The Progressive Promise

BY Rep. Lynn Woolsey

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We believe that the road back for our party and our movement lies in being an unapologetic champion for progressive ideas.

We are in the midst of a progressive awakening in this country. In my 12 years in Washington, I have never been more confident and optimistic about the future of progressive politics. Nothing has united and mobilized the left like George Bush and this Republican Congress.

Time after time, on issue after issue, the President and his allies have shown nothing but contempt for the values of justice and equal opportunity. Their guiding political philosophy is that the “haves” should have more … and everyone else be damned.

They have said “No” to health care reform, to funding education, to a higher minimum wage, to a clean environment, to stem cell research, reproductive freedom, to civil rights and voting rights.

But “Yes” to reckless tax cuts, to media concentration, to the PATRIOT Act, to undermining the Bill of Rights and basic constitutional freedoms, to privatizing Social Security, to John Bolton, to abuse at Guantánamo and to the immoral doctrine of pre-emptive war.

The American people are catching on. National polls show that barely one-third of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. And not even one-fifth agree with the priorities of the Republican leadership.

People are also getting wise to the fact that this is one of the most corrupt Congresses in American history. They’re realizing that Tom DeLay, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove and the rest take their cues not from the American people, but from Jack Abramoff and the K Street crowd.

As one of the two co-chairs of the 60-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, along with my colleague, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), we are prepared to help lead our caucus in forceful, impassioned and organized opposition.

But Progressive Caucus members want to do more than speak out against extremism from the right. We want to take on the Bush agenda by providing a comprehensive, thoughtful progressive alternative–what we call the Progressive Promise.

The Progressive Promise is rooted in three core principles: First, fighting for economic justice and security for all. Second, protecting and preserving our civil rights and civil liberties. And third, promoting global peace and security.

We look forward to working closely with our House Leadership and our friend, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has the daunting responsibility of representing our diverse Democratic Caucus and truly building a big tent under which all Democrats can stand and be heard.

We in the Progressive Caucus believe in that big tent. We will reach out to recruit new members who share our goals and want to join our fight.

What we won’t do is compromise our values. We won’t become conservatism lite. We won’t embrace warmed-over moderate proposals. We believe that the road back for our party and our movement lies in being an unapologetic champion for progressive ideas.

President Bush recently addressed our nation on the situation in Iraq. Not surprisingly, he failed to acknowledge the tragic life-and-death mistakes he’s made. He won’t admit that the war in Iraq was built on a campaign of deception, concede that the insurgency is not in its “last throes” as Vice President Cheney asserts, or come clean and say that we’re spinning our wheels in Iraq. He stubbornly refuses to provide a concrete plan to finally bring our troops home.

As progressives, we are not going to accept the same head-in-the-sand denial, the same stubborn detachment from reality and the same failed leadership. The fact is that a majority of the American people are ahead of many of their elected representatives on many issues. For example, at least 60 percent of Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq.

That is why there is a growing progressive network taking shape around the country and manifesting itself.

Get out of Washington, D.C. and you witness more and more progressive organizing such as the Progressive Legislators Action Network (PLAN) at the state, city, and community levels. Go online. There is more progressive blogging and Internet traffic. Progressive media are taking advantage of new opportunities to cut through the homogenized corporate-drivel. And inside the Beltway, progressive scholars and think tanks–established and new ones–are speaking truth to power.

Within the Progressive Caucus, we have for the first time hired a full-time executive director, Bill Goold, to help us focus and coordinate our action agenda. Until we have updated and established a dedicated Web site link, you can contact us at 202-225-5161.

I am committed to helping progressives inside and outside of Congress work together more closely and effectively than ever before to make good on the Progressive Promise. We won’t rest until it is enacted into law.

U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) is co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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