Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crashing the Gate Versus Milling Around the Gate

I read a number of blogs, though not all of them daily. I like Daily Kos, Eschaton, firedoglake, Talking Points Memo, Paul Krugman, and a bunch of others. I also read a few economics blogs because, well, politics is money and all. I read the big rags because I have to for their news and views.

Mine is a relatively new blog, and I post diaries and comments at other blogs, newspapers, and such, frankly, to build a readership. It may or may not work. But for now it beats brainstorming posts while staring at 0s on the site meter. I am getting readers.

I posted one diary at a popular blog that was a re-post of one of mine here at The American Human, and, boy, did I get flamed. I suppose I should say to myself, "Hey, buck up, you're a big boy." The fact is, as much as I've shaken my head at the invective I see in many comments all over the web, it was distasteful to see a bunch of them on one of my own pieces of work.

And to think I thought, "Wow, a bunch of comments on my diary! Let's go read them!" Great. A newb at 63.

Fine, I'm over it now. But examining my original point, that working within the system -- in this case touting a big-tent Democratic Party that includes the 99%, draws in the 99% -- still seems the way to go.

I like reading firedoglake because I like its bloggers' spirit. From my time in the 1960s (still proud of getting thrown out of university for protesting Nam), I'm at heart a revolutionary, or at least a radical-progressive who despises the system yet finds himself still shopping at Safeway nonetheless.

It's okay to conclude I'm more of a Daily Kos kind of guy. The Democrats can win, and they're better than the Republicans. That's just about it, as far as politics du jour goes.

I know there's a better way, duh. I lived in the Netherlands in the early 70s and thought it was the most civilized place on the planet -- I could say the same thing for most of Scandinavia, too. The Dutch weren't radical, they'd just found a working, socialist model. I liked it. Why I turned down a chance at Dutch citizenship, I don't know. I wanted to come back and live in the "belly of the beast," I told myself. More like the vast wasteland, but...sometimes you live in the land you love, you know, the redwoods and the vineyards and the foggy headlands down to the rocky coast. Whaddya gonna do?

I'm not cynical, but here's two stories, three decades apart. First, I had a college roommate who, one evening breathlessly confessed that he had guns in the locker at the foot of his bed, because, you know, "I don't trust the man. This isn't going to end up pretty, man." He was sort of an SDS guy.

About four years later, he came to a club where my band was playing. He was in a suit and tie. He'd married his Vidal-Sassoon-coiffed girlfriend and had just finished law school. He'd apparently taken his father's advice -- and his money -- and had come in from the cold. He told me that he'd just signed on with a firm in Oakland specializing in corporate law.

So much for not trusting the man, man.

The second story involves a dear friend who said in 2000 that he was more of a libertarian and would vote for Nader instead of Gore. He wanted change, and it wasn't coming from the mainstream parties. Nader's votes in Florida gave us eight years of Bush, most would agree. How'd that work out?

If I were in my twenties, I'm sure I'd have been occupying Oakland or SF or wherever. I'd have had a mouthful to say if some CNN reporter asked me what I hoped to accomplish. But at the end of the day, these days, the Occupy movement may be -- I still have hope, mind you -- but may be, well it won't be our Arab Spring, let's just say that.

To use Marcos Moulitsas' metaphor, trying to reinvigorate the Democratic Party is like crashing the gate, trying to establish a voice, a strong one, within the establishment. Whereas the Occupy movement, so far mind you, has simply been milling around the gate.

That's how it looks to me now. Would I prefer a successful alternative movement with staying power, one that actually works to bring down the established order without pulling the plug on the patient? Of course I would. Will it come out of the Occupy movement, or the bars and the taverns or the protest music coming around? I don't know, I hope so, I really do.

In the meantime, I'm going to support the good Democrats and hope the blue dogs choke on their bones. I'm going to support a revitalization of the moribund union movement because it is all about the money. I'm going to work locally because we actually have something sustainable in the North Bay above SF, with our fields full of organic vegetables, poultry, and cattle. It's an improvement and so much better than the Betty Crocker days when I grew up.

Someone recently wrote on firedoglake that the two mainstream parties are like Coke and Pepsi. I get it. And I've occasionally been offered alternatives to sip, some with a distinct Marxist tang, or some with a bit of a Bertrand Russell finish, or a distinct Noam Chomksy bite. Ralph Naderade tasted good until he threw bombs and gave us W. But I'm sorry, until something cool and real, and sustainable, is developed, I'll drink our local wine.

In the meantime, I'll root for the Occupiers and rail against the 1%, and I'll admit our system is corrupt, fetid, and teetering. But I won't pull it down on top of me. I'm a pensioner, with a meager one at that, and children and grandchildren, and memories of french soup and red wine and passionate conversations about Che with exiled Spanish communists in cafes on the Left Bank in Paris. But that was so 1971, and this is now.

So I'll work from within the corrupt system and support the slightly less corrupt Democrats for now. And I'll vote for my local congressman, Mike Thompson of California's 1st District, whose local office took on the VA for us and finally, finally, after a year of wrangling won widow's benefits for my mother-in-law who suffers from end-stage Alzheimer's. Now that's political action I can believe in.


  1. Don't let the flamers get you down.. it's the Internet; everyone gets a LOUD, UNCOMPROMISING, SELF-RIGHTEOUS voice. :) Like you I hope for a democratic party that will do what they stand for. Could we be wrong? sure. Is the real message of we don't want the 1% buying our government lost so far on both parties? With a few exceptions (Bernie Sanders), the sad answer is yes. So, my dear democratic party it's time to act the way your constituents hope you will.

    Calvin, keep on writing. I've been hooked since reading your general principles. Thanks for the work, the insight and the thought-provoking articles.

  2. Thanks. I appreciate your support.