Friday, February 5, 2016

The Real Progressive Who Forced Change on the Democratic Party

Did you see the camera catch him in McArthur Park in Chicago that epic night in 2008?  The tears running down his face.  Tears, I thought, of joy but also regret and also pride.

Because 20 years earlier he had forced on the Democratic party the populist changes - proportional delegates - that made it possible for a black man to become president.

Not himself, though he fought hard and came damn close, but another who owes too much to ever repay.

I voted for Jesse Jackson in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1984 and 1988.  I was fortunate to live in an early primary state where he was still on the ballot. I cherish those votes almost as much as the ones I cast for Barack Hussein Obama.

Jackson got cheers from white people in places that shouldn't have been a surprise: coal country and farm country and cancer-causing factory strips where people felt abandoned by politicians, until Jackson stood up and spoke directly to their fears and their hopes.

It’s good to see someone mention that the Democratic party has deep progressive roots. He mentions a lot of names that stirred up sad memories. Jesse Jackson, presidential candidate in 1984 and 1988; I supported him, although his campaign fizzled out in the primaries before I got to have a say out in Oregon (I really detest our system that gives Iowa and New Hampshire an undeserved excess of privilege in electoral politics). Howard Dean in 2004; he was my preferred candidate then, too. I have a long history of support for failed candidacies, I’m afraid.

I keep making these choices, and will keep on doing it, though. He quotes Jackson’s speech before the Democratic Convention, and yeah, it reminds me why.
We find common ground at the plant gate that closes on workers without notice. We find common ground at the farm auction, where a good farmer loses his or her land to bad loans or diminishing markets. Common ground at the school yard where teachers cannot get adequate pay, and students cannot get a scholarship, and can’t make a loan. Common ground at the hospital admitting room, where somebody tonight is dying because they cannot afford to go upstairs to a bed that’s empty waiting for someone with insurance to get sick. We are a better nation than that. We must do better. Common ground. What is leadership if not present help in a time of crisis? So I met you at the point of challenge. In Jay, Maine, where paper workers were striking for fair wages; in Greenville, Iowa, where family farmers struggle for a fair price; in Cleveland, Ohio, where working women seek comparable worth; in McFarland, California, where the children of Hispanic farm workers may be dying from poisoned land, dying in clusters with cancer; in an AIDS hospice in Houston, Texas, where the sick support one another, too often rejected by their own parents and friends.
Nothing has changed. It’s gotten worse for people like that, if anything.

It’s worth listening to the whole thing.

(It’s in multiple parts, sorry, but really, worth finding it all.)

I have to include a little more than Pierce did. Note that there’s a fair bit of God and Bible in it; if this militant atheist can forgive it for the greater message, than you can do it too.
Common ground. America is not a blanket woven from one thread, one color, one cloth. When I was a child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina and grandmamma could not afford a blanket, she didn’t complain and we did not freeze. Instead she took pieces of old cloth — patches, wool, silk, gabardine, crockersack — only patches, barely good enough to wipe off your shoes with. But they didn’t stay that way very long. With sturdy hands and a strong cord, she sewed them together into a quilt, a thing of beauty and power and culture. Now, Democrats, we must build such a quilt.

Farmers, you seek fair prices and you are right — but you cannot stand alone. Your patch is not big enough.

Workers, you fight for fair wages, you are right — but your patch labor is not big enough.
Women, you seek comparable worth and pay equity, you are right — but your patch is not big enough.

Women, mothers, who seek Head Start, and day care and prenatal care on the front side of life, relevant jail care and welfare on the back side of life, you are right — but your patch is not big enough.

Students, you seek scholarships, you are right — but your patch is not big enough.

Blacks and Hispanics, when we fight for civil rights, we are right — but our patch is not big enough.
Gays and lesbians, when you fight against discrimination and a cure for AIDS, you are right — but your patch is not big enough.

Conservatives and progressives, when you fight for what you believe, right wing, left wing, hawk, dove, you are right from your point of view, but your point of view is not enough.

But don’t despair. Be as wise as my grandmamma. Pull the patches and the pieces together, bound by a common thread. When we form a great quilt of unity and common ground, we’ll have the power to bring about health care and housing and jobs and education and hope to our Nation.
We, the people, can win.

We stand at the end of a long dark night of reaction. We stand tonight united in the commitment to a new direction. For almost eight years we’ve been led by those who view social good coming from private interest, who view public life as a means to increase private wealth. They have been prepared to sacrifice the common good of the many to satisfy the private interests and the wealth of a few.

We believe in a government that’s a tool of our democracy in service to the public, not an instrument of the aristocracy in search of private wealth. We believe in government with the consent of the governed, “of, for and by the people.” We must now emerge into a new day with a new direction.
Is it too late to vote for Jackson? Remember, he lost to Reagan in 1984 and George HW Bush in 1988. Imagine what a different country we’d be living in if those two establishment conservatives had been defeated.
 Imagine the country we can still live in if we support the progressive movement that is rolling across the country right now.

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