Monday, April 18, 2016

Democrats Should Be Proud To Claim Liberalism

A second post from my friend Jim:

Thanks for the kind words, and I’ll try and deserve them, this time.  (My style will always wander down odd bypaths and hop around a bit.  I sounded like that in the 3rd Grade, and as I approach 70, I don’t expect it to change much, but I usually can pull things together better.)

        I’m hoping to work on a couple of posts today. Maybe even getting another one up tonight, though that’s unlikely.  There are so many topics rattling around, and my wife (and proofreader, copy editor, and the one trying to keep me on course) has her own input.
        For example, I want to look at the fracture lines that are appearing in the Republican party, and how we can make them wider and benefit in some unexpected ways.  (Teaser: Despite a long history of considering the corporations as permanently welded inside their elephant costumes, in fact there have been issues where they have swung to our side.  Historians of the civil rights movement say that the reason why Atlanta was relatively free of disruption – despite its nearness to the birthplace of the Klan – was that the business community decided it wasn’t going to have the city suffer the revulsion other cities were earning.  During Vietnam, there was a strong Wall Street Against the War contingent, long before union members had switched from beating up protestors to supporting them.  And corporations were giving full marital benefits to same-sex couples while our Presidential Candidates were still arguing that ‘marriage was between one man and one woman’ and ‘civil unions were close enough that gays should accept them for now, and wait until society was ready for full marriage.’  We can get – some – business interests to switch to our side on – some – issues, if we don’t start by treating them as automatic enemies, or by weakening our own positions to get their support.)
On the other hand, while I’m staying back from the primaries until Tuesday, and I see how Bernie reacts, there are other ideas that may shove to the front – like (Em’s favorite) why I say “It’s not the economy this year, stupid” and why, even though we need to discuss it, I think the economy is usually less important as an issue than we usually think of it.  But on to this post.
        First, I need to remind Democrats of something we seem to have forgotten over the past 40+ years.  We are actually “allowed” to go on the offensive, to attack Republicans, to be the ones who force them to defend their own failures, absurdities, and irrationalities.  One of our candidates on the top of the ballot seems ready to do that, but we have to get commendations, medals, or whatever else is needed down to our Congressional and legislative candidates – anything to give them courage.

        I know, this is a shocking idea.  Ever since William Safire fed Spiro Agnew that line about the ‘silent majority’ we’ve acted like that lair of liars actually got one thing right.  We’ve really believed – and okay, the McGovern debacle didn’t do much to ‘deprogram’ us – that there WAS this mass of people who generally didn’t vote, but who would come after us, pitchforks at the ready – Pat Buchanan’s later addition – if we actually dared to support liberal programs or even call ourselves ‘liberals.’

        (We didn’t start calling ourselves Progressives to say we were ‘more liberal than Liberals’ -- the way some of our candidates use it today.  We didn’t even use the name because we were followers of Teddy Roosevelt’s ideas, though in many ways we are – from environmentalism to Pure Food and Drug Laws to trust busting and ‘saving capitalism from itself by reining in the abuses’ many of our ideas came from Teddy, or were first implemented by him.  No, we picked “Progressive” to say ‘we’re really Liberals, but the word is such a red flag we decided to change it, not our policies.”  (Which never works. Every time we did, we seemed to be telling the electorate that Republicans were right about Liberalism – and getting them more willing to think Republicans were right on other things.  Meanwhile, the timidity dampened the enthusiasm of the stronger liberals.)

        It is long past time to change that mindset, to use the Robert Wechsler self-description proudly and say “Yes, we are Liberal and Loud.”  It’s about time we stopped giving Republicans a pass on their bigotries of all types, their failures and bankruptcies in state after state, the racist jokes and tweets that fly between party officials, their attacks on voting that are attacks on Democracy itself, and all the rest.

        We have to lay at their feet the pictures of the deaths they have caused.  Just last night a four year old was shot by her five year old sister.  Sadly, it was barely a big story in the local paper, one of similar ones almost every day of the week.

Something like this affects not just the dead girl, not just her family, their employers, parents in the building and neighborhood but the entire neighborhood and city.  We have no choice but to begin holding Republicans accountable, showing how their ideas on guns have led to more deaths than in Iraq, and creating a consensus on at least some sensible restrictions.  (Another piece in the pipeline is my own solution – which basically treats guns like cars, requires licenses, and leaves accountability with the last registered owner – even if that is a manufacturer or seller.) 
And then there are the emergency room deaths in states where Republicans refused Medicaid expansion, the deaths from back alley abortions, even the – rare but not non-existent – deaths from Muslim or Gay Bashing.  (And we even have become so involved in absurd infighting this year that we haven’t taken that wrath we aim at each other and aimed it at Governor Snyder and the Flint Crew, and the lifetime of living death they spread throughout the whole city. And – okay, a digression from a digression, but that’s the way my mind works – remember that, for maybe the next forty years, Human Resource Departments may automatically downgrade anyone who lived in Flint at any time because ‘better be safe than sorry.’)

We have so many targets.  We even should explain why Republican economics are the classic example of ‘for every difficult problem there is a solution that is simple, easily understandable, and totally wrong.  (But, as you will hear me say many times, “It’s not the economy, stupid, not this time.  We lose when we rely on economics alone – but that too is for a different post.)

And we have to start challenging Republican lies – and have the evidence, in our heads, our hands or our desks – to do so successfully to people who know far less than we do about politics, government, and economics than we do. 

I am not speaking just to or about our candidates, but about us.  We have to become spokesmen for our party and our beliefs, even in our everyday relations, even if it means challenging the loudmouth in the lunchroom, the dittohead in the carpool, or our crazy relatives at a summer barbecue.  And remember, we aren’t trying the hopeless task of converting them.  We’re really talking to the silent people at the next table, or in the carpool, or lurking on the blogs, people who are listening to both of us, hopefully inoculating them from Republican Brain Fever or other dangerous diseases spread through word of mouth.

And, to switch back to a message for all our candidates, from city councilman to President.  This time our enemy is not our opponent. We continue to campaign just against the other candidate for the office we seek.  They keep running against us, our party, and our President.  (And when we try to switch back to local issues they taunt us about being ashamed of our President – and unless we come out swinging in our praise for him, if we hedge it makes their complaints against him look almost reasonable.)

This time we have to run on his record, yes, and it’s a great one.  But more, we have to run on the Republican records – of failure, of obstruction, of racism, of attacks on the right to abortion, and on women’s health in so many ways, on immigrants and Muslims.  We have to show the voters – who aren’t political junkies like us – the party platforms and what they mean.  And more and more we will also win points on the Republicans’ simple refusal to govern, even badly, even in the face of disaster, Mike Lee blocking aid for Flint, Ted Cruz blocking a bill on slavery because he can find an abortion loophole – that no one else sees – in it.  We need to concentrate on our own locality and region, predominantly, but Flint, the bankruptcies and educational destruction caused by Jindal and Brownback, the toleration and even support of bigots on the radio, all can be made to put Republicans on the defensive everywhere.

If I need to mention a Presidential candidate supported by every White Nationalist in America, the other by authentic dominionists who see Christians as the people who should be on top the ‘7 mountains,’ if I need to mention a candidate who suggested the current President ‘might’ have been involved in a Supreme Court Justice’s death, or the conspiracies beloved by the other candidate’s father and chief surrogate, maybe you haven’t been paying attention to the real enemy as the squabbles on our side get louder.
Jim "Prup" Benton

1 comment:

  1. (sang to the tune of Okie from Muskogee) I'm proud to be a liberal from West, Texas.


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