clinton.

The impact of the strategy was clearly felt in May 2010 when Sanders’ campaign to bring transparency to the Federal Reserve resulted in a 96-0 Senate vote on his amendment to audit the Fed and conduct a General Accounting Office audit of possible conflicts of interest in loans to unknown banks.

Here is Sanders’ overall view in a nutshell: International financial groups protect the interests of speculators and banks at the expense of the poor and working people – not to mention the environment – behind a veil of secrecy. Meanwhile, governments have been reduced to the status of figureheads under international management, both major political parties kowtow to big money flaks, and media myopia fuels public ignorance. Many libertarians, even a good number of Tea Party people, agree.

But how do you mobilize and unite people across traditional cultural and political lines? A key may be found in sovereignty and nullification campaigns. Diverse as these efforts are, most rest on the proposition that the states and sovereign individuals created the national government. Therefore, they have the right to at least challenge the constitutionality of federal laws, and potentially even decline to enforce them. Though this may sound more conservative than not, liberals and leftists do also adopt such a stance at times.

The unifying idea goes something like this: In the face of oppression (however you define it) withdrawal of consent can make all the difference. When people refuse their cooperation, withhold their help, and maintain their position, they deny their opponent the support that oppressive, hierarchical systems need. Gene Sharp, author of Social Power and Political Freedom, once observed, “If they do this in sufficient numbers for long enough, that government or hierarchical system will no longer have power.”

Centuries back, the tactic was used when American colonists nullified laws imposed by the British. Since then states have used it to limit federal actions, from the Fugitive Slave Act to unpopular tariffs. Before 1800, support for nullification emerged in reaction to the Sedition Act, which prompted the Kentucky Resolve of 1798, written by Thomas Jefferson, and the almost identical Virginia Resolve penned by James Madison. In Section One of his version, Jefferson wrote:

Resolved, that the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principles of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that by compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, delegated to that Government certain definite powers, reserving each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self Government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force . . . .

That the Government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common Judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well as of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.

In plain English, this means that federal authority isn’t unlimited, and if it goes too far government actions need not be obeyed. In essence, Jefferson suggested that the federal government isn’t the “final judge” of its own powers, and therefore various states have a right to decide how to handle any federal overreach. Madison’s Virginia version declared that in the case of a deliberate and dangerous abuse of power, states not only had a right to object, they were “duty bound” to stop the “progress of the evil” and maintain their “authorities, rights and liberties.”

After Jefferson enacted a trade embargo as president in response to British maritime theft and the kidnapping of sailors, state legislatures nullified the law using his own words and arguments. On February 5, 1809, the Massachusetts legislature declared that the embargo was “not legally binding on the citizens of the state” and denounced it as “unjust, oppressive, and unconstitutional.” Eventually, every New England state, as well as Delaware, voted to nullify the embargo act.

Moral for Jefferson: Be careful what you resolve.

Two centuries later, in August 2010, the Missouri legislature used similar logic to reject the health care mandate in the Democrat’s health care reform, followed by a flood of legal challenges from state officials. In recent years, several states have also either passed or proposed legislation or constitutional amendments designed to nullify federal laws in the areas ranging from firearms to medical marijuana.

The Tea Party movement, set in motion in 2009 by widespread disapproval of the federal government’s bailout of financial institutions, initially swelled into a tidal wave of anti-big-government sentiment that helped the Republican Party regain control of the US House in 2010. Supporters said the movement marked a return to core values. Critics called it reactionary and possibly racist.

It is certainly funded in part by wealthy interests who see its angry members as tools to advance their own deregulation, limited government agenda. And yet, the Tea Party phenomenon is also a loose and relatively diverse association that includes fiscal conservatives, Christian fundamentalists, secular libertarians and more. A March 2010 poll estimated 37 percent support for its basic economic agenda, although that may have been its high water mark. The main take away is that it encompasses a variety of impulses, from orthodox libertarianism and neo-isolationism to populist anger directed at elites, deficit spending and perceived threats to US interests.

Some have written off the recent anti-federal government rebellion as a Republican ploy. But there have certainly been Left-wing crusades against federal abuse of power in the past, and liberal nullification campaigns to decriminalize marijuana and bring National Guard units home from wars overseas.

Will most Tea Party people join forces with progressives? Not likely. The main obstacle is several generations of cultural war, passionate and sometimes violent disagreement over racism, abortion, immigration, entitlements and climate change, among other things. In fact, progressives and Tea Party people can sometimes perceive different “realities.” Since 2008 many on one side have decided that Obama is a socialist, maybe even a Muslim Manchurian Candidate. On the other side, many say he is at best a sell out, and in some ways has doubled down on the mistakes and abuses of the previous administration. One group says climate change is a hoax or at least exaggerated, and the government should institute literacy tests for voting. The other sees ecological (or economic) catastrophe around the corner, thinks guns should be carefully controlled, and sometimes even argues that states ought to seize public resources as “trustees” of the commons.

At the same time, however, there’s enough common ground to attract people from across the conventional divide. Don’t both libertarians and progressives believe that the size and reach of the US military should be limited? Don’t both think that civil liberties are being eroded by executive orders and legislative overreach? Beyond that, they also agree, perhaps more than either has yet acknowledged, about the greed and dysfunction of big institutions, and the need for more transparency and oversight. In this regard, Sanders has pointed the way. At times libertarian voices are even bolder than progressive counterparts, especially those who say that the War on Drugs should end and most if not all drugs should be legalized. But Sanders is gradually joining this campaign.

If that’s not convincing, ask yourself what could happen without some attempt to create a progressive-libertarian connection. Most libertarians, Tea Party members and others dissatisfied with the status quo will be actively wooed and deceived by conservative demagogues. Many will be sidetracked into grievance and resentment. Where else will they have to go? So, shouldn’t there be a struggle for the hearts and minds of all those disillusioned casualties of the financial crash and culture war?

Still, it remains to be seen whether the issues on which there isn’t much common ground – and these should not be underestimated – will make it impossible to create or sustain some solidarity. It would certainly help if an alliance of some sort had a chance to grow outside the two-party system. But that requires credible leaders and a basic agenda.  

In any case, if a multi-issue alliance could bring people together across the usual ideological barriers around galvanizing issues, how about these: end corporate welfare, bring the troops home, new economic priorities,roll back repressive legislation, and full financial transparency.

Such a list is probably incomplete, and for some, may not go far enough. Fair enough. But it does potentially bridge some of the divisions that keep many people fighting among themselves while realigning conventional politics. In the long run, a Progressive-Libertarian alliance probably wouldn’t last. But before it faded – if people overcame some traditional divisions, if the debate really changed and some  new thinking took hold – wouldn’t the stakes be worth it?

This is adapted from Greg Guma's Rebel News Round Up, originally broadcast live on The Howie Rose Show, Friday, June 3, 2011, on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington.