The 13th Congressional district primary election in New York City is coming up, at the beginning of summer, on a hot Tuesday. Turnout will be low. Incumbent Charlie Rangel has his back being held up by the establishment, hoping there is enough of an electoral machine left to squeeze out enough votes to go back to Congress once again. That would be a miserable outcome, and it seems likely that a better one will occur. If both the New York Post and The New York Times can both agree that 42 years is enough, there's gotta be hope for a different outcome.
Rangel represents what's wrong with Congress in so many ways. Entrenched, ethically compromised, and with questionable money sloshing around his personal interests. And the only hope to beat him is in the primary. And that's the case with 80 percent of Congress today. We have to replace the Rangels of Congress, on both sides, if we have any hope of confronting the problems of our political divide in an honest manner.
The hope of the Campaign for Primary Accountability is that honest political activists, coming from different political ideologies, can agree on one thing. Congress would be more likely to confront our problems with long-term solutions if we swap out that 80 percent of old guard entrenched congressional representatives, with more principled, accountable, and transparent politicians.
Looking at the bigger picture, if there is any hope for our changing the government, a few things have to be acknowledged.
One: There is no longer a middle centrist ideological ground to occupy in Congress. Ten years ago, when this was being pointed out, there was a lot of resistance but even that has gone by the wayside. The ideological divide in our politics between the progressive and the conservative will not go away, and will only become more stark.
Two: There is a political divide between the establishment and the people, between those with access and those who are getting the shaft. It's a divide that lets those with monetary influence and lobbying access bend laws to favor their wealth and power, and lets incumbents leverage that influence and access in order to maintain their position without electoral challenge.
Three: The extent of partisan divisiveness has reached an extreme level. To identify as a partisan Democrat or Republican means you're willing to accept that your "team" winning is more important than anything -- you'll say or represent whatever it takes. The partisan engagement in political discourse seems limited to self-serving talking points and gotcha moments, on a near hourly basis.
These three political divides are not exclusive of each other, but they are critical to understanding what political activism calls for to produce real change today, and real change means a radical departure from what has been our previous expectation.
Everyone recognizes that the second divide mentioned above is the real problem. Our government is owned by someone, and it's not you. You're told by the politicians that they want to change that, and the only way to do it is by helping one or the other of the parties to gain exclusive power. It seems to make sense, but it doesn't work, because it's not true.
The real path is to reject being hyper-partisan, in favor of being more true to your values. And if we do that, it opens up a lot of doors for a radical change of Congress. And that brings us back to defeating Charlie Rangel. He's just one of many, but if we take them on one by one, replacing them in the primaries with more honest politicians, we will be making progress.
Jerome Armstrong is a Senior Advisor for the Campaign for Primary Accountability. He is the author of Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics.