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The “Liberal” Netroots: An Army Beholden to Democrats or an Independent Political Force to Be Reckoned With?

10:31 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Here at Firedoglake, one blogger, one_outer, has struck a chord with his post on Netroots Nation 2011. And, since I attended as a Democracy for America scholar (and thank DFA immensely for their support), I would like to add more to the discussion by republishing what I wrote about a year ago on Netroots Nation 2010.

First off, here is one_outer’s post, “Beyond Netroots Nation: The Progressive Blogosphere vs. the Democratic Establishment.” One_outer suggested the conference was one presented by organizers as a choice to adhere to “deeply cherished principles and our understandable concern in accidentally empowering an insane and openly fascist Republican Party over a corrupt, ideologically conservative, and fully propagandized Democratic Party” or not. As one_outer ticked off the many aspects of the conference that were perturbing, one_outer concluded with a question that could serve as a call to action: “Will progressives now take the chance to jump ship, chart a new course in keeping with our independent spirit, or will be be subsumed by scare tactics and stern talking to’s?”

As mentioned above, reading this post reminds me of the thoughts I had as Netroots Nation began last year. I was particularly concerned about the sponsorship of the conference by the Democratic National Committee. I recognized that the sponsorship may not be a problem if one focused on the individual people coming together and worked to connect and have conversations with them. But, I noted then the Democrats had gradually become more and more the party of “no” to progressives.

Now, after being present at Netroots Nation 2011 and witnessing the reaction of some progressives or liberals to the “What to Do When the President is Just Not That Into You?” and Dan Pfeiffer’s conversation with DailyKos’ Kaili Joy Gray, I think some progressives have become the people of “no” to fellow progressives.

A sizeable segment of the “netroots” is servile to the president and does not find it comfortable to challenge or criticize the president. They see criticism as sabotage and not part of holding his feet to the fire.

They cheer loudly when people like former Sen. Russ Feingold or Howard Dean say we need to hold Obama’s feet to the fire. They stand up on their feet when Van Jones (whom the Obama Administration threw under the bus) declares we need to “liberate our president” from himself but, when they see people who are essentially doing what could be characterized as “holding Obama’s feet to the fire,” they work to shut down those people. And, in some cases, they write blogs and try to turn opinion against individuals or groups in a way that could turn those individuals or groups into pariahs for even daring to offer viewpoints against the Administration.

Where do those who want progressives to be managers of democracy instead of citizens of the United States who have a right to dissent think we are to get momentum or energy if they are working to silence or stifle criticism? Because, it is exactly the criticism and pressure from the far left and left-liberals that counterbalances the most vocal and reactionary conservatives. It is their voices that tugs the center to a place where Obama can have cover to make the type of policy decisions on issues that we would be more likely to support—if Obama and his administration had the guts to make such decisions.

I enjoyed the conference. I walked way with several good video interviews that I will be sharing over the next few fays. But, the conference did lead me to further realize that we do have to decide which side we  are on.

We have to understand that Obama works for the very interests, which destroy and disembowel the social fabric of American communities. We have to realize that on issues of civil liberties, the law & technology there is power being granted to the few who govern to control the many. And, we have to decide whether we want to work with power or to influence power.

Working side by side may be next to impossible anymore. We have to remain a separate entity and not form coalitions with agencies or agents of government if we expect to win real change. Leaders running for political office may be able to offer great assistance but they should not be chief sponsors we rely on to get closer to our goals.

It is stunning but perhaps unsurprising that one year later most of what I wrote on Netroots Nation 2010 could be copied and pasted into an article and titled something that had to do with Netroots Nation 2011. That’s why I invite you to look back, reflect on this post. And then, I encourage you to keep commenting on one_outer’s insights to keep this conversation going on how to continue to build momentum in the face of a Democratic Party content and dead set on undermining advancements for social justice, liberty and equality.

***

Published to OpEdNews on July 19, 2010

Each year, for the past five years, members of what has become known as the “netroots” [a term that almost exclusively means progressives, liberals or Democrats that regularly blog and organize on the Internet] have come together for an annual convention known as Netroots Nation to participate in a forum for progressive activists and candidates to strengthen communities online and grow the progressive movement. It has attempted to inspire action and help those in attendance grow new ideas to affect change.

As the “netroots” prepare to meet in Las Vegas to once again discuss what they could be doing (and have been doing) to “amplify” their “progressive voice” by using “technology to influence the public debate,” one wonders if this convention will have any potential long-term value at all to movements in this country desiring more change from the Obama Administration.

David Lightman of McClatchy Newspapers aptly presents the dilemma the “netroots” currently face, “Activists in the liberal blogosphere face a crossroads: They had tremendous success in 2008 helping to turn voter anger into votes for Democrats, but persuading Congress and the White House to adopt their agenda is much harder.”

Lightman adds during the convention “members will quiz House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., among others, about why Washington doesn’t move more quickly to end the Afghanistan war or give more help to the millions who are out of work” and the “netroots” will likely be told ” (a) Washington works in complex, deliberate ways, and one should be happy to achieve 80 percent of one’s goals, and (b) since Democrats took control of Washington 18 months ago, they’ve won the enactment of historic legislation on health care, economic stimulus and financial regulation — no small achievements.”

Lightman’s preview of Netroots Nation indicates the convention will be another Democratic exercise in the lowering of progressives’ expectations of what is possible in terms of change in this country. There’s also indication that the focus will not be on Democrats at all. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), who reassures readers in the McClatchy article that the party is in “no danger of being a captive of the left” believes in unifying “this year’s congressional candidates behind an anti-Republican message: that if the GOP were in charge, things would be much worse.” The DCCC is a sponsor of Netroots Nation.

Rep. Van Hollen appeared on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Here’s a glimpse at the story the Democratic Party will likely be promoting as it seeks to ensure Americans will vote for them in November:

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, what you’re, what you’re hearing is–as, as Bob said, look, we know that we have a long way to go on the economy. People are still hurting, that’s absolutely clear. But we also know what the American people know, which is the day George Bush lost–left office, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. And during the full eight years of the Bush administration we lost private sector jobs. We are now beginning to climb out. And what we are saying is yes, let’s focus on the policies, because why in the world would we want to go back to the same economic agenda that created that mess, that, that lost jobs for eight years? And I think the challenge that our colleagues have here, Pete and John, is to say to the American people, how do you expect to do the same thing and get a different result? I mean, that, that’s Einstein’s definition of insanity, right? [emphasis added]

 

Such a message hinges upon whether or not the financial reform legislation can be viewed as shifting the country away from the same economic agenda that created this mess. Robert Reich, who was the Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and is a fairly outspoken progressive voice, asserts, “Congress has labored mightily to produce a mountain of legislation that can be called financial reform, but it has produced a molehill relative to the wreckage Wall Street wreaked upon the nation.”

Also, should we be so certain that the Republican’s are following “Einstein’s definition of insanity”? What they are doing may not be working out for certain sections of the American population, but it is most certainly, politically, paying off. As a tactic, crafting a debate on issues that ranges from what the Tea Party is not willing to accept to what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and other private interests fear will infringe on their precious free enterprise system today has effectively defanged every piece of legislation that has come up for debate in Congress.

Representatives like Rep. Van Hollen ignore the tactic that the Obama Administration has practiced, the courting of Republican votes for legislation the party will continue to oppose no matter what concessions the Administration grants them.

The Administration has decided Republican voices are more important than any liberal or progressive voices in the Senate or House that might be making demands.Instead of seeking to silence the conservative echo chamber that effectively skewers any progressive agenda items that could potentially be put on the table, the Administration has gone out of their way to assure and reassure Republicans that they can move the debate in their direction.

Progressives, on the other hand, have learned that they will incur the wrath of those in the Administration like the brawny and rugged Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other Obama advisers if they dare to oppose the Administration’s attempts to sterilize legislation on behalf of the corporations they are attempting to regulate.

Given the record of scorn displayed toward progressives who organize with their own agenda in mind (e.g. Emanuel calling liberals “fucking stupid” as they ran ads against Democrats opposing the public option), it’s no surprise that progressive voices would be reluctant to tug the conversation in their direction. Instead of incurring the fire of the Obama Administration, many probably would rather focus on the reactionary Tea Party faction growing within the Republican Party and simply tackle that instead of the failures of the Democratic Party during Obama’s first two years in office. Unfortunately, this ignores the reality that Democrats have failed to rebuff the growing rancor of anti-government sentiment in the GOP and offer an alternative message; in fact, that Tea Party message is effectively dragging the Democrats toward supporting a political agenda more conducive to a vastly unregulated free market system that Democrats admit has gotten us into the mess we are in today.

Democrats have gradually become more and more the party of “no” to progressives. Their admission of running on a message that is anti-Republican is an indication that their campaign strategy for these elections will also be a strategy of “no.” How is this any different than what Republicans have been doing as they claim Democrats are the party of “no”?

What we have in this country is a political establishment discourse that has devolved into discussions from Democrats on why the population should reject Republicans and a discussion from Republicans on why the population should reject Democrats. It does not allow for real talk on the issues any more than a domestic dispute between a husband and wife allows for real discussion on who was responsible for escalating the situation and why there was yelling and screaming in the first place.

To some extent, both parties are right: neither offer an agenda for a future that will go to the root of the problems this country faces and take on the private and powerful interests that are further entrenching these problems in the fabric of American society.

This failure produces a “trickle-down” effect that has a detrimental impact on the “netroots.” Articles and postings like Eric Alterman’s recent essay are published and proclaim that America cannot have a progressive presidency right now. They debilitate, demoralize and produce comments demonstrating an acquiescence to this meme.

The “netroots” will meet and focus on primaries and electing better Democrats, using blogs, Twitter and other social networking technologies to turn “red states” “blue”, how to improve online organizing, the current state of progressive media, etc. There is no doubt that many will take home some valuable knowledge and insight they did not have before they attended. And most likely they will network with other people who are part of the “netroots” community and gain the opportunity to be more effective at what they do. However, this is an event receiving sponsorship from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which contribute to the maintenance and polishing of the Democratic Party’s image.

There would be nothing wrong with these committees supporting this event if wedding this event to those committees did not automatically limit the scope of debate at a time when the dimensions of discussion in politics need to be expanded.

Only in America do political activists (especially ones who call themselves progressives) limit their visions for change to what can be passed legislatively this year or the next. Only in America do those committed to organizing consistently coach themselves to accept terms for organizing that will not alienate the very politicians who have contributed to the situations organizers seek to address.

An event that organizes those who are the most vocal section of society has great potential. But, the dominance of politically-safe sessions (in the aftermath of the Citizens United v. FEC decision, no abolish corporate personhood now workshop), the absence of any sessions on reforming the broken electoral system, and the lack of discussions around the very few differences between Republicans and Democrats and what to do about that reality warrants skepticism.

If the “netroots” leave ready to do more to defend Obama and Democrats from Republicans, this convention will have massively failed. But, if they leave ready to advance small-d democratic policies and items that often appear on proposed progressive agendas, if they leave committed to creating space in the public sphere for real progressive organizing to take place, there is a chance that this event will not have just been an opportunity for Democrats to revitalize support for their increasingly stale politics in this country.

Cornel West’s Disgust with Obama Should Not Make Him a Pariah

7:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Chris Hedges is a prolific columnist, a bold opinion editorial writer with a flare for writing and allegory that few writers on the Internet today can match. Hedges conducted an interview with philosopher and author Cornel West. (It can be read in Hedges’ latest column, “The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic.”)

Melissa Harris-Perry, a contributor to The Nation, chose to critique the words of Cornel West. Her critique was one of the top articles published yesterday.

Notably, Harris-Perry does not criticize Hedges for choosing to do an interview with West. She doesn’t explicitly address Hedges’ choice to anoint Cornel West a “moral philosopher” in a “morality play” depicting “Barack Obama’s ascent to power.” She, instead, excises an interview from Hedges’ article and addresses West’s criticisms in the context of her knowledge of the patronage model of politics that hampers black communities today.

Harris-Perry claims West has offered “thin criticism.” Rather than pick apart his many critiques of Obama, she opts to attack his right to be outraged. She chooses to assess his association with his friend Tavis Smiley, host of “The Tavis Smiley Show” on PBS. And, she decides to cast his political transformation as a result of his delicate ego being damaged.

There is little reason to take issue with Harris-Perry’s publishing of a critique of what West said. However, she doesn’t really bother to address how West’s criticism is the result of his ego and not because he is concerned for the “health of American democracy.”

In her critique, she glosses over the appointment of his “neoliberal economic team,” which included Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner. She doesn’t address the appointment of neo-imperial elites like Dennis Ross. She ignores one of his most damning charges, which is that President Obama, like former President Bill Clinton, has helped to renew Americans’ faith in the American project–presumably the same project the Bush Administration was expanding–through the use and exploitative manipulation of progressive populist language.

The urgency to West’s words is disregarded entirely. That West appears to be genuinely distressed by the fact the greed of “Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats” persists and a “serious discussion about public interest and common good that sustains any democratic experiment” hasn’t happened seems to be of little concern to Harris-Perry.
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You Just Want to Nader Obama (VIDEO)

10:41 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The above represents a conversation I believe many progressives are having as talk of a a primary challenge to Obama in the upcoming 2012 Election increases.

The New Republic’s Sean Wilentz Greatly Misunderstands Movement Politics

8:39 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


People from various social movements gather for “One Nation Working Together,” a rally held on Oct. 2nd that demonstrated movements in America are convinced they must depend heavily on the Democratic Party for success. | Photo by Kevin Gosztola

Sean Wilentz, writer for The New Republic, thinks he understands why the Obama Administration has floundered: movement politics has undone and unraveled his presidency. To a point, Wilentz would be right, but the conclusion that Wilentz comes to is to utterly disregard movements and engage in “‘status quo’ politics” to save his presidency and ensure re-election in 2012.

A look at recent columns on “movements” and “activism” in the country would likely reveal that there is nothing all that exceptional about Wilentz’s view. It’s conventional wisdom in professional journalism. All the more reason to dissect his viewpoint.

His article titled, “Live By the Movement, Die by the Movement,” characterizes social movement politics as “Obama’s doomed theory.” The outline of history on how a veteran union organizer and lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Marshall Ganz, was “hired as an Obama campaign official and charged with training volunteers” may be interesting to some who are unaware with how Obama developed his campaign.

Peter Dreier, a member of Progressives for Obama and a politics professor at Occidental College, also receives some attention as a publicist who posted articles to The Huffington Post, The American Prospect, and Dissent. Dreier apparently channeled “memories of the civil rights and farmworker union movement, imbued with high moral as well as political purposes,” to help develop a campaign that could “transform the very sum and substance of the political system.”

Readers are reminded that President Obama, as president, would be “organizer-in-chief” tapping into movements that elected him to “reform health care, end global warming, and restore economic prosperity.” The movements would provide President Obama with the opening to bring change the people believed in. But, unfortunately, as progressives or liberals know, things didn’t go as planned.

After the midterm election, Ganz, according to Wilentz, charged that President Obama “lost his organizer’s fire and neglected to deliver the wonderful speeches that would frame the political course for the movement.” He “lamely sought reform”inside the system structured to resist change” and ignored, in fact, scorned “liberal and leftist advocacy groups.” Networks on MyBarackObama.com were demobilized and he became “transactional” instead of “transformational.” (President Obama acknowledged this reality in his post-midterm election press conference saying he had hoped to change processes but in the end his Administration had been in such a hurry to get things done that they didn’t change how it was done.)

Wilentz argues that Ganz does not understand is that bringing movement politics into the presidency “may have been a dead end” and that it may have “helped foster an inevitable disillusionment.” Here is where Wilentz starts to misunderstand and craft a false understanding of movements and politics in America.

If Ganz is right that President Obama and his administration ignored and scorned advocacy groups–which they did—Wilentz is proceeding a premise that doesn’t exist. In order to criticize movement politics in the White House as a failure, movement politics would have had to be employed by its members. Say one entertains the idea that movement politics were tried, what about Wilentz’s concepts on movement politics?

Wilentz’s suggests “fundamental to the social movement model is a conception of American political history in which movements, and not presidents, are the true instigators for change. Presidents are merely reactive. They are not the main protagonists.” He says Obama “endorsed” this idea when he proclaimed, “Real change comes from the bottom up.” He adds an example: people who believe this model claim President Abraham Lincoln would “never have been the Great Emancipator had the abolitionists not pushed him to do so.”

Interwoven in this article is the deep-seated contempt Wilentz had and still has for the late Howard Zinn. He was asked by the Los Angeles Times to provide his opinion on Zinn’s work as a historian. Wilentz told the newspaper, “To a point, he helped correct mainstream popular conceptions of American history that were highly biased. But he ceased writing serious history. He had a very simplified view that everyone who was president was always a stinker and every left-winger was always great.”

Wilentz also told the newspaper, Zinn “saw history primarily as a means to motivate people to political action that he found admirable. That’s what he said he did. It’s fine as a form of agitation — agitprop — but it’s not particularly good history.”

If one knows that Wilentz utterly rejects the notion history has been determined by people at the bottom, it becomes obvious that his essay will likely be one designed to disparage the idea that political leaders allow movement politics to influence their governance.

He argues that “Abraham Lincoln did not have to be awoken to the evils of slavery; he hated slavery all his life” so “the idea of change coming from below, of course, is simplistic.” If one ignores the recent history books published (which are featured in this article from US News & World Report), Wilentz is correct. But, President Lincoln did not believe that the Constitution granted states and territories the freedom to abolish slavery. He thought he had to avoid the issue of slavery as president to preserve the Union. Black abolitionist and “radical” Republicans helped shift the political climate and create the opening that led President Lincoln to propose the idea of emancipation.

After providing his version of history on President Lincoln and the abolition of slavery, Wilentz shoots down Ganz and Dreier’s idea that what had been liberal or Democratic politics had been suffering a “values” problem. There’s reason to criticize Ganz and Dreier, who were likely responding to conventional wisdom promoted by the corporate media in 2004 that “moral values” influenced people’s votes. But, Ganz and Dreier were smart to try and ignite a movement based on “feelings and values.” If the Bush Administration had done anything to citizens, it had made them feel powerless and wary of government. The people desired a leader to campaign and contend they could put this country back on the right course and ensure government returned to upholding the values and principles it should uphold.

Wilentz correctly brings out a paradox: that the movement leader, President Obama, would now push politicians to create change when he was in the White House. Such a paradox compels one to ask, did his position in the White House effectively mean whatever “movement” built up prior to his election was destined to splinter and dissipate completely? Possibly.

What’s missing from this analysis of movement politics is a mentioning of the influence of corporate and special interest money, especially money from Wall Street, which Obama used to fund his campaign. And, what’s missing is an understanding that the people in his “movement” ceased to be “grassroots” when they began to take marching orders and go to “Camp Obamas” run by campaign leaders. This meant the “movement” was now under the control of the Obama campaign and their votes were not up for grabs and they could be counted on to be foot soldiers for the campaign.

Typically in history, movements have run leaders to wage electoral struggles for social justice. The Anti-Slavery Party (which later became the Republican Party) and the Liberty Party were both parties that ran against slavery in the mid-1800s. They made it possible for the issue of slavery to become a mainstream issue and understood they had to have an electoral component as well as a social movement component to their struggle to end slavery.

A better analysis from Wilentz would suggest that because the “movement” didn’t run a leader for president the dynamics of movement politics were different. While Obama appeared to understand bottom-up or grassroots politics, the campaign still expected to exact a level of control over the people who wanted to see him win. The campaign did regulate what issues were important to the campaign and what were not. And, when factions of the campaign took issue with Obama (like when he voted for the FISA Amendments Act and supported the expanded use of wiretapping), those factions were mollified quickly.

In concluding his essay, Wilentz illuminates how Obama’s post-partisan attempts to work with the Republican Party failed and then proceeds to suggest that Obama must engage in “day-to-day political trench warfare” like President Clinton did after 1994 in order to survive politically. Such a conclusion raises the question: Can a historian understand movement history if he or she is not a participant in any movements?

Wilentz’s solution sounds very similar to other commentators’ suggestions that Obama must uphold centrist politics because liberalism or “left-wing politics” lost severely in the midterm election. His prescription for Obama is a liberal intelligentsia answer to solving the current woes the president faces. It does not consider how “day-to-day political trench warfare” would impact citizens and it does not ask why citizens should favor that tactic.

Ultimately, his essay is lazy. He doesn’t address any of the interest groups that have tried to influence Obama since his election. He offers no insight on how groups advocating for healthcare for all or a public option were asked to remain in a proverbial veal pen so the Administration could continue to get away with backroom deals with private insurance and drug companies designed to prevent the companies from killing the health reform legislation. He does not discuss all the organizing unions have engaged in for President Obama and how the Administration has opted to protect Wall Street instead of showing interest in improving the wellbeing of workers in America and what that might mean for movement politics. And, he does not discuss the environmentalist movement or the peace movement and how they have been valiantly trying to organize in a climate where independent activism is becoming more marginalized.

Oddly, the Tea Party doesn’t enter into this analysis at all. He doesn’t address their impact on the public’s conception of movement politics. Are Americans to assume they aren’t really a movement? Or should Americans be informed of how corporations are using fearful Americans to co-opt and revise the history of social movements in this country to fit their capitalist agenda?

The people’s interests aren’t and will never be the same as the interests of political leaders in America. The people are not politicians. They are citizens. They don’t have corporate financiers. They don’t need to worry about getting re-elected or staying on message. They don’t need to craft an identity. Their interests involve fixing communities and upholding values that do not provide cover for the destruction of humanity. Their interests should be survival and, therefore, when the top 1% seek to concentrate all wealth at the top and keep it out of the hands of the lower classes, that should be regarded as an affront to survival.

If, in fact, Obama sought to utilize any “movement” over the past two years, the failure isn’t because he was inept or didn’t know what to do. The reality is history indicates movements have been managed and herded into supporting Democratic presidential candidates for decades. Movement leaders have willingly allowed the Democratic Party to herd their movement and then splinter it in two by proposing reforms that will divide movements (e.g. proposing a public option which splintered those who favored “Medicare for All” lessening the impact of health care activists).

Restoring Sanity to Our Elections: Are We Managers of Democracy or Citizens?

1:07 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Many of the people who energized support for Barack Obama in 2008 gather at the Lincoln Memorial for the “One Nation Working Together” rally.  by Kevin Gosztola

Our electoral and political system is broken, co-opted by corporate and military interests. That is why we are talking about restoring sanity. That is why we see people, Republican and Democrat, wishing the polarization of politics stops.

A vacuum has grown in American politics thanks to Democratic Party leaders who have abandoned the notion of waging crucial debates and putting forth new ideas. They now instead behave like staff members of a marketing communications or public relations firm. They handle the president’s agenda and message to the people and finesse arguments to justify timidity and spinelessness, which favors the wealthiest three or four percent of Americans and endangers the bottom ninety percent. This also endangers innocent civilians all over the world who continue to fall victim to wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Liberals and progressives who form the base of voters for the Democratic Party have failed to muster the courage to make Democrats bear the consequences of their transformation over the past decades into a corporate party. Upset, instead of offering a different vision, they defend politicians in the party hoping to curb Republican, Tea Party, and free market enterprise organizations who have gone on the offensive.

Choosing to do nothing more than defend the idea of voting or supporting Democrats, failing to fill the vacuum with a language for something other than a society that lauds the individual and loathes the notion that “we are all in this together” is why the Tea Party has enjoyed prominence.

Among people who participate in political discussions, it is increasingly difficult to nuance one’s support for Democratic or Republican politicians. Many think you either must be with one side or the other. This is what America’s two-party system does to its citizens.

Instead of focusing on what actions politicians have taken or failed to take, concerned citizens fight each other and accuse people who dare to vote outside the two parties of being responsible for enabling crimes or dark trends in society. Citizens beat each other into lining up behind one of the two parties, which for at least three elections have dealt with an American population wary of re-electing incumbents.

The two most prominent parties are co-opted by moneyed interests that neutralize our votes, they allow the dominance of money in politics to increase, and instead of breaking away and making reasonable calls for reforms to voting or elections, citizens fret about the possibility of spoilers. They fear being good to themselves and voting their conscience on Election Day.

Fear of “Purism” Bringing America Closer to Ruin

People especially Obama supporters are good and ready to argue a number of things will happen if Republicans are elected. But, how many of these things that are feared are already manifesting themselves in politics, government, or society in America?

One could say the Tea Party will be bad for gay people, but Democrats and President Obama have done very little to shift the consensus on rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in America. Obama has contradicted himself by expressing his view that he is a “fierce advocate” for gays and lesbians and then asserting that he is opposed to same-sex marriage because marriage is between a man and a woman. Even worse, in a legal brief filed in June 2009, Obama’s Justice Department “compared gay unions to incestuous ones and that of an underage girl in the sense that states have the right to not recognize marriages that are legal in other states or countries.” This happened days before the Democratic National Committee was to hit up the LGBT community for cash in a fundraiser featuring Biden (perhaps, he told them to “stop whining” then, too).

President Obama’s Department of Justice continues to obstruct a rescinding or repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That’s as conservative pundits like Bill O’Reilly and John Stossel genuinely or opportunistically express condemnation for the Obama Administration’s continued legal defense of the anti-homosexual military policy.

One could say the Tea Party will ensure that future-eaters continue to reign over America and imperil a world’s population because the Tea Party does not “believe” in the science of global warming. That supposes that Democrats would take steps that would begin to truly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lawyers with the Environmental Protection Agency, Laurie Williams & Allan Zabel, wrote in the Washington Post on current legislation on the table:

“The House and Senate climate bills are not a first step in the right direction. They would give away valuable rights in cap-and-trade permits and create a trillion-dollar carbon-offsets market that will not lead to needed reductions. Together, the illusion of greenhouse-gas reductions and the creation of powerful lobbies seeking to protect newly created profits in permits and offsets would lock in climate degradation for a decade or more. The near-term opportunity to create an effective international framework would also be lost.”

One could say the Tea Party will privatize Social Security. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has already opened the door for privatization by allowing Alan Simpson to lead a “Catfood Commission” or Deficit Commission to find ways to reduce America’s deficits. Simpson has displayed sharp ignorance about Social Security by promoting the Republican idea that Social Security is going bankrupt and is a burden on government. How could anyone have faith in an Administration’s effort to fight the privatization of Social Security when a man who said Social Security is “a milk cow with 310 million t-i-ts” is involved in putting together policy recommendation that will determine Social Security’s political future?

One could say the Tea Party will put food stamps programs at risk, but Democrats have already cut food stamps. They made cuts to fund education and health care. They chose austerity and cut the social program instead of taking money from defense, which is about 57% of the federal budget and could be significantly reduced.

On jobs and the economy, the top issue in the midterm election, the Tea Party’s gospel of free markets with a twist of Ayn Rand ideology would surely be bad for Americans. The GOP plan would raise the deficit $4 trillion. But, the Democrats are not a guaranteed panacea for fixing unemployment and making the economy work for all Americans instead of just the top 1%.

The Democrats are split on the Bush tax cuts, despite a Moody’s Investors Service report that “U.S. companies are hoarding almost $1 trillion in cash” and “are unlikely to spend on expanding their business and hiring new employees due to continuing uncertainty about the strength of the economy.” Lest you be optimistic about the split, the last time Democrats were this divided the people lost the public option or a Medicare buy-in. Conservative Democrats or Blue Dogs won the battle over what would be in health reform and would likely win the battle over tax cuts.

Finally, Obama supporters greatly fear a government shutdown or impeachment proceedings against Obama. Why the consternation? Democrats should welcome a shutdown. The shutdown Newt Gingrich briefly engaged in back in the 1990s likely contributed to President Clinton’s re-election in 1996. If Republicans displayed their obstructionism even more prominently, it would probably be easy for Democrats to sell themselves to voters in 2012 unless a number of Democrats became involved or complicit in the shutdown to win votes in their districts (not beyond the realm of possibility, many Democrats have run ads against supposed accomplishments of the Obama Administration).

The Democrats should also welcome endless investigations of Obama. What with Birthers, the Tea Party, and the fact that a poll has been released suggesting Bill Clinton is America’s most popular politician, the Democrats could on a daily basis remind Americans of how Republicans engaged in a hunting of President Clinton and stalled change and that is exactly what they are doing now. It would resonate because a significant amount of Americans remember the Clinton Years as being good years compared to the Dubya Years.

And, alas, there is little reason to fret about the possibility of a paralysis of government. Senate Democrats struck a bargain with Senate Republicans to block Obama nominees and prevent President Obama from making any recess appointments while senators were back home campaigning for the midterm elections. This means Republicans and Democrats are willing to either push for or be complicit in the paralysis of government.

Plus, in the run-up to the election, Democrats have failed to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and pass a 9/11 First Responders health care, a small business bill, and a defense supplemental. They also struggled to get jobless benefits extended. All they were able to get through were measures comparable to resolutions commending the University of Southern California men’s tennis team or acts to provide for the issuance of a Multinational Species Conservation Fund Symposium stamp.

Change Takes Time, Give Obama a Chance

Loyal Democrats and Obama supporters call reasoned debunking of fears disloyal, unforgiveable, and even criminal because they argue such thoughts enter the echo chamber of political debate, mesh with reactionary Tea Party outrage toward President Obama and make it harder for President Obama. That notion should be challenged. There is a key difference between the type of criticism offered above and that of the Tea Party, which Democrats are rightfully committed to defeating: it isn’t malicious nonsense based in racism or unfounded fears of socialism.

Also, as Robert Scheer, Truthdig editor-in-chief and journalist, said in a Live Chat earlier this year, criticism of the president would only strengthen the Obama Administration if it came from the grassroots and the people around him had to deliver to the people who vote.

Those who discuss what to do in politics and how to vote in elections are members of the informed citizenry, which Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson understood would be the “true repository of the public will.” People willing to engage each other are those who understand their responsibility toward shaping a political and social culture that will contribute to a society where all people share in setting the agenda and bear the consequences for agendas which jeopardize the wellbeing of the country.

Not just during elections, this citizenry is expected to not leave the most pressing issues untended. It is not to allow suffering or let profit-driven competition-oriented ethics pervert democratic culture. Yet, the nature of elections has us all behaving as pundits, strategists, or managers of democracy.

Saturated with advertising or political party propaganda filtered through print, radio, television, etc, the citizenry or grassroots that the experiment of democracy depends upon to survive begins to think and operate like the very bums it increasingly wishes to see out of power. It lets “electability” get in the way of supporting candidates, a corporate idea that primarily rests upon whether that candidate can raise millions or billions of dollars and demonstrate support from the private sector.

At the nation’s peril, those who most care about this country devalue elections by letting pundits choose the issues that matter. In this election, jobs and the economy became the top issue and how economic problems were framed. What if the framing had been unemployment and privatization? Or corporate power and accountability?

Wars are determined to be unimportant to Americans or unworthy of being a key election issue, a crude victory for the military industrial-complex or war profiteers who sap American taxpayer dollars and continue to waste the blood of US soldiers and civilians for their own gain. Three to four trillion dollars will be expended on Iraq, hundreds if not trillions more on Afghanistan, and, so, the wars are most certainly important and should be a part of any discussion of jobs and the economy.

Another key problem is the catnap the collective takes between elections. The late Howard Zinn understood how a people could truly bring hope and change to a country having seen an inspirational civil rights movement make huge gains in the Fifties and Sixties. In a still relevant article, “Election Madness,” he wrote:

“Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war.

Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”

Corporate executives and business managers are and have been waging direct action. They have foreseen what many of us have thought to be the unexpected and engaged in “crisis management” at the expense of Americans (e.g. the economic crisis of 2008). They have been ready to contain any change that citizens and politicians might deem fit for this country so that their enterprise does not face consequences for misconduct. They have even taken opportunities for change and aggressively turned those opportunities into chances to leverage power over government so they can reap huge financial or monetary advantages in the long run.

They have it easy with a revolving door spinning between their offices and the halls of power. But, that doesn’t mean citizens should go cynical and give up. It doesn’t mean they should let the failures of the Democratic and Republican Parties turn Americans cynical and pessimistic. And, it doesn’t mean it is required that citizens abbreviate or modify their condemnations of government to suit the so-called politics of the possible.

Voting one’s conscience wouldn’t be such a problem if one could point to key movements that are out in force making gains independent from the two political parties in between Election Days. Unfortunately, unions and civil rights organizations have been bought off by Democratic Party operatives and all the Republican Party is interested in is maximizing the efficiency of fake grassroots organizations, which are front groups for corporate and special interests in America.

Conclusion

There’s something insane about American elections, that’s for certain. But, it isn’t the Tea Party. It isn’t that we get candidates like Christine O’Donnell or Alvin Greene. It isn’t even that guys like the “Rent Is Too Damn High” candidate in New York somehow manage to get into debates. It’s the idea that only two candidates are allowed to run against each other and all other candidates, even if they win ballot access, are off limits to voters that is insane.

People who wish to restore sanity: having more than two candidates means society gets more than a party of “no” in power or a party of no ideas in power. It means a third or fourth person can cut through arguments that deepen division and offer input that may lead to democratic consensus necessary for true progress in society.

Open, free and fair multi-party elections won’t come now, but let this election be a teaching moment. Support for a third party alternative in politics is between fifty and sixty percent each time organizations poll Americans. And, surprisingly, Howard Dean has come out in favor of ranked choice voting, something that would do away with winner-take-all elections that have contributed to conflict among liberals or progressives.

Obama may not be able to change the culture or process of politics in Washington, but absent our involvement, we shouldn’t expect him to.

As Stewart said to President Obama, “Are we the people we were waiting for or does it turn out those people are still out there and we don’t have their number?”

There probably are phone calls to be made, but Americans do hold the answers to their future and can continue to push for a society supportive of all people, if they want it.

CA Gubernatorial Candidate Arrested at Debate: So Much for Open, Free and Fair Elections

8:09 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Candidate for CA Governor, Laura Wells, is arrested Tuesday night after trying to attend a debate she was excluded from. by Polidoc Productions

* Babette Hogan of Polidoc Productions contributed to this report.

A candidate for governor gets arrested for disorderly conduct for disrupting a debate from which he had been excluded. Candidates for the Senate organize a protest outside an event organized by a taxpayer funded organization that refused to allow them to participate. Candidates for the House aiming to pressure an incumbent to agree to debate them face to face go on a hunger strike. And, paid operatives go throughout the country filing lawsuits to intentionally bankrupt candidates’ campaigns and keep them off the ballot. Sound like stories from a Third World country America is trying to teach democracy?

These are all incidents, which have taken place during election cycles in the past decade, and they all happened in America. These incidents involved candidates, who in a democracy should have had the right to run in an open, free and fair election, but certain players conspired to keep these candidates from participating freely.

Despite a recent Gallup poll indicating that fifty-eight percent of Americans think a "third party is needed in this country," a Midterm Election Poll done by the The Hill this month that indicated fifty-four percent would like "an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans" and a CNN poll conducted in February that showed sixty-four percent of all Americans "like the idea of a third party that would run against the Democrats and Republicans," incidents against candidates running in the 2010 midterm election continue to persist. One of the most recent incidents is the arrest of California gubernatorial candidate Laura Wells.

CA Gubernatorial Debate Protest Ends in Arrest of Green Party Candidate | A Report from Polidoc Productions on Vimeo.

Running for election on the Green Party ticket, Wells was excluded from a gubernatorial debate, which only Democratic candidate Jerry Brown and Republican candidate Meg Whitman were allowed to participate in. Libertarian Party candidate Dale Ogden, American Independent Party candidate Chelene Nightingale, and Carlos Alvarez of the Peace and Freedom Party were also excluded.

Debate organizers asserted, as most organizers of private debates tend to do, that Wells was excluded because she was not polling 10% or more. This would be an acceptable standard to set if it weren’t for the fact that other states, as Green Party Watch points out, have allowed Greens to debate without double-digit percentages in push polls. Arizona has allowed Green candidate for the Senate Jerry Joslyn to debate John McCain, Massachusetts has let Green gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein and two other candidates debate Governor Deval Patrick, and New York has chosen to include Green candidate Howie Hawkins in an upcoming gubernatorial debate that will take place on October 18th.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Wells "attempted to enter Dominican University’s Angelico Hall at 5:20 p.m. when she presented a ticket that police said was not issued to her." They reported, "Wells refused to cooperate with campus security when they requested she surrender [her] ticket" and "became argumentative and refused to leave the area"even after she was warned that if she persisted she would be subject to a citizen’s arrest because she was on private property." Wells was placed under "citizen’s arrest" by private security until San Rafael police officers arrived to escort her away from the scene.

Contrary to what private security and police said, spokesman for Wells, Marnie Glickman, told the San Francisco Chronicle, "the two had tickets to the debate and were entering Angelico Hall, when they were pulled aside by authorities" and "were told that they could not enter because" Wells was a candidate running for governor in California.

Wells was contacted and said she believes she was excluded because she would talk about how "the richest of the rich mega-corporations and individuals are not paying taxes while the rest of [Californians] are" and because she supports the creation of a State Bank in California "to reduce the influence of Wall Street." And, she also said the debate organizers "know the public is disgusted with the two Titanic Parties" so they have chosen to keep the doors shut as tightly as they can.

A statement from Wells posted on her campaign site Tuesday night after her arrest asserted:

"…The polls are a fraud against the voters. I received a letter that congratulated me on my primary win and invited me to the debate, if I received 10% support among California likely voters. They didn’t tell me what the survey question was. If it were, "Do you want debates with only the Republican and Democratic candidates?" a huge majority of voters, especially this year, would say, "No!" But a couple of my supporters were surveyed and they told me the survey question: they were asked whether they preferred Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman. Not even other. And then when the pollsters report the results, they still didn’t say other, they say undecided. As if the only choices were Pepsi and Coke, not something we might like that’s healthy, like crystal clear water, or juice, smoothies or red wine!…" [emphasis not added]

When contacted and asked about how the government and other organizations make it harder for candidates to run who are not Democrats or Republicans, Wells explained that a " media subsidy of free media is given to the Titanics, as well as the Tea Partiers, and not to the independent political parties like the Green Party." She singled this out as a "key ingredient" for why candidates are kept out and how people continue to be disempowered and discouraged.

Charged with "trespassing," Wells must now appear in court on November 2nd, Election Day, which makes the bipartisan sham being perpetrated on California voters seem even more deliberate.

Standard operating procedure for Democrats and Republicans usually involves doing everything to make sure independents or candidates from other parties do not turn into a non-factor. As Independent Political Report has covered:

• In April an Independent candidate for governor of Vermont was arrested for disorderly conduct for disrupting a debate from which he had been excluded.

• In June, Libertarian candidate for US Senate in Florida, Alex Snitker, crashed an event from which he had been excluded by the Florida Press Association.

• Earlier this month, supporters of Arkansas Senate candidates John Gray of the Green Party and Independent Trevor Drown protested outside an event organized by a taxpayer funded organization which refused to allow them to participate.

• This week, the Socialist and Constitution Party candidates for US Senate in Ohio launched a petition drive to ensure that debates and forums will be open and inclusive.

• Finally, the Democratic and Libertarian candidates for US House in CA-52 recently ended a hunger strike aiming to pressure the incumbent Republican to agree to debate his rivals face to face.

And, Rich Whitney, a Green Party candidate for governor in Illinois, is not only battling exclusion from an ABC-TV televised debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Illinois Broadcasters Association, but also the painful reality that his name is misspelled "Rich Whitey" on electronic-voting machines in "nearly two dozen wards–about half in predominantly African-American areas." There is no indication that this misspelling is some dirty trick, but what makes it worse is the fact that the Chicago Board of Elections contends the problem is something that cannot be corrected by Election Day.

In spite of attempts to handicap candidates from campaigning as easily as Democrats and Republicans, there remain signs of hope for third party or Independent candidates hoping to do well in this election.

Arkansas Green candidate John Gray, running for the U.S. Senate, appeared in the first televised debate for a statewide office in Arkansas that includes a Green nominee on October 13th. Jill Stein, Green-Rainbow Party candidate was included in a gubernatorial debate in Massachusetts. And, the Chicago Tribune, a well-established newspaper, endorsed Jeremy Karpen, a Green Party candidate for state representative in Illinois.

Jesse Johnson, a Mountain Party candidate for governor in West Virginia who has been endorsed by veteran Democrat Ken Hechler, is doing so well that he might end up preventing Democratic Governor Joe Manchin from winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, which he hopes to snag so he can take on Obama and fire holes with his rifle through climate change legislation

LeAlan Jones, a Green Party candidate in an increasingly toxic race between Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias and Republican candidate Mark Kirk, may end up earning enough votes to give Kirk a win. Independent candidate for governor in Massachusetts, Tim Cahill, a former Democrat, may end up tipping the election negatively for incumbent Governor Deval Patrick. And, perhaps best of all, Green Party candidate for the Senate in South Carolina, Tom Clements, is polling better than deadbeat and possible GOP-plant Democrat Alvin Greene in a race against incumbent Republican Senator Jim Demint.

Of course, no candidate is entitled to votes. Every candidate has to win votes in order to win elections. Spoiling only happens if the two most prominent parties fail to capture the interest of one hundred percent of the electorate, which given recent polls demonstrating public interest in third party candidates is highly unlikely.

If any candidate "spoils" an election, it will not be because he or she recklessly chose to run in an election but rather because America is plagued by winner-take-all elections, which make it precarious and impractical for Americans to truly support more choice and more voices in elections.

More and more Americans are sympathetic to remarks like this one made by former Independent Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura recently:

"…I don’t distinguish between the two [parties] because [politics is] very much like pro wrestling. You [give] interviews on TV like you hate each other, to draw crowds and attention and make money. But behind closed doors, you’ll go out to dinner with each other. Well, the Democrats and Republicans are the same way. They’re not adversaries; they just make believe they are to the American public."

The differences get smaller. Cynicism among voters escalates. The people’s tolerance for political shenanigans, which limit democracy, decrease.

As one user commented in response to Wells’ arrest, "I guess I will play spoiler and vote for Laura Wells for Governor. If she cannot debate or even attend the debate the whole concept of this being a democracy is a farce."

*Additional Note: Independent Political Report reports the problem with Rich Whitney’s misspelled name will be corrected after all. Please note, had this been an issue with a Democratic or Republican candidate there would have been zero hesitation on the part of the Board of Elections. But, since Whitney is a Green Party candidate, the Board thought it could get away with having voters see his name appear as "Rich Whitey" on Election Day.

VIDEO: Interview w/ Medea Benjamin on Pushing Hard to Get Peace Message Included in “One Nation” Rally

5:58 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODE PINK and "fair trade" advocacy group Global Exchange, talks about the One Nation Working Together rally. She explains what it took for the peace movement to be a part of the organizing committee and what she thinks progressives should do to get their demands for peace and justice acted upon. She also addresses how CODE PINK has been singled out by Jon Stewart as a group contributing to insanity in politics.

Movement to End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Raises Hell in D.C.

10:38 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Hundred activists sit in front of the White House demanding the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining be abolished. by Kevin Gosztola

*See end of article for video montage of events.

Over a thousand Appalachian residents and activists participated in a rally and march in Washington, D.C. on Monday, September 27th. The action was the culmination of a multi-day convergence that had been put together by a coalition known as Appalachia Rising, which organized the activity to advance the movement to abolish mountaintop removal coal mining in the United States.

Those organizing understood in order to wage comprehensive action to end mountaintop removal all the players involved had to be sent a message. Plans were made to visit regulators, corporations making the practice possible, and President Obama, who has the power to end this practice once and for all.

Just before the rally, a number of activists staged an action at the Army Corps of Engineers building (the Army Corps of Engineers has the power to give permits for mountaintop removal projects). Nine young people went into the Department of Interior Office building and issued a series of demands for Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. They refused to leave and staged a sit-in. And, at PNC’s flagship location in D.C., Reverend Billy and the Life After Shopping Choir, Earth Quakers, and RAN Chicago all had activists inside who engaged in a sit-in inside the branch.

As the march made it’s way to the White House, it stopped at the EPA building and at the PNC branch, where activists were still sitting in. Those marching chanted, "EPA do your job," and outside the bank, which is now the top funder of mountaintop removal projects, "PNC, you’re killing our communities." One man, who presumably works for the EPA, laughed at those who had paid the agency he works for a visit. And, at the PNC location, bank managers and security detail expressed frustration that police could only arrest 4 people inside the building because they had to take care of the major action that was about to take place in front of the White House.

Led by key leaders of the movement like Teri Blanton and Larry Gibson, the march entered Lafayette Park and congregated and then took off across Pennsylvania Avenue to line up on the sidewalk outside the fence surrounding the White House. One group of Appalachians went to the White House gate and attempted to deliver a letter. Another group went in the opposite direction. And then, the two joined each other in front of the White House.

In rainy weather, one hundred people sat down on the wet sidewalk and were cheered. They began to chant and sing as they waited for police to give their three warnings and then begin the arrests.

A bus that read, "This Bus is Running on Clean Natural Gas," menacingly sat ready for taking away those who were about to engage in civil disobedience and indicated just how important it is to, as the director of Gasland, Josh Fox, told filmmakers and activists at the convergence, merge the movements against mountaintop removal and natural gas drilling. Police vans were also brought to take the activists away.

The police were slow, arresting people one by one. This was likely because they wanted the hundreds of people who were standing behind police caution tape to leave and thought by prolonging the arrests support for those who were making them do extra work would dwindle. However, many remained and, in fact, walked under the caution tape multiple times giving food and water to anyone who was making a small sacrifice for the people of Appalachia.

Monday’s actions started on Freedom Plaza with a rally that featured outspoken Appalachian residents from the movement and others.

Maria Gunnoe, an organizer from West Virginia who has earned awards for opposing the practice of mountaintop removal in Appalachia, declares that Appalachians will not back down. She delivered a message that the destructive practice is stealing our country’s homeland security.

Gunnoe explained, "The youth is so knowledgeable of mountaintop removal and its impacts on their water and their land. Now, we have a government that thinks that they can regulate blowing up mountains. You cannot regulate destruction." And, she talked about being interviewed by people from other countries who don’t get how the government in West Virginia expects Appalachians to blow up their mountains so they can have jobs.

Hansen said, "We’re gathered here today to draw attention to the failure of our government to protect the rights of the people and the failure to provide equal protections of the laws. People have suffered a long train of abuses invariably with the same objective: to enrich the few at the expense of the many." And, he added, "Our government allows and contributes to a great hoax perpetrated on the public by monied interests aimed at confusing the public about the reality of climate change. We are in danger of becoming the land for the rich and the home of the bribe."

Ken Hechler, the ninety-seven year old principal architect of the Coal Mine and Health Safety Act of 1969 and a man who ran against Governor Joe Manchin in the special election to fill the late Senator Robert Byrd’s seat because he wanted to draw attention to the devastating impact of mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia, sent a letter to be read at the rally. Mari-Lynn Evans, executive producer of the documentary film Coal Country, read the letter.

 Hechler’s letter explained, "I have been a fighter my entire life. I fought a world war. I disposed the very Nazis who I faced in that theater of war. I’ve advised presidents. I’ve served in the U.S. Congress and I marched with Martin Luther King for the rights of oppressed citizens. In my ninety-seven years, I’ve seen people sacrifice and be sacrificed. We together take up the fight for our history, one that would be and has been endangered by historical revisionists armed now with heavy equipment called the coal industry. 

He called upon the second battle of Blair Mountain to be a "focal point of the movement" and drew attention to the history of Blair Mountain as a key example of how the coal industry wishes to obliterate any symbols from labor history that might energize people against mountaintop removal. He called himself a hellraiser and then he asked the audience to "get political" and endorsed a candidate running in the special election to fill Byrd’s seat:

"Ask yourself to step up and don the mantle that I wear hell raiser. If you believe in this struggle, then it is time to double your efforts. If you don’t like to get political, then it’s time to understand that the very circumstances of your life is political. So, do it now. Get political. You must realize the power to change is not only within your grasp but it is to your responsibility to your generation and the one to follow

To exert this power and citizenship, I have chosen to ignore my own political party and I’ve endorsed a fighter, Jesse Johnson, whose running for Senate in West Virginia. Jesse is a fighter, he too is a hellraiser, and he is the one to carry this baton. I have deemed him the ultimate solution in this fight."

Johnson, of the Mountain Party in West Virginia, came up on the stage and, after leading people in a song, declared, "They want to erase the history of labor in this nation. And, they want to remove it for a little bit of coal and then another mountain and then another mountain and then another mountain." He added, "They take the miners out of the mines. They are killing the jobs. They are poisoning our waters at their very source."

During the march, Lorelei Scarbro, an activist born and raised in the Coal River Valley, declared while standing on the steps of the EPA building, "We have asked over and over and over for Lisa Jackson [head of the EPA] to get out of her comfy little office up here in this building and fly to Appalachia and see what’s going on. [We have asked her to] knock on the doors of the people in our communities, listen to their stories, look in their eyes when you can tell that they’re drinking poison water and they are dying and then after you do all that then you have to believe us and when you believe us you’re gonna have to change it."

Many marching wanted to believe that the Obama Administration would listen to them. They chanted, "Yes you can! Yes you can!" and talked about wanting change they could believe in today, which means friends and family who are suffering and dying would stop suffering illness and death because of what the coal industry and political leaders failure to treat Appalachians like the human beings they are.

Hansen, who was arrested during the action, indicated how this action and future actions might help finally end mountaintop removal. He suggested those arrested not beg the courts to forgive them for violating the law and instead ask the courts "to order the government to present plans to phase down fossil-fuel emissions at a pace dictated by the science, a pace stabilizing climate, preserving nature and a future for young people, providing young people equal protections of the laws."

Appalachians face some of the worst symptoms of capitalism in America. In states like West Virginia, the economy is a mono-economy, which means everything is defined by one industry–coal.

Residents are treated like sub-humans. The coal industry fights them as they try to tell their stories. The political leaders refuse to listen or take seriously the destruction Appalachians face. They, instead, are whores for the industry, taking donations from coal and so-called "friends of coal" to help them get elected and re-elected. And, regulators have not the fortitude or courage to act in defense of the humans suffering from weapons of mass destruction in Appalachia. They choose to instead send patsies to share coal industry-produced pseudo-science with students in high schools and tell students that sludge ponds from mining are not really toxic and that certain elements polluting the air, water and environment are not to be worried about because they are on the Periodic Table of Elements.

The system refuses to respond to Appalachians so, therefore, it is up to Applachians and others to stand up and fight. Just like people stood up to fight for women’s suffrage and civil rights for African-Americans, the people of America must fight.

The following is a video montage of Monday’s action:

A Failure to Bring Hope and Change Will Create an Enthusiasm Gap Every Time

9:44 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

[

A not very happy looking crowd of Tea Party protesters listening to a Member of Congress. Tea Party protest, March 21, 2010, U.S. House of Representatives. By theqspeaks]

The media’s legitimization of fringe lunatic Terry Jones last week, the man with a history of actions only people sympathetic to the Westboro Baptist Church would support, had one effect that Democrats can be thankful for: it pushed aside talk of an "enthusiasm gap" between the Republican base and the Democratic base, which many think will produce big wins for the GOP in November. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom or meme the media is promoting.

Talk of an "enthusiasm gap" has returned. One recent example from TPM: "The Enthusiasm Gap: How Dispassionate Dems and Fired-Up GOPers Are Defining 2010."

On September 7th, Rachel Maddow said on her show, "The most important national dynamic heading into this year’s elections is the economy. The most important political dynamic is the yawning chasm that is the enthusiasm gap between the Republican base — they’re highly motivated — and the Democratic base, which hasn’t really been motivated at all." Joan Walsh of Salon.com said on "The Ed Show" that same day, there’s "this huge enthusiasm gap" and referenced a Public Policy Polling poll that found in five battleground states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, the Democrats "would be either way ahead or roughly tied if Democrats were turning out in the numbers that they did in 2008. But as of right now, they are not."

The day before, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile said on "The Situation Room," Democrats "have a large enthusiasm gap," but the base consists of people who come to the party, sit around, look, get a drink, and then move. In other words, Brazile contends Democrats have consciously chosen to be inert while Republicans are on the move. That’s a convenient argument for avoiding any discussion on the reality that much of the base is fed up with how failure or, in some cases, refusal to take on corporate and special interests has become a Democratic Party ritual over the past years.

Here’s an incomplete list that reinforces the idea that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party have failed miserably and should not be surprised their base is unexcited: initially failing to organize against Republicans looking to obstruct extensions of unemployment benefits, appointing Petraeus to replace McChrystal in Afghanistan and continuing a war in a country often regarded as "the graveyard of empires," committing to a permanent troop presence in Iraq, contributing to culture which led to the BP oil disaster by indicating renewed support for offshore drilling one month before the disaster, keeping the option of a national public-financed healthcare system off the table as Republicans cried foul about a socialist takeover of healthcare and talked death panels, refusing to advance the minor reform that labor unions have desired, the Employee Free Choice Act (pretty much the only real demand they have had for Obama), continuing the use of rendition, military commissions, or, in some cases, the denial of habeas corpus rights to detainees, refusing to investigate torture or release photos of the abuse that soldiers inflicted on detainees, failing to close Guantanamo, putting the Consumer Financial Protection Agency under the administration of the Federal Reserve and stalling on the appointment of Elizabeth Warren.

De facto Birther Newt Gingrich and other political leaders would like Americans to believe "the radicalism of the Obama team and Pelosi and Reid has, in a strange way, depressed [Democrats] and truly aroused both independents and Republicans in a way that [one] couldn’t have predicted two years ago." But, that ignores the way that the base, which has traditionally given the Democratic Party the energy it needs to win, works.

See, unlike Tea Partiers, who promote a neutered brand of white nationalism ("We’re taking our country back!"), the majority of the Democratic Party’s base lives in what one could call the reality-based world. They normally do not fail to remember that they need to rely on what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch in order to make logical decisions about what to do in the world that surrounds them. They, unlike many, can see a document like a birth certificate posted on the Internet, and lay to rest all notions that the first African-American president of the United States is a Kenyan. On the other hand, Tea Partiers, who are responsible for creating the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, do not need their senses. They only need their gut instincts (you know, what George W. Bush relied on to assert Saddam Hussein had WMDs), prejudices and cosmic or religious ideas, which human beings can never really prove or disprove because they are abstract.

Americans who fill the National Mall for "Restoring Honor" or 9/12 Project rallies, those that pay $225 for a meet-and-greet event with Glenn Beck, will explicitly argue Sharia Law is creeping into America and Obama, a Muslim or weak Christian, is helping to make this possible. They will argue a communist or socialist takeover has been unfolding since Obama’s election. Again, these are abstract and especially toxic notions that the Republican Party is lucky to be able to trot out as the 2010 Election approaches. They are pseudo-notions or sociopathic ideas that people who think and read for themselves and pause before speaking will never find reasonable.

The Democratic Party, except for perhaps the ideas that the Democratic Party is responsive to public pressure and in governance Democrats are more than slightly different from Republicans, don’t have celestial or preposterous ideas they can roll out to whip their base into a frenzy. They do, however, have actual facts that prove Republicans are preposterous and harmful to the future of this country. That fear can never match the fear of a Manchurian Muslim President engineering a communist/socialist/fascist takeover that is restarting American civilization at Year Zero, but it can motivate Democratic voters to participate in get out the vote (GOTV) activities that will help produce Democratic Party wins in November.

The problem is the Democratic Party is gradually losing its power to enslave people with their logic that the Republicans are much more evil than them. That idea can only work for so long before people abandon ideals on collective society that push them to vote Democrat and decide to revert to a troglodyte state of mind and vote Republican. It can only work for so long before people resign themselves to the fact that they will try to survive on their own and hope they can perhaps get lower taxes and further remove themselves from feeding the system.

Also, more and more Americans do not want to play the game at all. Politicians are seeing more and more people leave the Democratic Party and even the Republican Party. They are designating themselves as "independents." The media and politicians can attempt to define the politics of "independents," but the most one can say is they are no longer interested in being Democrats or Republicans but still recognize they should vote in elections.

The number of people willing to "dump Obama" is swelling. But, that animosity will likely fail to translate into any meaningful movement (for right now). A combination of messages like, "Give Obama a Chance," "Republicans are way worse," "Progressives willing to sell out the many to have their way right now are no better than Republicans," "Obama was given a catastrophe, now we have half a catastrophe," "Corporate Democrats aren’t generally as evil as Republicans," "Women, non-Christians, minorities, the poor, the sick, and the unemployed will be in for a world of hurt over the next two years if Democrats don’t turn out," and more prevent the organization of a real movement that could produce an alternative to the broken two-party electoral system that continues to fail people especially those in the lower and middle classes.

There’s also this message from Democrats: "Vote for your third party or sit on your hands on Election Day in protest. Then, be sure to acknowledge your share of the responsibility when what we have of health care reform is repealed, taking the leash off of the thieves in the insurance industry." That’s a thinking progressive’s way of giving those who genuinely want a way out of this mess the finger and hoping those whom they likely believe spoiled the election for Al Gore in 2000 will sit down and shut up.

It’s reasonable to doubt whether this "enthusiasm gap" will have the impact pundits, columnists, political strategists and Republican political leaders are suggesting. Although the lack of enthusiasm means less people involved in working directly for candidates to get them elected, members of the Democratic base will ultimately fulfill their contractual obligation as unapologetic Democratic voters and believers in the small bloc of political leaders in Congress who continue to fail to make a real difference in advancing an agenda for hope and change in this country.

This term "enthusiasm gap" will haunt Democrats from now until November. And, they largely deserve to be haunted. The failure of Democrats to argue in favor of taking this country in a decisive and new direction nullified the historic election of Barack Obama. The failure of President Obama to be a truly transformative leader and take on the corporations and special interests ensured the midterm election would be hellacious for Democrats. And, the failure to steadfastly take on the conservative media echo chamber which has won the scalps of former members of the Obama Administration like Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod, and others has helped seal the Party’s fate in November.

What should those who believed in Obama and Democrats in 2008 do? For starters, remember how Democrats in Congress failed to fulfill their mandate and end the Iraq War after winning big in 2006. And then, do some thinking. If you find you are cornered and there’s no way of getting out without a fight, good. You’re one step closer to understanding why Democrats don’t need to give their base anything, really, in order to win elections.

As Wall Street Support Shifts from Left to Right, Liberal Pundits Respond to Gibbs’ Attack

6:29 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Robert Gibbs in studio interview by studio08denver

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs became the spokesperson for Obama Administration contempt toward the left on Tuesday. The display of contempt came in the midst of a nearly 70 percent shift in Wall Street executive donations from Democratic candidates to Republican candidates ahead of the November mid-term elections.

On Tuesday, The Hill published an interview with Gibbs, who said what Obama has done and is doing would never be "good enough" for the "professional left." Gibbs attacked the left for comparing Obama to George W. Bush, suggested, "these people ought to be drug tested" and said they "wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president." He also said they would only "be satisfied when [America has] Canadian healthcare and [America has] eliminated the Pentagon."

Gibbs’ remark revealed a lot about what members of the Obama Administration think of the role of debate and citizen participation in government. And, the implicit apology Gibbs made in the aftermath of his "inartful" comments revealed even more about an administration that believes progressives should take marching orders from this administration or else.

"So we should all, me included, stop fighting each other and arguing about our differences on certain policies," he said, and work together "because we’ve come too far to turn back now," Gibbs said after mentioning he watches a lot of cable television, as if to excuse his remark.

While circumstantial, the best evidence for why Gibbs would feel like uttering the aforementioned remarks is the shift of money from Wall Street to Republicans ahead of the election. Obama was the candidate of Wall Street in the 2008 Election garnering nearly $8 million in campaign contributions from securities and investment industries (nearly double what Republican presidential candidate John McCain garnered). The Democrats earned 57 percent of campaign contributions from securities and investment industries.

The situation compels the Obama Administration especially White House press secretary Gibbs to whip the left and the sections that are most listened to by voters into line not only because money from business interests needs to swing back the other way but because disappointed and disillusioned voters will likely stay home, not donate to Democratic Party campaigns, not make phone calls, and refuse to go door-to-door canvassing prior to Election Day if they do not fall in line.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →