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Why Not Create A Shadow Government?
As you read this, the presidential elections are over. Without doubt the new president, minutely different from the old president, is waiting eagerly to commit domestic and international mayhem on behalf of his favored elite constituencies. The unanswered question is what are Nader, LaDuke, and the Greens going to do now that the campaign is over? Having run a campaign that inspired large audiences all across the U.S., what's next? Having built apparatuses in many states, what is to be done with them?
I have a suggestion. What if Nader and LaDuke were to announce that they were establishing a shadow government? They announce a set of cabinet members (secretary of state, labor, etc.), a staff (press secretary, etc.), and a list of senators across the country. They announce a web site that includes not only the biographies of the shadow officials and a statement by each regarding his or her aims and priorities, but also forums for on-going discussion, a sign-up mechanism to receive future communications, and an extensive, compelling display of on-going shadow government policy priorities and positions contrasted to those of the actual government.
Every week, starting with the inauguration in January, the shadow government site could be augmented with at least three types of material:
- Commentary on the shadow government's view of major U.S. government undertakings for the week, and what the shadow government would have done differently, and the estimated difference in impact between the shadow choices and those of Washington.
- Presentation of what the shadow government would have undertaken/initiated during the week, explaining why the Washington government is unlikely to embark on similar actions, and what the public gains would have been had the shadow government been able to pursue its aims.
- A summary contrasting the overall impact of the two governments for the week— plus a cumulative summary of major differences for the year to date.
The site could also have sections relating to various spheres of social life—the economy, politics, cultural issues, family matters, foreign policy, and the ecology, for example. There could be sections for each person in the cabinet, for the president's staff and the senate. We could also have new appointments for the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies, as well as for financial institutions, courts, and so on. We could have a section for a state of the week speech, given by Nader/LaDuke, with a press conference, and broadcast on diverse independent radio stations as well as on the site. There is really no limit to the creative things that could be done.
The point of the project would be to demonstrate as accessibly as we can the philosophical and policy differences and their implications between the actual administration and a Green-Nader-LaDuke administration. Special events could also occur, such as a shadow inauguration, shadow state of the nation address, shadow press conferences broadcast over the site and to the press directly, shadow Senate votes, shadow Supreme Court appointments, shadow budget presentations and hearings, and even shadow White House cultural events, etc.
The shadow government site could include audio speeches and texts as well as on-going dialogue between shadow government officials and the public in cumulative forum systems and live chat sessions. This would educate the public on what the U.S. government actually does, on what its impact is, and especially on what an alternative progressive government would have done were it in office. It would provide a record on which Greens could run next time around. The site, press conferences and public campaigns, demonstrations, teach-ins, and other events would be a thorn in the side of elite government and, more important, an educational resource and organizing tool in the U.S. and probably around the world as well.
Does all this replace getting out and organizing? Of course not. But the idea of a shadow government with shadow events, policies, statements, and results so people can judge if they want something far more radical than Washington offers, has a democratic, participatory, and engaging aura about it. The potential for developing in diverse directions is obvious including public debates and teach-ins around the shadow government material, and related challenges to the real government, to media, and to other institutions.
What is the obstacle to doing this? Well, the technology is easy enough. There is effort and creativity required, a lot of energy and ingenuity, but the project wouldn't cost much in dollars. Since there is no dearth of good people to fill the cabinet posts, presidential staff, courts, joint chiefs, even the whole Senate —the only real difficulty in the way is (a) will Nader and LaDuke do it, or, if not, can others do it in their place?; and (b) getting along, coming to agreements, and being okay about going with “x” when some people prefer “y” or even “z.”
Well, regarding these issues, isn't it about time the left managed to generate enough coherence, at least about short-term critique of events and immediate positive program, to present a united face? Wouldn't this be an invigorating and productive way to do it? There are lots of procedures that could be used. Even the worst option would probably be better than nothing: Nader appointing “from the top” all the officials and having the kind of overarching influence on choices that a real president does.
It would be much better still, of course, for various parts of the undertaking to be overseen by appropriate grass-roots organizations and projects interacting together democratically and with relative autonomy in their own domains.
In any event, the first step would be for Nader and LaDuke to decide they want to do it, for them and various Greens to choose a cabinet and other central appointments, and for the new shadow cabinet and as many other appointed officials as possible to together decide how to deal with each week's critical postings and policy and other determinations.
Here are just a few appointment possibilities to give an idea of what this shadow government might look like, though there are thousands of combinations that anyone on the left ought to be happy with. Imagine, for example, Noam Chomsky as shadow Secretary of State with Howard Zinn next-door heading up the shadow Department of Defense. How about Elaine Bernard organizing the shadow Department of Labor, along with Manning Marable for the shadow Department of Housing and Urban Development?
What about Barbara Ehrenreich for the shadow Department of Health and Human Services? How about putting Jim Hightower back in the saddle in the shadow Department of Agriculture, while having Juliet Shor chair the Federal Reserve, and Robin Hahnel worker self-manage the Department of the Treasury. How about FAIR's Jannine Jackson as Press Secretary, and ex-presidential Candidate and Head of the Center of Constitutional Rights Ron Daniels revamping the Department of Justice?
Just think of the shadow cultural events we could sponsor when the White House hosts a staid hypocritical evening of operatic-scale elitism with the president pontificating stage right of the piano—and the shadow White House hosts at the same time the most incredible of all parties. Z