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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 21, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 34
Calling in our allies and potential allies
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Calling in our allies and potential allies

DEAR EDITOR:

My state senator, Pramila Jayapal, placed an article in The Stranger about the Black Lives Matter interruption at Westlake Park on Social Security and Medicare Day last August 8. She ended with the question 'How can we call people in even as we call them out?' The answer, of course, is organization.

I do not fault the tactic of interruption. I was a member of Queer Nation back in the '80s and '90s and we did lots of interrupting. ACT UP interrupted Bill Clinton at his campaign stops in 1992 to call him out on the AIDS issue. Sometimes you have to rock people's boats to get their attention. However, civil disobedience and disruption alone maybe gets short-term media attention and then disappears. As Charles Mudede observes in his article 'BLM will certainly evaporate if it is isolated from one of the major groups that's politically open to its concerns: the progressive left.' Seizing the stage at Westlake and calling a progressive audience racist will surely isolate BLM.

Back in 2008 I published an article called Progressive Cannibalism. I've attached it to this letter. It is as true today as it was then. We Progressives waste more time and energy attacking each other than we do defending each other from attacks by the right wing. Make no mistake: the real racists and fascists are organized, well funded, well positioned, and wield enormous influence. They will outlast, outfight, and out maneuver any progressive agenda that is not also backed up by equal organization, resources, and effort. Look what they did in Clinton's second term. Marriage equality briefly raised its head in Hawaii in 1995 and over 30 states immediately passed laws and amendments against it. Even Clinton signed the federal Defense of Marriage Act and added Don't Ask Don't Tell for the military. It took patient organization, coming out, education, persuasion, and evolution to undue the damage. Without Freedom To Marry and Equality Washington, labor, Democrats, women and all the other organizations working cooperatively with progressives on the left and rational people on the right, we would never have succeeded. 'Burning this to the ground,' as one of the BLM speakers said on her podcast, is no recipe for success.

To rephrase Jayapal's question, we have to call our allies and potential allies in with patience and persuasion, not name-calling. We should redirect our calling out for our real enemies.

Janice Van Cleve

Seattle



PROGRESSIVE CANNIBALISM


It's easy to be a Republican. To be a Republican you only have to do three things: be against abortion, be against taxes, and support your party over yourself. That's it. You can snort coke, bankrupt businesses, go AWOL from your military duty, cheat at elections, lie about weapons of mass destruction, burglarize the public treasury for the rich, torture prisoners, and launch wars around the globe, anything you want - as long as you are against abortion, against taxes, and support your party over yourself.

Democrats don't have it so easy. Democrats have to support a woman's right to choose, labor's right to organize, and gays' right to marry. They have to support immigrants, refugees, and even homeless people. Democrats have to promote a clean environment while at the same time creating jobs for all. They have to protect civil liberties - even for convicted criminals. They have to work with other nations instead of bombing them and they have to follow all those pesky treaties that governments sign. They even have to count all the ballots!

Now you'd think that the more good things you support for more people, that you'd be very popular and win lots of elections, right? Wrong. All these sound like good things to support - especially in latte lapping liberal Seattle - but they're not. Each one is a minefield. One wrong step, one word out of place, one perceived snub, and the whole pack of progressive cannibals leaps upon you like velosiraptors in Jurassic Park.

Just look at what happened to Howard Dean four years ago. One whoop and suddenly years of public service and months of campaigning got deluged in criticism from the liberal media. Or take President Clinton. He championed universal health care, he brought Israel and Palestine closer than they ever got before or since, he lead the biggest economic boom in history, he maintained peace and cooperated internationally, and he 'felt our pain.' But one little thong and a cigar and he's trashed.

Hillary Clinton made one remark, 'Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done,' and black leaders jumped on her because they felt their egos 'slighted.' The same black leaders were silent when Obama said he would order unilateral military action in Pakistan to root out Al-Qaeda. Double standard?

We don't have to go to the national level. How about former Governor Mike Lowry? He is arguably the most progressive Democrat that ever walked the face of this earth, yet one pat on a female staffer's bottom and progressives had his lunch. Four years ago in Seattle, two bright, energetic, young women with impeccable liberal credentials were scuttled from the city council by progressives whose many agendas were not perfectly met down to the last comma. (Of course, Seattle is the same town where some people would kill an entire monorail just because they didn't get escalators at their station.)

What's wrong with this picture? Why can't Democrats get it together the way Republicans do? It's the discipline thing. Republicans put party over individual. They are willing to let their individual agendas take a back seat to party victory. Democrats, on the other hand, must see each and every one of their issues in the platform. They demand their candidates address each of their issues with knowledge and passion. They are unwilling to support each other over themselves. They flounder in in-fighting and when they do get something done, it is a patchwork of add ons.

This ego driven progressivism is what causes Democrats to say they are 'voting for the lesser of two evils.' Evils? A person with heart and courage gives his or her life to make this a better world, and just because they fail to lead on your one issue you call them evil? Even Pat Robertson doesn't call Dick Cheney evil although Mary Cheney is a practicing, avowed lesbian. In fact, Robertson even endorsed pro-choice drag queen Republican Guiliani last year. Why? For party victory.

This is what gives Republicans so much more flexibility over Democrats. Republicans invaded Somalia to rebuild that nation, then criticized Clinton for nation building in Kosovo. Then they flip flopped again and invaded Iraq to destroy it and then rebuild it with Halliburton contractors. Pretty neat, huh? Or how about Bush the First negotiating the NAFTA deal and dropping it into Clinton's lap to sign so the job losses can be blamed on the Democrats? Very cool. Republicans probe into people's bedrooms but claim executive privilege when Congress subpoenas administration officials. They log old growth forests and call it forest management. They bend over for every corporation with a hard on for a tax break, yet claim to preserve the sanctity of marriage. They can do all this because the only line they have to toe is to be against abortion, against taxes, and most of all, to support their party over themselves.

Now we face an election that would take a Democratic fool to lose. The occupation of Iraq has soured even Republican supporters. The so-called 'surge' had less to do with reduced killings than paying off the Sunnis. The economy is in recession. People are losing their homes. Scandal and wide-stances in restrooms plague Republican claims of morality. Conservatives are more and more concerned about government snooping while senior Bush supporters are leaving the administration in droves.

Will the progressive penchant for cannibalism snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory? Will we spend more time trashing each other than combatting reactionaries? Will we continue to weaken ourselves so much that Bill O'Reilly can still dominate the airwaves and frame the issues?

(Here we are in 2015 and nothing has really changed.)

Janice Van Cleve
Seattle

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