Richard and Mimi Farina, “Sell-out Agitation Waltz”
Bob Dylan, “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”
Robbie Basho, “Dravidian Sunday”
The Beatles, “Within You/Without You”
Pity Tennessee’s “progressive Democrats.” They just can’t get no respect, nor satisfaction either. The old guard, the “blue dogs,” just won’t stand for it. The progressives reached their high water mark with the election of Chip Forrester as TNDP chairman in 2009, but Forrester’s tenure was undermined by two factors: the old guard conservative Dems withheld funding, and the Democrat-dominated State Legislature had ignored activists’ concerns and agreed to go along with the Republicans’ request to defer implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act until after the 2008 election. 2008 was supposed to be the last year Tennesseans voted on easily hackable electronic voting machines; but, mirabile dictu, the Republicans scored upset victory after upset victory, and the first thing the newly Republican state legislature did was repeal the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which had passed nearly unanimously. Yeah, they were for it before they were against it. While the cover story that has been floated to explain this is that Barack Obama’s candidacy cast a pall over the electability of Democrats in this state, the circumstances are highly suspicious. As Joe Stalin is said to have said, “It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes that counts.” But that’s not what I’m here to talk about tonight.
In spite of a concerted effort by the state’s urban Democrats, the good-old-boy network prevailed, and the urbanists’ candidate, Dave Garrison, who was thought to be a shoe-in, was defeated by Roy Herron, an anti-abortion, anti-union, A+ NRA-rated member of the “West Tennessee Mafia.” Tennessee’s liberals and progressives have been relegated to the back of the bus again. The blue dogs may not be electable, but they still know how to hog the manger.
I would like to offer the state’s progressive Democrats a creative solution to their dilemma: Let the blue dogs have their party. Go Green. There’s more of you big city (and country) progressive types than there are small town blue dogs–who, let’s not forget, are mostly Democrats because the Republicans were the party that carried out the War of Northern Aggression and deprived Noble Southern Democrats of their lawful property (i.e., slaves) without compensation. Since they insist on being the blue dogs in the Democrat manger, leave them their mangy manger and come into the clean big tent of the Green Party. You will be able to advocate progressive, sane, sustainable policies without a bunch of good ol’ boys threatening to withhold funding. (OK, with the Green Party’s categorical rejection of corporate funding, you’ll have to develop some new sources–such as people who approve of populist policies.) You can be unabashedly feminist, black, gay,or crunchy granola, and you will be respected for it. You will not have to squinch your eyes when you look at Barack Obama and try to see him as Martin Luther King–you will be able to look at him with cool dispassion and see that he has more in common with Condoleezza Rice than he does with Rev. King, or even Jesse Jackson.
I think it’s time to take a little aside and talk about Rev. King–and the feminists of his time–as they originally were, and cut out all the revisionist b.s. that has been hung on them. A lot of people seem to have forgotten that Rev. King, and the many women who participated in the feminist movement around the time Dr. King was alive, were not out to break the glass ceiling and get blacks and women admitted to the halls of corporate power. That’s revisionist, neoliberal hogwash. Dr. King, and the feminists of his day, wanted to level the halls of power, level the playing field, start a whole new game. They didn’t want to be admitted to the elite. They had a radical critique of a system that they viewed, correctly, as inherently based on the oppression of the many for the benefit of the few, and they wanted to overthrow that system. That’s why Dr. King was shot, and that’s why the likes of Barack Obama and Condoleezza Rice–or Susan Rice, for that matter–aren’t proof that Martin Luther King’s dream has been achieved in our day. They are more like, to use the polite form of an old Southern term, “House Negroes,” who do the bidding and business of their white, mostly male, masters.
So, progressive Democrats, that’s something you’ll need to understand if you want to make the switch from blue to Green. Another important difference between Greens and Democrats is that, because we spring out of a bioregional/environmental context, we add another layer of critique to the feminist–classist view of the original civil rights and feminist movements. As Greens, we understand that human beings are animals in an ecosystem, and so the only way for humans to thrive is for the ecosystems we inhabit to thrive. Does that make sense?
Wait a minute–”classist”? Wasn’t Rev. King about racial equality? How did “class” enter the discussion?
As I said, opening the Pandora’s Box of a class analysis of what was going on in this country was probably what got Rev. King shot. He started connecting the dots about how it wasn’t really about white vs. black, it was about rich vs. poor, and the rich had intentionally fostered racism among poor whites to keep them separated from blacks. Perhaps it’s best to let Reverend King speak for himself:
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
That “revolution of values,” friends, is a revolution you are unlikely to hear Barack Obama endorse. It is not the perspective of the Democrat Party. It is very much a Green Party perspective, however, and the great tragedy of our country, and the entire world, is that everything in this forty-five year old critique applies to America today.
So, progressive Democrats–and honest Republicans, any of you who are embarrassed about what mockeries your political parties have become, can we talk? We Greens have a perfectly good political party that’s a bit understaffed, and I suspect you will be a whole lot happier with us than you are in your current political alignment. If you’d like to explore this idea further, we’re having our state meeting at Standing Stone State Park, near Monterey, Tennessee from February 22nd to February 24th, with most of the action on Saturday February 23rd. Here’s a link to the details. Hope to see you there!
music: Drive-By Truckers, “Wife Beater“