A group of demonstrators recently got into an Obama fundraiser to protest the imprisonment of Bradley Manning, the alleged source of the WikiLeaks cables.
They sang a song to Obama. Part of it went: "We'll vote for you in 2012, yes that's true / Look at the Republicans — what else can we do?"
Manning is not the only one who is in prison.
These protesters have confined themselves. Or rather, they have allowed the political establishment to imprison them. They are attempting to pressure Obama, while saying outright — as they are giving him money — that they don't think they have any other choice but to back him.
Not exactly negotiating from a position of strength.
And some have mocked them. But, really, what is their choice? How can they emancipate themselves?
Look at what is happening on the Republican side. Donald Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year: "Ron Paul cannot get elected." This statement tries to undermine and dismiss Paul's candidacy. Trump's vision of democracy is apparently one where the result is known before the election.
The Democratic establishment has relentlessly penned in Principled Progressives while the Republican establishment has continuously made captives out of Conscientious Conservatives.
And these establishments have succeeded time and time again.
This is particularly tragic because most Principled Progressives and Conscientious Conservatives agree on so much, though it might not seem that way because establishment politicians (and corporate media) dwell on the differences between each other, which are frequently trivial. Consider:
• Foreign policy: Cutting the military budget, ending the U.S.'s wars, dismantling the network of military bases around the globe, stopping support for tyrannical governments like Saudi Arabia, ending support of Israel's aggressions and occupations.
• Economy: Stopping the Wall Street bailouts, ending the Federal Reserve, curtailing runaway corporate power and corporate welfare, ending trade deals like NAFTA that obliterate jobs in the U.S. while impoverishing many in other countries, challenging the IMF and WTO.
• Freedom Agenda: Ending the so-called "Patriot" Act, stopping government use of secret "evidence" to prosecute individuals, insisting on accountability for torture and illegal detentions and renditions, stopping government spying on citizens, ending the drug war and the mass imprisonment that causes, and challenging the media establishment while enhancing solutions like local low power radio and net neutrality.
Oh yeah, and supporting WikiLeaks and whilstleblowers like Bradley Manning.
But Big Media keep telling progressives they're supposed to hate "The Tea Party" — as if there were no difference between Sarah Palin and Ron Paul. And the establishment and corporate media have kept conservatives from seeing the insights of authentic progressives, people like Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and Mike Gravel — demonizing or marginalizing them in a plethora of ways.
So yes, singing protesters: Look good and hard at the Republicans and realize, that on virtually all the issues above, it's the Principled Progressives and Conscientious Conservatives together on one side and the Establishment Center — Obama, the Bushs, the Clintons, Palin, Dick Cheney, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Donald Trump, Mitt Romney — on the other.
What we have is close to a classic prisoner's dilemma: If Conscientious Conservatives and Principled Progressives can find ways to dialogue and cooperate, they might develop strategies to win on all those issues listed above and then some. If they don't, they will likely continue to be shut out and locked down, forever in bondage to the corporate establishment.
Who you've been lead to believe is your enemy — your political opposite number — is actually your ticket to political emancipation.
What we need is the meaningful emergence of a New Center based on principle and conscience. Will there be disagreements? Yes, but with work, they will be honest ones, not endless political hackery.
Manning may be in jail, but in a deeper sense, he's free. He acted on his conscience. We all need to free ourselves — and our votes — from of the partisan boxes the establishment keeps confining us to.