Wednesday, May 4, 2016

“The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things.”

“I’ll believe a corporation is a person when Texas kills one”

A Note to Montana Democrats

All of us in rural Montana who have organized meetings and strategy sessions around issues to the left of Attila the Wall Street Speculator know the feeling when we look around the room and calculate the average age. It’s usually around 60, isn’t it?
That’s why a now-common political slur is annoying me so greatly. I won’t footnote the year’s worth of “liberal” talking heads who’ve repeated it in one form or another, so I’ll just distill down to its simple essence:
People are pissed because the Wall Street crooks got away with their heist, so they’re supporting “extreme” protest candidates like Trump and Sanders.
It’s not that “old” progressives like myself are thin-skinned about such gratuitous dismissals coming from unexpected places. Remember Obama’s mantra “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” when he reneged on his campaign promise for a “public option”, when majorities of Montanans were showing up at Baucus’ dog-and-pony shows demanding healthcare reform not health insurance reform and the Democratic elites responded by substituting one Rube-Goldberg-get-rich-quick scheme for the already-rich with another? Cutting off the legs of your base after you get their votes with the rallying cry of “what choice do they have!” has been common scheme for Democrats in power for a long, long time. So “old” progressives like myself aren’t surprised with backhanded dismissals from “the center” when we are no longer seen as useful. We’re used to it. But guess what? All those young people whom Bernie has finally engaged, whom the Democratic Party needs so desperately to remain a viable movement as well as a party, aren’t.
This election cycle is, if it’s nothing else, different, and Montana Democrats are in a uniquely favored position to appreciate that difference. The divide between those who believe that the Edge of the World where dinosaurs live with humans is just south of Darby and those who don’t believe that is as self-evident as whether your septic juices flow into the Pacific or the Atlantic. So let’s take a minute and examine this canard that those who believe a better world than incremental slides toward dystopia is possible and those who believe in the Edge of the World are peas from the same “protest-vote” pod. Ready? Go…
            …There, that didn’t take long, did it? Now let’s consider what will happen to the Democratic Party if their leaders and activists stick to and act on such mind-numbingly-incorrect analyses.
            Rudely dismissing a whole generation of young people so desperately needed for so very long in every fight Democrats claim as theirs is explicitly self-destructive. For one thing, once they’re dismissed as starry-eyed, unrealistic Trumpians of the Left, you can bet they’ll disappear, and you can talk until you’re blue in the face about how they should show up and vote for Hillary anyway, but you know a lot of them won’t, and for good reason. Worse, they won’t show up to vote for the other progressive politicians on the ticket needed to really change the chemistry in Congress and the state legislatures, the ones who’ll do the heavy lifting of taking on Wall Street, the war machine, college debt, grade-school funding, the heathcare crisis. It won’t matter then, whether their Chosen One gets coronated or not. We’ll be in same politically-dysfunctional mess we’re in now for another four, or eight more years.
Worst of all in the opinion of a progressive who’s been active in one of our small, rural towns for many years: the saddest effect of condescendingly dismissing smart young people whose political dander is finally up is that when we take stock of our tiny local progressive “activist” lists in a few years, the average age will be 70.