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April 10, 2005 - The Allure of Calm Reasoning With the Powerful Right

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A friend from undergraduate days sent me this –

Goodbye to All That
Kevin Mattson, The America Prospect, Web Exclusive: 03.28.05

Synopsis? The spirit of '68 still lives on in some quarters of the left. Too bad -- there are much more effective ways to be an opposition party than by reliving the past.

In it Mattson comments on the Mark Kurlansky book 1968: The Year that Rocked the World and the allure of those days: “People under twenty-five do not have much influence in the world. But it is amazing what they can do if they are ready to march.” Breaking from the limitations of the sidewalk into the streets now conjures a feeling of exhilaration and radical accomplishment.

Yeah, yeah. And as for 1968 –


Authenticity of the self and actually living in a democratic community with other citizens who hold varying opinions are two very different -- if not, in fact, irreconcilable -- demands. In Chicago, the two ideals clashed, and authenticity won out. Protesters pitted themselves against the inauthentic masses -- the police, those who believed in the Vietnam War, the “pigs.” When this occurred, participatory democracy no longer supplemented representative democracy but replaced it; authenticity displaced the challenge of deliberating with other citizens who might disagree. To be authentic meant to give direct expression to desire rather than to work through a longer process of changing representative institutions. It focused on what George Cotkin, the historian of American existentialism, called “catharsis.”


Dense prose, but you get the idea.

Mattson suggests we go back to 1948 –


Younger thinkers today are going further back than the ’60s to rediscover good ideas. It’s been the Cold War liberalism of the ’40s and ’50s that has garnered the most interest. Books like Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s The Vital Center or Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History or John Kenneth Galbraith’s American Capitalism seem much more interesting than The Making of a Counter Culture. There’s good reason for this, because though we might feel closer to the ’60s chronologically, our own age is much more parallel to the ’40s. Then, as now, liberals faced an international enemy -- Niebuhr’s “children of darkness” -- willing to murder for salvation. Then, as now, liberals confronted conservatives who entertained dangerous ideas of launching preemptive wars abroad while slashing social programs at home. And, if we take the ’48ers up to 1952 and the election of JFK in 1960, then, as now, liberals were often an opposition party.

The ’48ers knew they had to articulate a public philosophy, the way conservatives would later. They sketched out broad principles that transcended liberal interest groups. Those principles grew out of their faith in the American nation as a community of citizens sharing mutual obligations to one another -- the sort that they saw during World War II and that they hoped could live on afterward. The ideas of national greatness and patriotism grounded their political thought. They upheld a public purpose that highlighted the weaknesses of the libertarian right and led them to criticize the “social imbalance” of a society enamored of consumerism and markets, and not America’s civic fabric. Politically, they supported the idea of a “pluralist” government with many voices participating, not just those of business and privilege. They wanted influence on the inside, not protest from the outside. In The Vital Center, Schlesinger wrote, “Our democratic tradition has been at its best an activist tradition. It has found its fulfillment, not in complaint or in escapism, but in responsibility and decision.”

The ’48ers, so far as I know, never marched against American actions abroad. What they did do was construct a framework for a liberal foreign policy, a robust alternative to conservative emphasis on military action and “rolling back” the enemy.


Okay, fine.  If there is an opposition it needs to get serious and patriotic.  Got it.

So forget 1968.


Instead of embracing those styles from the past, liberals should take their lessons from the right during the 1960s. Liberals will never be as powerful as the right. That’s not just because the right is richer but because the liberal faith is, by definition, weaker. Unlike evangelical Christianity, liberalism can never provide absolute zeal or commitment. We can draw some inspiration from the “fighting faith” of the ’48ers’ liberalism, but we also face challenges that they never faced, especially the infrastructure the right has built over the last few decades. With this said, liberals don’t need to be as weak as they are now. We need not recycle protest and alienation from the past. Liberals have been in the opposition before, and they’ve managed to win back political power. But it took care and precision and some serious thinking about strategy. That’s our charge today.


Is it?

From Saturday, 24 April 2004 see this in these pages - a comment on the Mark Kurlansky book. (And a brief review here from January 25, 2004)

As I said then, I guess this is a book for the old folks, those of us who remember 1968 as a strange year. I was a junior in college in the middle of Ohio. The Vietnam War was raging. Home in Pittsburgh in August I remember I was driving my nutty uncle somewhere or other and on the radio we heard the first reports of the Soviet tanks rolling into Prague. The Prague Spring was over, and he was so angry he was purple - his side of the family was Czech and my father's side Slovak. The elegant, soft-spoken Dubcek was out. The Soviets were back. One minor thing.

January, the International Cultural Congress in Cuba and the beginning of the apotheosis of Che Guevera. Revolution in the air. April 4, 1968 - King was assassinated. May - the student uprising in Paris. June 5th, 1968 - Bobby Kennedy assassinated. Then the Democratic Convention in Chicago with Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies and Mayor Daley and his police. …

Those days are gone.

We need to make ideas resonate?

I doubt that can be done. “Liberals will never be as powerful as the right. That’s not just because the right is richer but because the liberal faith is, by definition, weaker.”

Yep. But maybe a bit of passion might help.

Digby over at Hullabaloo is more blunt here


I don't know who this group of hippie protester strawmen are in Kevin Mattson's cautionary tale in this months Prospect, but I've not had the pleasure. I don't think there exists a vast number of nostalgic baby boomers and utopian youngsters out there who are planning to launch another Summer of Love, unless he's specifically talking about the anti-Iraq war protests, which of course, he is, but won't admit it. That's because those war protesters weren't trying to hop on a nostalgic magic carpet ride back to the days of Hanoi Jane, they were participating in a worldwide protest about a very specific unjust war being launched by an illegitimate president --- a war which the "fighting liberals" like he and Peter Beinert foolishly endorsed. I suppose the fact that millions of people all over the globe also marched merely means that they too were recreating the alleged glory days of People's Park.


Ah, that’s harsh, but true. There are some new specifics here now, and all that recent anti-war stuff wasn’t nostalgia.

Digby thinks Mattson is clueless –


My instinctive reaction to this entire line of paranoid ramblings about the wild and crazy lefites making a big scene and ruining everything is that if this guy thinks that a bloodless, wonkish liberalism is ever going to compete with the right wing true believers he's got another thing coming. American liberalism grew out of a passionate progressivism and a worldwide union movement, both of which featured plenty of "protest politics" in their day. And if he thinks that the modern GOP's political might hasn't drawn much of its power from pulpits and talk radio demagoguery, then he hasn't been paying attention. Nobody does political theatre better than the right wing.

… The author fails to realize, however, that just as the rabble on the right took to the airwaves, the rabble on the left is taking to cyberspace. This ain't no hippie protest movement, dude. It's as modern as modern can get.

People need to feel things about politics, not just think. It's a grave mistake for political types to insult and marginalize those who have passion and wish to express that publicly. These jittery fellows who are so afraid of "the left's" overheated energy need to remember that their golden post war age was populated by a people who had just been through a crushing economic upheaval and a cataclysmic war. They were willingly docile and conformist for good reason. Don't expect that to be present in other circumstances in a thriving democracy. It isn't natural nor should it be desired. It only lasted a very brief time even then.


Ah, so much for opposing the Bush wars, and all the rest, with dispassionate, patriotic thoughtfulness.

And why dismiss that?


All the wonky goodness in the world doesn't necessarily translate into votes. You've got to resonate on a deeper level with people and while I appreciate the need for an elegant foreign policy argument, I frankly wonder if this public wonkfest isn't just going to reinforce the Republican image of us as a bunch of weenies. In today's political climate nothing spells defeat for Democrats more than the image of a bunch of fey, ivory tower eggheads running the military.


Agreed. And yes, “it's ridiculous to completely place the Republicans as some sort of calm, reasonable suburbanites in contrast to us crazed extremists on the left then or now.”

So, more craziness is called for? Not exactly. Try more passion.

And there’s the history of the thing –


These critics of the unwashed rabble just can't seem to recognize that with great prosperity and political power the time had come for liberalism to act on its long overdue responsibility to fully extend the rights and responsibilities of the American experiment to women and racial minorities --- to use, as Dear Leader would say, its political capital. The social changes that were ratified in the 60's and 70's were arguably more important to the lives of more than 50% of Americans than anything that had happened in the previous century. That's not hyperbole. The women's rights movement alone is one of the greatest progressive leaps forward in human history.

My 36 year old mother couldn't get a mortgage in her own name in 1955. She had to have her father sign the papers. Birth control was illegal in many parts of the country until 1965. Women were routinely denied slots in education and were openly and without shame discriminated against in employment. African Americans, we all know, could be denied the right to enter even public buildings in many areas of the country until 1964. Their "right" to vote was a joke. I needn't even mention the fact that they were dismissed socially as second class citizens without a moment's thought by very large numbers of Americans until quite recently.

That is the world that the "fighting liberals" were protecting. And that is the world that was changed irrevocably during this allegedly frivolous time of liberal protest politics in 1960's. And it was done though the means that this writer seems to find so distasteful -- while he perfunctorily agrees that the ends were all in all a good thing. I'm sorry if all those changes subsequently made it difficult for policy wonks to make a good national security argument, but you know, tough shit. Sometimes you have to do hard things and there is often a price to pay for it.


How do the words go?


Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé !

Aux armes, citoyens !

Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides,
L'opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez !


Oops! Wrong national anthem, of course.

But Digby has a point about the passions running high in 1968 - some things got changed for the better –


You don't make radical quantum leaps in social equality without there being a reaction. The reverberations of all of that are still being felt in the culture wars of today and it has made things difficult for Democratic party politics. However, the energetic political activism of the 60's resulted in tangible, everyday improvement in the lives of vast numbers of Americans who fought for and won the right to be equal under the law in this country. That betterment of real people's lives is what liberalism is supposed to be about.

The lauded "fighting foreign policy liberals" of the 50's were the dying dinosaurs of an establishment that was rapidly losing its energy in a stable, wealthy, globally dominant America. As the writer acknowledges, it was quite easy for them to ride the back of the liberal consensus because they were the inheritors of it -- a condition that does not exist today. It's harder now. That's the reality that we are facing.


So it’s harder now. Fine.

But as Digby says - We don't do nostalgia. Let's leave that to Pat Buchanan.

And I don’t remember 1968 being a particularly fine year. And that was a long time ago.








From Boston –


To me the key issue is the most utterly difficult and frustrating: how we lefties can have an impact, be effective, enter the process, shift the course of the ocean liner, as opposed to talk, analyze, talk, criticize, talk.


From our Wall Street Attorney friend –


All this hand wringing.  

I was once accused of thinking too much to work on the floor of a stock exchange.  One has to be reactionary.  I guess that is why I became a humble liberal lawyer.  The problem with the discussion below is that it is too introspective.  The question shouldn't be how do we recapture the ""glory days," assuming that they were in fact that.  No, the question is what needs to be done to not move backwards, but rather, to move forwards.

Here is an interesting idea.  Liberalism is not the past, it is the future.  The conservatives, by being so "out there" in their agenda, are well on their way to becoming the past; their agenda is no longer hidden.  Think about it, the conservatives will soon start to try to figure out who to put forward as the next "W" to capture that past glory.  Meanwhile, a total of over 50 million Americans will be without health insurance by the time "W" is out of office, the United States will be (already is) vilified throughout the globe, and the average Joe in the Midwest will not have money for retirement.  Does this really sound like a successful strategy?  Hello?  No!  Liberals do not have to worry about being more like the conservatives.  Liberals have to put forward candidates capable of moving forward and solving current problems (or the future problems described above) in a cogent manner that will be inviting to all the victims of the present. presidency.


From Rochester –


Just think of all the new issues that will require solution once Bush's people have totally mucked up the works!


From a second voice in Boston –


These days, I despair because in the past year I and my friends have been more politically concerned and active than ever, yet we have nothing to show for it.


We are all certainly well cured of the illusion that engaged discussion and analysis--like that that Alan fosters as well as anyone does at the Nation or the New York Review of Books--is anything more than a temporary ego boost and a construction of intellectual order that fosters a laughable sense of control and power.


In the period before the fall election, I sent out lots of money to seemingly well-organized leftist action groups, telephoned potential voters for hours at Kerry headquarters, canvassed door to door in New Hampshire, wrote letters to editors in swing states, and even schemed to pretend I was a right-winger calling into right-wing national talk shows in an attempt to help people see how much Bush was working against their interests.


After the election, I went to see Barney Frank lecture on "What Next?" -- a mainly downbeat talk about how we are all fucked until at least the 2006 elections. He asked for only one action: organize and work for the best candidates for those elections starting NOW.


But I am sorry to say I have found nothing to help me do just that.


Many recent articles claim that the right has been much better and more effectively organized than the left in this country for decades. Clearly that must be reversed. But would someone please tell me how? I can't give up my job to form a lobbying group or become a traveling speaker hoping for listeners on Midwestern street corners.




Is despair in fact quite reasonable these days?


From Georgia –


What can be done?  Write for the party.  Republicans can and will work like robots for their cause, but we hold the majority on creativity.  It is made more ineffective due to sloth and despair and a revulsion to propaganda, but putting it just so can be our strength.  The message didn't get across this election, and that is in the failure of writing for the talking heads.


From the first voice in Boston –


I'd actually like to do that, if I could figure out how.


From our Wall Street Attorney friend –


While I understand and appreciate your frustration, I believe that the task at hand is not as difficult as you make it out to be.  The conservatives will eventually implode from their own stupidity.  I refuse to believe that there is no hope.  Nor is it a matter of biding our time until better days arrive.  No, I think that what is needed is time for the average American to realize what he/she has voted for.  Not unlike a real bender, at some point the country will wake up with one hell of a hangover.  The key is to focus our energy, not on agonizing over how to be more like "them," but how to solve the problems with which we are now faced.  

You say we are fucked.  I think not.  What many Liberals are doing is panicking.  This accomplishes nothing except wastes energy that could be put to much better use.  Not to invoke FDR, but FDR was well aware of the agony in America when he came to office.  When he said we have nothing to fear but fear itself, it was not just a prehistoric soundbite.  The message here was that if we give into our fears (in this case that the conservatives have taken over the country), we will be paralyzed to move forward and solve some rather difficult problems.

We don't want to waste time trying to be more like the conservatives.  We should concentrate on being true to ourselves and thus serving the country at large.  I spend many of my professional hours advising clients to do one thing or another.  Often times, they want to do something that is overcomplicated in order to gain some undefined advantage when the answer is something direct and simple.

At the moment, I believe that we need to go on the offensive and scrap the defensive nonsense.  What was the biggest mistake of the last presidential campaign?  It was not Howard Dean's outburst, it was the way the Liberal spinners let it play out.  It could have  been a positive, defining moment.  Here was a candidate that displayed emotion because he cared deeply about what he was trying to accomplish.  The Party abandoned him for a cardboard cutout of a conservative candidate and we got exactly what we deserved. Why vote for the cheap imitation, when we can vote for the original?  Can you imagine Harry Truman in today’s world?  Would he be allowed to defend his daughter before a music critic of dubious ability?  No.  And therein is the problem.  For some reason Liberals have started to act like second violinists or violists in an orchestra, afraid to play out, unnaturally unsure of themselves.  As Liberals we must not allow ourselves to be relegated to the shadows.  We must continually engage the conservatives and point out their follies without fear.  Unless we can do this, we will be the "also ran party" for the next generation; however, it is not enough to point out the conservatives' follies unless we have an alternative plan that is truly innovative and provides a real choice for the voters.  The New Deal was a shocking agenda that provided a real choice.  It seems to me that this piece of the puzzle is missing at the moment.

To conclude, to walk around and say that we are fucked accomplishes nothing for the United States and everything for the conservative movement.  We are not fucked.  To say so is to surrender without so much as a whimper.  The entire basis upon which this country was founded rests on the need to be free from tyranny by giving people a real choice as to their destiny.  To not fight for this is to allow the conservatives to takeover the country on the basis of the exact principals that the founding fathers fought against.


From the first voice in Boston –


I agree for the most part: I am not suggesting we or I should stop trying, but I am saying we need desperately to define some likely-to-be-effective concrete actions. I am not one of those who think we should pander, and, for instance, suddenly inject a better God into politics. But what does one do when the clear message that Bush's tax cuts benefit the richest and hurt the middle and the bottom is simply not heard by those being hurt?


Okay now – something has been started here. 


The issue is getting through to the people who are getting hurt and making them understand it might be a good idea to act in their own self-interest and throw these bums out?  Something like that.  Howard Dean might actually help with that.  He says things clearly, and he cares about the country – and he’s a doctor – and you get points for that.  (Bill Frist is one too – but his vast holdings in the Frist family business, HCA, does rankle some folks, and his remote diagnosis of Terri Schiavo via a two-year-old edited videotape – Why, she’s hardly brain-damaged at all! - has him facing discipline by the AMA and all that.) 


But the progressive side needs a voice, and one that can make Bill O’Reilly and the rest look stupid.  Folks need to start laughing at the Fox News and Terry Randall ranters – and the idea is not to engage them, but to start the trend to simply laughing at them.  Dean will do.  He will do nicely.  Let them run on, and they will hang themselves.  It’s time to get regular folks to channel their “inner moderates.”  A big block in the middle is made up of folks who don’t want to be a nut-case for either side.  That’s the target audience. 


But don’t expect to use the “main stream media” – and that is because, just as with Generalissimo Francisco Franco, they are busy for the next three weeks covering only one basic story – the Pope is still dead.  That’s the daily breaking news.  Back in the seventies that was funny on Saturday Night Live.  Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.  Little did we know.  And when they’re not busy with that tale, we get Michael Jackson taking long hot showers with eight-year-old boys (this week’s other headline).  Forget the press – as even CNN has changed leadership and is getting “anti-news” (see this - and this on ABC News going soft).


And you don’t challenge the man is Washington.  See this for background.


Seymour Hersh visited New Mexico State University (Las Cruces) on Tuesday, March 29 as part of his speaking tour for his newest book, “Chain of Command: the Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.” He opened his presentation by announcing that he intended to discuss “what’s on my mind” and “where we think we are.” The first thing on his mind was a chilling assessment of George W. Bush.

“The President,” Hersh sighed. “Bush is as absolutely convinced he’s doing the right thing,” just as journalists are who think of themselves as white knights think they are doing the right thing. “Even if we have another thousand body bags, it won’t deter him.”

“This is where he is. He believes he won’t be measured by today, but in 5 or 10 years” in terms of the Mideast. With regard to Iraq, “he thinks it’s going well.” Iran, according to Hersh’s contacts, is “teed up.” “This is his mission,” he continued. “What does it mean?”

And then he delivered the most chilling comments of the evening. “Nothing I write” is likely to influence Bush, he said. “He is unreachable. I can’t reach him. He’s got his own world. This is really unusual and frankly, it scares the hell out of me.”


That’s a dead end.  (Multiple meanings there.)


If there is a solution, it could be in playful ridicule of the voices of the right – Bill and Rush and Sean and Joe Scarborough.  Not outrage at them.  That just puts off moderate people.  It’s letting them rant, then raising one eyebrow, smiling, and saying, “Really?”  And letting everyone else in on the joke.  And this Terri Schiavo thing helped with that, as did the call for the death of judges by the two guys from Texas.  Hell, even Cheney and Frist backed away from by the middle of the week.


The idea is to let the guys on the right who are trying to control the national conversation paint themselves in the corner as sputtering mad men (not madmen, but maybe that too), so the voices of the left are prepared to say, “Okay, Rush, Bill, whatever… but the rest of us are here to fix some problems and we’re going to work on those now, thank you.”  It’s verbal or political equivalent of a martial arts precept – make your opponent’s strength and bold moves work against him by letting him fail around, while you smile slyly and turn it all sour for him.  Maybe the wrong analogy, but it is something like that. 


This calls for activism that isn’t activism of the knocking-on-doors and marching-in-anger kind.  It’s a lot of listening to folks in the middle and asking questions and then listening again - and letting the folks in the middle make up their own minds that just as they don’t want to be associated with us wild-eyed lefties from the sixties, they may not want to be ditto-heads for Rush - and may want to laugh the next time Bill O’Reilly, when faced with something he doesn’t want to hear, shouts “Shut Up!” over and over and over.  The idea to assert?  Hey, let’s fix some problems.




Other levers to use?


From Boston –


"If there is a solution, it could be in playful ridicule of the voices of the right--Bill and Rush and Sean and Joe Scarborough.  Not outrage at them. That just puts off moderate people. It’s letting them rant, then raising one eyebrow, smiling, and saying, ‘Really?”


I worry that this is alienating, coming across as snide and superior, as Jon Stewart does. People giggle just with their own kind about people not their kind. I think a non-emotive, dryly rational approach potentially has more legs: "If Bush passes legislation X, the effect on you will be Y, and I know you don't want Y." But how to get people to pay attention to such messages?


Well, in USA TODAY – April 5 you’ll find this


• By 55%-40%, respondents say Republicans, traditionally the party of limited government, are "trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives of most Americans" on moral values.


• By 53%-40%, they say Democrats, who sharply expanded government since the Depression, aren't trying to interfere on moral issues.


The debate over Schiavo has spotlighted the central role "values" issues — abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage and the right to live or die — now play in politics.


Mark Rozell, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia who studies religion and politics, says the case has created a "clear backlash."


"It's one thing to look at religious conservatives as part of a broad coalition that makes up the Republican Party," he says. "It's entirely another if people think that religious conservatives are calling the shots in the Bush administration for what was a deeply personal situation."


That’s a thought.


As is this -


Begin The Grand Narrative - 


1 The Republican Party is the party of Washington fat cats and DC insiders.


2. Republican leaders like Tom Delay will break the law in order to prolong their political careers, no matter the consequences.


3. Republicans are trying to privatize social security and cut benefits in order to curry favor with their billion dollar friends, while Democrats remain focused on preserving social security's promise to generation after generation.


4. Democrats have worked with Republicans to approve more judges than Republicans did with President Clinton, yet they're dead set on ramming judges significantly out of America's mainstream down our throats. The judiciary is too important to cede all control to one party.


5. The only solution to this, and other messes now being created and made worse by the Republicans, is to elect Democrats.


Then there’s this Democratic strategy


… DeLay and his litany of ethics problems is the key here. Despite the growing list of charges against DeLay, the stink of corruption has not hurt the Republican caucus or party in general because only around half of the country has even heard of him, much less heard of the charges against him. However, if we can succeed in introducing DeLay to the majority of the country through the frame of corruption, we will instantly be able to nationalize the campaign and turn it into a referendum on reform. If we can raise Tom DeLay's national name recognition to over 90%, then the majority of the country will know his name better than they know the name of their own congressman. If we do so by running ads describing how corrupt he is, then the entire Republican delegation will start to seem corrupt.


So here is what I recommend. Starting around May 1st, 2006 and lasting until the end of September 2006, we should spend somewhere between $100M and $150M nationwide on an ad campaign attacking DeLay's ethics charges. This would be combined with a $10M run against DeLay in his won district, to ensure that there is the highest chance possible DeLay will lose in 2006. This is an obscene amount of money, but it would be required to raise his name ID to around 90%. Also, I believe that if the DCCC, blogs, MoveOn, DFA, DNC and 527's were to all chip in, we could both come up with the money and receive a tremendous amount of free media for our efforts. Then, starting in early September and running until the election, we run a series of ads promoting a number of good government reforms that would ensure that such corruption never takes place again and that would be enacted on the first day of a Democratic Congress. Viola, nearly every district in the country will become a referendum on DeLay.


If we were running against DeLay in every district nationwide, we would suddenly have a lot more winnable races on our hands. It may seem a little crazy to spend around 25% of our resources on one district, but for 2006 I think this is exactly the sort of bold tactical maneuver we need to make.


Something will work.  Maybe.

Late Week Comments –


Matt in upstate New York -


I know I'm going to sound lilke an Old Lefty or a left over new dealer -- and for those of you who don't know me, I am a labor lawyer representing unions -- but  think the key is the money. 


The concentration of wealth in this country has begun to reach Gilded Age proportions. More and more CEO's are making salaries in the 10's of millions annually while the average full time worker make about $35,000 and the average two earner family makes $53,000.  The tax burden has completely shifted since 1980 (when the real Republican revolution started by winning the ideological battle to convince the vast middle class that there were not citizens who should participate in government but merely tax payers who should do all they can to limit government).


States and local communities are having to raise taxes because the Federal government has allowed corporations and the wealthy to stop paying.  Schools can't afford band and art, cities can't afford parks and no one can afford health care.


It's time for a little good old class struggle. We ought to be attacking and criticizing the wealthy, both corporate and personal. It's time to trot out the image of the fat cats - but not the old image of the guy in the top hat, three-piece suit and watch fob. New images and new media.  We all know that the woman working at the counter at Wall-Mart doesn't dress, look or eat like the woman going from personal trainer, to spa, to lunch at the latest fusion bistro. But they watch the same TV shows.


It's an ideological war, a media war. Somehow we have to get the folks who work and shop a Wall Mart to stop thinking about Jennifer Aniston's sex life as important to them. And I think the message to do that is to just keep pounding away at the unfairness of the wealth disparity.


Bonnie in Boston -


Gotta say, I hate that "liberal wimps" crap!!!  I decline the label.


Yes, Matt, I agree, it is all about money, you ole Marxist, you.  And it's also about perceptions about money.  I teach poor urban youth, none of whom would say they are poor.  They all think they are middle class.  Some like Bush's kick-ass attitudes, some are going or have already been to Iraq.  Others despise Bush for all the right reasons, but still are considering the military as a way out of town, with benefits.  Alas.


Has anyone read George Lakoff's book, Don't Think of an Elephant?  Despite the need for a better editor, Lakoff addresses the question of why so many people voted against their own self interests.  He makes many interesting points about the authoritarian father family/nation model (them) in contrast to the nurturing parents/nation model (us).  Quite worth the couple of hours it takes to read.


Also, during my morning commute, I have started listening to Al Franken's Air America, which, in its own way needs an editor also -- lots of hooey and adverts, among which are nuggets of wonderful political outrage.  They consistently refer to the Bushies as the neo-con death cult, for example, and have pet names for the major players.


And finally, to quote another leftover old lefty:  Don't Mourn, Organize, or as I saw recently on the door of an organizer in Lynn, MA - Don't Agonize, Organize.  I'm sure Hersh is correct; Bush is unreachable.


But there are so many fronts--cultural, journalistic, conversational, elected officials-al.  Not that I'm doing all that much, myself, but I've never been so much in touch with my reps, state and national, as I am now.  And I'm having a great time putting little yellow "Bush Lies.  Who Dies?" stickers in public places when no one's looking.


Big picture, though, we're living in the Belly of the Beast (more leftovers? I think not).  This empire is going down by the end of the century as China rises and it wont' be pretty.  Meanwhile, one does what one can, I guess.


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta – in response to this – what Representative DeFazio from Oregon said, on the House floor, and just what Rick said to us all months ago.


Mr. Speaker, well, the President was on the road again today with yet another tightly controlled scripted, so-called town hall, before a carefully screened, invitation audience to tout to his plan to privatize Social Security.


Now, that is not unusual; in fact, the scripted town halls are all so similar that they can save the taxpayers a lot of money if he just stayed at Camp David or Crawford, Texas, and they just replayed the recordings of his earlier scripted, rehearsed town halls.


But the President did say today something extraordinary, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and suggested something unconscionable. The President said, "There is no trust fund.'' And then he went on to suggest that our Nation might not honor its debt to Social Security. This is what the President said does not exist.


… This is an extraordinary and reckless statement for the elected President of the United States to make.


Rick’s response?


Bingo! Thanks for noticing!


Not that anybody really cares about "whatever happened to the lockbox" question, of course. It's just another "form vs function" thing. It doesn't really matter that polls show that most Americans agree Bush has blatantly screwed so many things up, it's that when it comes to a horserace, people want to vote for the strongest horse. He walks and talks like a winner, and that's why he needn't pay no mind to the likes of Sy Hersch, much less your or me.


And that's my overall take on the recent thread about "Liberal Wimps" -- it's not so much that the Democrats necessarily did anything wrong in 2004, it's just that more people voted for the strong-looking guy, period.


(By the way, since the term did not appear anywhere in any of the originating articles, need I ask what particular media-wise brainiac came up with that "Media Wimps" slug, purposely designed to seek out the "outrage" amongst us and get our blood boiling?  Yeah, yeah, you know who you are!  Those manipulating marketing wizards seem to be cropping up everywhere, don't they?)


But to continue, if you took all the comments and questions of this group on this liberal thing and put them into one mouth, you would have a better answer than the ones found in those abstract and overly-philosophical articles cited in the open vollies of that thread.


I really think everybody who cares enough to have been complaining and working and writing and talking to whomever has to keep doing what they've been doing. Hopefully, it will work -- what the hell, these things do seem to go in cycles, mostly because the folks in the middle periodically get fed up and switch sides for awhile. It's not a pretty picture, but maybe that's the most we can hope for. And if these efforts don't work, then you always have one of two choices: [a] Try harder next time, or [b] Give it all up and go on with your life. (Personally, I vote for [a].)


By the way, I take distinct pleasure in reporting that, the day before yesterday, while I was manning the pump at the gas station, I noticed a car across the way with a bumper sticker that said "Jesus was a Liberal!" I guess words do get around!


Yep – see August 8, 2004: Rehabilitating the word LIBERAL - and Elvis? for that.  Perhaps someone read all about it in these pages.  No.  Something is shifting a little bit.





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