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Voting, Democracy & Revolution…

This is a monologue of a few ideas that are irritatingly rolling around in my brain like a BB in a boxcar. It’s longer than my usual articles, given the subject matter. I ‘spect it’s not the final word…

One of my earliest memories was listening to a political campaign on the radio—1944? ’48?—and asking my mother what was meant by “Democrats and Republicans?”

She answered in her Irish-New England lilt, “Republicans are the rich people, Nicky. Democrats are the rest of us.”  I admit, that always stuck with me.

In 1959 in the Army at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, I went on a weekend pass with a black soldier-friend down to Augusta. We tried to buy an ice cream sundae at a local department store soda fountain. We soon learned the difference between Democrats and Dixiecrats. That also always stuck with me…

In November of 1963, as an active supporter of civil rights in the Old South, my ideal notions came crashing down around me when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I quite literally felt that the very fabric of my universe was forever rent. Those around me in Tennessee were celebrating like they hadn’t already won the Civil War back in 1877.

JFK’s vice-president surprised me. Lyndon Baines Johnson’s programs for a Great Society was on a par with FDR’s New Deal reforms.

LBJ’s Civil and Voting Rights Acts ended lawful racial discrimination. And true to his roots as a public school teacher before he entered politics, he also launched his War on Poverty programs.

He nurtured the Economic Opportunity Act and created a Job Corps for vocational training; the Head Start pre-school program for the poor and Elementary and Secondary Education Act to fund public schools; and VISTA, a domestic Peace Corps to focus on impoverished areas of the nation needing teachers.

LBJ’s grassroots reach, as had JFK’s Peace Corps, combined a unique form of popular legislation with voluntary service to attract supporters into participatory democracy.  Corporatists hate it; who knows where it might lead.

He also created Medicare and Medicaid to help provide healthcare for the elderly and poor; the Omnibus Housing Act to construct low-income housing; the Immigration Act to end discrimination quotas based on ethnic origin; pollution controls and safety standards for clean air, water and consumer products; and the Wilderness Protection Actin opposition to industrial profiteering.

(Click image to enlarge...)

But for all of his progressive domestic programs, his single greatest crime and political downfall was the war in Vietnam. By 1966, one of our main chants was, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?

In the summer of ’68, I became a freshman at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. I was a 26-yr-old on the GI Bill; 1968 was a uniquely memorable year.

The Tet Offensive clarified the state of the war; LBJ quit the race for reelection; Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated; Chicago police rioted at the Democratic Convention while The Whole World Was Watching; Stalin’s “Soviet Union” crushed the Prague Spring; police and army maimed, murdered and “disappeared” more than a thousand student protestors as a preamble to the Summer Olympics in Mexico City; and over 9 million workers and students held a general strike and factory/university occupations throughout Franceand Richard Nixon would be elected president.

The relative economic situation in America was better in 1968 than today. Leading up to my university admission, I earned $2.93/hr. at a Detroit factory ($20/hr. at today’s rates). I was a member of UAW Local #212. Union membership in the US was 30% of the workforce, today it’s 11%.

Total tuition for four classes per semester at Wayne was $104. Monthly rent for a 2-bedroom flat was $100 (one room was a converted to a grow-room; reefer then sold at about $30/oz.).

While the average yearly income in 1968 was only $7,850, people were still far better off. In buying power that would be equivalent to about $55,000 today. A new home was $15,000; a new car $2,800; minimum wage $1.60; and a gallon of gas cost 34¢. Roughly, $1 in 1968 is $7 today.

In the final year of LBJ’s administration, seeing that the war was lost, he initiated the Paris Peace Talks and ended the bombing of North Vietnam.

Recently it has been revealed that Richard Nixon was negotiating behind the scenes to have the South Vietnamese puppets boycott their participation until after the election.

Given Nixon’s treason sabotaging the Peace Talks, he won the election with 43.4% of the vote to Humphrey’s 42.7%. George Wallace of Alabama got 13.5%

Nixon went on to expand the war and the bombings of North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The war continued until 1975 with more than 58,000 US dead and some 3 million Vietnamese, along with another two million Cambodians.

What did we accomplish by helping to defeat Humphrey in the election? I ask myself this as an honest question.

Jimmy Carter’s efforts at human rights, which cost him a second term (along with Reagan-Bush treason with Iran and the Ayatollah on releasing the Embassy hostages, literally, the minute AFTER Reagan was sworn in), and his works since with Habitat for Humanity count for nothing?

A Nobel Prize for Peace for opposing Zionist colonial-settlerism. Only an epithet of “lesser evil”? Really?

Gore, A Vietnam vet and former newspaper journalist, won the popular vote and “lost” the election by 573 votes in Florida, directly abetted by the treason of the US Supreme Court’s Gang of Five. A Nobel Prize for Peace for his environmental activism. Only a “lesser evil”?

Big Bubba Clinton…ahh, now there’s an argument… The best I can say for him is that we all would have been far better off if he spent more time just getting blowjobs.

I supported him for election in 1992 (I was in my second year of a 25-yr prison sentence; Clinton made a lot of promises related to criminal justice reform).

By the second election, I had arrived at the conclusion that we’d be better off with the Democrats in Congress in opposition to an ineffectual Republican president.

Clinton was simply a barely disguised corporatist…and still is.  (When Bush was later (s)elected, the Democrats proved themselves to be nothing more than a Greek Chorus echo for the next eight years.)

Clinton has spent the last several years leading the lawn-jockey-persona of Barack Obama by the elbow that holds the lantern for their corporatist masters. (I should have been initially warned of Obama’s intentions when he appointed Rahm Emanuel, a son of Betar-fascists, as his chief-of-staff.)

In 2004 we had another bite at Bush’s apple with John Kerry. Kerry joined the Navy in 1966, and served as an ensign on the USS Gridley off the coast of Vietnam, and later as a Swift Boat commander (LTJG) in the Mekong Delta where he earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star and 3 Purple Hearts.

I always found it ironic that those who most supported the war in Vietnam but dodged serving in it, attacked the service record of those who did.

Back in the US in 1970 (and still a reserve officer) Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), became one of their spokesmen, and testified to Congress of war crimes in Vietnam.

Some of his testimony included that of his veteran brothers from the Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit, 1971 (an event I covered on assignment for CREEM magazine as a VVAW member myself—which I remain today). The next day, Kerry, along with a thousand other vets, threw their medals over the fence at the Capitol.

When asked on Meet the Press if he had committed atrocities in Vietnam, he answered: “[Y]es, I…took part in…free fire zones…in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages. [A]ll of this…established policy by the government of the United States from the top down…. [these leaders] are war criminals.

Definitely not a conservative or neo-liberal political track to the White House. Kerry’s second wife, Theresa Heinz, widow to the Heinz fortune, was herself an anti-apartheid activist from Mozambique in South Africa.

Kerry lost the election by 34 electoral votes. Only a “lesser evil”? Were we all better served with Bush remaining in the White House, and the election 4 years later of Obama?

And now we’re faced with Obama-II vs. Romney. I’m never willing to cede any area of the field of combat to the corporatist-fascists, but neither am I ready to accept Obama as the “lesser evil.” Like Clinton, we have a first term to judge his intent AND his actions.

The Black Agenda Report, among others, gives a compelling analysis to consider regarding Obama’s political status. Their argument is persuasive: Obama is NOT a lesser evil, but a “more effective evil.”  His “compromises” are in fact collaborations.

Obama is clearly more than willing to put all of the New Deal and Great Society legislation on the table. Thus Romney may well be at least minimally a stalking horse to help herd the masses into the corral. Either way, the power brokers win.

Would Democrats out-of-executive-power indeed create a freer environment for revolutionary struggle? Would we be worse off for a student-worker development of class consciousness and struggle?

I don’t take these conjectures lightly. Nor do I jump too quickly to the “direct action” options. Some of my comrades need a good taste of the sheer terror and murder of combat–military, civilian or otherwise–to give them pause to consider…

Perhaps the “two-party” facade has spent its illusory wad. As with the Whigs of the 1850s, perhaps the time is objectively ripe for a radical agenda to come to the floor.

All Obama has accomplished is to create the illusion of an opposition to corporatism while in fact bringing it to more effective reality than the ultra-right racists and fundamentalists…and the capital elite know this…

The lesser evil question itself must minimally come down to which aspect of Obama’s program is driving the other? Is he maximizing his public service issues and minimizing the corporate ones? Apparently not, in fact, quite the opposite.

How late is the hour? (My apologies if I don’t have all the answers…)  But then, is that ever an excuse to lay down and die.

Dr. Publico

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2 Responses
  1. This article is very helpful to political junkies, who like to spend their days watching C-Span. As for me, I’m stuck at a more primitive level of understanding. My older sister used to tell me what Nick’s mother told him: Republicans are the rich and the Democrats are the rest of us. I still don’t understand because I think there are more poor people than rich. In that case, how do Republicans ever manage to win elections?

  2. publico says:

    I guess the answer lies in who “us” are. If I were to name a single national characteristic of the American, it would be “alienated individualists.” The most startling cultural revelation I had when I visited Europe, Africa and the Middle East was their social consciousness. This is acculturated out of Americans in the second, and certainly the third, generations. Americans–more than any other nationality on earth–have the illusion that they’re individuals first and “family” second…or worse. In fact, they make up for their psychic deficit by over-identification with a PATRI-otic pseudo-consciousness and illusion that they’re a part of the rich milieu…or will be any day now… Now, if you throw in racism, nativism, the just-world fallacy (blaming the victim), and the hook-crook actuality of the election process it’s a wonder Democrats EVER win…

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