There Is No Progressive Movement
by Chris Bowers, Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 06:02:39 PM EDT
The environmental leaders said that by keeping silent on the future of the island, Corzine was risking defection by a key part of his political base.
"We really consider Petty's Island as a litmus test," Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum said at a Statehouse news conference. "It's an easy one. It doesn't take much thought or effort to do the right thing."
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said his board is considering rescinding its two- week-old endorsement of Corzine, adding, "Jon Corzine may be a great environmentalist, but is he willing to stand up to the bosses?"(...)
David Pringle, campaign director for the Environmental Federation, said his group is in the middle of its endorsement process and that endorsing Forrester is an "extremely viable option."
But Tittel said Forrester would have a "long way to go" to gain a Sierra Club endorsement because of questions about his positions on preservation of the Highlands and suburban sprawl.I see. Tittel has no intention of endorsing Forrester, he just wants to give him cover for his terrible environmental record by holding a press conference with him. I also find it interesting that this "litmus test" issue wasn't a problem when the Sierra Club endorsed Corzine two weeks ago. It is also interesting that another environmental leader would call endorsing Forrester a viable option despite Corzine's voting record and despite Forrester's environmental record: Doug Forrester Wants Taxpayers to Pay for Toxic Cleanups
According to a 9/10/2002 article in the Star Ledger. Forrester wants taxpayers to fund toxic cleanups. In 2002, Forrester said he would end the polluter pays system in favor of using income tax revenue for this purpose. Forrester "said, if left to him, his tax plan would replace the old method of funding the cleanup of the nation's abandoned Superfund sites by taxing only petroleum and chemical companies. Forrester also said he would support dedicating part of the federal income tax to help foot the bill." Good. They pollute, you pay.
Doug Forrester's Backers Are the Smog Problem
Next, we have his contributors. In a period of just two days, Forrester accepted $28,000 from midwestern coal interests. Four individual companies and their PACs each gave Forrester between $3,000 and $6,000. This is not including donations from other energy companies. And if you care about where environmentalists put their money in 2002, the Sierra Club alone spent $87,500 to work against his election.
It's clear that all this money from coal companies paid off. In a May 2002 Republican primary debate, Forrester - unlike his two opponents - refused to say that he would fight the EPA's relaxation of standards on Midwest coal plants. If pinned down now, Forrester will in all likelihood claim procedural problems, or find other ways of obfuscating. And if you're willing to take him on faith that he's looking for environmental balance despite having taken money from coal companies, great. But given the Republican Party's record on the environment, you'd have to be very trusting to believe that midwestern coal companies were just civic-minded and wanted the best for government in New Jersey.
Forrester Won't Protect New Jersey Drinking Water and the Highlands
And then we get to sprawl, and the destruction of New Jersey's natural resources (drinking water, space, etc). Forrester has voiced opposition to the bipartisan Highlands Bill, which protects New Jersey's Highlands open space and drinking water preserve. For favorable statements about the Highlands legislation along these lines, see the web sites of the Sierra Club-New Jersey (PDF), the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissioners, New Jersey Future, and the Regional Planning Partnership. Forrester's position on this bill suggests that he will govern well, like a Republican.
Forrester Opposes Responsible Development
There are lots of examples of where Forrester gets dodgy on growth issues relevant to all of our lives. For instance, Forrester opposes current impact fees on developers for the damage they do. Damage is somewhat inevitable in development, so it's imperative that we make sure that the people who profit from harming the environment pay for cleaning it up. Yet, during the Republican primary, in May 2005, Forrester voiced opposition to impact fees on developers as they had previously been effected. Forrester was asked, "Do you support impact fees on developers?" He said, "I think that impact fees on developers have not been handled well, and the reason that they have not been handled well is because they've been handled in isolation." Again, if you're willing to trust someone who opposes responsible smart growth measures, and who has taken money from all sorts of anti-environmental interests, great. But that's a lot of trust for someone who won't discuss the environment in any substantive manner.I have several reactions to this. First, why are there around five or six different environmental organizations in New Jersey alone? It is as though "Let's Split," a remake of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" which I plan to record soon, is the theme song of the progressive "movement." Second, why would any environmental leader say that endorsing Forrester would be a viable option considering what is clearly his atrocious record on the environment, which includes taking large sums of money from major polluters? Third, even if you have no plans on endorsing Forrester, why would you hold a Corzine-bashing press conference with him? Apart from improving Forrester's election chances, exactly what would such a press conference achieve? Even worse, after such a press conference is splashed all over the news, is there any way Corzine can actually support your demands without looking like a tool of "special interests?"
Labor, environmental and civil rights groups often seem to be under the delusion that they can accomplish their goals separate from the progressive movement as a whole. This is, of course, hogwash. Labor, environmental and civil rights groups are entirely dependent on broad, electoral coalitions in order to pass the sort of legislation they need to achieve their aims. Because Arlen Specter is still a Senator from Pennsylvania, labor, the environment and civil rights all suffer. If Lincoln Chafee remains a Senator from Rhode Island, labor, the environment and civil rights will all suffer. If Doug Forrester becomes Governor of New Jersey, again labor, the environment and civil rights will all suffer.
The whole thing is a giant clusterfruck. The only reason the Governor's race in New Jersey is close is because of the corruption, both real and perceived, in the New Jersey Democratic Party., which is directly related to what made the Sierra Club angry in the first place At the same time, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups have no business helping the election chances of an rabid anti-environmentalist like Forrester. We are left with a situation where it is very difficult to hold our own party accountable, while simultaneously the hopes of the entire progressive movement are shifted into equally unaccountable, non-partisan, single issue ghettos that have no loyalty or coordination with each other, and are forced to throw the occasional very public, anti-Democratic temper tantrum in order to maintain their non-partisan veneer. That is the pathetic state of progressivism in this country, and is exactly why we have taken giant steps backwward over the past five years. At the same time, Republicans have built massive, internal, infrastructures that guarantee radical conservatism remains ascendant within the Republican party.
This is why Democrats lose elections. While conservatives have built a massive, national movement, there is no progressive movement to speak of. There are no institutions where these single issue groups can work with one another. There is no mechanism through which we can help build discipline within those organizations. Even with the ongoing silent revolution, many Democratic parties remain entirely unaccountable to their members and profoundly unreformed.
I can rant and rave about this crap all I like, but the fact is that nothing is going to change unless there is an institution through which it becomes possible to hold elected Democrats in line, hold progressive interest groups in line, and provide a location through which they can hammer out broader agreements, nothing is going to change. The fact of the matter is that as progressives, our existing means of achieving our hopes and dreams in this country are completely broken, and it is everyone's fault. Jon Corzine is one of the bright shining stars of a possible progressive future. He is one of very few possible progressive Presidents, but he must win this race to do so. Everyone keeps thinking that it isn't close and Corzine will blow Forrester out, but there is no way you can take a deeper look into this campaign and come away still believing that. Not only is Corzine's ten point lead illusory because he has a much higher name ID, but in New Jersey you could not have a better example of just how completely screwed up the progressive movement actually is. There is no way we should lose this election, but because there is not progressive movement in this country, there is a very good chance that we will.
We are in a lot of trouble.