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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Needed: An “American Jobs Movement”

This item by J.P. Green was originally published on September 23, 2011.
Viewing videos and reading articles about the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ campaign (e.g. here and here), I was encouraged, even though it was only a few hundred protesters, mostly idealistic young people, who will likely evaporate before too long. “Hell, at least somebody is in the street,” I mumbled to no one in particular.
Although the stated goals of the Wall St. protesters seem broad, who knows, this could be the beginning of an ‘American Spring,’ Al Gore and others have called for. One of the common denominators with the Egyptian uprising is that we, too, have a large number of bright, well-educated young people looking at lousy job prospects, though not yet at the crisis levels Egypt is suffering.
The difference between the Wall St. protests and the London riots may just be a matter of time. The progressive hope is that the Occupy Wall St. protest will take on more of the scope, substance and goal-oriented militance of the Wisconsin uprising.
Whether it’s Wall St. occupiers, Madison unionists, London rioters or Cairo demonstrators, working people everywhere want stable, secure employment. Regardless of what the Ayn Rand ideologues and the financial barons say, a decent job ought to be considered a fundamental human right in any nation that calls itself a democracy, and most certainly in the world’s most prosperous democracy. And when the private sector fails to deliver, government should step in and put people to work on needed public works projects.
The American Jobs Act which President Obama has proposed is a start. Reasonable progressives can disagree about how good of a beginning it is and what more needs to be done. But we have to begin somewhere, and right now this is the best single jobs bill we have. Let’s pass it and then fight for more. We might not be able to pass it before the election. It might even take a few years. But let it not be said that it failed to pass because of weak support from the Democratic rank and file.
The American Jobs Act may be a grandiose title for what the legislation actually delivers. But the thing is to view it as a small but important part, a first step goal of something bigger, call it the American Jobs Movement. Such a movement must be a broad-based, well-organized coalition that puts feet in the street and in the halls of congress as citizen lobbyists, not just here and there but continuously, until we exhaust the opposition. Numerous polls indicate that we already have the numbers to make it happen. We just need the organization.
In addition to legislative reforms, an American Jobs Movement could also leverage consumer economic power, in the form of ‘selective patronage’ campaigns, stockholder activism and even targeted boycotts if necessary, to persuade American companies to provide and keep more jobs in the U.S. This part of the American Jobs Movement would not depend on or be limited by any politician. We can only blame our political leaders so much, if we don’t organize our economic power to compel investment in American jobs. After that, it’s on us.
We’ve had a lot of dialogue in the MSM and blogosphere about the need for jobs and what should be done. And some great ideas and insights have been shared. But the missing ingredient has been a mass movement focused on securing the reforms that can produce jobs for Americans. It’s time to add it in and stir it up.

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