on the Prize
June 12, 2002
By Caroline Spector
Usually, I dislike when white folk take black slogans, slang,
and attitude and try to willy-nilly adopt it as if they have
some great cosmic connection to the culture they are mimicking.
So, it is with great reluctance that Iím invoking one of the
great unifying statements of the Civil Rights movement: Keep
Your Eyes on the Prize.
What black culture at that time understood was that if the
African-American community allowed divisive elements within
its own body politic to pull them apart, they would all loose
the greater goal of gaining political, social and economic
strides. And it is a reflection of how successful this enterprise
was that the African-American community is now grappling the
very issue of how and who speaks for the community as they
have made strides in their initial goals and have the, relative,
luxury of a more diverse voice.
One of the things that make the Democratic Party great is
also its weakness Ė our diversity. Unlike the Hard Right --
who have hijacked the Republican Party with The Agenda That
Must be Obeyed -- we Democrats fight amongst ourselves about
damn near everything. I think this is great, but it also causes
us to lose our focus just when we need it most.
We donít keep our eyes on the prize.
The lockstep mentality is driving a wedge in the Republican
Party; the defection of Jim Jeffords was the first crack in
the united front. John McCain might leave, though I suspect
he has too much honor in the dance-with-them-what-brung-you
kind of way. (This, despite the fact that the Bush cabal stabbed
him in the back on campaign finance reform after he agreed
drop out of the 2000 presidential primaries in exchange for
their promise to secure this, his great, passion.)
Part of the problem is that we have allowed the opposition
to define us. Theyíve vilified the term liberal Ė a pretty
great word meaning favorable to progress or reform Ė and have
made it instead a term of derision. I think trying to recapture
liberal is a lost cause right now Ė but we should embrace
Progressive. As in: We Are, They Arenít.
We need to start talking not about what divides us Ė which
we can wallow in after the fall elections Ė and we need to
focus and showing how we are different and why weíre better.
We need to keep our eyes on the prize.
Weíre better because we allow all this quibbling Ė we donít
shiv our own because we disagree with them. (Look at what
the Hard Right did to when the White House released a recent
statement saying there is indeed global warming Ė Limbaugh
had a hissy fit and the next day Junior was retracting.)
And speaking of Junior let me say something that will seem
horrible to many of you: Bush isnít stupid. (Yes, it took
me ages to admit this, too.)
Now donít get me wrong, Dubya isnít the brightest penny in
the pocket and his grasp of the English language is tertiary
at best Ė but we must stop thinking of him as a rank idiot.
It has caused us to think of him with contempt (not undeserved)
but it has also made us underestimate him and his handlers.
These people are ruthless. They are cunning. And we have to
start treating them as such. And hereís the reason why: As
long as we say Georgie is stupid he has An Out. He can screw
up to high heaven -- and god knows he has Ė and get away with
So stop giving him the out. Letís force him to show what
he really is: ill-informed, mean, ill-tempered and thin-skinned.
But heís was smart enough to get installed into office, and
heís smart enough to take responsibility for the consequences
of what has happened since.
He has a low-animal cunning that serves him well in the political
milieu. And letís not forget that behind Dubya is a vast legion
of faithful Bush retainers and business partners.
He is quite possibly the most criminally-minded, power-hungry
dark beast ever to shuffle toward Washington. And donít think
that Poppy Bush isnít in there turning the screws. (The man
was the former head of Spook Central, for crying out loud.
Itís amazing he didnít explode in a ball of fire when he was
being sworn into office.)
Right now is the time to start pointing out that government
isnít always the enemy.
The implosion of the stock market due to corrupt accounting
practices and the Enron affair in all its ugly glory ó are
great arguments for our side.
The Hard Right doesnít want any regulation of the marketplace
and look at what has happened: plummeting stocks, accounting
malfeasance, loss of retirement, jobs, economic turmoil, not
to mention the sheer criminality of much of the corporate
And though heaven knows that the Democrats are hardly clean
as a whistle in all this Ė we arenít as dirty as they are
Ė and this could be the moment to try and make some real reforms
in both our own party and in government.
And we need to stop pointing fingers at Nader and the Greens.
Yes, I know they have been spoilers in many ways and continue
to create nothing but problems for us.
Nader is our Perot.
Heís our crazy, annoying bastard and we have to deal with
him. The Republicans are laughing their asses off as we expend
ever more energy and cash on the Greens.
So letís try embracing the Greens.
It might go a long way to showing Nader for the national
scold he is rather than the image he tries to maintain as
ďnoble do-gooder.Ē Giving the Greens a place at the table
takes away their main bitch. And some of their agenda is our
agenda, too. Why let them drain away votes and campaign money
for matters that would help us in the long run?
And letís start reaching out to moderate Republicans as well.
There are Republicans who are concerned over the direction
their party has taken. Let them know that we believe that
there needs to be the push and pull of opposing parties, but
that the Hard Right is rapidly turning the Republican Party
into a theocracy and that we want to help them change that.
If Hard Right candidates are defeated, that faction of the
party starts loosing its clout. They are rabid and dangerous
and we need to let the moderates in the Republican Party know
we want to help them save their party.
Bizarre? Perhaps, but things are dire out there Ė and weíre
going to need all the help we can get.
So, every time you think about slagging a Green, or ragging
on a moderate Republican, remember: Keep Your Eyes on the
This is the prize: To start removing, (paraphrasing the words
of John Dean) a cancer on this nation. The Hard Right Fundamentalist
machine is in high-gear and is trying to complete its takeover
of this nation.
Letís start throwing some monkey-wrenches.
The first is not to sabotage ourselves.
Keep your eyes on the prize. Itís America. And itís worth
Caroline Spector is a writer living in Austin, TX.