Water Man Spouts

Friday, November 07, 2008

Lessons from 2008

"The New Left has tried to create a sense of revolution in the nation by shouting slogans and marching up and down the streets. But when the hated establishment is left secure in its citadel, certain that it cannot be dislodged, then it has very little reason to pat attention to them and maintains the power to suppress them. The New Left should use the system to create uncertainty in the minds of Congressmen it dislikes so that all would tend to change lest lightning strike them in their next election.

"In a comparable manner the executive branch of the government could be easily changed if sufficient pressure were applied to it through proper channels. When we speak of America as a democracy, we often fool ourselves. While we vote for our Senators, Congressmen, and Governors, we do not get a chance to vote for the multitude of civil servants which they are able to appoint. Thus the majority of people in the system are placed there without citizen approval.

"That fact should not cause people to give up on the system. Simply because a man is appointed to a position, or through the drudgery of years has followed the Peter Principle and risen to his level of incompetence, does not mean he is immortal. There has never been a system yet that would not gladly sacrifice one of its own for a moment’s peace, no matter how brief. If the system is to be changed, then those who would change it should pinpoint its weak spot, its blockage points, and place all the pressure on that one point until the blockage is cleared. …..

"Every system has certain procedures by which it regulates its internal life. Each system is based upon the mathematical assumption that a certain problem can occur only so often, and therefore only a certain amount of staff is needed to keep the total operation working. Martin Luther King, Jr., used this weakness of the system to great advantage in his demonstrations. ….. It must be remembered that, in an electric world, systems are virtually helpless against sudden and well conceived movements. But continual hammering on one point, using one type of tactic, soon brings across the message of conflict to society, and society reacts in an oppressive fashion, thinking that by crushing this one attack it can save itself. The present techniques used by the New Left are childish and as insignificant as the old Indian charges at the wagon trains – and about as effective. Since Indians have learned new and flexible techniques after being driven off from the wagon train time after time, it would seem that others could learn also."
--Vine Deloria, Jr.; We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf; 1970; pages 65-69.

The election of Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, along with democratic gains in the House and Senate, represent a significant step forward for the progressive/liberal wing of the democratic party. The election results do not, however, translate into a solution to the many problems that we are confronted with. Rather, the election results provide us with new opportunities to take actions and advocate for the "system" to make those changes that we know are necessary into reality.

Between now and the day that Barack Obama takes the oath of office, we are afforded an opportunity to do two extremely important things: first, to review the important lessons of the 2008 elections; and second, to consider our options for applying them in 2009. For we do not have the luxury of sitting back, either now or in 2009, with a false sense of confidence that everything is going to be okay.

When I was in school, we had a machine called an "overhead projector," which allowed us to view overlapping graphs and charts. It would come in handy in allowing us to see how Vine Deloria’s information overlaps with the simple "graph" that is most effective for understanding how elections are best run and won. As I’ve said many times in the past six months, there are always three groups: a- those who support you; b- those who oppose you; and c- the undecided voters.
During 2008, the republicans believed that their best opportunity was to apply maximum pressure in an attempt to divide the democratic Group A, starting in the primaries. This took the form of trying to divide those who supported our two strongest candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This effort failed, because democrats were able to concentrate on supporting principles rather than personalities.

This republican effort not only failed, it backfired: the republican party’s Group A became frayed at its seams when they focused on personality rather than principles. After claiming the democrats had nominated a "celebrity" who lacked the experience necessary to lead the country, they banked the McCain campaign on the choice of Sarah Palin as VP. It is impossible to identify a single nominee who defined a "celebrity" lacking in experience or insight than Sarah Palin. More, their candidates were incapable of separating themselves from the failed principles and policies of the Bush-Cheney administration. The result was not only the loses they suffered on Election Day: we are witnessing the fracturing of the groups that were previously unified in the republican front.

Yet being fractured does not necessarily make them less dangerous. Several of the sub-groups within the republican party continues to pose threats to our Constitutional democracy, even if the specific threats have changed. The radical religious right, for example, is still over-represented in many areas, from school boards and other "local" positions, on up the ladder. And, despite the current economic crisis, the corporate interests that run the energy and insurance corporations still have a dangerous level of political power.

It might feel good to say that we must eliminate corporate influence in government, but the fact is that government is a corporation. The local, state, and federal governments are small to large businesses. One of the most impressive things about the Obama campaign was how it operated financially: it was a multi-million dollar industry, that blended the small, grass roots cottage industries with the large, national business.

The McCain campaign attacked Obama for his past efforts at community organizing. This wasn’t a meaningless attempt to discredit him. It was because the republican industrial machine recognized the potential strength of community organizing. The local cottage industries that found political strength in shared values was the essential building block for the democratic victories in the presidential and congressional races.

We are in a position where we can use these same cottage industries to organize within our local communities, and change the make up of our school boards, and our village/town/city/county governments. Today, progressive and liberal democrats are as under-represented in these areas, as radical right-wing republicans are over-represented. We need to change that. We have the opportunity to harness political power now in a manner that will not present itself again, should we fail to strike while the iron is hot.

This is why the Obama transitional team is talking about, when they say that they are bringing new people into government. It is not only those who will serve in the Obama administration: like with JFK, President Obama will again call upon the best and the brightest to see government service as an honorable thing. This includes those at the community level.

The republican machine recognizes that potential. It is the reason why they have attempted to smear Obama as a radical democrat – the "most liberal Senator" bit they have whined about. It is no coincidence that a young Barack Obama was a community organizer. They know what an Obama presidency can mean in terms of community organizing.

Finally, we must continue to be aware that we did not "win" on all levels, nor will our every effort meet with instant results. The federal government, in particular, will not be able to make progress in all areas on its own. Nor will our exercising power in local and state politics provide the solutions to each problem. We will need to focus a significant amount of energy in non-governmental "industries," ranging from established groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center to the Center for Constitutional Rights. More, we will need to study and apply the methods of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and the hundreds of other lesser-known civil rights leaders, in order to bring about the changes we need to make as a people.

Thank you,
H2O Man


At November 13, 2008 at 6:23 PM, Blogger J said...

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