Tea Party Activists Are Out-Lobbying Liberals, Liberal Leader Says
"I have spent the last 14 months in Washington, and we are not advocating for our side the way that the right is advocating for theirs," said Darcy Burner, executive director of ProgressiveCongress.com at a discussion sponsored by the liberal Campaign for America's Future on Monday.
"I sit in the offices of members of Congress and listen as the phone calls come in, and there will be ten tea party phone calls to every one of ours," she said. "The right has built this infrastructure that provides information to members of Congress. We have not done enough to counter that.”
Although Burner argued that liberals/progressives do not seem to have the same clout as conservatives with members of Congress, the Democratic Party currently dominates the House and the Senate – and Democrats run the Executive Branch. Further, major legislation that affects the entire nation, such as the 2009 economic stimulus bill and the new health care law were passed without any GOP support.
In the Senate, the Democrats hold 58-seats plus two Independent senators who caucus with them, giving them 60 votes. In the House of Representatives, the Democrats, with 255 seats, have a 78-seat advantage over Republicans, who have 177 seats in the House.
Also speaking at the event with Burner, Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, said that the progressive movement has not given itself enough credit for its successes.
“We have achieved much more in the past 18 months than what progressives typically give ourselves credit for,” he said. “We do ourselves a disservice by failing to acknowledge the magnitude of our accomplishments. The arrow of change, though not always consistent, is now moving in the right direction.”
Bhargava also said that progressive political movement has to be focused on actual growth rather than the current administration’s agenda.
“The important question before us in the time we are about to enter is not what the Obama administration does or does not do,” Bhargava said. “It is whether or not we can mount and create and inspire the kind of mass movement that can create a cycle of progressive change in this country.”
Burner and Bhargava spoke during the America's Future Now conference in Washington, D.C., a three-day event featuring guest speakers talking about the progressive/liberal movement and its action in the political realm.
“I am not speaking here just to make you comfortable or to make you feel like you are already doing all that you can do and that we are on the side of the angels – though we might be,” Burner said. “We are not doing enough.”
Burner said America was founded on a “really radical proposition of a government by the people,” and that the United States operated on a system of advocates.
She said liberals need to rally for their cause to be on the winning side of any consensus.
“We have a president that is fundamentally a consensus builder,” she said. “When the choice is between what the Blue Dogs [moderate Democrats] want and what the Republicans want, we have a problem. And that has been far too often the case. If he is always going to split the baby, let’s make sure it is as far on our side as we can get it.”