|No Fear of Freedom||
|Anti-right rants from an obnoxious lumpen proletarian. Aiming to Arm the Choir.|
February 21, 2004
For Progressives: What We're Gonna DoSaw a commenter the other day who said, roughly, "If I waste my vote on a Democrat, it will be at the last minute, in the voting booth." This is a big issue. Word is Nader is gonna declare his candidacy Sunday. Listen carefully. If you cast your vote for anyone other than a Democrat in November, or in any other election year, you're insane. Okay, probably not clinically, but practically, you're insane.
If you cast a vote for anyone other than a Democrat or a Repuke, because you're too pure of heart to "waste" your vote on a nasty-ass CorporaDem, let me tell ya what you're gonna do. You'll cast half a vote for the Repukelicans and their proto-fascist wings (and I hope that makes you feel as bad as it should), and shoot the other half a vote straight into oblivion. Unless you're a right winger, not voting for the Democrat is worse than wasting your vote.
Ain't gonna be no third party movement creating a paradigm change in American politics. There have been at least a thousand alternative party movements and, best I can recollect, only one ever succeeded in supplanting a major party. And the Whigs fucked up pretty bad. I know the Dems are fuck ups, but it's a mighty thin reed to place all your hopes on the Dems fuckin' up as bad as the Whigs did.
Progressives say, "Oh, but the Dems are awful and the Publicans are worse. Whatever can we do?" Well, first, they've made a key point, though I don't know if they know it. The Repukelicans are worse. I don't want to hear any crap about how if you vote for the lesser of two evils, you're still voting for evil. Of course you are, but if you only get two choices, the lesser of two evils is a no-brainer.
So we're stuck with the Demorats. That's the bad news. Here's the good news. The "movement" conservatives who exert such a powerful influence over the GOPukes today started exactly where we are today. In 1964, after Goldwater's crushing defeat, the right wing pseudo-cons were battered, defeated (so we thought), and wandering in the wilderness. They had virtually no power over the more or less honorable GOP of the time. They were right where we are now. Being pseudo-cons, though, they didn't know they were beaten. Their limitless optimism blinded them to the barriers in their path.
The far right pseudo-cons didn't set out to build their own party, they set out to get their hands on the levers of power in the Republican party, and they did. Not overnight, not over a few years, it took decades, but they never quit. Relentless as the tarantula.
Okay, they had advantages we don't have. Dull intellects aren't easily distracted or dissuaded. They had a far right money spigot flowing day and night for all those years. That spigot's still wide open and there is no left wing counterpart.
Nevertheless, they have shown us the way. First, we need to work within the Democratic party. Instead of working to build an alternative, we have to transform the Democrats into an alternative. Don't tell me it can't be done. The pseudo-cons did it.
So how are we gonna do that? First, we rid ourselves of the notion that corruption is the problem. Corruption is the reality, a natural part of politics and therefore gummint. We rid of ourselves of the notion that politicians are corrupt because they're greedy or evil.
Most politicians aren't in it for the money. Most could make more in the private sector. The money from the legal bribery that has become the basis of our political system doesn't, for the most part, wind up in the pockets of politicians. It winds up in their campaign chests. Senators aren't rich because they're Senators, they're Senators because they're rich.
What drives politicians is the need to get elected. Most politicians are in it for the power. That ain't necessarily a bad thing, either.
Here's the story I heard about Huey P. Long, the "Kingfish" of Louisiana. It may not be true, but it illustrates my point. Huey Long was a radical, he wanted desperately to help the common man. Hell, Huey P. was the common man. The first time Huey P. ran for office, he got beat by the corruption of his opponent and he said, "That ain't never gonna happen agin." I don't know if they say agin in Louisiana, but what the hell. Huey decided that from then on he'd be the most corrupt politician in every race, not because he was evil, but because if he didn't get elected he couldn't do what he wanted to do. How'd it work out? There's a verse in a Randy Newman song where the Kingfish says:
Who built the highway to Baton Rouge?Power is neither good nor evil, it's a tool. If you're too pure to tolerate any corruption, you need to read Saul Alinsky's Rules For Radicals.
Course, the fact we don't have, and we prolly ain't gonna have, that money spigot is a serious obstacle. The way to overcome that obstacle is with numbers.
We can have the people, but to get 'em we're gonna have to become a movement instead of a loose collection of single issue splinters. That means we're gonna have to prioritize issues. That doesn't mean abandoning any important issue, it means putting some issues on the backburner until we have the power to do something about them.
We can have the people, but to get 'em we've got to appeal to them on bread and butter issues, not the boutique issues of the week. Lemme tell ya somethin' 'bout us lower class workin' folk. It's not that we don't care about boutiques, it's that we actively resent and even hate them. Not the boutique itself, and not the boutique issues, either. What we hate is the pretension, and what we resent is that we can't afford it. Bread and butter issues are the only issues the bottom 40% can manage to eke out time or energy enough to care about. And don't tell me what workin' folk should care about. Should is bullshit. I'm tellin' you what is.
That brings up another point. Ya can't talk down ta workin' folk. Tellin' 'em what they should care about is talkin' down. Everybody has a sense of dignity, no matter how hard the bosses try to take it away, and everybody knows their own real needs.
We can have the people and the Democratic party, but it's gonna take a lot of people who are willing to accept reality and willing to work. It's gonna take organizing on the street and organizing within the party, and it's gonna take bringing those two organizing efforts together.
Ya might think it's gonna be awful hard to drag the Democratic party away from the corporate tit. Well, it is gonna be hard, but not as hard as you think. Politicians want to get elected, but they want to get elected because they want power.
What I'm talking about is the Democrats only chance to ever wield power again. If they listen to the DLC and keep trying to beat the corporate Repukes by being corporate Repukes Lite, I guarantee they will condemn themselves to powerless, minority party status from now unto eternity.
What we've got to do is show the Democratic politicians that, though we can't deliver money, we can deliver votes. The only way we can deliver those votes is by organizing, informing, helping and caring about the middle and lower classes. "But the lower classes don't vote." No, why should they? Who represents them? Besides, they're busy. Absentee ballots would help with the last. Representation would take care of the rest. We have to convince that they will be represented.
This is the only way the Democrats will ever have real power again, and the only way non-bread and butter progressive issues will ever be seriously addressed.
A lot of left/liberals and progressives (if there's a difference) are friggin' dilletantes. Many, many say, "Ooo, we must save the snail darter, we must save the spotted owl," and then focus all their energy on that. And it's a terrible mistake.
Am I saying such issues are unimportant? Of course not. I'm saying single issue politics is self-defeating. It splinters the left and dissipates what power we have, and we don't have enough as it is.
We've got to come together as a movement and we have got to learn to prioritize. I think environmental issues are enormous, life-and-death issues. Environmental problems threaten the well-being of all mankind. So the environment should be our number one issue. Eehhhnnnttt. Waayyy wrong. I'll explain.
Why do you think most progressives are affluent (And, like Barbara Ehrenreich, frustrated by what they see in the poor.)? Ya know I'm gonna tell ya.
Take a not entirely proven case that all mankind faces ecological disaster in the not too distant future. Gather up your undeniable facts and figures. Now, sell it to a man who don't know where his next meal is comin' from. If you can do it, get a sales job. You'll surely get rich. Most progressives are affluent because it's the affluent who have the luxury of being progressive.
The economic problems in this country are so severe, and getting worse so fast, that improving the economic situation of the majority has to be our number one priority. Does that sound crass, materialistic, greedy? Eehhhnnnttt. Waayyy wrong again. I'll explain.
If we can subtantially improve the economic lot of the bottom 60% in this country, and limit corporate power in the process, yer gonna be surprised how much easier it will be to deal with all the other issues near and dear to progressives. It's amazing how much more magnanimous people become when their figurative bellies are full. But a starving man around food is about the greediest creature alive. Economic improvement for the majority will be both a good thing in itself, and a means to a multiplicity of ends.
You can quibble with the details, you can quibble with my whole plan. If you think you got a better plan, I got Dumbo ears. I'm listenin'. But I'd think it's pretty obvious by now that what we been doin' ain't workin'.