Saturday, March 25, 2006

Book Review: A Call To Arms

If you're reading this during March (or in the overlap in April prior to me getting off my fat ass and changing the link), you'll notice my Recommended Reading is Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future, by James Carville and Paul Begala.

I've got tremendous respect for both of them, for tackling conservatives and neo-cons head on, and challenging their statements face to face (Carville, you may recall, is the guy who forced Robert Novak's firing from CNN, and Begala is the guy who egged John Stewart on when he appeared on CNN's Crossfire, forcing Tucker Carlson to find other employment. They can claim coup to two scalps of the White Ring Media Conspiracy.)

This, I think, is their second book together. It's a doozy.

The Republicans, of course, are the main focus of their fury, and rightly so. The Bush administration along with the GOP in Congress, have reversed decades of hard-fought progress in this country. In reading this book, the shape of the country the conservative insurgency would like in place become very clear, but also clarified is the ultimate downfall of that vision: a plutocracy that would turn the social and economic clock back, not to the Fifties, but to the 19th Century.

Let's face some facts, folks: I don't want to live in that country, do you?

We have to fight the class war that the neo-cons accuse us of fomenting. When they say "class warfare," we ought to point out that we're merely picking up arms to defend those who cannot defend themselves from raping, pillage, and screwing (as my very fine history teacher, Dr. Stefannacci called it).

Too, Carville and Begala lay out, very carefully, a case for wresting God back from the Religious Right, and that a liberal Democratic platform ought to be based on values that we share with NASCAR dads, and working class folks from red states.

You read that correctly: those people are OUR people and the neo-cons have taken them from us and done nothing, zip, zilch, nada, zero, to protect their interests. We ought to be singing to them instead of to the choir. And that means.....

....the Democracts get almost as much shit flung at them, because quite frankly (and here I absolutely agree with the two,) the Democrats are fighting the wrong fight. An example:
So-called partial birth abortion is against the law. Period. The votes aren't there to repeal the ban, nor are they likely to materialize, given Americans' support for it. So why not recognize the obvious and either support the ban on partial-birth abortion or at least acknowledge that it won't be repealed? The pro-choice movement has lost the debate over late-term abortion. You may like it, you may not, but it's real. And it's settled. Pro-choice Democrats should deal with that reality and stop losing elections over an issue they've already lost.

In conservatism's long, dark winter-- 1964 to 1980-- Republicans rigorously reexamined what they stood for. The moved away from being the party of the moderate corporate elite, away from being the partyt of defending the old ways, and into being a more dynamic, even radical, party. At the same time, they made their peace with the New Deal and the Great Society. In the 1960s, Ronald Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the creation of Medicare. By 1980, he wasn't publicly opposing any of them. He'd made peace with them. They were, we're sure, still anathema to his ideology. But Reagan was shrewd enough to recognize that the American people wanted those programs and would not elect a President who proposed dismantling them. His public transformation was so complete that when he was accused, in his debate with Jimmy Carter of having opposed Medicare, Reagan said, "There you go again," before claiming that he'd supported a different version of the program.

Do Democrats need to make peace with at least some restrictions on abortion? If they want to show the overwhelming majority of Americans who support those restrictions that they understand and respect their values, yes. If not, they will continue waging a battle they've already lost, and risk losing the war they ought to win.
Pretty tough stuff, huh?

It's true: A candidate who gets an 100% rating from NARAL will not win the Presidency, unless or until NARAL adjusts their expectations. A similar argument is raised for each issue-area in national politics: the econmy, taxes, the environment, the war in Iraq, homeland security: make the issue a values issue, and get the special interests the hell out of the way.

After all, it's how the Republicans managed to include the Religious Right under their tent, by co-opting them with the understanding that they don't fall lockstep into agreement with them, but that the GOP would serve their ultimate aims better than the "other guys." We ought to strike the same deal with NARAL and the Sierra Club and any other powerful special interest: we support your aims, but we're not going to sacrifice elections to your cause.

And then we all ought to be thinking about arguments against the "other guy's" point of view.

Which is something else Begala and Carville address in the book: we ought not to be fighting on the defensive, with rapid response teams, and such like that. We ought to (and this is addressed to the people in office more than you and I) be taking the fight to them, harassing them on the floor of Congress and in the media for their biases and errors. Make them defend the vote on September 23, 2004 to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit to over ten million of the poorest children in this country to give a $13 billion taxcut to the largest corporations, 82 of whom had never even paid taxes during the Bush administration! (A bill, sad to say, that a majority of Democrats voted in favor of)

Parents who made $10,750 or less, who played by the rules, who instead of having an abortion to get rid of a child they couldn't afford and didn't go on welfare, who were models of what the GOP claimed they wanted in America-- hard-working moral people-- got screwed royally by the same government they were going along with.

And we (as Democrats) not only let them, we held the Vaseline jar.

Or why they feel it's OK to let Paris Hilton keep all of her inheritance, but will tax the shit out of anyone who actually does labor. Lincoln said it best:
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor,a nd could never have existed if labor had not existed first. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."
If you guessed that the estate tax originated with that Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, Republican President, that he created it, and passed it through Congress, well...YOU'D BE ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY RIGHT!!!!! This was a quote that Carville and Begala lifted from the speech in which Lincoln proposed taxing estates of the wealthy. And to the Republicans' credit, it was Teddy Roosevelt who used the SAME quote to pass the Federal graduated, progressive income tax. (ed note: take that, Anti-Socialist!)

I could go on, but I think I've whetted your appetites enough. Go read the book, borrow it if you have to, steal it if you must, but get a copy and take notes.

Or better yet, click on the link to the right and buy a copy. You'll want to read it again and again and again to rebut some of the stupidity you see around you.

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