The 2004 presidential election season is finally underway in Portland. Both the Dean and Kucinich campaigns have opened up campaign headquarters here and their volunteers can be found at a growing number of public events.
The heating up of presidential politics is also sparking increasingly heated discussions among progressives. Although the dynamics are different than in 2000 Ralph Nader isnt looming on the horizon and the 2004 George Bush is a much different candidate than he was in 2000 that hasnt stopped clashes between Portlands Democrats and the citys left. The discomfort caused by being caught between the need to end one of the nastiest regimes since Ronald Reagans and staying true to our values has left us firing away at each other rather than finding common ground that would allow us to, if not work together, at least not engage in the vicious behavior exhibited during the Gore-Bush contest.
That, obviously, is easier said than done. The anxiety runs deep, even in left institutions intended to cultivate discussion within our movement.
At the Alliance, the presidential elections brought about a heated discussion at a recent board meeting. Some board members felt the community looks to us to educate them on important political issues and we should be doing profiles of candidates for that reason. Other board members felt issues, not candidates, should be our focus.
There is a third alternative for not just a troubled board but for the progressive community. We could take one step back and take in a larger view. From this larger perspective, national electoral politics play an important role. Equally important are local elections. So are struggles around civil rights, gender, race, economic justice, and environmental sustainabilty. This view takes in struggles through our judicial system to protect and expand our democracy and thereby protect and expand spaces for us in which to organize even more deeply in our society.
This view doesnt dismiss past errors, but it puts them in a perspective that allows us to move forward. It allows us to use the current presidential horse race to curb as much as we can the Democrats desire to move once again to the right while we organize around critical issues like universal health care, restoring our education system, and creating living wage jobs. It also doesnt mean we abandon the goal of beating Bush, it simply relieves the pressure of having to find or convince ourselves weve found the ideal progressive candidate to run against our deserter-in-chief. We can settle for a less perfect candidate because the contest is only one part of our larger picture.
This of course is easier said than done. Politics are nothing if not filled with passionate people. In the coming months, as we work through our own thoughts about 2004, we will try to not just educate our readers about what is and isnt important in all the presidential campaigning hoopola we will try to continue provoking our readers, testing their assumptions, and challenging their assertions about how progressives should really respond to the 2004 challenge.
Unfortunately, we wont be entering the new year in the best of positions to do that. As many of you know who read this column, life for an alternative newspaper like the Alliance is always life lived on the financial edge. This papers finances reflect the paycheck-to-paycheck existence so many Portlanders lead.
We made a commitment at the beginning of this year to change that. We committed to building a two-month reserve that would ensure that should we hit rough seas, we had the cash reserves to weather the storm. To that end, we have been active in a number of ways, most visibly in organizing a number of events. This year we brought Greg Palast, Reese Erlich, and Jim Hightower to town and in each case brought in much-needed cash. Unfortunately, our latest and most ambitious effort sponsoring a three-day run of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Although those who attended enjoyed the troupe and troupe members reported having a good time, we lost over $4,800 in the deal and are now faced with trying to re-negotiate with the troupe. It was a blow that undid much of our earlier work this year.
Later this month our subscribers and supporters will be receiving a letter in the mail that will provide a more detailed picture of what happened and how it has (or hasnt) been resolved. But our purpose in writing is more than just to tell you that story and how we intend to overcome this temporary setback. We want to share what we hope to achieve in the year ahead and how you can be a part of that (and yes, part of that involves your checkbook). So keep your eyes on your mailbox.
The Portland Alliance
2807 SE Stark Portland,OR 97214
Last Updated: January 29, 2003