Detroit-area progressives push back

by Eric Ebel

The progressive Democratic community of the Detroit metro area met to answer the Tea Baggers at a “Call for Action” rally on the evening of February 18. Some 325 people attended the rally, which was held in the United Food and Commercial Workers hall in Madison Heights and sponsored by a wide spectrum of groups, from DSA on the left to Organizing for America, a political arm of the Obama administration, on the “right.” John Freeman, the moderator, made a point of singling out the DSA to praise for its support.

The rally concentrated on five policy areas: immigration reform, clean energy, peace, health-care reform, and jobs. In addition to representatives of the groups pushing these reforms — among them DSA members Al Fishman and Dave Ivers — the rally was addressed by two members of Congress, Reps. Sander Levin (our senator’s older brother) and John Conyers.

At the same time, there was evident frustration in the audience with the compromises the pundits and Beltway insiders have claimed are necessary. Both representatives, however, were adamant that whatever health reform emerged from the process — Rep. Conyers referred to it as a “stinkaroo” — will have to be supported as a step forward.

At the back of the hall, the organizers set up lap-tops for people to send e-mails to their congresspeople and letters to their local papers. This sort of activism is valid, of course, and over the past year has apparently generated hundreds of thousands of constituent contacts. One has to ask, however, if it is reaching diminishing returns. How much longer can the progressive community restrain itself in the face of right-wing backlash and establishment dithering? Is it time for more militant tactics, to demand the change we were promised in the 2008 election? How much longer are we going to wait?

Eric Ebel is a Michigan DSA member.

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