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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 52,599

Journal Archives

A Thought About Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton will be “officially” entering the Democratic Party’s primary contest for the nomination to be our candidate for President in 2016. In recent times, this has been the source of some interesting discussions on DU:GD; however, more frequently, the OP/threads about Ms. Clinton’s candidacy have been acrimonious, more emotional that insightful. I haven’t made any decisions regarding who I might support in the primaries, and thus am more interested in the intelligent conversations, than the more common type.

My younger son stopped by tonight, to watch boxing with me. We also talked about politics, including Hillary Clinton. In my clearly subjective opinion, all of my children have a good understanding of politics. They have each been active in social-political events in our state.

This son probably takes the most interest among his siblings. A brief “biography” : he’s in his 20s; has been employed in various social work positions, including currently for Catholic Charities; and, as a solid amateur heavyweight boxer, is my #1 “body guard” when I run my big mouth at tense public government meetings. (grin) He has also proven an effective campaign strategist in our four-county region.

I like that he thinks for himself. For example, I asked him what he thought about Hillary Clinton’s running in 2016? Now, you may agree with him, or disagree with him. But I think that he made some points that -- at least in my opinion -- are of the general quality that DU:GD is capable of producing on a daily basis.

He said that the amount of money that is being reported as about what Ms. Clinton’s campaign will cost presents a unique opportunity for both her and the Democratic Party. He is aware of the massive sums that the republican party will be spending, both on the presidential and other races (congressional, state, and local). He noted that the Koch brothers and their ilk will be attempting to channel their millions into a coordinated, saturation campaign of lies. Hillary Clinton, he noted, has the opportunity to change the process; by using a method similar to judo, he said, she could use the current “corporations are people” mega-money madness, to bring a higher level of awareness to the public.

Could you imagine, my son asked me, if rather than enriching advertising agencies et al, she went to various communities -- cities and towns -- and used a large portion of her campaign funds to invest in them? If she said, “The American people have donated money to me, because they believe that I can institute change. It starts now: I am re-investing this much-needed money in your community. And that is exactly the approach that I will take as your President.”

He said some funds should go to charities, which would allow her to address specific social problems -- and solutions. It’s true that some problems can’t be “solved,” they must be dealt with on an on-going manner. (He was quoting his father.) Other funds could go to specific community needs, again allowing her to highlight problems, and solutions. He said that large segments of the country have accepted the problems that the bankrupt Bush-Cheney policies inflicted on our country. A great leader must change the way that people think -- about themselves, their value, and their relationship to community and country -- before those people can be expected to behave differently. And no single person -- not even the President of the United States -- can “solve” our nation’s problems: they require an on-going effort upon all of our parts.

I thought it was an interesting perspective.

Cell Phones & Siblings

“What you think, you become.” -- Buddha; circa 500 bc.

“What you think, you become.” -- Gandhi; 1860-1948 ad.

I was talking with my normal brother the other day. He had just picked up a new cell phone, in preparation for a trip to the Old Sod to play golf and watch horse-races. Because my grasp of technology generally stopped with my mastering the abacus, he went into great detail to explain the advantages of his new toy.

When I “yawned” -- a polite attempt to communicate my lack of interest -- he immediately said he would provide details so simple, that even I might grasp them. No matter where he happens to be ( Oregon, Boston, or Ireland being his three favorites), if someone sends him a message, his phone will pick it up. The invisible vibrations of energy, if I recall what I wasn’t listening to, will be received by his toy. For that wave-length is sent out virtually everywhere.

Life is both curious and strange, at least in my opinion. In many, if not most ways, my brother and I are very much alike. That is, I assume, due to the combination of nature and nurture: we have similar DNA, and grew up in the same setting. Our daughters frequently respond to our feeble attempts at humor by saying “tell that to your brother, he’s the only one who will ‘get it’.”

He was the best trainer - corner man I ever had in the sport of boxing. I trusted him 100%. I appreciated that he had the opportunity to learn from two of the best ever in the sport: Angelo Dundee and Manny Steward. I respect that he has, in recent years, come to despise the sport, because of the long-term damage that it does to so many of the fellows who participate in it.

Yet there are areas where we disagree. Often quite strongly, as brothers are apt to do. For example, he often tells me that I have to tell my younger son that he is “not allowed” to box. Sure, I tell him, that worked out so well when our parents attempted to stop us. He orders me to have my boy visit our older brother, a once highly-intelligent, respected member of the community we grew up in. Today, he is a still-breathing corpse, who talks non-stop about UFOs. My children are all familiar with their uncle.

My normal brother is a science-based atheist, something that I respect and endorse. However, I enjoy telling him that we both believe in the same God. He insists that my beliefs are actually almost identical to our older brothers: that there is some higher entity that lives in the sky, keeping watch over the human race that is “God’s” ultimate creation. Yikes!

We were raised in what was known as an “Irish-Catholic” environment, at least until as teenagers, we discovered that skipping church was as easy as skipping school. When he moved to the west coast in the 1970s, he stayed briefly at one of our favorite uncle’s houses. He was disappointed to find that this uncle, who ranked rather highly in the ONI, was a strict Catholic. Since then, my brother has assumed that everyone who is religious/ spiritual is cut from the same general cloth -- be they believers in Santa God, Stained-Glass Jesus, or violence-prone, hateful worshippers of another mythology.

Thus, I took the opportunity provided by his fascination with his new cell phone, to talk about my thoughts about energy and vibrations. While some in our extended family subscribe to a theory popularly known as “reincarnation,” I prefer the miracle of DNA, a living energy force that I suspect better explains certain “mysteries.” I’m able to provide my brother with contact information of some distant cousins -- for they are from a branch of our family that either stayed in Ireland, or came here in the late 1800s and eventually returned to Ireland.

The two brothers that he’ll be meeting are about as ugly as we are. They love horse-racing and golf. One boxes. And they share our deformed sense of humor. That DNA stuff is pretty powerful. I don’t advocate worshipping DNA, but I do think it is a topic that most people can find worthy of consideration, and even study.

Likewise, I think that human beings are, at very least, as interesting as cell phones. I often find myself thinking about how our emotions -- including “love” and “hate” -- transmit energy, or vibrations, that are both visible and invisible. And I find myself thinking of them in the simple context of ripples on the surface of my pond, when I toss food in for the many fish that inhabit my pond. Unlike my brother, who gets to spend 40+ hours each week inside a large university, interacting with highly intelligent men and women, I spend most of my time alone ….and my favorite spot is out at my pond.

Thank goodness that the weather is finally changing. Spring is upon here on the east coast. I’m able to spend more time out at the pond, filling the bird-feeders, and watching my dog Kelly enjoy himself running about, tail a wagging, sniffing every bush and tree, digging holes for who knows what. It’s a nice break from the long winter, and the weird vibrations that bring the “news” to my television, or the often strangely hostile vibrations delivered on DU:GD.

H2O Man

Regarding Rand Paul

I’ve watched the news about Rand Paul’s announcing that he has officially entered the primary contest for the republican nomination for president. This makes him #4 among republicans who have filed with the FEC to run; the others are Jack Fellure, Mark Everson, and Rafael Cruz. It’s worth noting that two of the other three do not merit serious consideration -- they are running for VP -- while Cruz can be trusted to self-destruct The fact that the republican machine has already unleashed the modern version of what were known as the “rat-fuckers” in the Nixon era on Rand Paul suggests that they consider him to be a serious threat to their candidate.

Most people could probably agree that Paul’s father ran in republican primaries for about the same reason that Rev. Al Sharpton ran in the Democratic Primary -- to give voice to a segment in his party that he felt was being ignored by the machine. But, as Chris Matthews has noted, Rand Paul believes that there is a way for him to not only win his party’s nomination, but also the general election. While current polling indicate he is unlikely to win the primaries, a lot can change in a year.

The republican machine is most likely to pick Jeb Bush. Their back-up candidate might be Scott Walker, with a Cheney-type VP candidate; surely, the machine wants a seasoned elder to make the international policies that exploit some nations, and invade others. And, in a sense, Walker might well compete with Paul better than Bush. Although the republicans are scheduling far fewer debates than in 2012 -- sad for us, entertainment-wise -- the republican audience would see that Paul can easily out-debate Bush. Expectations are key: what they expect from Jeb Bush is different than from Scott Walker.

Foreign policy will be an important topic in republican primaries, and I believe Paul will gain more support from his policies on these issues than Bush and Walker. In terms of the other two major policy areas -- economics and social policy -- he could likely remain close.

Perhaps the wild card factor is that he can appeal to quite a few young republicans. Likewise, if he does win the republican nomination, he could be something fairly rare in Democrat vs. republican presidential election contests: the younger candidate, claiming to bring “new” ideas to Washington, DC.

In theory, there are a few people who would be worse as president (for example, had McCain won, died, and Palin became president). In real life, none of them has any chance of winning an election. That Paul does have a chance should concern us all.

H2O Man

Girl Scouts & Clan Mothers

I spoke to a Girl Scout Troop this afternoon, about the Indian history of their small town. It was interesting for me, in part because in over 30 years of speaking to schools ( K through 12), most all of the colleges and universities in this region, historical societies, environmental groups, and Boy Scouts ….I had never been asked to speak to Girl Scouts before.

There were 18 girls there, ages 7 to 9. They had just finished their school day, and so they had a lot of energy to burn. A quick snack, and we were ready to go! Holy cow!

I keep on file some basic outlines for presentations to different groups. However, I decided that it would be fun to focus almost exclusively on the role of women in Iroquois society. I brought about 50 artifacts -- most found at a site at the edge of their village. This was a site that James Fennimore Cooper wrote about, the Oneida village known as “Hutted Knoll.” Children in this age group tend to learn more when they have “hands on” experience;

The Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, or Haudenosaunee, are a matriarchal society. This is best understood as a system that recognizes women and men as equal -- though not “exact.” And it creates family systems in a manner with shared power and influence, which is not passed down by way of heredity …..for example, as with the Bush family, with father-to-son appointed positions.

We had an hour and 45 minutes to talk, so I did address the role of males, from childhood to adulthood. But our primary focus was on the roles of the females, from childhood to adulthood. This included discussing the role of the Clan Mother, who selects the clan’s chief, and who also has the power to remove him. I think that every one of these little children grasped the concept that Grandmothers are wise human beings, with much to teach others.

That led to our discussion of the Indians’ “schools” -- inside the longhouse, in the gardens, in the woods, and sitting quietly along side of a stream. And the idea of 13 months/moons per year, with a special holiday-festival for each one. The singing and dancing, and how they made drums and flutes. I had also brought a substantial pile of children’s books, included some by my friend Joseph Bruchac, Some of these girls told me about other books on Indians, that they have read a home and in school.

I had met one 8-year old girl a while back. Her mother had asked me if I could tutor her daughter, who had gotten a 54 on a test on the Iroquois in class. The mother knows my sons. I was glad to help; the girl raised her grade to a 98 when she re-took the test. This led to my being invited to speak to her Girl Scout Troop.

These children were smart. I was very impressed, and told them so repeatedly. For example, when I asked them about what pets Indians had, although they didn’t know about dogs and black bear cubs, they said, “Well, all kids love to catch frogs (snakes, toads, salamanders, lightening bugs, etc).” Man!

Then we ended by talking about water. We discussed clean water versus polluted water, and how life on Earth depends upon clean water. Again, they got it.

Chief Paul Waterman used to tell me that, when presenting to a group of 20 people, the goal is to really reach one of them. That’s success. Anything more is icing on the cake. I think that all of the 18 girls got it today.

Equally important, I remember Paul saying how, when talking to little children, to be fully aware of both their innocence and their wisdom. The Troop leaders were also mighty proud -- and mighty impressed -- when, after we finished, they asked each girl a question about what they had learned today. There were 18 different, equally good, answers.

From there, I traveled about 28 miles, for a school board meeting. Tonight, a group that included much of the local tea party came to complain. They definitely view us board members as “the enemy.” (And one of us, more than the others!) I kept thinking to myself that it’s important that I do this, so that our community’s children get a good education. It is a constant struggle, especially when there are adults who despise public education. But it is worth it.

H2O Man

President Obama in Boxing Gloves


I like this photo of President Obama wearing some boxing gloves that Mike posted on FaceBook today. I've seen a couple of other photos from this shoot.

I know our President is a big fan of The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. He also has followed the current best pound-for-pound champion, Floyd Mayweather, Jr's career closely.

New Territory: President Obama

The situation with Iran, the United States, and several other nations reaching initial agreement is the best global news that I have heard in many years. Although rational thought would indicate that violence and warfare is an inappropriate method of conflict resolution at this point in world history, there are those who have been eager to instigate an attack on Iran for over a decade. And, although it appears that President Obama did not have as “hands on” a role as several other negotiators, the domestic right-wing is blaming him for this “surrender.”

Likewise, these exact people will deny that President Obama played any role, just as soon as the agreement proves effective. This is not surprising, for many of these are people of limited intellectual ability, and none have ever felt the need to be truthful in their ranting. My own belief -- which might accurately be called half-speculation, half-educated guess, and half-a-glass optimism -- is that both President Obama and John Kerry played a more important role than the public will ever know.

I say that as a person who has actively campaigned for both John Kerry and Barack Obama. And as a person who has, on numerous occasions, expressed both support and disappointment in both men. Yet the deal with Iran stands out, to me, as one of the most important victories of the past two centuries. And I definitely credit them.

It’s fun to try to think of historical precedent. The Cuban Missile Crisis? Not really, as it was primarily some insane military commanders and mob bosses who obsessed on “liberating” Cuba. In a sense, it is perhaps closer to President Kennedy’s deciding to not go into Laos early in his term. Still, I think President Obama faced a different type of challenge.

When entering this new territory, both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry brought their personal experiences with them. For Kerry, of course, this included both being a soldier in war, and a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, along with his career in the US Senate. For Barack Obama, it included being an opponent of the Bush-Cheney war in Iraq, and more recently, learning that even as Commander in Chief, he did not have the control over US involvement in Afghanistan that he anticipated.

Thus, both men know that wars are easy to start -- even a jackass like George W. Bush could start a couple of them -- but difficult to control, or end. The region of earth known as the Middle East has experienced an increased level of violence -- military and para-military warfare -- since Bush-Cheney’s aggression destabilized it. There is, of course, various levels of violence in many other regions, as well. It would have been very easy to have had that violence spread to inside Iranian borders.

The “players” in the negotiations, and in the region, include people at opposite ends of opinions on not only relations between Iran and other nations, but on if warfare is a practical manner of resolving differences. I’ve been most interested in four nations: the USA, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. In order to appreciate the significance of the recent agreement, one must be aware of the history of acrimony between Iran and the other three. This includes a very real history between the US and Iran, with a coup (removing a democratically elected government, to install the shah), exploitation of their resources, a hostage situation, and the Iran-Contra scandal (that included Israeli middlemen).

The “common folk” in the US, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia would not benefit from a war between any of these nations. They have the right -- the basic, human right -- to live their lives in peace, to be part of a safe community, and to enjoy their family and friends. But they are too often held hostage to a minority in their own nation, including those who do benefit financially from war (re: Dick Cheney), and those who lust for bloodshed (re: George W. Bush).

Those “leaders” have the support of some of the 1%, and all of the violence-prone people. In this country, that includes those from the neoconservative ideology. They have power in Washington, and so we witness the republican politicians expressing disgust that we are avoiding war with Iran.

I’m aware, as I write this, that it was 47 years ago that Martin Luther King was murdered. That means that it was 48 years ago, that King delivered the most prophetic speech of his career, “A Time to Break Silence” (aka “Beyond Vietnam”). In that speech, King noted that if our nation did not reach a higher ground, that the public would be trapped in a cycle of protesting more and more Vietnams, around the globe.

I’m thankful that President Obama and John Kerry have helped us avoid this one.

Media, PA/ FBI Office Burglary/3-8-1971

“According to its analysis of the documents in this FBI office, 1 percent were devoted to organized crime, mostly gambling; 30 percent were "manuals, routine forms, and similar procedural matter"; 40 percent were devoted to political surveillance and the like, including two cases involving right-wing groups, ten concerning immigrants, and over 200 on left or liberal groups. Another 14 percent of the documents concerned draft resistance and "leaving the military without government permission." The remainder concerned bank robberies, murder, rape, and interstate theft.”
-- Noam Chomsky on the Burglary at Media, PA.

I just got back from bringing my youngest daughter up to visit her sister for a few days, at St. Lawrence University. One of my favorite things at SLU is the campus book store. In the past couple of years, I’ve been able to pick up some outstanding books there. Certainly, one of the less attractive features of living in the sticks is lack of access to a good bookstore.

It’s always tempting to purchase a stack of books, but I can’t afford that these days. So I decided upon the 2014 book “The Burglary,” by Betty Medsger, The break-in at the FBI office in Media, PA took place on the same night as the March 8, 1971 “Fight of the Century,” between two undefeated heavyweight champions, Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. (For younger DU readers, that was the most significant sporting event, in terms of the US social and political world, in history.)

The book includes a great deal of information about Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, the radical Catholic priests of that era. The brothers were friends with, and house-guests of, NYS Senator Robert F. Kennedy. I had the opportunity to become acquainted with them in the 1980s. They would be among the most important influences in my thinking, and my social-political activities.

So I’m happy tonight, to have a book on a topic that fascinates me. Pretty soon, my youngest will be graduating. I’m planning on moving into my one-room cabin out near my pond and sweat lodge. No electricity. Just peace and quiet. Of course, I’ll also be free to engage in the social-political activities that I know need to happen.

H2O Man


We all know the parable of the elephant and the blind men. Like all good fables, it uses an entertaining, easily understood story as an educational device to shed light upon human nature. This one originated in ancient India, and became a staple of numerous eastern religious belief systems. The wisdom and insight it provides has allowed variations of the fable to spread across time and distance.

Western culture tends to be most familiar with the Jain version: the blind man who touches the elephant’s tail describes the animal as being like a rope; the leg, a tree; the side, a wall; the trunk, a tree limb. Each is correct, yet none appreciates the others’ description. The parable provides a powerful metaphor for the human condition.

In 1872, a political cartoon used an elephant to symbolize the republican party. The image stuck, which is a shame, since elephants are intelligent, wonderful beings. Indeed, everyone likes elephants, and respects their right to live -- everyone, that is, but those who seek to exploit elephants.

Now, who do we know that fits that description? Who doesn’t respect an elephant’s right to live an elephant’s natural life? Who would seek to exploit elephants as a source of cheap labor; as a vehicle in warfare; and to be slaughtered for their tusks? Who might we describe, using the biblical metaphors of “deaf, dumb, and blind” to definite their attitude towards the elephant’s natural rights? By gosh, would that not be our beast fiends, the republican party?

All that may sound like an amazing coincident. Yet, because I do not believe in “coincidence,” it is not why I’m writing this. Rather, I want to make a point -- minor as it may be -- about a dynamic in the DU:GD descriptions of the republican elephant. It’s something that many, maybe most of us, do from time to time. I’m certainly as guilty of it as anyone else. It’s easy to focus on its tusks, and identify them with the republican military aggression in the Middle East; or its ears, and identify the government eavesdropping on citizens; or its feet, as crushing the middle class. And all these are true.

The potential problem, however, is one person/group sees only their issue as “big,” and of greater significance than some or all of other people’s issues. Who gains, for example, if there is a divisive debate on what is “more important” between, say, women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality? Between the environment and anti-war movements? Police violence and public education? Racism and economic justice?

By no coincidence, each of those four examples includes distinct issues, that are at the same time closely related. So much so, that it is an error to think that we can fully resolve one, without fully addressing the other. Why? Because that is the nature of the republican elephant -- which is not a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood creature at all ….but is instead an unconscious, destructive machine.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that every time one posts something about a cause they are advocating, they need to include a laundry list, in alphabetical order, of all other related issues. But it does mean that it is an error to insist that your cause is The Cause, of far more significance than those of others. If, for example, we take the issue of violence, it is a mistake to believe that the violence perpetrated against one group is more important than the violence committed against any or all other groups. Indeed, doing so misses the higher point that all of that violence is actually connected, like the features on the elephant.

It is in our ability to make the connections between the many issues that the Democratic Party should be taking a firm stance on, that helps to unite us. It is our understanding of these connections that enlightens us to the true nature of the beast. And more capable of protecting us from it.

H2O Man

Leftist Values

“ It is not enough to allow dissent. We must demand it. For there is much to dissent to.

“We dissent from the fact that millions are trapped in poverty, while the nation grows richer.

“We dissent from the conditions and hatreds which deny a full life to our fellow citizens because of the color of their skin.

“We dissent from the monstrous absurdity of a world where nations stand poised to destroy one another, and men must kill their fellow men.

“We dissent from the sight of mankind living in poverty, stricken by disease, threatened by hunger, and doomed to an early death after a life of unremitting labor.

“We dissent from the willful, heedless destruction of natural pleasure and beauty.

“We dissent from all these structure -- of technology and of society itself -- which strip from the individual the dignity and warmth of sharing in the common tasks of his community and his country.”
-- Senator Robert F. Kennedy; October 22, 1966; Berkeley.

Last week, I posted an OP on DU:GD, about “party loyalty.” The essay documented fifty years of “leftists” being loyal to the Democratic Party, and several examples of the party’s right-wing behaving otherwise in those same years. The response from others here made for -- at least in my opinion -- one of the more interesting discussions here recently. I thought that maybe we could keep it going.

I would like to take the opportunity to discuss some of the values that I associate with leftists. I started with the above quote from RFK, for a couple of reasons. First, they help to define some of the values of the left ; even though Robert Kennedy was still in the middle of the process of evolving, after the murder of his brother, he knew that “business as usual“ no longer worked. And second, that RFK was the type of candidate that the left embraces, along with most Americans.

We’re not looking for a super hero President to do it all for us. No, we’re looking for the type of leadership that works with us. We recognize that moderate-to-conservative Democrats are more likely to either hold office, or work for someone who does, than those of us on the left. But we are far more likely to be the ones who went door-to-door, who ran the phone banks, and did the grass roots campaigning that won the elections that made their jobs possible. Thus, if we are on the same team, working towards common goals, we can accomplish a lot.

We’re not living in the past. Those issues that Senator Kennedy was speaking of, almost 50 years ago, are still the areas of valid concerns. They apply to now. And we think it is unrealistic to believe that we can continue to ignore them, today and tomorrow, without tragic consequence. We dissent from the idea that we are obligated to support the very policies that are currently invested in war and violence; for surely, warfare and violence are not the proper form of conflict resolution in today’s world.

During his 1968 campaign for the presidency, RFK appeared on Face the Nation, and said, “I am dissatisfied with our society. I suppose I am dissatisfied with my country.” We feel that same dissatisfaction today. It is not that we believe the people in our society is incapable of doing great Good: when there are tragic events, for example, neighborhoods and communities come together, to provide care and support for those in need.

Yet, as RFK wrote, in an op-ed to the NY Times: “Once we thought, with Jefferson, that we were the ‘best hope’ of all mankind. But now we seem to rely on our wealth and power.” The flip-side to our compassionate society is a corporate state, a military-industrial-congress complex, that is addicted to warfare. It destroys the potential for Good to take deep root in our society. It crushes human beings.

At the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the left questioned if the US had become a police state. Today, the domestic police forces have been militarized to an extent that, when coordinated with the national military-intelligence organizations, result in our being a military-police state. We are dissatisfied with politicians who allow this to happen. We dissent from the forces that seek to trample the Bill of Rights.

I remember that in the summer of 2004, in a post on this forum, that I said that I had serious doubts that our constitutional democracy could survive another four years of Bush-Cheney. One of the moderates here responded by suggesting that I was being a drama queen. Now, a decade later, I suspect that more than a few leftists would agree with what I wrote. The US is feared, but not respected. Democracy does not appear to be spreading throughout the Middle East, as the neoconservatives promised. Too many people remain poor; too many people are one pay check away from poverty. The environment is continuing to be destroyed. The levels of anxiety, fear, hatred, and violence saturate our cities and suburbs and towns.

In my opinion, the one area where the differences between the “wings” of the Democratic Party are most easily identified on DU:GD -- and currently, on a daily basis -- is in the discussions of which candidate, or type of candidate, folks want to represent the Democratic Party in 2016. And that’s not to suggest that only moderate-to-right-wing Democrats support Hillary Clinton. Or that virtually no one on the left does. But the differences certainly are evident in many of the discussions here.

Speaking only for myself -- obviously -- I believe that we need candidates (not only for the White House, but for Congress and state offices as well) who will speak as directly and honestly as RFK did in the last two years of his life. We face severe problems, and the times require the potential of real change. Senator Kennedy was honest about that. Both those who supported and opposed him trusted that he believed what he was saying. That quality seems rare these days.

H2O Man

Party Loyalty

If one were to accept everything stated on DU:GD as fact, then the biggest problem facing the Democratic Party would be that “the left” -- meaning progressive and liberal registered Democrats, and the Democratic Left -- fail to support the party’s candidates. This includes the left’s having unrealistic standards of “purity” in both the primaries and general election; failing to go to the polls on Election Day; and/or voting “third party” as a form of protest vote. Indeed, when people post something (anything) at this early date -- certainly before any Democratic candidate has announced that they are running -- that raises concerns about one specific potential candidate, they will be attacked for their lack of party loyalty.

“Party loyalty” is a curious thing. If, for example, one is familiar with the history of primary and general elections since, say, 1964 -- approximately one-half of a century -- there are several examples of a lack of party loyalty damaging a Democratic candidate’s chances for victory. Yet most of these were the result of the moderate-to-conservative wing of the Democratic Party. Indeed, the lone example that the moderate-to-conservative wing still attempts to blame on “the left” is the tired, weak argument concerning Ralph Nader in Florida in the 2000 election.

“If only the left hadn’t cast ‘protest votes’ for Nader -- believing that ‘there’s no difference’ between Bush and Gore -- we’d have won the election!” We still see this uninformed appeal to emotion, even on DU:GD discussions. It requires one to ignore the fact that Gore did win the vote in Florida, and the republican party/ US Supreme Court stole the election. This was very well documented in Vincent Bugliosi’s “The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President” (Thunder’s Mouth Press; 2001).

To blame the eventual outcome of that election on “the left” -- some of whom did vote for Nader -- makes as much sense as blaming the elderly Floridians who, confused by the “butterfly ballot,” cast votes for Patrick Buchanan. More, it ignores an important reality -- one documented in Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s “Journals: 1952 - 2000” (Penguin; 2007): a good many of the establishment Democrats voted for George W. Bush. The reason? Some disliked Al Gore for creating distance between himself and Bill Clinton, while others despised his choice for vice president.

Still, Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election. Any and all “blame” goes to the Supreme Court.

Similar dynamics had resulted in President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 loss to Ronald Reagan. Again, Schlesinger’s journals document that a significant segment of the establishment Democrats were opposed to Carter -- even before the middle of his term in the White House. Some, like Arthur, mistakenly thought that a four-year Reagan term would be no big deal (just as 20 years later, they felt Bush would be inconsequential). Add to that the phenomenon of “Reagan democrats” -- who were moderate-to-conservative party members, who believed Reagan represented their values. It would be delusional to believe the left backed Ronald Reagan.

To really understand the betrayal of party loyalty during this era, one has to take 1968 -- a unique year in American history -- into account. The occupant in the White House was President Lyndon Johnson. In late 1967, Senator Eugene McCarthy had entered the primaries; in early 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy entered the race, as well. Intelligent people can differ on if one or both of them were disloyal to the Democratic Party, by doing so. However, LBJ would soon announce his plan to retire. RFK came from behind, to pass McCarthy in delegates won in the primaries; VP Hubert Humphrey entered the race, though he did not run in a single primary; RFK was murdered; and then, at the Democratic National Convention, the establishment selected Humphrey as the party’s candidate.

What happened at the Convention was important. In part, because of the police riot outside; part because it was run by Chicago’s Mayor Daley. Now, the mayor was a tough, old-school, machine political genius. Daley was also a stubborn, often cruel political boss. Inside the convention hall, he was a bully. But he was not alone in representing old school politics: the conflict over seating the delegates from Mississippi, which started in ‘64, was still unresolved. Although the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party had the legal and ethical right to be seated, the old, dehydrated, racist delegates were allowed to remain in “official” control of the state party.

These issues led to attempts to create a fair set of rules before the 1972 Democratic Convention. To a large extent, this created tensions between the progressive-liberal wing, and the moderate-conservative wing. (And these played out before, during, and after the convention.) The result was the most acrimonious convention -- inside -- in the party’s history.

George McGovern would come from behind in the primary season, to take a lead. Some of the other candidates, led by Hubert Humphrey, began a coordinated “anyone but McGovern” operation, to try to deny McGovern the nomination. Even when it was clear, at the beginning of the convention, Humphrey and the establishment sought to keep McGovern from winning.

McGovern won the nomination, but lost in the general election for three reasons: he ran a poor campaign; Nixon’s campaign was hugely successful in using dirty tactics; and parts of the Democratic Party would support and vote for Nixon. In fact. Exit polls showed that 35% of registered Democrats who voted, cast their ballots for Nixon. More, shortly after the election was called for Nixon, Humphrey called to congratulate Nixon. A transcript of the two sharing a giggle about how Humphrey pretended to support McGovern, but really worked against him, is found in Rick Perlstein’s “Nixonland” (Scribner; 2008).

A similar “anybody but ____” coordinated establishment campaign took place in the 1988 Democratic primary season. The contest attracted a large number of candidates (as had the ‘72 race). In time, it became a two-man contest, between Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson. The democratic establishment pressured the others to drop out of the race, to help Dukakis’s campaign. It was a “anybody but Jesse” effort.

Jesse wanted to be picked for the VP spot. He had shown the ability to bring large numbers of new people into the party. Dukakis ended up going with Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas instead. Although that choice resulted in a wonderful exchange in the VP debate, it wouldn’t carry the ticket to victory. Dukakis ran a campaign that was less exciting than lima beans; he could neither win back the “Reagan democrats,” or inspire new people to join the party. While we can only speculate on how things might have been different, had Dukakis offered Jesse some position, it seems unlikely he could have done worse.

If we add the moderate-to-conservative Democrats, with the progressive-liberal wing, and attract the support of the Democratic Left, the Democratic Party can continue to beat any republican candidate for the White House. In fact, that combination has the potential to win seats in both houses of Congress, as well as state and local elections. Not everywhere, but in the majority of states. But to do that, we need “party loyalty” -- and not just “party loyalty” as defined by one wing, or the established “leadership.”

“Party loyalty” has to include sharing the rewards. But we very rarely, if ever, have seen this type of power-sharing after election victories in the past 50 years. In fact, the opposite is too often the rule: the true progressive-liberal wing rarely gets any seat at the table. (Just because the media calls a politician a “liberal,” doesn’t mean he/she is. They are speaking of in the limited context of Washington, DC.) The Democratic Left is never seated. While their numbers may appear small, their ideas are huge. And their campaign work ethic -- going door-to-door, etc -- is why they are known as “activists.”

It’s strange to me, as an activist on the left, to see how we continue to be taken for granted, and shown so little party loyalty. Now, I’m a registered Democrat, with serious grass roots credentials. I’ve been a social - political activist for many decades. And while I speak only for myself here, I am aware of others who think very similarly.

H2O Man
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