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Eyes 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 it.

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 upper echelon.

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 Prize.

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 fighting for.

Caroline Spector is a writer living in Austin, TX.

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