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Russ Feingold Launches ‘Progressives United’ To Combat Corporate Influences In Politics

HuffPost- Amanda Terkel

First Posted: 02/16/11 03:23 AM Updated: 02/16/11 08:48 AM

WASHINGTON — When some senators retire, they decide to take lucrative lobbying jobs. Others go straight to Wall Street. But Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, who lost his re-election bid in November, is continuing on his principled — and often lonely — path by starting an organization to combat corporate influence in politics, an effort he hopes will spark “a new progressive movement” that will truly hold elected officials accountable.

Launching on Wednesday, Progressives United is an attempt to to build a grassroots effort aimed at mitigating the effects of, and eventually overturning, the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates to corporate spending in the U.S. electoral system. In addition to online mobilization, the political action committee (PAC) will support progressive candidates at the local, state and national levels, as well as holding the media and elected officials accountable on the group’s key priorities.

“In my view — and the view of many people — it’s one of the most lawless decisions in the history of our country,” said Feingold of Citizens United in an interview with The Huffington Post. “The idea of allowing corporations to have unlimited influence on our democracy is very dangerous, obviously. That’s exactly what it does … Things were like this 100 years ago in the United States, with the huge corporate and business power of the oil companies and others. But this time it’s like the Gilded Age on steroids.”

Feingold, who is now also teaching law school at Marquette University and writing a book on foreign policy, has first-hand experience with the effects of big money in politics. While he shunned outside spending on his behalf in his campaigns, his 2010 opponent, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, was the beneficiary of millions of dollars from conservative interest groups. After his win, Johnson even went to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s national headquarters to personally thank CEO Tom Donohue for the lobbying group’s unsolicited support of his candidacy.

Feingold said that Progressives United will follow the example of his own campaigns and not take any soft money or unlimited contributions. “We’re going to be reporting every dime that we get, whether required by law or not,” he insisted. “Every penny of every contribution — a practice I used as a U.S. senator. So it will be very different from the 527s and other groups that have been spawned by Citizens United. It will be 100 percent accountable, and that is an important principle that I believe in that we’ll follow to the T with Progressives United, as a way of contrasting it to what’s going on with the corporate money power that’s been unleashed by Citizens United.”

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Why Do Americans Keep Getting Suckered By Right-Wing Lies?


Until progressives change the mind sets of the tens of millions who believe right-wing mythology, elections will be disappointing regardless of who is in the White House.
November 21, 2010 |

Ideas don’t happen on their own. Throughout history ideas need patrons.” —Matt Kibbe, president of Freedom-Works, a tea party advocacy group, quoted in Jane Mayer’s piece on the Koch brothers in The New Yorker.

Almost half of the public is either misinformed or subject to unanswered right wing narratives. If I believed that there was a chance of Sharia law being imposed in the United States I too would be gravely concerned. If I believed that most Europeans and Canadians had inferior health care to that of average Americans, I too would be against health care reform. If I believed that man-made global warning did not exist or that there were nothing we could do about it and that environmental efforts were responsible for unemployment I’d be against cap and trade. If I believed that prisoner abuse would make my family significantly less likely to be killed by terrorists, my thinking about torture would be different. And if I believed that the problems with the economy had been caused by too much government instead of too little, that my personal freedom was threatened by the government instead of large corporations, I’d probably be in a tea party supporter and a Republican.

Unless and until progressives change the mind sets of the tens of millions of people who believe right-wing mythology, who never read the New York Times or listen to NPR, who never watch any TV news other than Fox, future elections will have disappointing results for progressives regardless of who is in the White House.

Even Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have limits to their ability to de-program those who have been indoctrinated by conservative orthodoxy. As David Bromwich recently wrote in New York Review of Books, “You can learn from them why the wrong ideas are funny, but you cannot learn why the wrong ideas are wrong.”

Changing minds is more of an art than a science. Polling and focus groups are reasonably accurate at determining how people already feel, but the idea that every message to educate or convert can be mathematically tested is illusory. Even more dangerous is the notion that public opinion somehow comes from the sky and is thus impossible to influence. The right wing knows better.

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This isn’t the first column in which I’ve addressed this dynamic and it won’t be the last. So consider the following an overview or a recap of what I feel is the disconnect between President Obama and some vocal factions within the progressive movement.

Clearly there are progressives, most visibly in the liberal blogosphere, who have ventured well beyond the realms of being disillusioned with the president to being outright antagonistic and, in a broader movement sense, utterly self-defeating. I still believe that this is based upon a misreading of political reality and a misinterpretation of the president’s first year in office. In some cases, I believe this anger is genuine and fair, and many other cases, I believe it’s wholly unfair, misguided and, dare I say, wingnutty.

Stating the obvious by way of a preface, the goal of the progressive movement is to, of course, move government further to the left and thereby achieving progressive policies. The argument right now is about how best to achieve this goal in the context of the current political landscape. I’ve always thought that a successful progressive movement involved three things: an ongoing marginalizing of the far-right; arguing for progressive policies; and promoting and encouraging the careers of politicians and organizations that are best equipped to help pass progressive legislation.

With that in mind, one of the many reasons why I endorsed, voted for and still support President Obama is because I strongly believe that he’s perhaps the only American politician equipped to move the nation in a distinctly leftward direction from within the context of the Oval Office. But at no time have I ever held any delusions that he was some kind of progressive superhero — a Kucinich or Sanders or Dean with a better jump shot and Jon Favreau on the payroll.

While Barack Obama is, in fact, a liberal, he’s not necessarily a progressive who fits squarely into the progressive movement’s wheelhouse.

But he’s close.

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Glenn Beck’s Gestapo Tactics — Assailing Obama and Progressives with Holocaust Imagery

Beck uses his Fox News perch to preach stunningly irresponsible history, and organize a movement dedicated to destroying progressives and Obama.
AlterNet / By Eric Burns
Eric Burns is the president of Media Matters for America.
January 27, 2010 |

When Glenn Beck aired an hour-long documentary titled “Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free or Die” last Friday, it marked a major turning point in the annals of television.

The film, narrated by Beck himself, purported to reveal “really disturbing and shocking stuff,” specifically the “dirty little secret” that progressive political beliefs led inexorably to “some of the most horrifying outcomes in history.” With help from interview subjects like Jonah Goldberg, author of the book Liberal Fascism, Beck linked the progressive political movement to such nightmares as China’s Cultural Revolution and Hitler’s gas chambers. Beck alternated images of the emaciated, tortured bodies of the victims he blamed on progressivism with archival footage of Goebbels, Stalin and Mao.

Behold, America, the future of conservative media.

There was a time when such stunningly irresponsible and historically dubious assertions were the province of isolated individuals holding homemade signs at rallies — but no longer. “The Revolutionary Holocaust” was watched by nearly four million Americans. And it was broadcast by one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, News Corporation, which made no effort to disassociate itself from the program’s content.

Partisan media — even rabidly partisan media — has existed in America for as long as our nation has. Vicious attacks against perceived political opponents aren’t anything new, either, and in that way, Glenn Beck is merely the latest polemicist willing to assault his enemies — as well as basic logic — in order to make a buck. (And he makes plenty.)

But never before has such commentary been hitched to the star of a multinational media conglomerate, one capable of beaming the resulting invective into hundreds of millions of homes in real time. Never before has a company as influential as News Corp. been willing to back a host like Beck in the face of mounting pressure from advertisers.

Even after 80 different sponsors announced they would no longer advertise on Beck’s show, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch was still willing to personally defend the host, offering his own nonsensical defense of Beck’s infamous accusation that our nation’s first African American president harbored “a deep seated hatred for white people.”

“Even if you think I’m wildly irresponsible,” Beck said a few weeks ago, “you have to know that News Corp. is not stupid. It’s a company worth billions of dollars. Do you really think this corporation would risk everything on an irresponsible crazy guy?”

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I’m pissed off.

I’m pissed off at health care reform. I’m pissed off at this endless process of emotional highs and lows and exhilaration and dejection and history and infamy.

I’m pissed off that President Obama “thanked” the independent senator from Connecticut even though the senator nearly killed health care reform this week.

To that point, I’m pissed off at Joe Lieberman. I’m pissed off at his childish, vengeful, opposite-day hackery. I’m pissed off at his giant pie-shaped head and his passive aggression. I’m pissed off that he enjoys government-run Medicare benefits while opposing government-run insurance for the rest of us.

I’m pissed off at the Senate. The whole Senate. The rules, the senators, the color of the walls, the fact that a doof like Chuck Grassley can actually be elected to it. Multiple times. I’m pissed off that even though we finally have a 60 seat supermajority, it’s dysfunctional and Harry Reid is in charge of it. I’m pissed off that senators of both parties receive government-run primary care from the Office of the Attending Physician, while denying it to everyone else.

I’m pissed off at cable news and the establishment press for focusing more on The David Letterman & Tiger Woods Underpants Party than the substance of health care reform.

I’m pissed off at Rahm Emanuel and I’m pissed off at the “scary profane a-hole” mythology that’s built up around him, and how he only seems to use his powers of intimidation to bully the left.

I’m pissed off at the Republicans. I’m pissed off at their ongoing self-contradictions and lies and bumper sticker sloganeering. I’m pissed off that around 55 Republicans are on Medicare, yet they oppose government-run health care for the rest of us. I’m pissed off at Tom Coburn’s bulbous Dirk Diggler haircut.

I’m pissed off at having to compromise while a handful of lopsidedly powerful conservadems get whatever they ask for.

I’m pissed off at the Senate health care reform bill. I’m pissed off at the House health care reform bill. I’m preemptively pissed off at the conference report, too, and I don’t even know if we’ll even get that far.

And I’m pissed off that my progressivism leads me to the unavoidable conclusion that if we don’t pass health care reform now, innumerable bad things will continue to happen due to the fact that there’s a very serious health care crisis in America. I’m pissed off that I can’t, in good conscience, allow my anger to coerce me into believing that we should “kill this bill.” I’m pissed off about that, too, because I know what could have been, and yet I have no other choice but to settle for what is. For now.

But being pissed off doesn’t make this reality any less real.

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“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America — I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you — we as a people will get there.
There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who wont agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government cant solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way its been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.”

Barack Obama,
November 4, 2008

November 4, 2009. It’s been exactly one year since Barack Obama was elected, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the president hasn’t fixed the whole world yet. Then again, he never promised such a thing. But despite some “setbacks and false starts,” we’re in considerably better shape than we were when the president delivered the above words on election night in Chicago.

One of his central goals, going all the way back to his 2004 convention speech, of building common ground between Americans of different ideologies and backgrounds is going to be more difficult than was previously anticipated. However, what’s beginning to take shape is common ground between the far-right and the far-left insofar as they’re both angrily lining up in opposition to this White House.

Of course the wingnut right — the Beck-Limbaugh-Palin Industrial Complex — has a significant head start. Plus, they’re immovable. Nothing this president does, short of resignation, will ever be greeted positively and everything will be pegged as a Nazi-Communist-Nixon-Carter-Terrorist usurping of American exceptionalism. However, on the left, there’s a growing discontentment that’s rapidly metastasizing into a similarly virulent and unchangeable anger. It not only threatens to fracture the president’s progressive base, but it could also force the president to retreat to the middle.

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Obama Won’t Have to Kiss AIPAC’s Ring — Progressive Alternative to Hawkish Mideast Policies Emerges

By Alexander Zaitchik, AlterNet. Posted January 12, 2009.

A new wave of progressive Jewish activists are challenging the dominance of AIPAC and other hawkish groups on Gaza, Israeli settlers and even Iran.

Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza has pushed to the fore with ferocity one of the great campaign debates of 2008: How will Barack Obama approach the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? The president-elect has stated repeatedly that achieving a final settlement will be an administration priority, but beyond that oft-expressed campaign commitment swirls a constellation of increasingly urgent unkowns. Will he choose a Mideast envoy with at least a shred of credibility on both sides? Will he negotiate with Hamas? Will he spend the needed political capital to revive the rotting corpse of the peace process? Is resuscitation even possible?

Normally, a very constricted beltway political wisdom on Israel, as embodied by AIPAC, would set and guard the parameters of the debate over these questions. But the landscape of organized Jewish political power in America is changing. Even as John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt were coming under heavy fire for their 2006 analysis of the traditional American Israel Lobby, a liberal pro-Israel countermovement was forming in utero. Today, that movement is not only walking and talking, it is mounting a vigorous challenge to the dominance of traditional groups like AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League. Together with a growing number of voices within the foreign policy community, it is pushing Obama to initiate a strong and fresh approach to the region during his busy first 100 days.

As we wait to see how this debate shapes up, it’s worth revisiting what we know about Barack Obama. In his personal life, he has exposed himself to both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide like few other incoming presidents. At the University of Chicago, he cultivated a friendship with the Palestinian-American scholar Rashid Khalidi, through whom he also came to know the late Edward Said. He visited the slums of Ramallah in the West Bank on his own initiative, after which he told an audience in Muscatine, Iowa, “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” During the primaries and presidential campaign, these facts fueled the hopes of Palestinians and Americans hungry for a more balanced approach to the region. It also became grist for Republican (and Likud) fear and smear campaigns that warned Obama was an Israel-hating stalking horse for Hamas and a kissing cousin of Louis Farrakhan.

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