I never entertained the slightest notion that it was ever my place to say what follows, but it simply cannot wait any longer.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a revolution sweeping across this country, and whatever you think of Chris Matthews, he got this one right. It is a false revolution though, merely the front for an effort by the wealthy to perpetuate their control over our lives, to order our world to their own perceptions and wishes, and to do so without our consent—to do so without our informed consent. Everyone knows this. It is accepted as a given. It is accepted as the framework in which all of our national “debate” takes place and it is called, “politics as usual.”
However, theirs is a cynical effort founded on the sands of ignorance. Theirs denies democracy itself.
This cannot go on any longer. By all accounts, the world is about to go through an enormous climatic convulsion while the forces of privilege are intent on throwing everything and everyone else overboard in order to maintain that privilege.
Come November, it seems the democrats are going to take a pasting. When John Boehner can stand up and state publicly that he’s standing for the speaker’s post, he may be grandstanding, but on the other hand he may have a pretty good idea that he stands a good chance of becoming eligible through enough republican success at the polls. In this, I trust his judgement. Without reliable knowledge to the contrary, I must conclude that he has better information than I.
So be it. Some here blame the left, who show little inclination to go out and support democrats this November. However, the blame lies elsewhere. It lies with democrats who strained for bipartisanship while passing sh*t legislation masquerading as Change! It lies with the democratic party who failed to stomp all over Joe Lieberman every time he opened his mouth, and with the party who didn’t pluck him out of his cushy chairmanship, who indeed gave him that chair in the first place even though he actively and publicly campaigned for the opposition. It lies with another democrat who tried to restrict a woman’s reproductive rights. It lies with that democrat pleading for this party’s leadership to “push back against the party.” And who was it who led the charge to maintain the government’s ability to spy on all its citizens without restraint or oversight? Why isn’t that democrat deserving of your blame? It also lies with that democrat who proposed opening up more regions for offshore drilling a week before the one of the greatest environmental disasters in history—and who then declined to take up energy reform in it’s wake. It lies with every democrat who decided to bury the inside story of how this nation was brought to perpetrate the vast crime of a war of aggression and of those who insisted, indeed mandated, the practice of torture in order to assuage their own deep seated brutality and racism.
Many out here are afraid, rightly. Many out here are deeply distrustful of these democrats’ willingness to protect the social safety net which we all fear we may very well soon come to depend on for our survival. They have good reason to be afraid. Good reason to distrust. Many of us are dismayed that our party’s leadership refuses to take up energy policy when the need is so demonstrably obvious. Many of us out here wonder where is EFCA? Where is DADT? When will the white house get DOMA right even when there are some on the right who see the need to finally stand up for LGBT equality? When will the crime of GITMO end? Many of us out here feel naked and left unprotected from corporations and financiers who have, and will again, prey upon us in their drive for “earnings growth.” Many of us fear a future where we believe the unrestrained behavior of markets will bring about another, even bigger, collapse as we increase our business and financial exposure to natural, legal and political calamities abroad and prop up those institutions who have declared the concept of national economies obsolete.
So our enthusiasm wanes, and the “professional” party members who place electoral success above all else and their fellow travelers here who can sell us nothing but fear of the “other” blame us. However, I refuse to be blamed. I refuse to be distracted by that fear so many here seem to have been seized by from focusing on the very real, very solvable problems we face. I refuse to consider anything, to do anything, but stand up and ask, “Where Is My Revolution? Where Is That Change I Can Believe In? Where Is My Hope?”
I DEMAND IT. I will accept nothing less.
Let me ask those of you who have pointed out to me so many times the obvious: that republicans are worse than democrats; let me ask you where do you expect enthusiasm for our own party to magically appear from when it has become so obvious that the choices between republican ignorance and democratic party appeasement leads us only back, at best, to status quo ante? Where do you expect enthusiasm to spring from when the course of action this party has lately taken has only served to solidify that edifice of injustice which Ronald Reagan began building thirty years ago? The revolutionary fervor in America now stands on the right, with the tea party and with the militias. Where is our fervor? When are we supposed to begin our revolutionary struggle? I need to know, because I don’t have all that many years left.
The epithet of engaging in class war has been thrown at us lately. That is a lie. I invite all of you to acknowledge that class war in America was declared quite openly when Ronald Reagan said in a press conference addressing the PATCO strike:
“They are in violation of the law and if they do not report for work within 48 hours they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.”
He said that on the third of August, 1981. I need to know when I have your permission to begin fighting back. And it’s not the republicans who are the problem. This is their role. This is expected of them. This is America, and I defend their right to make as big a fool of themselves they possibly can. It’s the democrats who have bought into their market fundamentalist dogma who stand in the way of open debate, not republicans. This being the case, why should any sane liberal feel enthusiastic over these people?
We need two parties in America. That revolutionary fervor does not stand with the right. Their revolution was declared on the bond trading floor by a rabid market fundamentalist. The real revolution is ours. It has always been ours, and the only things that make it seem theirs is the suspension of disbelief, the willful ignorance that enables tea party supporters to feel that their anti-government agenda is not, in fact, merely the ruse behind which the privileged in this country seek their own selfish aggrandizement. The other mechanism by which their fervor grows lies in the refusal of elected democrats to fight back; their unwillingness to act with tireless dedication to oppose it without compromise, and though we will certainly suffer setbacks, we must never accept defeat. Certainly, we cannot fight at all once we’ve accepted a course of fatal compromise.
So I claim that revolutionary banner as my own. I will never, ever relinquish it. You can have that banner of revolution which is mine only when you can pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
We need two parties in America. We do not need degrees of free market fundamentalism to choose from, because that is no choice at all. Both positions take us further down the path laid out for us by Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Henry Manne, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush and about-to-be-speaker-maybe John Boehner—along with their fellow travelers in the democratic party.
We need two parties in America. So I refuse to take counsel of those fears which so many here attempt to thrust on me, if that means a compromise and acceptance of policies I know in every fiber of my being to be wrong. I refuse to only look backward and limit myself to fighting rear guard actions to protect freedoms, rights and programs endangered by our opposition, while so many of my supposed allies are only too willing to jeopardize them with compromise, out of perceived weakness. Because I am NOT weak. Because I am NOT foundering. Because I have only BEGUN to find my voice as an American and as a REAL Democrat and I refuse to be silenced.
We must have two parties in America. We must have at least one party which stands up for the simple truth of things. So many times, the left has proved prophetic. So many times, we’ve been proved right in the end. I can speak to this personally, for I am old enough to remember when black or blue smoke coming out of a car’s exhaust pipe was hardly unusual. I’m old enough to remember the mid-and late sixties when whole summers passed with hardly a day I could see a cloud or a blue sky through the brown haze of smog. Then the Clean Air Act, and about two years later, I recall vividly when the sky reappeared: the black specs of a flock of birds winging across the infinitely more distant towers of glowing amethyst cloud. It was a magical moment of unforgettable beauty which underscored for me the demonstrated truth that, yes, government can work. I also lived less than two miles from the area of Woburn, Massachusetts, whose story of free and unfettered business, recounted in the movie A Civil Action, put so many exposed to their pollution at risk of cancer. Daily, I drive past that still empty W.R. Grace plant that was finally closed by those in Washington who finally took over that case and took a stand for the simple idea that the public health cannot be wrongfully put at risk for the sake of business-as-usual. For the sake of what Bernard Siegan and his allies who claim that the innermost core of American values is unfettered capitalism. I can still call to mind the tannery smell when the summer wind set from the west: rotten death and decay tinged with the pungent bite of chemical solvents. There is nothing in my life that even comes close to its utter vileness. Even so, it was an uphill battle, fought and won only by those who refused to turn their eyes from demonstrated fact. We must relocate within ourselves that capacity to hold onto those truths. We must insist that every debate rest on their foundation. We must insist that all our elected leaders of both parties place these facts before their own inside baseball. Take that example to heart, because if there was ever an illustration of the effectiveness of corporate power over the most strenuous efforts of an individual American, it is this. If there was ever a time when the need for government to stand between the enormous power of capital unleashed and the simple survival of ordinary Americans shown so clear, it is now.
We need two parties in America. Ours is a big tent, with many, many people inside the tent bringing to light any number of issues crying out for action. This is as it should be, and I realize that many come to us only after being disillusioned by the abuses heaped on ordinary Americans by the other party. This is indeed how things should be, and of course they are welcome in. However, once inside the tent, I insist that several basic precepts be recognized and adopted: that the American experiment is imperfect and that social injustices unresolved by the founders, like slavery and its residue of racism (including today’s continuing white privilege) be addressed; that economic inequality in America forever places ordinary Americans at an undemocratic disadvantage to those of privilege and wealth be remedied; and above all, that only a proactive government can protect the people from wealthy individuals and organizations with infinitely greater resources and freedom of action than ordinary Americans will ever be able to mobilize on their own behalf.
We cannot survive as a democracy without two parties. For the last thirty years, I’ve watched the left fight the long defeat. I’ve witnessed the union movement slandered, emasculated and all but abandoned by elected democrats. I’ve watched government refuse to provide for the common welfare, instead pursuing an agenda of global capital hegemony. I posit the notion that any society which facilitates the movement of massive capital resources freely across international borders jeopardizes that most basic, democratic right of its own citizens’ self-determination. I’ve watched us slip slowly backwards as every step of the way we’ve lost ground through negotiated compromise, and I say, “no more. It is time to end this now. Today.”
We need two parties in America. We need to remember that freedom is a choice we make every single day. We need to remember that justice cannot be negotiated, cannot be compromised with, but rather must be wholeheartedly reaffirmed in our every action. We must never forget our long history, and the roll of those who fought and died with the ideal of America in their hearts, and whose sacrifice demands our single minded devotion to that ideal. We must cherish the memories of those who devoted their lives, and those who found their deaths, in the attempt to perfect America’s founding promise and rededicate ourselves to the struggle they have passed to us.
This is who we are—their true heirs. We must not ever forget it. We can only be proud of it. We must not waver. We must not allow our elected officials to waver. We must not fail.