The Public Eye: Heroes of the Resistance

By Bob Burnett
Wednesday January 28, 2009 - 07:29:00 PM

He’s gone. George Bush has left the White House; it’s safe to come out of hiding. But, before progressives take a deep breath and begin attacking Barack Obama for not pursuing our pet issues vigorously enough, let’s stop and applaud those of us who, for the last four plus years, have fought the good fight against Bush’s fascism: the heroes of the resistance. 

Political Heroes: In the dark days after Bush defeated Kerry, it was Nancy Pelosi who rallied Democrats. First she organized opposition to Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security. Then, like the Eveready bunny, she trudged around the country raising money and generating enthusiasm for Democratic House candidates. While Bush’s popularity plummeted after Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, it was the Congressional Democrats return to power in 2006 that finished him politically. 

Another political hero was Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who convinced Dems to compete in every state. At the time, this defied the conventional political wisdom, but it tilled the soil for the Obama presidential campaign, which provided the boots on the ground required to win in traditional Republican strongholds like Indiana and North Carolina. And kudos for Chuck Schumer who guided the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the past two elections; as a result, the DSCC fielded outstanding progressive winning candidates like Sherrod Brown, Amy Klobuchar, and Mark Udall. 

The BB “Croix de Resistance” goes to Representative Barbara Lee, who led the way on every important issue—beginning with her solo opposition to give Bush carte blanche power to invade Afghanistan—and who was the first major black politician to endorse Barack Obama. 

Movement Heroes: In the darkest days of the Bush administration, MoveOn.Org was always there inspiring progressives to fight back against the latest conservative outrage. They built a virtual community of activists who otherwise might have felt alone and, in the process, built a powerful populist lobby. Kudos to Joan, Wes, Eli, and all the other members of the MoveOn staff, who were an inspiration to million of Americans. 

Media Heroes: Although Countdown with Keith Olbermann started in 2003, it didn’t hit it’s stride until August of 2006 when Olbermann aired the first of his special comments and progressives found a voice rivaling the arch-conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly. MSNBC, Olbermann’s cable home, added other liberal voices; the latest being Rachel Maddow, who shows signs of becoming the first progressive media star. 

As the print media died, the blogosphere grew. First came The Daily Kos and then a host of liberal web sites, most notably the Huffington Post. Conservatives may claim the domain of talk radio, but progressives own the Internet and this gave a voice to millions and fueled Obama’s campaign. 

There are now so many liberal columnists that it’s foolhardy to focus on one, but only Paul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize—and now the BB “Croix de Resistance.” Krugman consistently cut through Bush administration obfuscation and dissected our financial system, in particular, and American society, in general. His lucidity would be valuable in any era, but was particularly important in the darkest days of the Bush reign. 

Activist Heroes: While most Americans hunkered down, many progressive issue groups stolidly kept doing their thing, fighting Bush policies at the local level. While it’s impossible to name every group that kept fighting the good fight, here are a representative few: 

The ACLU and other progressive legal groups defended human rights, in general, and the Bill of Rights, in particular. After 9/11, many Americans ignored wiretapping and the plight of those who were imprisoned at Guantanamo and black holes around the world, but civil rights attorneys kept after the Bush administration to grant all prisoners due process. As a result, public opinion changed and America now seems prepared to rejoin the civilized world. 

The Bush era was guided by the maxim, “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy,” and by the contention that global climate change was unproven. The tide turned when Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth became a media phenomenon. 

For eight hard years, environmentalists slugged it out with Bush-inspired profiteers. Groups like the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council—to name only two—stopped construction of new coal-fired and nuclear plants. In the process they shifted public opinion; Americans embraced conservation and alternative energy. 

Everyday Heroes: Finally, the election of Barack Obama would not have been possible without the involvement of millions of people—many of whom are reading this column. You contributed your time and money and chose hope over fear. This is your moment. Revel in it. 


Bob Burnett is a Berkeley activist. He can be reached at