Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Hopeful Sign

But how long will it last, and how effective with they be?:
"There has been a proliferation of activist groups ... especially after the 2004 elections. I would speculate that these groups will get more active as the 2008 elections come up," said Anthony Michel, a communications professor at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri.

The movement is fueled both by suspicion of mainstream media and burgeoning access to information via the Internet, Michel said.

Email, blogs, virtual meeting spaces and rapid-fire links for like-minded people make it easier and faster for individuals to come together in letter-writing campaigns, petition drives, fund-raisers, meetings and marches.

An example of its power, the recent Capitol Hill debate over a federally funded health insurance program for children triggered an outpouring from the political hinterlands, and Congress voted August 1 to expand the program despite a veto threat from the White House.
Vox populi. It's a good thing.

But then there's the downside and we've already seen cracks in the foundation: when the movement becomes big enough to earn a seat at the table, as dKos demonstrates, it also becomes part of the machinery, subject to the same co-optations that any other political faction suffers.

Too, the "outsiders looking in" end up attacking those who can been labeled as "selling out"

Prima facie evidence of the past twenty years has shown this to be true. Think about the Christian Coalition and other religious-right-wing groups and you see my point. They've allowed politicians to skew their principles in the cause of expediency, with nary a word from the Falwells and Dobsons of the nation.

Why? Because the Falwells and Dobsons of the nation were bought off, as was anyone else who accrued enough influence to make it worth the Republican party's while. Hell, Sun Myung-Moon had Republican Congressmen at his coronation ceremony as the Second Coming of the Messiah! You think that hasn't influenced how he deals with those Congressmen when they have ethical issues, much less how they shape and vote on "morals" legislation?

But even now, those who have been co-opted face challenges from their rear and right:
The Grassroots Conservative Majority, a political group started in Tennessee last November, focuses on "returning the Republican party to its core principles of social and fiscal conservatism" by supporting specific candidates in key races. The Web site gets about 700 visitors a day, according to organizer Ed Sistrunk.
So it's not just limited to progressives and liberals who are thoroughly frustrated with the inability of the Democratic party to do something, anything, about Bush and Cheney and the moral bankruptcy this nation faces, on top of the fiscal bankruptcy we've already entered.

But make no mistake: people who are liberal, who for years hid that fact, are starting to crawl out from under the wreckage of decades of being vilified and hated, because after Katrina, after Iraq, after Attorneygate, after Chinese imports tainted with melamine and Ground Zero toxic fumes and bridges collapsing, a Presidential cock being sucked sounds like precisely what it was: a big fat nothing.

The article I linked to points out that the 2004 elections were a watershed for this movement, the real impetus, and to a degree, I concur. The elections proved that either the system is dangerously screwed, if you believe that the election was stolen yet again, or at the very least, America is heading down the wrong path with its eyes wide open and that this time in our history will be crucial to righting the ship of state. Or both, to be honest.

I'll point to an even more narrow event that I think ignited the progressive grassroots movement to come out of the shadows and organize at the local level. It was Jimmy Carter's speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention.

To hear one President talk about courage and honor, and how the current President lacked them, well, it was a jarring note at a convention where the word was "No Bush Bashing". Read an excerpt:
In repudiating extremism, we need to recommit ourselves to a few common-sense principles that should transcend partisan differences.

First, we cannot enhance our own security if we place in jeopardy what is most precious to us, namely the centrality of human rights in our daily lives and in global affairs.

CARTER: Second, we cannot maintain our historic self-confidence as a people if we generate public panic.

Third, we cannot do our duty as citizens and patriots if we pursue an agenda that polarizes and divides our country.

Next, we cannot be true to ourselves if we mistreat others.

And finally, in the world at large, we cannot lead if our leaders mislead.

You can't be a war president one day and claim to be a peace president the next, depending on the latest political polls. [...]

And in many ways, the last few months have been some of the most disturbing of all. But I am not discouraged. I really am not. I do not despair for our country. I never do. I believe tonight, as I always have, that the essential decency and compassion and common sense of the American people will prevail.

CARTER: And so I say to you...and so I say to you and to others around the world, whether they wish us well or ill: Do not underestimate us Americans.

We lack neither strength nor wisdom. There is a road that leads to a bright and hopeful future. What America needs is leadership.
Without mentioning Bush by name and opening a door to repeated bashing back by right wing pundits and radio jocks, Carter laid out the case for what America needs to do to right itself.

You'll notice that much of it is addressed right to the American people, not the party. Echoing FDR, he said we must not allow ourselves to be bullied into fear, either by terrorists external or worse, the ones ruling us.

In other words, see something, say something. And I think a lot of people let those words wash over them like a soothing bath and got the courage to make a call, to talk to a friend, to challenge the bar bully know-it-all who tries to talk over people (like, say, Sean Hannity) by confronting him.

And if it meant a punch in the face, literally or figuratively, the point was made: we weren't going to be afraid of the fight any longer. Eventually, we'd prove our point and win.

You see it in the news and on the talking head programs more and more, as well: people willing to stand up and be counted, rather than avoid confrontation. It must be driving Bill O'Reilly crazy that liberals are talking over him now.

I don't think we should ever have been bullied in the first place, but that's just me. I know I wasn't, and I've had some nasty run-ins with neo-con right wingers, many of whom I've managed to make friends with despite our differences.

The political pendulum in America swings to and fro, and right now, it's swinging from the fro to the "to": To America. To the left. To the future. To what's right. We're at the beginning of a new era in American politics, American policy, and American prestige. Our beacon of freedom and liberty, hidden under a bushel of corruption, anger, hatred and greed for these past six years, is being uncovered by a new generation of caretakers, who will point that beacon at our enemies and more important, our friends, and remind them of what makes America great.

All the money in the world can't buy greatness. All the debt we've rolled up won't buy us prestige. None of the bounty that God in His (or Her) infinite wisdom has blessed this land with will help us now. We have to get back to the basics of this country. Opportunity for all, justice for all, freedom for all.

We must stop being afraid of terrorists, but more, we must stop being afraid of those who would exploit terrorism for their own political benefit. We've allowed Osama bin Laden, a pathetic, sick, weak, evil man, to become a bogieman of immense proportion because he startled us.

But I say to you, there is more courage in the New York City secretary who gets dressed in the morning and hops on a subway train to her job in lower Manhattan than in all the conservative bloggers in the country. She is not afraid of Osama bin Laden because of Osama bin Laden. Instinctively, she knows she's afraid of what's been represented to her by these evil twisted and sick men (mostly) who would want nothing more than to watch her sweat and shake while their cronies stick their hands in her pocket the next time she fills up her Honda Accord with gas.

There's the real enemy. There's what we really should be angry at. And we should be angry at a government that's allowed this situation to get so far out of control that the very mention of an ancient steam pipe exploding in Manhattan or an undermaintained bridge over the Mississippi collapsing raises the immediate spectre of Al Qaeda.

Fuck them, I say. Al Qaeda wants to come over here and get rowdy? Let 'em! They'll buy a whole lot more trouble here than they bargained for. I know neighborhoods in Brooklyn that would just be itching for some moron to show up with C4 strapped to his chest.

And in the meantime, we can bring our troops home from Iraq and let them get on with their lives, making America a great place, once again.

The people will speak, and they will be heard, and we will take our country and government back.

And to the Hugh Hewitts, the Sean Hannitys, the Michael Fumentos, the Dean Barnetts of the country, and every other ignert right-wing scaremonger?

Fuck you, too. We're through with you. Go ahead and pick on the big boys, the candidates, the Democrats who are front page news. We're coming up behind you, so keep your scared little eyes behind you, too. We won't be so polite and kind.

And to any grassroots movement that builds enough momentum and enough stroke to be co-opted? We'll take you out after them.