Somebody's not getting out alive
Expanded from the Sunday, 7-18-2004, Daily
Sparks, Nev., Tribune
and the 7-23-2004 Comstock Chronicle
If you haven't heard it already, I guarantee you that sometime before Nov. 2 you will witness some candidate asserting that "this is the most important election in history." Or the last hundred years. Or 50 years. Whatever.
For once, that may not be hype. The Republican Party now steers at mid-course of a 12-year plan to eliminate the Democratic Party by 2012. I don't mean whuppin' them with a ugly stick, I mean gone like the Whigs and the Federalists. History. 86'd. Upside down. Six feet under.
On the flipside comes eminent political historian and maverick Republican Kevin Phillips. In researching his book on the results of three civil wars those of Britain, France and the U.S. he noted that restorations of previous dynasties have resulted in the extinction of that dynasty not long thereafter.
Since such withering happened in both England and France, Phillips reasoned that a Bush restoration in 2000 could foreshadow the end of the GOP. Without risk of contradiction, I can assert that a majority of Americans now feel that the reign of His Accidency Bush the Lesser has been less than admirable.
Ironically, both the Republican plan and the Phillips prediction may be coming true before our very eyes. And it may not matter whether Bush or Kerry win or re-steal the presidency this fall. The seeds of disruption and discontent are already sown.
NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET
Mike on the road with Crackers the Corporate Crime-Fighting Chicken.
The Progressive Era of a century ago spawned the still-unmatched muckrakers, the writers who took on social issues which political leaders were paid to ignore. Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle about the atrocities of the meat packing industry. (Not a lot has changed. Can you say Mad Cow?)
Jack London wrote The Iron Heel. (Liberals who haven't read it should do so, then visit their local gun store.) Long before The Washington Post had Bradlee, Woodward and Bernstein, Lincoln Steffens showed the way to aspiring investigative reporters and editors.
And Frank Norris wrote The Octopus, a thinly veiled criticism of the murderous practices of western railroad barons. (Again, what else is new? Union Pacific corrupted our local political leaders in the late 1990s and scored a $300 million piece of corporate welfare at the expense of Washoe County taxpayers. We will all be paying for UP's downtown Reno railroad trench until former president Jenna Bush publishes her memoirs, and probably even well thereafter.)
The public today wants real solutions to real problems like health care, insurance, pollution, war. The issues give the advantage to candidates who can best state their case by proposing such solutions.
I have seen one - just one political sign anywhere in the Truckee Meadows which states who the candidate is or where he or she stands. Southwest Reno Assembly Dist. 25 Democratic candidate Dan Meyer's signs carry two one-line positions.
One of Meyer's potential Republican opponents recently told me that the two most frequently stated issues mentioned by voters in the district are rising property taxes and the quality of education. Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it, too!
Candidates building name identification with expensive flotsam and jetsam on our roadways do a disservice to the voters. Literature I have read from some of them is equally unenlightening. They all talk about how they will get their real messages out by knocking on doors. Dream on and hand me the TV remote.
I submit that it's time to show some chops. The public will get behind candidates who will fight for populist/progressive issues. This is to be distinguished from fake, emotional populism.
The term "populism" is often misused by uneducated reporters, especially of the cosmetic TV variety. It sounds like "popular" and "popularity," so it must mean the same thing right? Wrong.
It means fighting for the little people. So few do that today that you can make a career of merely promising to do so. Since WW2, Republicans have won by exploiting the Nixonian fear issues of socialism, racism and family values. As Thomas Frank points out in his new book What's the Matter with Kansas?, once in office, the moral conservatives never give their religionaut followers anything other than tax cuts for the rich.
As Michael Moore pointed out in "Stupid White Men," Bill Clinton proved a master at winning votes by promising reforms to womens groups and then never delivering. Bubba learned from the opposition.
The opportunistic John McCain recognizes the hunger in the electorate for something authentic. Hence his carefully crafted "straight talk" PR campaign. Alas, Mr. Straight Talk is now supporting for president the guy who trashed him as both homosexual and (gasp) a liberal in destroying McCain's presidential ambitions.
Author Frank marvels but understands his fellow Kansans' acceptance of phony populism. They see Democrats like Clinton working with Republicans to export U.S. jobs and destroy family farms, so why not vote for the party which at least agrees with your religious prejudices? Frank shows no mercy for his home state as the heartland of the long gone Populist-Muckracker-Progressive Movement sells out for 30 pieces of platitude.
After Nov. 2, the two dinosaurs of politics will have to change. If Bush finally wins one, the stranglehold of the religionauts will sputter forward for another two years until his hangers-on resign to take lucrative lobbying jobs. By then, the wheels will have come off our war economy.
John Kerry can only win by delivering a speech worthy of John Kennedy or Winston Churchill at the Democratic National Convention. If he fails to rally the latter day populist/progressives, he'll lose like Al Gore and go down in history as the embalmer at Big Al's funeral home.
Both parties must bury the skeletons of the past or they will both be replaced either from within or without. The warning signs are on every street.
Be well. Raise hell.
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Copyright © 1982-2004, 2007, 2012 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 35-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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