I’ve been talking about how important both Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin are to this country to anyone who will listen for a while now.  When people ask me why they are so important, my answer is very simple: They are both true progressives, and that’s what America needs. Period. It’s pretty clear that the present ‘system’ of electing our leaders isn’t going to change any time soon. We’ve made half-hearted attempts at reforming the election process and have basically gotten nowhere. Witness the McCain-Feingold Act (also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002). What little reform this legislation managed to muster was flushed down the toilet with the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision of 2010. This ill-begotten 5-4 decision basically opened the floodgates for corporate ownership of our election process. The Supreme Court incorrectly ruled that corporations are people, stating that the First Amendment prevents the government from censoring broadcasts during candidate elections when those broadcasts are funded by corporations or unions. In a nutshell: The money’s not coming out of the political process anytime soon.

It’s also pretty clear that an effective and electable third-party candidate isn’t on the immediate horizon. While we do have The Green Party of the United States, the ‘greenies’ are largely viewed as an environmentally conscious party and not much more. It doesn’t matter that its platform is far-ranging, covering issues such as social justice, peace and disarmament, women’s rights, and sexual orientation and gender identity. The mainstream (read: corporate) media certainly doesn’t pay much attention to The Green Party. Its positions are clearly spelled out and, more importantly, it takes positions on critical issues. Yet, the party seems to be virtually unknown on a broad scale. One of the elements missing from The Green Party is a strong public relations effort, something that the Tea Party seems to be quite adept at. The other issue is finances.  No effective third-party run can be made without financial support. In the face of the billions of dollars spent by both Democratic and Republican candidates every election cycle, The Green Party doesn’t have a chance. If it were a level playing field, perhaps things would be different. The move toward electing true progressives must start at the local level, precinct by precinct and state by state. At present, it is not a cohesive effort which is a drawback, but the hope is that it will continue to evolve. The question is whether or not this nation can continue to wait for this to happen from the ground up, and that’s why electing Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin is important.

Elizabeth Warren surging in the polls

How in the hell Scott Brown managed to take Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts is beyond me. Their ideals are poles apart. As a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, I understand that this state is unusual. We’ve had Republican governors while we’ve had overwhelmingly Democratic legislatures. Yet the election of Tea Party favorite Scott Brown escapes all reason. I had originally planned to support Setti Warren in 2012, even though he didn’t have a chance in hell of unseating Brown. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, I was angry that Barack Obama turned his back on Elizabeth Warren when it came time to name the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I saw it for what it was: Another cave-in to the GOP, which is scared to death of Elizabeth Warren. Then, when I heard that she was jumping into the Massachusetts senate race, my anger turned to excitement. Warren is the best possible candidate this state can muster to send Scott Brown packing, and she caught fire here right from the beginning. There is excitement in the air and people are flocking to volunteer for her campaign. A couple of weeks ago, she was running behind Brown, but that is beginning to change. While it’s still too early for Warren to write her victory speech, a December 2 UMass Amherst Poll puts Warren in the lead over Scott Brown for the first time (by 4 points). While Warren’s lead is within the margin of error, she leads Brown in several key areas.

The most impressive thing about Elizabeth Warren is that she is a real outsider. She’s not a career politician. She’s never run a campaign before, yet her candid, up front style has touched a nerve with voters. While she may lack political savvy, Warren has a very clear understanding of what America needs, not just Massachusetts. That’s why when (and I’m being optimistic here; I don’t see how Brown can beat her) we elect Warren in Massachusetts, the whole country benefits. She is a fierce fighter for the middle class, and she is not afraid of the Wall Street bullies. I attended her very first debate at UMass Lowell, and this is what she had to say:

“The people on Wall Street broke this country, and they did it one lousy mortgage at a time. It happened more than three years ago, and there has been no real accountability, and there has been no real effort to fix it. That’s why I want to run for the United States Senate.”

Warren is criticizing her own party as much as she is Wall Street. Barack Obama’s tough talk about reigning in Wall Street and bringing the perpetrators to justice has pretty much been just that. Talk. In fact, his list of top economic advisers looks like a Wall Street who’s who (starting with Timothy Geithner). Very little, if anything, has been done to either reign the players in or hold those who brought this country to economic calamity accountable. Warren pushed hard for both. It was through Warren’s efforts that the bureau was created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (signed into law by Obama in July 2010). For the first year, Warren worked on implementation of the bureau as Special Assistant to the President, and was favored by liberal groups to become the agency’s first head. At the end of the day, it wasn’t just the GOP who didn’t want Warren in that position, but also Geithner. And we pretty much all know that Obama’s backbone is weak. The best thing about candidate Warren is that she has a clean slate. Her fundraising is grassroots. No corporate donations. Nobody owns her; not even the members of her own party. She is running as a candidate for the people.

If her detractors thought she was going to be dangerous as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, they’re going to get more than they bargained for once she gets to the senate. That’s why Karl Rove and his Crossroads GPS PAC is already on the prowl, doing all he can to discredit Warren. It’s also why Wall Street is rushing to fill the coffers of “free market advocate”  and Tea Party darling Scott Brown. At one of her speeches, a Tea Party supporter interrupted Warren, calling her a “socialist whore.”

A progressive in Wisconsin

Tammy Baldwin was the first woman ever elected to Congress from Wisconsin, and the first openly gay non-incumbent ever elected to the House of Representatives. She has been serving Wisconsin’s 2nd District since 1999. If she is successful in capturing the open Wisconsin senate seat, she will be the nation’s first openly gay senator. Like Warren, Baldwin’s candidacy has energized progressives. She has also energized LGBT civil rights groups  and the community in general. Baldwin voted against the invasion of Iraq. She also co-sponsored HR 333 proposing articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney, and HR 589 which proposed articles of impeachment against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. She is also a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would effectively repeal DOMA.

Like Elizabeth Warren, Baldwin is also a fighter for the middle class. Legislation introduced by Baldwin helped to insure an additional 1 million young adults by allowing them to remain on their parents’ health insurance plan until the age of 26. Baldwin, along with 24 of her colleagues, also sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder opposing any settlement that would that would give mortgage servicers blanket immunity for wrongdoing related to illegal mortgages and foreclosure practices, stating that those who have lost their homes and savings “must be allowed to sue to recover their losses.” Baldwin has pledged to fight against any attempt to end Medicare.

Former Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold, another outstanding progressive, has endorsed Baldwin for the senate, noting that both she and Feingold stood side-by-side 10 years before the nation’s financial collapse against the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Said Feingold, “These commonsense rules of the road prevented Wall Street and the big banks from making risky investments, and the end of those safeguards led to our economic crisis.”

Just as Baldwin is not afraid to be “out,” she’s also not afraid to be branded a liberal in spite of the fact that her GOP opponents will use it against her as they have Elizabeth Warren. At the recent Nation’s Institute dinner, she stated, “It’s not that we’ve forgotten how to create wealth in this country. It’s that we have allowed that wealth to be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. And as the distance between top and bottom has widened, the bonds between us have stretched and broken.” Then she went on to define what it means to be a progressive:

“It must be our fight — for an economy and a government that works for the 99 percent. A fight that says we’re all in this together. A fight that declares we have an obligation to each other. An obligation to be fair and just. And where there are wrongs, an obligation to change it,” she continued. “Believing in that — that’s what it means to be a progressive.”

She also asked Americans to “break the grip that Wall Street and big banks have” on our society, and to “hold Wall Street accountable” for the nation’s economic collapse.

A recent poll puts Tammy Baldwin running even with GOP opponents former governor and Bush Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson (doesn’t this clown ever give it up?) and former congressman Mark Neumann. Neumann has already made some disparaging remarks about gay people, but Baldwin refuses to take the bait, stating that the election is about the middle class, not her.

This is an opportunity for Massachusetts and Wisconsin to take the lead in finally making “change we can believe in.” Both candidates will not only help their individual states, but the nation as a whole. We need more candidates on a national level like Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin, but this is a great place to start.