Activism needed to beat corporate state

Like many progressives, I woke up on Wednesday quite depressed. The drubbing the Democrats took in the mid-term elections was enough to bring to mind thoughts such as: Wow, even Scott Walker!

The tide of discontent represented by the mid-terms is absolutely disastrous for the poor, working families, African Americans, women, the elderly, young people, the uninsured, the imprisoned, tribal people (who continue to be the victims of America's unending wars) and, above all, the environment.

Those were the discouraged, cobwebby ruminations of a sleepy Democrat clearing his head to face a country whose Senate will now be led by our own Mitch McConnell.

However, watching the morning-after report on "Democracy Now" put matters in perspective. Amy Goodman interviewed John Nichols, a political writer for The Nation. His report on the election aftermath is entitled "Obama need not accept lame duck status."

Nichols recalls that the last five two-term presidents, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush II, all faced, in their final two years, a Congress with both houses controlled by the opposition. Yet all except Bush II finished strongly with quite high approval ratings and significant accomplishments during their lame duck years.

This is not the time to give up, Nichols insisted. Instead it's time to double-down on grass-roots issues, making it clear to the president and to the Congress that the people's concerns are not governed by the left-right ideologies that play into the corporate state's strategy of divide and rule. The grassroots should be guided by a sense of fair play, the golden rule and simple justice.

In this Nichols was echoing Ralph Nader in his recently published book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. There, Nader argues that ordinary Americans come together on a broad range of issues that transcend left-right divisions. Nader enumerates 25 of them, including:

■ overcoming gridlock

■ minimum wage increases

■ equal pay for women

■ infrastructure rebuilding

■ affordable college

■ health care reform

■ retaining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

■ the surveillance state

■ protecting government whistle blowers

■ repeal of Citizens United

■ bloated military budgets and wasteful foreign adventures

■ opposition to free trade agreements

■ rejection of further tax breaks for the wealthy

■ global warming

■ the futile war on drugs

■ voter suppression

Nader says we must join local conversations and form alliances to make sure they bubble up into the media and get on the table for the next election cycle.

It's time for grassroots movements to address our country's real problems and to force politicians to do the same, but on our behalf.