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Monday, September 03, 2007

September thoughts

I have some thoughts for Democrats about where we are today. I want to say that while I believe that engagement with the Democratic Party is the only course of action that makes any sense given the work we need to do changing the laws and regulations and policies of the United States, I also want to convey something deep and sincere.

Given my life experience and the results we have in hand as we start the month of September 2007, I have never been more ashamed of the leadership of the Democratic Party than today. I am ashamed of Hillary Clinton, of Barack Obama, of John Edwards of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. I am ashamed of their leadership of the party from stem to stern.

I want to be clear. My disgruntlement carries over to leaders of the left of the party as well. I'm not particularly happy with Howard Dean. I'm not really a fan of Barbara Lee and Ron Dellums here in Oakland at this point in time. (And I was pretty unhappy with Jerry Brown to be quite honest.)

When people talk to me about distant ills in Gaza and Darfur, I have to stop and ask them if they've given much thought to the running and unabated genocide of gang violence going down in East Oakland? When we talk about Katrina, I have to ask have they taken a drive down Market Street in West Oakland? If they are focused on Arnold and the GOP power grab for CA electoral college votes, have they also spent a day thinking about the issues facing students at McClymonds High? What is the message we bring to these young American citizens in our city of Oakland? How has that message changed in the last thirty years?

In my view, it hasn't.

And when I think about Howard Dean's speech at YearlyKos I have to ask myself this question: How can the man who gave that courageous and principled anti-war speech at the California convention in 2003 give the speech he gave in Chicago in 2007? The message I get from Howard Dean and leaders of our Democratic Party is this: we have to have another election in order to get a change of course on this war, and, even then, it's not clear what that change of course is going to be.

That is not acceptable.

There is too much to do and we have come too far to forget our principles and our positions. How can we be the party that embraced the values of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and, yes, read and reacted to the work of Michael Harrington and his Other America, and now have fallen so low? It's 2007. What are our leaders scared of? Where is the backbone?

I wrote about fighting Democrats in the aftermath of the 2004 elections. Where are they?

Rahm Emanuel is no fighter. His position on immigration is an embarassment to our party and its values. Steny Hoyer's constant undercutting of Speaker Pelosi is so obvious and shameless, he should be ashamed to call himself a Democrat. As someone who, like so many others, went out and busted my ass to win Democrats new majorities in 2006, surrounded by other volunteers who cared passionately about our nation and our world and, in particular, the tragic consequences of our ongoing occupation of Iraq, I have to ask, in September of 2007 with the impending approval of more money for Bush's surge to the tune of $200 Billion : is that all there is? Steny Hoyer primping and posing for the cameras? Rahm Emanuel claiming the mantle of the "fighting Democrat?"

Our presidential candidates are not profiles in courage, to say the least:

John Edwards is pro death penalty and anti gay marriage?
Barack Obama is for expanding the military industrial complex?
Hillary Clinton thinks that we are making progress in Iraq?

From where I stand, none of them have shown clear leadership to end this occupation now and start getting our sons and daughters out of the slaughterhouse that is our nation's occupation of Iraq. Friends, John Kerry promised us to do that in two years in 2004 and he was roundly criticized because we expected more of him. It's now September of 2007 and, in my view, we are being bamboozled by a lack of leadership once again. Our leaders delay, obfuscate and refuse to bring a clarion voice and they get away with it. There is simply no accountability within the Democratic Party. We are left waiting for January of 2009, and that is supposed to be acceptable. It isn't.

I'm sick of it. I'm not afraid of saying that we've come too far, and fought too hard to watch as the leadership of the Democratic party once again fails to live up the ideas and ideals that we are so deeply bound to. And it's not just the war, it's also the bedrock value of social justice.

I said I would make it personal and this is it: I am 38 years old, I'm white, I've spent my life growing up side by side with African-American and Latino children coming of age in America. That's my experience. These are my neighbors, my fellow citizens and my friends. This is the community that I love: the multi-racial, multi-income world of America's cities. In terms of where I've lived, either in the Midwest, the East Coast or here in Oakland, this is the only world I have known. I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I drive past the public housing projects around the corner from my house. I don't think I have anything new to bring or say to counter the powerful message that Katrina sent about the real values of America: when we judge America by its actions, too many in this country don't really believe that "all men are created equal" when it comes to the beautiful mosaic of children...American citizens...coming of age in America's cities: their education, their safety, their health care, their environment.

We have failed that social contract.

We left an American city and its poorest citizens to drown. We did that for all the world to see. (Fwiw, Katrina was mentioned only as an aside at the very end of the YearlyKos presidential forum.)

Where is the hope? How can I go back to the West Oakland BART station, where I do GOTV on election day every year, once again, and ask the mosaic of voters on their way to and from work to turn out for the Democratic Party?

I don't want a snow job of predictable rhetoric from Barack or Hillary or Edwards or Barbara or Ron. That's not acceptable; that's too par for the course. Lip service is easy. We need leadership.

I know that if we are going to accomplish what we need to accomplish going forward that it will take every last one of us taking responsibility and rising to the occasion. Like so many Democrats and all of you reading this today, I am willing to do my part, to be pragmatic, and to bring as many others along as I possibly can. In that regard, I feel that I've done alright so far.

However, let me be real. Without a doubt, there will be rousing speeches that express our values at the Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008. In my view, that's too late. The time for a "Come to Jesus" moment within the Democratic Party is now. Will Steny and Rahm and others continue to run the show, or will somebody finally put their foot down and have some courage and call them out? Will someone make a clarion call for social justice within our party in such a way that it results in legislation and action this fall, the fall of 2007? Will we put bills that give this nation the change the people are hungry for, the change we were promised last election, on the President's desk?

I will vote for the Democratic nominee, of course. I will do so not simply because there is no alternative, but also because I am proud of the values of our party and what we stand for. I am proud of our history. But let me get personal once again. On my journey in politics I've changed and grown. I'm not afraid or ashamed to admit that I've made mistakes and learned things. I've deepened my understanding of how things really work in this country. (Hence my relentless encouragement of local blogging and grassroots activism.) I will continue to work in politics and will grow and change along the way. Where can you find that candor in our candidates?

Now is the time for our leaders (Nancy and Harry) and candidates (Hillary and Barack and Edwards) to rise to this moment in history. Now is the time for them to grow into the leadership we so desperately need, to admit mistakes and to move forward boldly.

It's not simply about ending the occupation. If only it was as simple as that. It's about justice. It's about vision. It's about hope.

Hope has to mean something more than the partisan victory Howard Dean seemed to promise in his speech at Yearlykos. Leadership means nothing if it has been made hollow by consultants and cowardly operatives. That is all we have to show for our efforts in 2006 as far as a true change from business as usual in DC: Zippo. Nada. Not much. (ie. From where I stand they sold out our position on the war to pass minimum wage in the Senate...that's about it.)

Let me put it simply: the true leader of the Democratic party will be the person who carries the torch, who creates fear in the corrupt "go along, get along" members of the party elite, who shames Rahm and Steny and John Dingell and, yes, my former Congressman, Mr. Rangel, for their utter lack of conviction and inside dealings inside our new majority, someone who reaches out and inspires new leadership to emerge in all fifty states to revitalize and reform our party.

Nothing will change in America until we work together locally to effectively make it change. Our leaders, so far, have failed us. They are timid, they are out of touch and they are not rooted in the bold ideas that motivate their core supporters: the bold ideas that are our only true hope.

What's so hard to understand about "all men are created equal?"
What's so difficult about "equal justice before the law?"
What's so hard to understand about protection from "unreasonable search and seizure?"
Why is it so hard to talk about a woman's right to choose?
Why are we still fighting rear guard battles against big GOP money and Roveian tricks?

When will we end this horrible lie and disaster in Iraq and move on to the true battles our nation faces?

There is so much else we have to do. We all know that.

I will not stop fighting and writing, but I will not choose to fight and write because we have the leadership we need in the Democratic party, far from it.

I have other reasons that motivate me to do what I do. As part of working the fulcrums and levers of change, I've chosen to share some of those reasons with you.


  • I feel your pain man. The Dems have been a total letdown. In many votes since the Dems took over, it really didn't matter who was in the majority. It was as if there had been no change of power.

    We need 60 votes in the Senate (I think we'll have 56-58 after the '08 election) and we need a Majority Leader, Speaker and other leaders who will whip the caucus into shape and tell them that if they don't vote to end this war they will get no support from the party.

    By Blogger noahnoah, at 8:15 PM  

  • Hear Hear
    But the devil we know...
    It's the old Kos-ian math: 1/2 Democratic is better than 0 Republican votes. So, having McNearney is better than Pombo. Is McNearney the best Democrat, not really. Particularly, from Lee's "safe" district. Would Lee be electable in CA-11. Nope.

    So what leverage do we have. I believe it is only in the currency that really counts: votes. Why did YKos get presidential candidates to Chicago? 2006. CA-11. We delivered votes.

    But, now they (dem leaders) that most of those votes have to be there for 08. You, me, & others are all saying "the Dems are lacking, but I'll vote for them anyways". So, we're safe votes. If they "play to the center/triangulate", they can get even more votes.

    In 2006, we showed we could activate & mobilize. 2008 will be the consolidation election. 2010 will actually show whether we can push out the "less desirable" Dems.

    There's no leverage, if you don't have weight (votes) behind you.

    By Blogger decitect, at 11:23 PM  

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