Shahid Buttar: Defending Liberty: How to Shift the Center
Elect Malik Rahim to Congress on December 6 (or Donate to His Campaign)
The greatest near-term opportunity for progressives around the country is the December 6 congressional election in New Orleans.
The incumbent, William Jefferson (D-LA), won a run-off against fellow Democrats in the November election. Yet he faces federal corruption charges on at least eight counts of bribery, supported by the FBI’s seizure of nearly $100,000 in marked bills from an undercover informant that Jefferson stored in his freezer. It’s not merely that Jefferson is electorally vulnerable — he’s also a liability to his own party. Jefferson’s ethical problems have become the target of GOP attacks and a saving grace for a corrupt Republican party infrastructure that found in his indictment evidence that corruption in Washington affects both parties.
Beyond Jefferson’s faults, the race happens to include a strong Green candidate, progressive activist & organizer Malik Rahim. Rahim is no politician. Described as “the living embodiment for post-Katrina reconstruction,” he is a leader who took it upon himself to step in where the Bush Administration failed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And his presence in Congress could pave a road for others to follow.
The Common Ground Collective, which Rahim co-founded the year before the hurricane, ran the first health clinic in New Orleans after Katrina struck. It also mobilized well over 10,000 volunteers to clean up devastated neighborhoods ruined by flooding. Rahim had previously founded a separate organization to promote affordable housing, as well as a program for ex-offenders that has helped over 1,000 former inmates find their place in society.
While inundated with volunteers, his campaign is (predictably, given his hostility to corporate interests) starved for cash. Yet Rahim is poised — with enough support from progressives outside his district — to win the Green Party’s first congressional seat.
Start Preparing for 2010
While Rahim’s election to Congress would not likely prove transformative in itself, it could illustrate the range of fronts on which a significant Green presence would challenge the artificial consensus that impedes meaningful change in Washington. He has assertively called to repeal the PATRIOT Act, bring the troops home, establish universal healthcare, address the affordable housing crisis, and fix the school-to-prison pipeline.
After electing Rahim to represent New Orleans in DC, the next step for Greens, Libertarians, and other marginalized parties will be to begin collaboratively preparing for the 2010 mid-term elections. Recruiting candidates in Democratic strongholds, building grassroots volunteer & fundraising networks, and creating national online and other infrastructure are key.
America showed the world last month that “anything is possible,” but the range of opportunities to achieve real change are unfortunately limited by the persisting array of institutions in DC that continue to confront and impede change. Progressives around the country have an opportunity to translate last month’s presidential election into meaningful change, by supporting the Rahim campaign this week, and then minor party fusion candidates over the next two years.