H2O Man's Journal
Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
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“Constant Struggle -- that’s what America is all about. Is it not?”
-- Rubin “Hurricane” Carter; 1976
Democratic presidential primary contests remind me of championship bouts. Today’s event in Iowa is the first round in a long and difficult fight. Somewhere around the time that the late night becomes tomorrow morning, we should have an inkling of the official score of this evening’s round. And, by the time the sun comes up, the supporters of each of the three Democratic candidates will be interpreting the results in the most favorable light for their candidate.
I am hoping that the most important factor will be that there was a huge turn-out. Obviously, this should include young adults, especially those who will take advantage of this, their first opportunity to participate in a presidential primary. But I think that it is equally important that those people who have hesitated to participate in the past come out tonight, and make their voices heard.
Still, although I live in New York State, my exposure to people between the ages of 18 and 25 has been particularly encouraging. The vast majority of these young adults support Senator Bernie Sanders. More, they are fully aware that his message goes far beyond the need to win the nomination and the fall election: Sanders is calling for the transformation of American society.
I am impressed that these young adults are invested in working with their parents and grandparents to bring about that transformation; this is distinct from the infamous “generation gap” that created so much tension in, say, 1968 and ‘72. Indeed, this is an important part of the transformation that is beginning today, and is most visible in the primary season in the Sanders’s campaign.
Good luck to all three candidates. I intend that sincerely, although I do not subscribe to concepts such as “luck” or “coincidence.” It’s all about hard work and dedication, of being as fully prepared as one can be. And it is apparent to me that each of the three Democratic candidates is far better prepared to serve as president than any of the republican candidates.
Because I am convinced that Bernie Sanders is the most capable of leading in the transformation of our nation …..in the struggle for social justice …..on the path to higher ground …..I am hoping that he “wins” tonight. Regardless of the exact numbers, it is still but the first round of a long and difficult fight.
Constant Struggle: but that’s what true democracy is all about -- is it not?
Posted by H2O Man | Mon Feb 1, 2016, 11:00 AM (35 replies)
One of the curious dynamics that the presidential primary season highlights is that people tend to believe that everyone on the island can see the exact same circumstances that the group faces. From here, it is but one short step to believing that everyone interprets and understands those circumstances in the same way ….hence, differences of opinion are viewed in terms of honesty, intelligence, and integrity.
When an individual operates under the assumption that everyone else views the general circumstances in the exact same way, than those who express a difference of opinion about how the group should proceed will be viewed as flawed -- with the flaws being in terms of honesty, intelligence, and/or integrity. At the individual level, this can result in frustration -- “why can’t you just admit that I’m right?” -- and then to hostility -- “why won’t you just admit I’m right, you fucking asshole?” I think we see some of this on DU:GDP from time to time.
On the group level, these frustrations and hostilities often take a more harmful path, as when Simon emerged from the forest to expose the identity of the “beast.” Simon was, of course, correct in his identification the beast. The group’s perception did not allow them to understand what he had hoped to communicate to them, however. In fact, the group’s fears and confusions were such that even the those who appeared honest and intelligent participated, at some level, in killing Simon.
From this, we can conclude that not all opinions are equal. An easily identified example in 2016 would be those islanders who self-identify as republican followers of Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee. These people are sincere in their beliefs that we are on “The Coral Island,” and that if we just follow their religious mythology, salvation is at hand.
Jack Merridew is, without question, Donald Trump.(Likewise, Donald Trump is Jack Merridew.) The sad reality is that too often, when circumstances are dire, a segment of the group will look to those who reflect the lowest in human decency for leadership. They mistake cruelty for strength. And the national media has willingly handed Trump the conch …..indeed, that same media portrays Trump’s shattering of the Fox conch as a demonstration of power.
The wonderful character Piggy illustrates that even a smart person who marvels that “life is scientific” can fail to grasp that under changing circumstances, people need to be flexible and to adjust. Piggy is convinced that if the group simply -- and totally -- invest its energies in conforming to the old rules, that they will be “saved.” It’s a mental software that programs people to look for security within the confines of “rules” that worked in different situations, but may not provide needed benefits when confronting new challenges.
These rules allowed Piggy to participate, at some level, in the deadly assault upon Simon. The fear from Simon’s “threat” -- using science to resolve primitive fears, reason to replace ritual, and rational thought to improve community standards -- prevented the potential for social justice. In my opinion, that is much the same as allowing fear to define very real possibilities today -- ones that require change -- as “pipe dreams,” something unrealistic. This, despite the fact that by failing to embrace change, by clinging to the rules of a Debbie Wasserman Schultz, we can only insure the further self-destructive route that our society is now on.
Along with fear, another concept that too often handcuffs people, making them resistant to change, is comfort. And that isn’t limited to the rich and wealthy in society. It includes people who are facing tough times, but are still more comfortable with what is familiar. The concept of change can cause anxiety. More, even “good” changes -- a job promotion, a new home -- create a level of stress.
Yet, even if we consider but one “problem” -- climate change -- it should be evident that change is required. And not merely a few small changes. But real change.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two most significant movements in recent years have provided comfortable atmospheres within the communities engaged in them. I am speaking of Occupy and the Sander’s Campaign. Back a little further was the 2008 Obama Campaign,
All three offer more than a glimpse of true Power. Despite any imperfection the Obama presidency has had, I know that in important areas, it has built a foundation for us to build upon. It’s not our destination, nor a place where we should drop anchor. The best tribute to Barack Obama is not working to maintain the status quo, but to use this foundation to build upon.
Note: I read the book “The Lord of the Flies” in the early 1970s. My memory is imperfect. So I understand that others here might remember things I’ve forgotten …..and I appreciate that others might have very different interpretations and opinions than me. That’s the way it should be.
Posted by H2O Man | Sun Jan 31, 2016, 04:19 PM (3 replies)
“Some forty years ago, G. K. Chesterton wrote that every time the world was in trouble, the demand went up for a practical man. Unfortunately, he said, each time the demand went up there was a practical man available. As he pointed out then, usually what was needed to deal with an impractical muddle was a theorist or philosopher.”
-- Senator Eugene J. McCarthy
Some older DU community members are remembering the powerful, but strange year of 1968, I dare speculate, as they watch the 2016 primaries -- both Democratic and republican -- unfold. The diversity of the candidates on both sides is fascinating: there has not been this much of difference, I think, since ‘68.
I self-identify as a member of the Democratic Left …..I am a registered member of the Democratic Party, and have been active in “grass roots” social-political issues. Many of these have involved working together with other members of the Democratic Left who are not registered Democrats.
It’s difficult to understand just how important Senator McCathy’s run actually was. Even if, like myself, one went over into RFK’s camp, you had to both admire and respect Eugene McCarthy. And, even though passions ran high, those in each camp were able to talk respectfully to one another. Obviously, there were some bitter fights, and hurt feelings, but people were attempting to direct society to a higher level.
We need to reach that higher ground today.
Not only as a registered member of the Democratic Party, I can honestly say that I can campaign for any of the three candidates, currently running for the nomination. That does not suggest that I view them all as equally capable. But it definitely does mean that I have real concerns with what the republican party is pushing -- along with the pathetic coverage of the national media.
A few important things stand out this year ….at least, I think that they are important. One that stands out to me is that all fur of my children are strongly pro-Bernie Sanders. The younger three are currently attending class at area universities, and a heck of a lot of young folks are actively supporting Bernie Sanders.
This obviously does not represent any type of valid survey. But it is extremely impressive for me to see young adults who are passionate about social-political activism. These are young adults who have decided for themselves that Senator Sanders represents the best way to repair our severely damaged nation. And they are fully aware of the fact that this requires their remaining active.
I also see their parents and grandparents, including a heck of a lot of people who worked for McCarthy andf/or Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968. And these are dedicated, dependable members of the Democratic Party. These are the same people who, year after year, have been the most active at the grass roots level. Every year, they go door-to-door, and make the phone calls, and stuff the envelopes. They write the most rational letters-to-the-editor of their local newspapers, and they show up at most every public hearing. From their personal experiences in 1969, they know the power of participatory democracy. More, they know it’s potential power.
And they are seeing it.
It’s a dream that a large part of a generation has carried with them since the 1960s and ‘70s. It’s similar to what John Lennon sang about in that beautiful song, “Imagine.” But it isn’t a fantasy. Not at all. It’s one reality that we can select.
A curious thing: one of my friends on another internet forum is a former world champion, in the great sport of boxing. He’s a great guy. He’s been in the military, and is sincerely patriotic. He’s a registered republican, but definitely a thinking person. If not for his being black, I’d think the republican party would opt to make him a higher profile spokesperson.
However, two weeks ago, he watched Bernie Sanders present. My friend went into this, fully convinced that Sanders represented “the enemy.” However, he came away totally convinced that republicans can -- and should -- vote for Bernie Sanders for president in the fall election. And, every day since, he’s been campaigning (on the internet) for Sanders.
I find all of this both fascinating and encouraging. It contrasts with the majority of what I read on DU:GDP -- in tone -- and I feel a bit like the odd man out on this forum. I do not dislike, or disrespect, any of the three candidates. Sometimes, in my mind, there is a candidate that really answers the nation’s call. You might not think that she/he would always be your choice, but they are absolutely required at that exact time in history.
I think that we are there, now.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Jan 29, 2016, 07:48 PM (25 replies)
As we approach the 2016 presidential election, one of the issues that will definitely be raised by the republican party -- no matter who the Democratic Party’s nominee is -- will be “socialism.” This will be primarily in the context of health care. And this is not new.
During the 2008 contest, for example, the top Democratic Party primary candidates had campaigned on proposed health care reform. As it became apparent that Senator Obama would become the party’s nominee, the republican operatives began to portray him as a “socialist.” Indeed, there were even Democrats who expressed concerns that by nominating Obama, the party would be at risk of repeating the 1972 McGovern experience.
What took place in 2008 -- and again in 2012 -- was that a significant shift in the Democratic Party allowed Brack Obama to win the presidency. This was due to several factors, of course, but among the most significant was the power of social media. Howard Dean’s campaign had hinted of this strength in 2004. The combined strength of what had formerly been considered minority groups in the Democratic Party were responsible for Obama’s victories in the ‘08 primaries, and both the ‘08 and ‘12 general elections, despite attempts to portray him as a socialist. Times change.
In the post-WW2 America, the public was misled into associating socialism with the Soviet Union and (“Red”) China. People confused the USSR’s system of conservative state capitalism, and China’s authoritarian rule, for socialism. This, despite the fact that two of the most significant dynamics in society -- workers’ unions and FDR’s “New Deal” -- brought Americans the benefits of socialism.
Americans in the lima bean decade of the 1950s were taught that socialism was the devil’s tongue. The “Cold War” pitted a beady-eyed, bearded Karl Marx against a blonde-haired, crew-cut-wearing Jesus. By the mid- to late 1960s, American citizens who refused to conform were suspected of being dupes for the enemy: Martin Luther King,, Jr., in particular, and the entire civil rights and anti-war movements were accused of being dirty commies. This strain of insanity would lead to Ronald Reagan’s efforts to destroy unions. And we see it today, in the republican war on public education.
At the same time, countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas were moving towards mixed economies, that included public health systems that are “socialist.” Today, in the US, popular programs such as Medicaid and Medicare -- and First Lady Hillary Clinton’s 1993 CHIP -- are socialist.
Thus, when the republican attacks begin, we can expect them to take two courses: first, the old and tired “socialist threat to freedom”; and second, the fall-back attempt to portray efforts at progress as “pie-in-the-sky.” Baloney. Every civilized nation has mixed economies that include some socialist programs. These enhance the quality of life.
That quality of life is what this election is all about. We need economic and environmental justice. And, as Martin Luther King, Jr., said on April 4, 1967, “We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘people-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Jan 26, 2016, 06:33 PM (5 replies)
Sometimes in discussions with people, we find that we apply slightly different meanings to certain words. On my paternal side, I come from Irish immigrants to the northeast, who arrived here in the mid- to late-1800s. Many of them found employment on the canals and railroads; some were laborers, some stone-cutters (one very talented marble-cutter), and telegraphers. They would join the unions, and were active in the politics of the day.
This included both men and women from my family. The women, so far as I know, were all employed as telegraphers. The fact that the Irish women -- at least those from the southeast of the Old Sod -- recognized themselves as equal to men (“equal,” as opposed to “exact”), it was good that they were active union members. An untold part of the tensions between the Irish and the WASPs was rooted in the role that Irish women played.
Aunt Mary (actually, double-great) was a telegrapher in Nutley, New Jersey. She was a charter member of the national Order of Railroad Telegraphers Union. She was the matriarch who made sure that all of her nieces had an equal opportunity for education after completing high school. More, she recognized it was her responsibility to educate others in the family.
As a youth, my father told me stories about how Aunt Mary loved FDR. This is how I learned about the family’s connections to Leland Olds, one of the two greatest influences on FDR’s ideas on converting the “social gospel” in a series of programs that helped re-define the United States. The other was, of course, Ed Flynn, who had long talks with FDR when Roosevelt was governor of New York, on the “Rerum Novarum” of Pope Leo XIII . (By the way, none other than that rat Paul Ryan would attempt to pervert this 1891 Catholic teaching to justify his cruelty.)
Anyhow, before I ramble on and on about Olds’s friendship with Irish poet George Russell (AE) -- Olds headed Russell’s 1930-31 tour of the US, where he taught a social contract rooted in Theosophy -- let me get back on track. Aunt Mary used two words to describe the good people who struggled for social justice: the first was “liberal,” meaning those who felt the economic-social-political machine could be “fine-tuned” to improve the lives of citizens; and “progressives,” who believe the machine needs to be fundamentally changed to bring about social justice.
One of the primary differences between the meanings that I learned, and those I see used frequently these days, is that Aunt Mary understood that it was essential to be one with the poor and downtrodden. Now, that didn’t mean that she turned her back on everyone else. But she recognized the poor as the foundation for a society in which most people -- at that time -- identified themselves as Christians.
Now, in watching the Democratic Party’s primary contest -- including the debates on television, the nonsense that passes for journalism, and even the discussions here on DU:GDP -- I find myself thinking that Hillary Clinton and her supporters are liberals, and Bernie Sanders and his supporters are progressives. And I say that with all due respect; in no sense do I intend it as any type of an insult. I believe that both candidates, and their supporters, are sincere. (This is not to suggest that everyone who claims to support one or the other on the internet are sincere: for as Minister Malcolm X taught, not every man who tosses worms into the water is a friend of the fish.)
From the history that has taken place since even before I was born, issues of health care have been acrimonious. Members of the Democratic Party have generally sought to expand coverage; the now extinct species known as “moderate republicans” have, too -- as have some conservative republicans, including Nixon and Dole; but other interests have long opposed making affordable healthcare available to all.
President Obama did pass historic legislation. And it has benefited many people. It’s good. But we can do better. Look at this crime in Flint. A combination of the corporate and political machines was willing to poison people. Including children. People placed finances over the health of the most vulnerable among us, little children.
If this were unique, it would be one thing. But it isn’t unique. Not even close. In places across this land -- and quite often in the areas where poor people live -- industries have poisoned thousands of neighborhoods and communities. Toxic industrial wastes have poisoned the land, water, and air. And human beings have unacceptable levels of various poisons building up inside their bodies.
Since 1980, I have worked with the residents of my hometown to deal with the impact of seven industrial toxic waste dumps -- ranging in size from relatively small to 130+ acres -- primarily from a local military-industrial corporation. My efforts have included reading literally hundreds of thousands of pages of local, state, and federal government -- and industry -- reports; community organizing; countless public hearings; federal court cases; and more.
People from the community were exposed to poisons. This included little children consuming water contaminated with unacceptable levels of lead -- although there were numerous other, equally unacceptable levels of other toxins, as well. On paper, the government and industry have dealt with the problem; in real life, the town still has one of the highest rates of cancer in North America.
I’m all for fine-tuning the machine when that is what is required. But there are many times when our system requires more than an oil change and new spark plugs. Just as in Flint, those responsible for poisoning human beings need to pay for the medical care of their victims. As it currently stands, our system is set up more to prevent the criminals -- and that is exactly what they are -- from having to “share” their profits. That needs to be changed.
Certainly, those in power will shriek, “Socialism!” But everyone who has been involved in these types of environmental/ social justice struggles knows that our system already has “socialism” that cuddles the “rich and powerful.” The machine is geared for their comfort. I think that it is high time that we organize to clog those gears. Doing so does not just help the poor, or even the middle class. It’s not a program to benefit the Democratic Party. For we are not sitting upon some imaginary fence, which insures safety to some, and suffering to others. No, we are here in North America, a beautiful part of the Earth. And for far too long, we’ve allowed a greedy few to poison the Earth, poison, the living environment, the land, air, and water, the plants and animals, including human beings.
It’s not good enough, to sit back, as an outraged spectator, and curse the criminals that poisoned Flint. It’s not enough, at this late date, to say that we need to ask permission to read the owners’ manual, and propose a study for fine-tuning the machine. It’s not rational to believe that snakes -- such as that governor, who offered his “prayers” -- have the moral or ethical capacity to address the toxic state of this nation, in any meaningful manner.
I can only speak for myself. But I do not accept “be patient!” as acceptable ….when, as noted, I’ve been working on a human health crisis since 1980. I believe that it is important that we take action today, to make serious changes in the machine. The Democratic Party is offering the vehicle to institute that change.
Posted by H2O Man | Thu Jan 21, 2016, 03:30 PM (24 replies)
“Strange days have found us …..”
-- Jim Morrison
It’s been a strange week. First came the State of the Union address, by President Obama. I though his presentation ranked high. I believe that he is planning to take some bold actions during his remaining time in office, including on the environment.
A potential confrontation with Iran was avoided, causing great distress and suffering among republicans.
The republican debate was troubling. I am concerned that Donald Trump could actually be declared the winner of the November election.
Last night, the SONY movie channel played two old “cult classics” from a distant past: “Billy Jack,” followed by “The Trial of Billy Jack.”
Then I watched the season-opener of “Real Time” on HBO. Bill Maher’s first guest was Al Gore. As others have posted, Maher also requested his audience’s support in petitioning President Obama to come onto his show.
Today, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry made the history books regarding relations with Iran.
Like many people, I like President Obama. I wish he had taken a different approach during his presidency on a number of issues. This includes a couple extremely important things. Still, I think that he has made an honest effort to do the best that he can.
I think that there are not only a lot of freaks who hate President Obama, including those who support the various republicans who participated in both levels of this week’s debate. More, I think there are other forces at play, beneath the surface of our culture, as seen on tv. Some of these would go go great lengths, even to try to create crises that could derail President Obama’s efforts.
In ways, flicks like “Billy Jack” are dated. In other ways, they attempt to send a good message that might be as important today, as it was when they were first released.
In today’s socio-political reality, two large groups of citizens have awoken. They are like siblings, with one being angry and hostile, and the other being rational and hopeful. It’s the tea party and the social justice folks. We occupy the same structure, but our world-views are very different.
The social justice folks have to keep on fighting that Good Fight. Our ranks are expanding. We face opposition in many forms, but we can do this. We can make the world a better place.
My three Erich Fromm books arrived today ……
Posted by H2O Man | Sat Jan 16, 2016, 03:54 PM (3 replies)
One of the most interesting dynamics of the “State of the Union” address was watching Paul Ryan’s face, as he listened to President Obama speak. As I explained to others in my living room, Ryan holds a grudge against the president, dating back to early 2011. The roots of that very personal animosity is something that should be of interest to everyone, as we approach the 2016 presidential election.
In April of 2011, the ambitious Representative Ryan produced a proposed budget that was so harsh that even Newt Gingrich referred to it as “radical right-wing social engineering.” Think about that: the Ryan proposal was so extreme, that even Newt -- a man who willingly stooped to disgraceful lows to appeal to both the deficit hawk and neoconservative wings of the republican party -- recognized it as an attempt to brutally change the social fabric.
Ryan’s proposal would have tattered the social safety net that allows the poor to survive; ended the middle class as we know it; and rewarded the 1% with “generous” tax-cuts. Had it been instituted, the Ryan budget would have made a balanced budget impossible for more than a generation.
Shortly after Ryan’s proposal was made public, President Obama spoke at George Washington University. During his speech, he noted the Ryan plan was not “serious,” and ‘would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known.” As fate would have it, unknown to the president, Paul Ryan was in the audience. And he was furious with President Obama’s dismissing him as a serious player in Washington.
It was the combination of Ryan’s cruel budget propsal, and his growing hatred for Barack Obama, that resulted in Willard Romney’s selecting him as the republican vice presidential candidate in 2012. And the results of that election explains why Speaker Ryan attempted to ignore VP Joe Biden last night -- the near total lack of communication between the two demonstrates how Ryan clings to grudges.
I think that all of this shows how inaccurate the media was last year, in portraying Ryan as a “compromise” candidate for Speaker of the House. Indeed, Paul Ryan is the poster child for the rabid right-wing of the republican party. Just the thought of him serving as Speaker, under a republican president, should be enough to unite the Democratic Party.
Posted by H2O Man | Wed Jan 13, 2016, 11:21 AM (11 replies)
I think that President Obama’a “state of the union” speech was one for the history books. It was clearly his most important “state of the union” in his two terms as president. And I say this as someone who not only supported him twice -- most enthusiastically in 2008 -- as well as someone who has been a critic of many of his actions as president.
It appeared to me that President Obama was less at ease at the beginning of his speech, than I can remember him being in the past. As he spoke, it became clear that, while he was not going to elevate shit stains like Trump or Cruz directly, he was intent upon addressing the dangers of the growing strain of fascism in American culture today.
Speeches alone can be nothing more than fancy words. But I do not get the feeling that this describes what we heard tonight. I think that President Obama voiced some of the frustrations that he has had with his republican opposition. More importantly, President Obama called for the American people to stand up, and make their voices heard.
The President spoke about the positive potential of the American people. I am damned sure that I’m going to answer his call in 2016.
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Jan 12, 2016, 11:15 PM (1 replies)
I’m curious what books other DU community members are currently reading? I ask this for several reasons -- the first being that in the years I’ve been a member (since 2003), others have recommended a number of important books to me. My little library could have a section of “DU Recommended” books on politics, history, and sociology. Without question, I’m far more interested in what good people here suggest, than any other group that I communicate with.
The second reason is that I’m attempting to watch less television news these days. In large part, I already know everything I need to know about Donald Trump, and I have the urge to vomit when media coverage of the 2016 election devotes more than 50% to reports on this fellow. I am enjoying investing more time reading …..something that, as I live in the northeast, helps make the cold season pass quicker.
Normally, I find enough reading material from public library book sales in the late summer and fall, to last me until spring. My children gave me eight good books for the holiday, totaling a little over 4,000 pages of new reading material. I’ve started all of them, and finished a few. So, I got a bit antsy today, and used a couple Barnes & Noble gift cards that I had laying around, to order some new books.
High among my favorite social philosophers is Erich Fromm; over the years, I have quoted from (and recommended) a number of his books. Thus, today’s order includes three by Fromm:
1- On Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying “No” to Power;
2- Marx’s Concept of Man; and
3- Dogma of Christ, and Other Essays on Religion, Psychology, and Culture.
Thanks in advance to any/all responses!
Posted by H2O Man | Mon Jan 11, 2016, 04:28 PM (91 replies)
Earlier this week, a couple of my co-workers in grass roots activism visited me, to discuss our plans for 2016. Before we got started, we watched some “news” on MSNBC. One friend noted that the more progressive voices on MSNBC had been silenced -- people like Ed Shultz and David Shuster. I noted that there are documented examples of the republican machine putting pressure on MSNBC executives to fire Chris Matthews, back when he was reporting on VP Cheney and Scooter Libby’s central roles in the “Plame Scandal.”
My friend pointed out that even among those progressives still featured on various shows, there appeared to be conscious efforts to not offend the right wing, by telling the truth and pointing out republican lies. I thought about this last night, when I started reading one of the Christmas presents from my children (they gave me eight books on politics, adding up to over 4,000 pages of good reading).
I had read Jonathan Alter’s “The Promise: President Obama, Year One” shortly after it was published. It is a good book, and while reading it, I recognized that Mr. Alter is actually a bit more “to the left” than he comes across while on MSNBC. Clearly, writing a book offers him a better format to speak his mind openly, than does being a guest panelist onan evening talk show.
The second book in this series, “The Center Holds: Obama and his Enemies,” is even better. I think that this book has enough value to be of interest to both members of the Democratic Party and Democratic Left. The author speaks openly about his admiration of President Obama -- he has been highly impressed with Obama, since he was a state senator. But the book isn’t simply an exercise in cheerleading: he focuses on the divisions within the Democratic Party; how the republicans seek to exploit these divisions; and the very real threats the republican party and the tea party pose to our constitutional democracy.
Chapter 6, for example, is titled, “The Voter-Suppression Project.” There is an on-going, coordinated effort in at least 19 states to “discourage” non-republican voters from pulling the levers in local, state, and federal elections. The republican machine targets two groups in particular: non-white citizens, and young people. This includes specific, unethical efforts to deny black and Hispanic citizens from being registered voters. And the republican play-book for this operation comes straight out of Nixonland.
By 2010, the republican machine was confident that they would, after the 2012 election, hold the reins of power in the House, Senate, and White House -- thus allowing them to stack the deck in the US Supreme Court. This master plan sought to coordinate the five identified wings of the republican party: the “deficit hawk” party elders; the neoconservatives; the “small government” libertarians; the Christian hawks; and the tea party. To the extent they could coordinate their efforts, the republican elders were confident that they could de-fund Planned Parenthood and other social programs; destroy “Obama-care.”; end environmental protections; and increase the theater of war in the Middle East.
Now, that sounds like a republican wet dream, and unrealistic to boot. This is especially so, when we consider the harsh divides in the republican party in the context of the current presidential primary season. The republican elders had believed they could control the tea party with a few corporate contributions. While this worked initially, the tea party has become their Frankenstein monster, which threatens to demolish the balancing act required for a united front.
Still, we cannot count upon the republicans’ self-destruction to bring about stability in politics. In fact, it’s just the opposite: the republican party’s inner turmoil presents a most serious threat to social justice in America. Donald Trump’s candidacy has morphed from a pathetic joke to the very real threat of fascism.
Alter’s book -- including, obviously, its title -- makes use of William Butler Yeats’ 1919 poem, “The Second Coming.” The book opens with the following lines from that haunting piece:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
A century later, we are witnessing that. Even today, the Trumpets are attempting to set up a confrontation between a projected “over-flow” crowd in Burlington, VT., and those who are planning to protest Trump’s appearance. It is no coincidence that this is being staged in Bernie Sanders’ home town.
These are not the tactics of a campaign that is confident that, if all the facts are laid out upon the table, and each candidate debates their positions, that the majority of all potential voters will support their candidate. Nor is it the approach of a campaign that merely seeks to deny a portion of the public their right to vote, by “legal” means (driver’s licenses, etc). Rather, it is the behavior of a bully and his gang, who will aggressively try to intimidate those who support the opposition. And it’s not limited to those who support Saunders …..no, this is just the first step.
The Trumpets view Bernie’s supporters as “weaklings” -- you know, egg heads and tree-huggers. Easy-to-scare victims. After this, they will focus more on those who support Hillary Clinton. The Trumpets view Clinton’s supporters as mainly women who need to be “put in their place.” They know they aren’t going to keep all Democrats from voting inNovember. But if they can prevent a segment from being able to vote, and frighten another segment from even trying to, that combination would vastly increase the republican candidate’s chances of winning.
What happens when Democrats do not vote? As Alter documents on page three of his book, it impacts far more than a presidential election ….and even more than House and Senate contests. Speaking of the 2010 mid-term elections, he notes:
“Beyond Congress, Republicans also won a landslide in the states, where they took eleven governorships, including five in battleground states won by Obama in 2008. It could have been even worse: In five other blue states, Democratic candidates for governor won by fewer than ten thousand votes, All told, the GOP now had control of twenty-nine of the fifty statehouses. Less noticed but perhaps more significant, Republicans picked up 680 state legislative seats, giving them control of more than half of state legislative chambers, the most since 1928. Not a single analyst on Election Night predicted what this might mean for election rules that could shape the outcome of the presidential race in 2012.”
The 2010 loses were primarily due to the low numbers of Democrats who got out to vote. It takes no insight or skill to point fingers, and assign blame, for the low turnout. We know that there are two general schools of thought on this -- the liberals didn’t get out to support the party versus the party leaders put forth uninspiring candidates. Suffice to say both sides are “right” and “wrong” ….which simply means that such thinking creates an environment where even the most repulsive of republican candidates can win elections.
At risk of sounding like Chicken Little, clucking that 2016 is the most important election in human history, I am convinced that we do not have the luxury of approaching the November elections in a business-as-usual manner. I do not mistake Donald Trump or Ted Cruz as evil super-geniuses, exercising an unwholesome but complete control over their flock of followers. Neither are extraordinary, visionary leaders. What is of concern is the growing energy force that motivates their crowds.
More, I am concerned with the flip side of that coin: the good people of the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left. I’m concerned with the intensity of the acrimony that is saturating the discussions between the various wings of our party ….and how that could result in a low and divided voter turn-out in November. The hostilities that are dividing various camps of Democrats make a cooperative, coordinated front in November increasingly difficult.
Thank you for reading this rant, and keep on fighting the Good Fight!
-- H2O Man
Posted by H2O Man | Thu Jan 7, 2016, 01:35 PM (25 replies)