Sunday, October 02, 2005


Van Os: Fighting for, vs. pandering to, minority groups

Van Os weighs in against special-interest pandering
Note by Dave Haigler:
Haigler, left, & Van Os visit SheehanThe following piece by David Van Os (shown at right with Cindy Sheehan and myself, left of picture, on Aug. 11 in Crawford, Texas, at "Camp Casey 1") explains eloquently the difference between fighting for, and pandering to, minority groups, or by extension, the entire threatened middle class in this country -- in my opinion.  The question in my mind is whether the political process can any longer be used as a vehicle for such a fight for justice, or whether people are so inebriated by being pandered to that they are insensitive to a true-justice message.
Van Os's message:
In my humble opinion, interest-group politics within the Democratic Party over the last 20 years has resulted in pandering, patronage chains, cooptation, fracturing, and defeat. This pattern is across the board, from racial minority interest groups to issue-specific interest groups. The resulting failures are especially harmful for the working and poverty classes of the historically disempowered and disenfranchised African-American and Latino populations. Those populations especially, need a political party speaking for them, fighting for them, and winning for them. The Democratic Party could be that party and should be that party. Thirty years ago when Texas corporate money-power lawyer Bob Strauss became DNC chairman, he instituted in a new philosophy of chasing the middle and making sure not to be perceived as threatening by big business. Ever since then, the Democratic Party has constructed its campaign messages around the mythical "swing voters" instead of around the base. We have to discard that and in its stead campaign for the base. Going to an African-American church and talking about civil rights and praising Martin Luther King is not campaigning for the base. Going to Cesar Chavez marches and calling out "Si Se Puede" is not campaigning for the base. Note my phrasing - this is important now - I refer to campaigning for the base, not "to" the base.. Campaigning for the base means fighting, not just giving lip service to platitudes but fighting forcefully and confrontationally, for economic justice,  social justice, and the promise of the Declaration of Independence as the main message of the campaign, the message given to all the voters. The Democratic Party has not done this in 30 years as the overall message of the Party and the top of its ticket. The Party has been reserving its social, economic, and Constitutional justice message for targeted communications delivered to interest group audiences. No surprise those audiences start wondering if the Party is sincere.
Lyndon Johnson, who might have become the greatest president in history were it not for his duplicity and stubbornness in getting the country into the Vietnam debacle, did not confine the Great Society message to speeches to interest groups. It was his main message for America as a whole. By betraying LBJ's Great Society vision with the installation of chase-the-middle mythology, the Party itself  played directly into Republican hands in letting civil rights be defined as special-interest politics - which is absurd, but which the Party itself allowed to happen by deliberately downscaling LBJ's main message for everybody into limited appeals confined to interest group audiences - thus demeaning what was the most noble flowering of the Democratic Party's message for America into pathetic pandering.
In this campaign, we are restoring the active fight for economic and social justice, a fight that confronts corporate power and racist power rather than trying to pacify them, as The Main Message - indeed as the very reason for the candidacy. This is campaigning for the base. Campaigning for the base actually means, simply, fighting for the base, not fighting for their votes, but fighting for them as their advocate, fighing for the people against the powerful. The people will vote for us when they see that we are fighting for them and thus there is something really worth voting for. The act of voting will not be a buy-and-sell transaction with patronage as the medium of exchange, but rather a joining and sharing of a mission.
This is also expanding the base, expanding it to potentially everybody, no longer confining it to narrowly defined interest groups.  It is the opposite of what the Democratic Party has been doing for 30 years. This campaign is going to do it, this campaign is doing it, and this campaign is going to win.
-David Van Os
(submitted by Dave Haigler, Abilene, Tx - http://demlog.blogspot.com)

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