by Judith Gayle
It’s been a remarkable few days in election politics, unpacking the fallout from the Iowa vote — even painful, as when Jeb Bush attempted to prop up his failing campaign by bringing out his mom to tell us what a fine, wise and disciplined man he is. And it’s hard not to consider Jeb grown desperate as he welcomes his big brother, George W., to South Carolina on his behalf.
America may not have held Dubby criminally responsible for Iraq, but both sides of the political spectrum wince at his name. Some of us might even remember that moment when his tongue tangled to utter, haltingly, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
That particular Bushism should be emblazoned on every T-shirt and billboard in America, seems to me. It would be a really productive thing to reflect on, from moment to moment, on which footprints we’re going to follow along the path. To assess, as it were, if we’ve been here before. And before. And before. (Happy Groundhog Day, citizens!)
Let’s take voter disenfranchisement, for instance. Strict voter ID laws always favor the conservative party in that minorities overwhelmingly vote with the Democrats. Worries about voter fraud have been proven, again and again, to be as realistic as finding a jihadi terrorist hiding behind your trash can or beating the multi-million-to-one odds of winning the lottery, but we are not dissuaded. Much like protecting against Sharia Law taking foothold in our state capitals, we have become expert at straining out the gnats and letting through the (big, smelly) camels.
A recent study out of U.C. San Diego indicates that Democratic turnout drops by an estimated 8.8 percentage points in general elections when strict photo identification laws are in place, compared to just 3.6 percentage points for Republicans. That surely flies in the face of the ‘one [wo]man, one vote’ philosophy of which this nation boasts, but it hasn’t stopped the conservative states from making every attempt to install repressive laws that make voting difficult, especially for our elders. And only the lefties have the balls to call that racist.
Nine states, including Texas, Georgia, and Virginia, have passed stringent ID laws; and here in the Pea Patch, our Bagger majority is pushing yet again (once passed and vetoed) to disenfranchise those without access to specific photo ID. Missouri — which used to be a blue state back in the days of a unionized workforce and healthy middle class — is at this point a purple state with red overtones. It’s divided between religiously devout elders in the country and a culturally diverse population in the cities. Like many states that have wide stretches of land between big cities, there are enough rural strongholds here to mandate the numerous gerrymandered districts creating a statewide coup on all progressive policy.
Unfortunately, it shows. Radical policy has played into dumbing down this population to the point where the Dem power structure has less and less power to protect its most vulnerable citizens. Our kids aren’t getting the kind of information they need to become engaged citizens — and that’s our white kids I’m talking about. The black and Latino kids are simply marginalized by overcrowded schools and minimal funding, not to mention poor nutrition and lack of educational and cultural opportunity.
Sadly, this cluelessness of the larger picture extends to the very top of our leadership, Democratic Governor Jay Nixon and Senator Claire McCaskill, who have declared Missouri hands-off for Bernie supporters because residents of the Heartland won’t support a socialist.
Poll-driven Blue Dogs and largely afraid of the evangelicals, they’ve evidently never met a socialist or they wouldn’t be throwing the word around erroneously.
I think their hero — the feisty little president from Missouri, Harry S. Truman — would be comfortable enough with the mainstream liberal polices that Bernie Sanders — a democratic socialist — proposes, given these comments.
And let me be frank — Missouri has become the most recent ground zero for institutionalized racism. Thanks to the explosion in Ferguson, this state has become the poster child for black neglect and disdain, and that comes with a cold edge. This isn’t the south, where one expects repression; where the powers that be have a long-established familiarity with the black community that, if not respectful, is at least accepting. No, we’re much worse.
Two years after the death of Michael Brown, the police force of Ferguson, Missouri, has negotiated its way through a number of Department of Justice recommendations and will now attempt to bring that to vote at the next Ferguson City Council meeting. Once passed, the agreement is court-enforceable and is a study in give and take. Here’s a bit of it:
“To that end, the agreement could provide a salary boost for officers in Ferguson, as the city would agree to work to make the Ferguson Police Department ‘among the most competitive’ of agencies of similar sizes in St. Louis County. The agreement also emphasizes support for officers and their families.
“The agreement also requires integrity from Ferguson police officers and sets up an actual disciplinary process, which never really existed. It would make failing to report misconduct an action that can result in discipline. Officers who lie would be fired.
“If implemented, the agreement would forbid Ferguson from holding anyone arrested on a municipal warrant for more than 12 hours, and any detention beyond 12 hours would require the authorization of the chief of police. Under the proposed agreement, Ferguson would be forced to repeal municipal codes that had been abused by police officers, such as “Manner of Walking Along Roadway” and “Crossing at Right Angles.”
“The agreement would force the municipal court to operate independently from Ferguson’s prosecutor (currently Stephanie Karr) in a way that “eliminates existing and potential unlawful conflicts of interest.” Ferguson’s municipal judge would also have to act like an actual judge.”
That information, incomplete as it is, should announce a clear and present danger in all it seeks to remedy. Similar outrages are happening in little bergs all over this nation, even the ones we think are well above such nonsense. And here in Missouri, any new process instituted may change the particulars but will take time to shake out in attitude, thanks to the constant drumbeat against ‘slackers’ and ‘takers,’ ‘pushers’ and ‘thugs’ spewed by generations of conservative scaremongers.
The simmering resentment of the aging white lower class citizens against those they’ve been taught to fear will not give easily. Essentially, the very politics represented in Trump’s xenophobia and white privilege narrative drive much of the political process in Missouri, and that’s just one state in the Heartland.
In Michigan, there can be no doubt that racism played heavily into the decision to allow tainted water to decimate Flint for generations to come. If you want more information on that scandal, Flint native Mike Moore is the go-to guy; see here and here.
Bernie has asked for the Michigan governor to step down due to his blatant disregard for these lives; Hillary would rather he attempt to fix the problem and the governor, himself, has asked for everyone to stop pointing fingers because, umm, capitalism or something, and let’s just get back to doing something, even if it’s wrong. As well, we should probably watch how this goes as legal advocate Erin Brockovich says Flint is just the tip of the old proverbial iceberg.
OK, due diligence on the racial hostility which went underground for several generations as white folks tried to establish, as did the nation’s High Court, a post-racial era in name only. Writing about racism and sexism and ageism in the United States of America is like taking the pulse of a chronic patient. We know what we’ll find, don’t we? We suffer an epidemic classism in this country that, like it or not, we did not leave behind when we crossed the pond so long ago; and it remains the elephant in the cross-hairs of our national conversation.
I’ve distanced in this offering from the Clinton/Sanders contest as a bit of a time-out, but there’s much more to say in this critical election season and that’s because the Dem race IS the only relevant contest.
As Bernie often says (and he’s the only one who asks me to do this for myself, mind you), “Think about it.” What are the actual odds that any Republican — radical to the point of nihilism, arrogantly marginalizing people of color and pledging to cut away at programs that even their own constituency refuse to do without — will win the White House in 2016?
The zeitgeist of this moment is not about the Republicans, Trump’s expected and entertaining tantrums notwithstanding. The challenge of this nation is whetherit will continue as it has for the last several decades, or begin to defy the oligarchy that has purchased the democratic process. Anything else is simply monitoring the meds of the nation’s sedation.
There are those who call Sanders followers “puritopians” — those who refuse to be moved by a policy of incremental success proposed by moderate Liberals, who include Barack Obama. Me? I was an avid John Edwards fan until he let his nether-parts get in the way of his populist message. And although I supported Obama and still believe in his essential liberalism, there was never any doubt in my mind that he was an establishment candidate.
I give him props for all he accomplished (and will) during his tenure, but I’d have preferred him to have spent all eight of his years as, suggests Rolling Stone, the “I don’t give a fuck” president he’s become in these last months.
And, as before, if Clinton takes the candidacy, she has my vote. Indeed, I once caught hell for suggesting that the ‘perfect is the enemy of good’ aphorism was a legitimate meme for supporting Obama’s less-than-progressive tendencies. I’m pragmatist enough to believe that you maximize what you’ve got, and realist enough to understand that if establishment money drives the result, then, as Chomsky said, “There will be dire consequences to a GOP victory. What they are saying is, let’s destroy the world. Is that worth voting against? Yeah.”
But more of the same is not enough. The kind of revolution we’re all dreaming of is not an incremental thing; it never was. Go back and read that Truman quote from the 1940s. Sound like much has changed since then? FDR was only able to morph American politics because he was backed by a movement of citizens who forced change. Once in place — with fears abated — his policies became not just accepted but appreciated, even loved, as the contemporary fabric of democracy.
What Sanders is suggesting isn’t even particularly revolutionary; we’ve just become so complacent and removed from our own history we think he’s radical and unelectable. Well, fool me once, establishment politics, corporate press and privatized capitalists, but not this time!
Written just about the same time that, per Eric, “Venus is about to make a conjunction to Pluto… This is passionate, lusty and defiant,” allow me to take advantage of that energy blast and channel Joan Crawford in one of her more memorable roles: “Don’t fuck with me, fellas. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.”