Time for a Red-Blue-Green Alliance - Now

05/25/2011 01:45 pm ET

President Obama has a powerful new set of allies in his corner, the Associated Press reports: lobbyists.

In Obama's reform package, lobbyists for the health care industry "see a strategic opportunity" to "guarantee a steady stream of customers subsidized by taxpayers not only for insurers, but for all medical providers." Their infusion of lobbying dollars is giving health care reform the political oxygen it needs to survive.

Meanwhile, coal and agribusiness lobbyists are keeping climate legislation alive, giving the Waxman-Markey bill the votes it needed to pass the House and have a shot in the Senate.

But don't whine about President Obama. This failure is not his -- it is ours. Immediately after electing the president, we largely abandoned him. We failed to create the powerful transpartisan movement we need to break the hold of politics-as-usual. Too many of us saw in Obama a savior we could sit back and revere, while our adversaries saw in him a target they could step forward to destroy.

With no cohesive left-right alliance to pressure Congress, Obama has no choice but to deal with the political powers-that-be, on both the left and the right.

But it is not too late. This mistake was predictable, and perhaps inevitable. Now it's time to learn from it, before next year's mid-term elections. If we want real health care reform, real climate protection, real change, we need to build a powerful grassroots alliance of the left and the right, right now.

I have said it in past posts: The left and the right are the feminine and masculine of American politics -- the heart and the head, the purpose and the power, the meaning and the means. Liberal compassion is the heart of American politics -- it tells us what we want to be. Conservative discipline, the type that Bush forgot about, that derives from scientific rationalism, is the means of American politics -- it tells us how to get there. When progressive transpartisans unite the "what" and the "how," they gain the power to birth new ideas, and grow them to fruition.

We can't achieve the liberal goal of health care for all, for example, if we don't apply the conservative principle of fiscal responsibility, and drive down today's costs. We can't create green jobs, without green profits to pay for them. We can't stop global warming, if we don't build an information-based and clean tech economy to replace our consumptive industrial one.

What would a Red Blue (and Green) Alliance do?

Decide elections, that's what. The political purpose of a left-right alliance would be to capture the so-called "radical middle" -- the 20% or more of the electorate who are socially progressive, but fiscally conservative; who believe business and the environment can be compatible; that social and economic objectives are entwined.

Like a political party, a Red Blue Alliance would endorse candidates who support our agenda. Republicans could not get away with offering zero alternatives. Democrats could not get away with cow-towing with lobbyists. Both would be pressed to support policy options that are socially progressive and fiscally responsible.

We don't need 51% of the vote. We need to capture the middle, the swing vote that decides elections. A coalition that can bring together people like Michael Lind and Ted Halstead, journalist Mark Satin, philosopher Ken Wilber; and organizations like the Progressive Policy Institute, the New America Foundation, the U.S. Climate Task Force, Radical Middle, NDN, New Policy Institute and many more. (See especially Mark Satin's list of organizations that have advanced selected radical center ideas.)

These groups and others develop many of the policies we need. But they don't build the grassroots support that makes them viable. We need a political movement of progressive transpartisans dedicated to advancing these collaborative solutions.

We won't win over everyone on the right, or the left. But with five or ten percent, we will hold the balance of power, and gain a governing majority with its eyes on the future, not the past.

It's our time.