Why Not Create A Shadow Government?


Michael Albert

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