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Fourteen 2014 New Year's Resolutions for Progressives -- and One for Every Year

12/30/2013 08:59 am ET | Updated Mar 01, 2014

2014 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the Progressive Movement in the United States.

The Right Wing did everything they could dream up to block progressive change in 2013.

The coming year will determine whether progressives allow the obstructionist tactics of extremists and their billionaire allies to stop change that benefits the vast majority of ordinary Americans.

It will determine whether the Affordable Care Act is successful at establishing that health care is a human right.

It may determine whether the discredited Neo-Cons that brought us the Iraq War are allowed to drag us into yet another war in the Middle East.

And most important, it will determine whether the progressive forces in America have the toughness of character necessary to turn on the after burners and once again defeat the forces that would drag America backward.

Here is a list of fourteen 2014 New Year's resolutions for progressives -- and one resolution for every year:

Resolution #1 -- We must make 2014 a turning point year in the battle to reverse the gradual demise of the American middle class.

The defining economic fact of the last three decades has been the growing economic polarization of American society between most Americans and the wealthiest among us.

Over the last thirty years most Americans have experienced zero increase in their standard of living. Yet our per capita gross domestic product and productivity per person have both increased by 80 percent.

Virtually all of that increase has gone to the stop 1 percent.

2014 must be the year when increased economic inequality stops being the new normal. We need to insist that every economic proposal -- every policy -- every political debate must be evaluated by the critical need to reverse the increasing economic polarization of the last 30 years.

Resolution #2 -- Our first order of business must be to restore unemployment compensation to the 1.3 million Americans who lost it three days after Christmas.

Right now there are three job seekers for every available job. Worse, a disproportionate share of those job seekers have been unemployed for 6 months or longer.

For decades we have never let unemployment benefits laps for the long term unemployed while more than 1.3 percent of the population in unable to find work for six months or more. Today double that number -- 2.6 percent -- have been out of work for 6 months or longer and are still unable to find a job.

Yet the Republicans have been unwilling to allow these benefits to continue. Some of them have actually argued that providing people an economic bridge to help carry them until they find a job makes them "dependent".

Progressives cannot rest until the GOP is shamed into restoring long term unemployment benefits until the number of unemployed Americans drops to a level where it is reasonably likely that someone can find productive employment.

Resolution #3 -- Progressives must stand up loudly and forcefully for unions, the right of collective bargaining and -- in particular -- public employee unions.

The increasing economic polarization of American society will never end if workers cannot demand to share the fruits of increased productivity at the bargaining table.

The last thirty years have shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that left to its own devices the laissez-faire labor market will siphon all of those benefits to the top one percent of society. In fact, the stagnation of middle class wages has directly paralleled the reduction in the percentage of private sector workers represented by unions.

The right and America's economic elite have been particularly keen on attacking the collective bargaining rights of public employees -- one sector where union representation has grown.

Unfortunately, in 2013 some public officials who think of themselves as progressives have been complicit in cutting the pensions and pay of middle class public employees at the same time they have continued to give huge tax breaks to the wealthy and the country's biggest corporations.

And progressive must strongly support labor actions by fast food and other service workers who are demanding a living wage of $15 per hour.

In 2014 we have to make clear that to be a progressive, you have to support the right of collective bargaining. It's just as fundamental to democracy as the right to vote or the right to free speech.

Resolution #4 -- Progressives must insist on a serious increase in the minimum wage. We have stand up strongly for the view that no one should work full time and still live in poverty.

A bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and index it to inflation -- including workers who get tips -- is supported by the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate and by the President. Progressives need to resolve to mount a no- holds-barred campaign to pass the bill. If Republicans refuse to bring a bill to the floor of the House (where it would pass), we need to hold them accountable in the fall elections.

Resolution #5 -- Progressive need to resolve to prevent another war in the Middle East. The same Neo-Cons that brought America the Iraq War are promoting resolutions in Congress that would, in effect, derail negotiations to limit the development of nuclear weapons by Iran. Unfortunately, some Democrats have bought in.

Resolutions of this type need to be stopped dead in their tracks. If peaceful negotiations with Iran fail, two options remain: either accept a nuclear armed Iran or take military action. Neither of those options is acceptable.

Another Middle East war would create horrific carnage. It would be disastrous for American foreign policy and our economy. What's more it is widely opposed by most voters.

Resolution #6 - Progressive must insist that Congress reign-in the ever growing surveillance programs of the American intelligence community.

2014 could be a turning point year in determining whether a democratic society can use its exploding technological capability to protect its security at the same time it protects the precious privacy rights of ordinary Americans from the creation of a "Big Brother" state.

The report of the President's Commission on surveillance is a good place to start.

Resolution #7 -- The movement to stem gun violence in America must resolve to demonstrate unquestionably that reasonable restrictions on gun violence occupy the high political ground.

Progressives need carry the demand for universal background checks -- supported by 90 percent of the population -- into the fall elections. And we need to make it clear that the NRA is a paper tiger that speaks for the gun industry -- not the majority of law abiding gun owners.

We also need to focus energy on campaigns aimed at the gun industry -- demanding that hedge funds divest from gun manufacturers and developing consumer movements to get retailers to refuse to sell assault weapons and don't allow customers to carry weapons in their stores.

Finally, progressives need to take on "Stand Your Ground" laws nationwide. The "Stand Your Ground" issue combines concerns of the gun violence movement and those in minority communities who are organizing against racial profiling.

Resolution #8 -- Progressives need to throw down everything we have to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform with a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people whose families are being torn apart by the broken immigration system.

We need to make it clear that if the GOP continues to block consideration of an immigration bill that has majority support in the House and has passed the Senate with a huge bi-partisan majority -- it will pay a long lasting political price. And we all need to work closely with the immigrant community to empower it to exact that price.

Resolution # 9 -- In 2014 progressives must demonstrate that anti-woman, anti-gay and lesbian positions that were once political "wedge issues" among Democrats and Independents are now political kryptonite for Republicans and the right.

Resolution # 10 -- On this 50th anniversary year of the Selma March, we have to pass a revised Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court's invalidation of a section of the Voting Rights Act left a void in the law that a number of states rushed to fill with legislation to suppress the votes of African Americans, Hispanics and young people.

It is possible to pass a replacement to these sections of the law with the support of some Republicans who -- even though they are very conservative -- support voting rights in principle.

Congressman John Lewis, who helped lead the March in Selma 50 years ago, has lead a commemorative reenactment of that march for many years that has been widely attended by many Member of Congress. This year that commemorative march should be the centerpiece of the campaign to replace the portions of the Voting Rights Act that were invalidated by the Court.

And a new Freedom Summer is planned to register people to vote this year -- especially in states that are doing their best to prevent everyone from exercising their franchise.

Resolution #11 - In 2014 progressives must launch a true movement to challenge the policy of mass incarceration that has caused our country to hold 25 percent of the world's prisoners, even though it has only 5 percent of the world's population. Mass incarceration is a stain on our aspiration to be the land of the free.

And its discriminatory application to people of color has resulted in what author Michelle Alexander calls the "New Jim Crow". One in three black men will be held in prison in their lifetime. Even though African Americans make up about 13.5 percent of the population, they account for over 40 percent of the prison population.

Incarceration rates have exploded, even though crime rates have dropped.

To end mass incarceration requires first and foremost that we end the failed "war on drugs".

Resolution #12 - Progressives must resolve to remove all respectability from the "climate deniers" in Congress whose actions threaten the future of the planet on which our children's future depends. Our message should be simple: their willingness to satisfy the short term financial interests of their oil industry patrons represents a complete betrayal of their responsibility to future generations.

Resolution #13 -- Next November, progressives must do everything possible to make certain that Democrats maintain control of the Senate and put the Speaker's gavel back into the hands of Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi.

The stakes could not be higher for the progressive agenda.

If Republicans take control of the Senate, every major progressive initiative could be stymied for the balance of President Obama's term.

If we are successful at holding the Senate and taking back the House, the last two years of the Obama presidency could be the most productive, progressive period in recent American history.

Our biggest priority: turnout.

There are those who believe one or both of these goals is impossible. These people are dead wrong.

The outcome of the fall elections will be determined entirely by who comes out to vote. More than any other priority, progressives must mobilize young people, African Americans, Hispanics, women, union members, Asian Americans and progressives of all stripes to go to the polls. We can do that.

Progressives begin with the high political ground on every political issue, except for ObamaCare. But by Election Day millions of people will be receiving healthcare insurance who could never do so before. Americans will no longer live in fear that pre-existing conditions or illness can force them into bankruptcy or shatter their lives. And the problems associated with the program's launch will have faded from memory.

That brings us to resolution number 14.

Resolution #14 -- Progressives have to insist upon -- and do everything we can to help insure -- the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

That means mobilizing people to "get covered". It means that we have to take the offensive against the right's attempts to take away the law's new benefits. We have to give them no quarter when it comes to the Affordable Care Act and in the end we will have to turn their attempts make ObamaCare a political negative, into a net political positive this fall.

Finally, I would propose one additional New Year's resolution for this year -- and every year.

Progressive must celebrate the life of the late Nelson Mandela by demonstrating the same combination of constancy and persistence that made him into one of the most inspiring and transformative figures of the 20th century.

Mandela never veered from his vision of a color-blind society where every person had one vote and stood equal before the law. He refused to compromise those principles even when he was offered his own freedom from prison if he would do so.

At the same time, Mandela understood that the most important ingredient of victory is persistence. He joined the movement for freedom in South Africa in the 1940's. In the course of his struggle he went to prison for 27 years and he ultimately was elected President of the new South Africa almost half a century later.

The other side doesn't just roll over and play dead. Frederick Douglas said it best: "Power surrenders nothing without a demand, it never has and never will," he said. "Without struggle there can be no progress."

Progressives must resolve this New Years Day to have a "Cathedral Builder's" view of history.

In the Middle Ages some of the world's great Cathedrals were build by generations of workers -- some of whom made their contribution, but never lived to see the spectacular results of their own life's labor.

The struggle for social and economic justice lasts for generations as well. Like Mandela, let us all resolve this New Year of 2014, to stay constant to our values -- and to understand that to turn our vision of a truly democratic society into reality requires unwavering persistence -- and generations of effort. Let's each resolve to do our individual part -- whatever it may be -- to construct a society that provides unprecedented opportunity and freedom to all of those who will celebrate the coming of many New Years for generations to come.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.