Saturday, June 11, 2005

Then and Now

Lina Marie, from "The World and Everything In It", blew the doors off the hinges as a guest author over at "Bring It On" yesterday. The Democratic path is up for grabs. How we intend to fight and what weapons we use are crucial topics Democrats need to coalesce upon. Check out her post here. I guarantee it will make you think.

I've written quite a bit here about where the Dems have been and where I think we need to be. One problem facing the party that nobody is actively discussing (at least as far as I've been able to see) in the attrition of Black American voters from the party. It could be that the selfishness of private this and individual that has appeal, but I don't think so. This demographic has demonstrated repeatedly that they value community based initiatives. The problem is probably power oriented. The selfishness is within the party itself. A party that says it promotes tolerance and cherry picks the choice power roles is a working hypocrisy.

1976, two years after Nixon resigned, was an election year. During the Democratic National Convention these words were spoken:

We believe that the people are the source of all governmental power; that the authority of the people is to be extended, not restricted. This can be accomplished only by providing each citizen with every opportunity to participate in the management of the government. They must have that.

We believe that the government which represents the authority of all the people, not just one interest group, but all the people, has an obligation to actively underscore, actively seek to remove those obstacles which would block individual achievement...obstacles emanating from race, sex, economic condition. The government must seek to remove them.

We are a party of innovation. We do not reject our traditions, but we are willing to adapt to changing circumstances, when change we must. We are willing to suffer the discomfort of change in order to achieve a better future.

We have a positive vision of the future founded on the belief that the gap between the promise and reality of America can one day be finally closed. We believe that.

Compelling stuff. The idea of strength in numbers is a core Democratic precept. We believe that the government's role is to level the playing field so that everybody can achieve. We actually think that we can reach a point where the country can truly be a homogenous America, multicolored, multifaceted, and incredibly strong because of it. Let's fast forward 30 years:

As Prime Minister Tony Blair has said, in this new economy, “Talent is the 21st century wealth.” If you’ve got the skills, you’ve got the education, and you have the opportunity to upgrade and improve both, you’ll be able to compete and win anywhere. If not, the fall will be further and harder than it ever was before.

So what do we do about this? How does America find its way in this new, global economy? What will our place in history be?

Like so much of the American story, once again, we face a choice. Once again, there are those who believe that there isn’t much we can do about this as a nation. That the best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government—divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on.

In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it—Social Darwinism--every man or woman for him or herself. It’s a tempting idea, because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford—tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job—life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child who was born into poverty—pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life’s lottery, that we’re the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump who Donald Trump says: “You’re fired!”

But there is a problem. It won’t work. It ignores our history. It ignores the fact that it’s been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the internet possible. It’s been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we’re all in it together and everybody’s got a shot at opportunity. That’s what’s produced our unrivaled political stability.

Achievement as an individual must be coupled with caring for the community. Democrats today, realistic ones anyway, understand that if the disparity of wealth that is being cemented by the current administration continues, the damage to the country and our ability to remain a superpower are in jeopardy. It's money, people. We spend, and spend and spend. We increase wealth unevenly. We cut programs designed to help people help themselves, thereby reducing their ability to produce at all. The conservative precepts that the world is composed of haves and have-nots is not automatic, it is engineered. It is being engineered right now. By consigning people into a permanent have-not slot we are damning our country, it's potential productivity, and our ability to thrive and lead in the new millennium.

We need to accept that we, as a nation, must embrace education in new ways for all our citizens. Skilled labor jobs are leaving, and factories are too. If we want to survive this change in our national financial landscape, adult education and retraining needs to be on the plate. We can't sit in a holding pattern for 20 years, waiting to see it the "No Child Left Behind" children can save us with their new and improved pre-college education. China won't wait for us to catch up. We need to look at cities in crisis because jobs are going away, appreciate the value of the minds there, and train those minds to their best talent level. We need to reach people of color, and show with deeds, that we can give them, through ongoing education, the tools to make their cities more prosperous, the wealth to showcase and appreciate the varied cultures of America, and the determination to see America evolve closer to the values so clearly outlined in 1976.

Furthermore, we need to showcase and appreciate the Democrats who strive for change so tirelessly and speak so eloquently of the community values we hope to achieve. People like John Conyers, D-MI, who is forcing the Downing Street Minutes into the media's face, embarrassing them with their lack of coverage, and demanding answers from the administration who, after six weeks, still has not categorically denied its contents. In my book, that means they haven't because they CAN'T. Support Rep. Conyers in any way you can.

The 1976 speech above was given by Barbara Jordan, D-TX, the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate, the first black woman elected as a U.S. Representative from Texas, and a member of the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. Her words, which ring so true today, take on exceptional eloquence a mere 11 years after the abolition of Jim Crow laws. (link kudos to Siva)

The last quote is from the commencement address given at Knox College, Galesburg Illinois. The speaker? Barak Obama. The entire address is here, and it's a powerful one. If you think Democrats don't understand what needs to happen to force America into a leadership role for the next century, this is for you.

Personally, nothing would make me happier than a Conyers/Obama ticket in 2008. No more cherry picking; here's the pie. They are spot-on my dream of America, and they aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and clean up the mess. Vision and strength, folks, it just comes down to vision and strength.

We are a people in a quandary about the present. We are a people in search of our future. We are a people in search of a national community. -- Barbara Jordan


At June 11, 2005 5:12 PM, Blogger Brother Kenya said...

Beautiful, Jet. You're dreaming big!

At June 11, 2005 7:40 PM, Blogger Jet said...

For me, idealism will always be in fashion. ;-D

At June 12, 2005 11:53 AM, Blogger Pia Talks said...

Beautiful post Jet.

Barbara Jordan has always been a personal hero of mine. I remember listening riveted to every word that she had to say.

Unfortuantely her health didn't allow her to go as far as she should have, but her spirit lives on.

Some of us will always make sure of that

At June 12, 2005 12:18 PM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

The problem Democrats face, in my opinion, is not that we ignore any one group of people until election week but that we concede too much without a fight and take for granted what we assume is a traditional Democratic bastion. Look at New England. I believe New Hampshire, a state in a traditionally progressive neck of the American woods, went for Bush. If Gore had campaigned there more, it would probably have been his. This was a loss through pure and simple assumption. Then there are the so-called "red states" like my home state of Oklahoma. Democratic presidential contenders ignore most of these states for the most part except a few borderline red-blue ones like Missouri and Indiana. It's no wonder we never carry these states because we don't campaign here. Isn't campaigning the first rule in winning a campaign? We have to stop conceding areas and begin fighting in every zone, no matter how outnumbered we are. If we don't try we will never return to dominance, not for a long while. In the mean time, America will suffer without us. We must bring balance to the Force my friends :)

At June 12, 2005 3:49 PM, Blogger windspike said...

You are spot on Jet. Barbara Jordon rocks! Her legacy lives on. And you are most certainly right indicating that the Dems need some high powered leaders to dig us out of the morass and deep depression we were left in after having the 2K election stolen and the 2004 result.

At June 12, 2005 4:43 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Thanks, Pia. I think people are focusing on Mark Felt, and forgetting what people like Barbara Jordan said during a very trying time in our nation's history. Her speech at the height of the Nixon demise rivited more than just you, it embraced a nation. It serves us well not to listen to the pundits exonerating Nixon, and instead go back and read our historical record for ourselves.

OK Dem, I have to respectfully disagree. The Democratic party is well past the time when we should have run a Black American for the top job. If we believe in what we say we do, that empowering the individual empowers the community, then we need to be the party of all our people, not just some. As for campaigning in every state, there I can't agree with you more. It's money, obviously, but grass roots could help make the campaign stops more productive.

Windspike, I'm tired of being depressed, and I'm digging out of this morass. I'm going on record that this party can win if we strip some entrenched crap away and get this party back into the hands of the people. Same place, incidently, that our government should be.

At June 12, 2005 7:05 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...


"I'm going on record that this party can win if we strip some entrenched crap away and get this party back into the hands of the people. Same place, incidently, that our government should be."

I'll go on record to join you in that sentiment.

At June 12, 2005 7:24 PM, Blogger Jet said...

People, party of two!

At June 12, 2005 7:31 PM, Blogger windspike said...

Power to the people, make that three! Never underestimate the difference that one small group of likeminded individuals can make - another favorite of mine, Margaret Mead once said.

At June 12, 2005 8:37 PM, Blogger woodenshoe said...

pursuing impossible or hard-to-reach goals can often produce amazing results.
great post, again, i bow to you LOL
and america needs more motivating forces such as obama to get us going a better direction....
have a good one!

At June 12, 2005 9:31 PM, Blogger R said...

Um..Jet. Question. Could you tackle Ed Klein for me? I'm too busy foaming at the mouth. Can someone THIS STUPID WRITE THIS BOOK AND GET AWAY WITH IT?!! He alleges that Bill raped Hillary to conceive Chealsea. That Hillary is a lesbian (because she touched a friends shaved head, who happened to be a lesbian)Are they that scared. I can't even blog about it. I tag you to do it.

At June 13, 2005 8:51 AM, Blogger Lina Maria said...

I am 100% with you Jet. I have always believed that capitalism is a great economic system only when is properly regulated by the government. There are certain community services that a pure capitalistic system would not provide and that only a mixed economy like we have always been can. I understand the basis of Libertarians and Conservatives. They do not want to create a mentality of dependance on government and to that extent I agree with them. However, one thing is to encourage self-reliance and another is to encourage unrestricted capitalism. We know it does not work and that it always ends up eating its young. The role of government then is pretty clear. It is not only to keep us safe from outside threats but also to keep us safe from the destructive forces of free market darwinism.

At June 14, 2005 6:18 AM, Blogger Jet said...

Windspike, there's always room for 1 more!

Woodenshoe, Obama is an interseting, principled man. I watch his political career with great anticipation.

Rhonda? Girl, you exhale more snark with every breath than I possess altogether. Besides, how can I possibly refute the glaring logic that if a woman ever touches another, then the lesbian baton has been irrefutably passed?

Lina, I don't know if we'll ever find the balance between the benefits of competitive capitalism and social support, but if we do, this country will be unstoppable. Right now, greed is controlling our destiny, and it's not leading us to a better place. No wonder greed made the top seven on the naughty list.

At June 14, 2005 10:00 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

Jet, Lina, Windspike, OK, GTL, Rhonda, Woodenshoe, et are positively inspiring - this is an excellent post and great discussion. The notion that we know longer truly know who our leaders are, due to the corporate face...having no recognizeable deeply troubling. The need to stand up and fight a giant we can't actually see is terrifying. But it needs to be done. Otherwise we will be reduced to a nation of service workers only - unable to compete on any level globally.

At June 14, 2005 10:11 AM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

I agree with you, Jet, that we should have already had a black candidate. This is part of what I meant by conceding too much too easily. Conceding isn't just about giving up states or elections, it's about giving up ideas because your enemy taunts you into thinking the idea can't work. That is why we haven't had a black candidate et the nonmination yet, because we are so worried the conservative legions of the rightists will not support him or her. We have to stop running and stand up for what is right. If we do, we will prevail in the end. It might take a few years to perfect the effort but mark my words, it WILL work.

At June 14, 2005 12:36 PM, Blogger Jet said...

I'm afraid, Frstlyml, that we will be reduced to a nation of workers generating wealth for a few. Not the American dream for many on both sides of the aisle.

Thanks for clarifying that, Joseph. I agree that a little, well more that a little, gumption is in order. I think what Dems aren't realizing is that when you're bottomed out, you can afford to take chances, especially big ones.

At June 14, 2005 8:12 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...


Wow, Obama. Good response! I really have a lot of hope for Barak. He inspires the HELL outta me. He totally, 100%, blew my a$$ away during the DNC rally for Kerry. His voting record is also quite impressive. Even my wife; a hard core right-winger, said "Wow. This dude has it going ON."

When you've got a guy like this in your arsenal, it's a shame he is sitting out '08.

At June 16, 2005 9:50 AM, Blogger Jet said...

Obama makes so much sense. If you haven't read the link on the post, I encourage you to. His America is a place I want to live in.


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