In a political climate where big government solutions are no longer panaceas--or even current options, given the conservative majority in Congress--Mother Jones is seeking to articulate a new progressive vision. To that end, we brought together elements from the center (President Clinton, via some of his representatives) and left (progressive thinkers and activists) at a daylong symposium in Washington, D.C., last fall. Our goal was to draw the Clintonites, who admit to severing many of their connections with progressive institutions over the past two years, back into a dialogue--and even partnership--with their natural constituency. They seemed willing to listen: We identified common values and grappled with real differences in an effort to reformulate progressive discourse. We also attempted to hammer out a political, social, and spiritual vision of democracy for the 21st century, acknowledging the public's desire for smaller government but calling for renewed civic responsibility and a commitment to fresh progressive ideals.
A few of our speakers
- Caleb Rossiter
- Director of the Project on Demilitarization and Democracy: "For democracy to succeed, we need demilitarization. U.S. Arms transfers contradict our foreign policy."
- Holly Burkhalter
- Director of Advocacy at Human Rights Watch: "Elites talking to elites does not work. Without an organized, activist American public we are nowhere."
- Tim Wirth
- Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs: "In a more de-centralized world, existing processes can't solve traditional problems. The U.S. government must ally with grassroots and nongovernmental organizations."
- Morton Halperin
- Presidential Adviser on the National Security Council: "The Administration believes democracy is a universal value, the only form of government. It is a cornerstone of our foreign policy."
- Linda Faye Williams
- of the Congressional Black Caucus: "Government needs not only to listen to the people, but to lead the people. African-Americans believe strongly in federal government. States don't have the resources."
- Retiring Sen. Howard Metzenbaum
- received MoJo'S Lifetime Achievement Award for 18 years of Senatorial hellraising. "Today politics is about fear," he said. "Fear of a 30-second attack ad, fear of losing an election, fear of the radical right. If you are afraid, you can't lead."
- William Glalston
- deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy: "Our challenge is to recapture populist energy for a progressive agenda. We must think about federalism, devolution of power, and a revitalization of citizenship."
Face time with George
While in D.C., the board of the Foundation for National Progress (which publishes MoJo) also met with Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos (below), to discuss 1995 hot-button issues like campaign finance reform and welfare reform. Talks focused on the fact that neither center nor left policies alone are sufficient to counter the right--we need to bridge our differences if we're to move forward.
Talking 'bout a revolution
After watching our symposium on C-SPAN, a Wall Street Journal writer opined that attendees were "shellshocked" by Bill Galston's suggestion that liberals must take public disenchantment with Beltway politics seriously. Hardly. "We have been warning about the importance of political accountability, efficiency in government, and moral values," wrote MoJo Editor in Chief Jeffrey Klein in a responding letter to the WSJ. "With any luck, voters will next examine the conservative chestnut that concessions made to the powerful few will benefit society as a whole."
Mother Jones periodically runs symposia on current issues; our next will be in Los Angeles in June 1995.