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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 3, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 14
Barney Frank in Seattle to promote new book, gives stern advice to Democratic party
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Barney Frank in Seattle to promote new book, gives stern advice to Democratic party

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Barney Frank appeared at University Temple Methodist Church on March 30, to read from his new book Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage.

The book is part memoir, part political primer, and Frank has some stern advice for his colleagues in the progressive wing of the Democratic party.

Before the reading, Frank met with reporters in a side room off the Gothic Revival sanctuary to share observations about politics and his career.

Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Franks asserts, liberals have relied on the federal government to bring about social reforms through legislation. 'And yet,' he continues, 'progress in defeating homophobia corresponds with a period characterized by lack of confidence and alienation from government.'

The problem, Frank says is that 'working class white men are disappointed with the government, they don't see the government addressing their needs.'

This is a stunning statement. Frank seems to be saying that Democrats should reverse the winning Obama strategy - stitching together a coalition of college-educated whites, women, African Americans, and Latinos to win the White House.

It was Hillary Clinton who played to disenchanted white men - and lost - in 2008. At that time Frank endorsed her over Obama. White men without college degrees ended up in the Republican camp in the 2008 and 2012 general elections.

Frank's specific recommendations to placate working class white men are not outside the norm for progressive Democrats, however:

o Lower the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 55,

o Increase spending for infrastructure projects that will create jobs,

o And pay for it by cutting military spending and the 'war on drugs.'

While Frank believes white working class men see themselves as disenfranchised by the new Obama coalition, Frank is harshly critical of the rhetoric of disenfranchisement.

'Stop telling people they have no voice!' he exclaims. 'If they have no voice why should they go out and vote? This is the big mistake the left makes. Stop talking people out of voting!'

For Frank, it is voting - not street demonstrations - that is the bedrock of political action.

'If you vote, people pay attention,' he says. 'Voting and effective lobbying.'

And what makes for effective lobbying?

'One thing and one thing only,' Frank replies. 'People who live in their districts telling them how they should vote on specific pieces of legislation.

'Marches make no difference. Demonstrations make no difference. Online petitions make no difference.

'I take the NRA [National Rifle Association] as a model. The NRA doesn't have marches, they don't have demonstrations. They don't need to. They have an effective lobbying effort. That's why they win every time.'

Of the two mass movements that arose in response to the most recent economic crisis - the Tea Party on the right and Occupy on the left - Frank says that 'the Tea Party has been very effective. Occupy made no difference.'

'The Tea Party got its people elected to office,' Frank explains. 'They're still there and they're influencing policy, at least when Republicans are in the majority. Occupy? Nothing!'

Another stunning statement. The Occupy movement that peaked in early 2012 was widely credited with seizing the spotlight from the Tea Party and shifting the national political discourse to a vein favoring the reelection of President Obama.

Throughout his Congressional career, Frank has been noted for his sharp tongue. Agree or disagree with his advice to fellow Democrats, his views are sharply stated and may prove influential now that his 2008 pick - Hillary Clinton - seems to have a lock on the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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