Swans Commentary » swans.com November 20, 2006  



It's The Issues, Stupid!
A Call for Practical Input


by Gilles d'Aymery





(Swans - November 20, 2006)  Whether the election of the Democrats in both the House and the Senate will bring some much needed breathing room and slow down the freight train that has long gone out of control at an increasing speed under the Republican conductors is at best debatable and quite possibly irrelevant. The train will not change direction. The next two years will show the same trends: more wars, more corporate control of the electoral system and of the economy, more countless suffering for the many, and more riches for the few. What's urgently needed is not a change of direction within the same paradigm but a change of paradigm. Can people offer reasonable solutions?

As George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute, has often repeated, we need to accurately frame our values and our deepest principles and offer a positive vision, not a "new direction" based either against the other side or century-old revolutionary textbooks. Those of us who do not place our hopes in the Democratic Party to even remotely move toward a new economic and social paradigm must revisit and define the issues that need to be addressed, devise practical and hopeful solutions that can appeal to people at large, not just ideological and sectarian groups. We need to foster minorities, black and Latino, toward leadership positions, as well as women. And, above all, we need unity and steadfastness. We cannot ask, prod, and support candidates to run for office at great sacrifice to themselves and their families and, come election time, return to the big Democratic tent -- and let them fend for themselves.

A few observations about these elections

First, what the Democrats call a "mandate from the American people" is a misnomer. Only 40.4 percent of the voters went to the polls, of which half voted for the Democrats (or against the Republicans). In short, the so-called "mandate" comes from at best 20 or 21 percent of the voters (even less if you factor in the third parties votes), and if the black and Latino communities had not voted overwhelmingly for the donkey, the elephant would still be the king of the Hill. In contrast, 59.6 percent of the voters repudiated both parties. They did not show up. Peter Camejo, who ran his last political campaign for the California governorship, said to George Kenney in a recent interview that people did not understand how deeply corrupt the electoral system is. He is incorrect. Poll after poll, voters' approval rating of Congress is even lower than that of the president. Non-voters repeatedly justify their decision on the account that it does not make one iota of a difference whichever party is in power. These people should not be ignored. To the contrary, they should become a constituency to be brought in thanks to a clear message and practical solutions that speak to their concerns and aspirations.

Second, once again electoral irregularities have been reported, but they do not appear to have significantly altered the overall results. People, mostly independent, did not vote for the Democrats. They voted against the Republicans (Iraq, corruption, Katrina, moral hypocrisy, Bush/Cheney, etc.) and that was enough to put the Democrats over the top, whatever the voting machine shenanigans and the usual gerrymandering of districts.

Third, and this is important to notice, third party (in light of the bicephalous system we live in, it should be renamed "second party") candidates were able to run in spite of usual Democratic Party machine interferences (keep candidates out of televised debates, stringent regulations to get on the ballot, lawsuits, etc.) without, however, being vilified. This time, we were not accused of being spoilers -- just naïve -- and often ignored. Most of the Lib-Labs à la Ted Glick, Norman I-am-a-Green-but-now-I-am-not-a-Green Solomon, Michael Bérubé, Marc Cooper, and the entire contingent of the cruise missile left kept a rather low profile and did not attack us relentlessly. This demonstrates that the Democrats are quite capable of winning without us when the situation is ripe for...a Republican loss. Let's not forget this in 2008 and beyond. While under the radar screen, the Green Party fared well in these elections. The party has actually grown in number and in percentage, this after the 2004 debacle that saw a chunk of the party jump on the Anyone-But-Bush bandwagon, which dispirited so many activists and Green/Independent voters. Without getting into the numbers -- they can be found on the Web Site of the Green Party -- these are positive and hopeful signs so long as the rank and file does not get entangled in the net of lesser-evilism again in 2008.

Fourth, for those of us who opposed the illegal war against Iraq from the get-go and before, we need to keep in mind that if, as Stan Goff put it in a flyer he distributed on election day, "Voting Democratic is not endorsing Democrats right now. It's putting the only speed bump we have at our disposal in front of a scofflaw regime that is stepping on the gas as it drives us all down the Road to Ruin," it's the Iraqi resistance to an illegal occupation that actually built the speed bump at extraordinary costs to the Iraqi people and their country. In many ways the "enemy" was instrumental in the Democrats winning these elections.

Finally, it is worth noting the composition of the Democratic Congress. In the House, the Blue Dogs will have 44 or more seats. The New Democrats, DLC-type, are up there too. The Progressive caucus (with representatives like California's Tom Lantos!!!) has arithmetically no chance to carry the day or any vote. Dennis Kucinich, who's calling upon the House to cut funding for the war and withdraw the troops, may garner, at the very most, 10 or 12 members' yeas. The war will end when the costs of waging it in both human and financial capital become too prohibitive.

Building another party

If one agrees that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have any intention to really change course; if one agrees that the country, in its majority, is conservative and enamored with violence; then one must face the fact that we are in the minority. What does a minority do? Hope to change from within, like the "progressive Democrats" have been attempting to do for decades? Not participate in the political process out of dejection? Or build a party according to one's predilections?

The change from within cannot happen in the current historical conditions. This is not FDR's party anymore. The country is no longer an industrial economy. It's a service-oriented, technology-, financial- and military-driven economy. The working class of yesteryear is a figment of the imagination. It's not going to come back any time soon.

To not participate in the political process -- not vote, but bitch and complain -- may be emotionally satisfying, but it won't affect much of anything. It's a great strategy to keep the status quo indefinitely (and...keep bitching and complaining). To wait for the pitchforks to flood the streets may attract keyboard revolutionaries, but the mess and blood involved (especially when it's not yours) should make people think twice about the guillotine, especially in the reactionary climate in which one operates.

Building a party around well-defined issues with practical solutions -- which means a lot of compromises -- and sticking to it, appears to be the only instrument that has some legs. It's a vehicle to try to implement policies. Politics, remember, is the art of the possible.

The Green Party has the advantage of a national infrastructure. It might not be the ultimate vehicle but there is no replacement at this time. Small sectarian parties may be ideologically pure, but that's all they are, with no chance to affect any positive outcome. The "revolutionary vanguard" needs to grow up. They've become utterly irrelevant. In other words, they should help the Greens to grow and stay clean.

In the interview referred above, Peter Camejo said that the majority of Green voters in California was both black and Latino -- not white. Bring those brothers and sisters (with an affirmative action in favor of our sisters) in leadership positions within the party. Listen to them. They know more than we do. Keep plugging in. The Green Party is just about 20 years old. That's a baby. Let's help it become an adult. We all will be rewarded -- and if not us, our children and grandchildren will.

Changing the paradigm

Wheels need not be reinvented (and yet, and yet...), but perhaps we would all benefit from not falling back time and again in how and what was done in former historical periods...and try to think anew. The complexities, and their management, are beyond comprehension. No single individual can come up with devising a "new system." There is no magic bullet. It encompasses cultural traits, economical hard facts, societal dilemma, environmental challenges, and exceptional hard choices. These are exceptional times.

Solutions cannot be devised without defining the issues at hand. Social, economic, environmental, worldwide, issues must be clearly defined. The United States is not the center of the world. The white pigmentation world, of which this writer belongs, needs to take a deep breath and let those who have for so long been subjugated to white rule take the helm of the ship. Let's define. Let's strategize. Let's compromise among ourselves and challenge our own parochial interests and orthodoxies... But let us never be bought by the status quo.

Then let's field candidates with a clear, united, and unified message. As a neighbor recently told me, people are thirsty for change and they aren't idiots. Stop the infighting, present meaningful policy changes, stop railing against the system, drop the sloganeering, and they'll come to us. Even some Democrats will, she added. Of course, she was a woman!

Please, help us to define the issues on which we must act and the advocates whom we should support -- not just the party for which we must vote.


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Internal Resources

The Democratic Salvation And The Idiotic Left

Greens in the USA

US Elections & Democracy


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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This Edition's Internal Links

The Grind - Bruce Patterson

Viva La Revolución - Cartoon by Jan Baughman

Consequences Of A Domestic And A Foreign Election - Philip Greenspan

Election 2006: Turning Point Or Charade? - Robert Wrubel

Terrorism? Impeach The Bums - George Beres

"Lives Of Quiet Desperation" - Charles Marowitz

Inner Essence - Short Play by Martin Murie

No Longer Looking For Good Hands - Troy Headrick

The Birth Of The Blues - Book & Film Review by Peter Byrne

Two Poems - Poem by Guido Monte

Blips #44 - From the Martian desk - Gilles d'Aymery

Letters to the Editor

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Published November 20, 2006