Reagan Democrats and Revolutionary Strategy
It has been proposed that the only way for the Democratic Party to achieve an electoral majority in this country is to attract the Reagan Democrat back into the fold. Allow me to disagree. The Democratic Party has had an electoral majority since November 2000 when the strategy of James Baker and the misguided tactics of Al Gore joined to enable the Supreme Court to bestow upon George Bush, brazenly and mendaciously, a tainted presidency. The strategist in 2004 was probably the same. The result was a stolen election, and, if anything, the Democratic majority had grown a point or two. These being the facts, Reagan Democrats, if they voted or voted republican, are apparently not essential to the stated goal.
Should there be a strategy that seeks to include those who strayed from the party in the eighties? Absolutely. Should there be a populist appeal in the Democratic Platform? Necessarily.
This is a vast and magnificent nation, whether one is considering its physical terrain or its population. It takes nothing to find beauty in the lowlands of South Carolina and the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming. It could not be said fifty years ago, but today a certain substantial majority of this nation’s citizens see beauty in the stunning array of colors, and sizes and accents and interests and religions and nationalities that make up its people. There is beauty of every kind wherever we look and much that is ugly as well.
One of the ugliest parts of our nation is its foreign policy, and the ugliest aspect of that foreign policy is the assumption that it is exempt from the dictates of international law. The Iraq War, torture, and the war crimes of Fallujah, where US air forces targeted and destroyed hospitals, acts of war specifically prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, are simply the most recent of barbarous atrocities that can be attributed to, and are often proudly acknowledged by, the United States government.
These ugly facts should be enough to provoke an informed public, and maybe they would if they were widely known. But it is far from certain. One may, indeed, sanctimoniously proclaim an abhorrence of such acts and the US exception to international law, but were one ever to land in a seat of power, there is no safe assumption that affairs would be conducted in any different way, especially in the absence of popular unity on precisely those issues.
This is, after all, the most powerful nation in the history of the planet. Even though its power was established when the Geneva Conventions were written and ratified, its status and the scope of its preeminent position in 2006 can be considered, by historical standards, a recent phenomenon. Considerations of Rome or Great Britain have only marginal relevance in comparison to the ability to end any life and all life at will.
Therefore, an idealistic and historically astute possessor of power in the United States today would be vulnerable to arguments that referred to this distinction. That the U.S. is routinely a lone, for all intents and purposes, dissenter from resolutions of the United Nations can be understood in the context of the US’s unique, and historically unprecedented, standing. Can it not be assumed that all other nations in the world are, with the exception of so-called client states, interested in redressing the imbalance of power of which they are currently a victim? As obvious as the moral case may be that a given course of action promotes the alleviation of suffering, the idea that it would have a tendency to diminish American stature, or limit American options, would inevitably accompany any consideration of its acceptance. Agreeing to a UN resolution that the rest of the world supports would be extremely difficult when all of the prior US representatives, they could say, understood the obvious bias and desire of the rest of the world to reign in the dominating power of the United States. In recognition of that inherent bias, their argument would proceed, they refused to be the first holder of that position to voluntarily cede power to foreign entities.
It is there, in that tangle of line that the battle for the Reagan Democrat will, if honor prevails, be fought. And honor must prevail. It is honor which has been lost or stolen by American governments throughout its history, regained for a moment in mythic confrontations with fascist psychopaths, but even then, in the prosecution of that just war by any standard, not just truth, but moral constraints were some of the first casualties. The subject of forthright proclamation by United States commanders, civilians were targeted by all sides in pursuit of a far-from-certain victory. Yet when victory was certain, the policy remained. However plain the issue in the second instance where survival is not in question, one must hesitate to condemn in the first. The interconnectedness of all life would be hard to hold in one’s consciousness with demonstrable tyranny pointing its military might at one’s allies and one’s own belief in freedom and human rights.
So the argument must be made honestly. A political conscience must include an understanding that American history is not accurately reported in elite publications owned and beholden to the dominant classes, the rich and privileged. American history includes example after example of atrocious behavior by elected leaders or their appointees. In almost every instance some reference to self-protection or divine destiny accompanied the action. In almost every instance, an honest appraisal would have acknowledged a compromised vision at the very least. The stark reality of the details of the suffering by the victims is rarely in question.
How wide is the chasm that here must be bridged, defined by an acceptance of US abandonment of moral stricture on the one hand, and an utter inability to allow space in the brain for such a thought on the other. George Lakoff obtained the admission from one of its proponents that the heart of the Republican base, the religious right, holds to the anthropomorphic vision of the President as strong and good father. My vision of the so-called Reagan Democrat bestows upon him and her, parts of a similar conception. They may be uncomfortable with the entire menu of the Republican agenda, for one reason or another, but it is my belief they are proudly patriotic, and carry in their pocket a penciled note that reminds them of the fundamental decency of our elected leaders. Our €œfundamentally decent€ leaders are incapable of war crimes, do not pursue the subjugation of other countries through the use of force, and when given a choice tend toward democratic policies.
Nothing could be further from the truth nor further from acknowledgement in the organs of information. As a result of the latter insight, the Reagan Democrat will never be the intended recipient of any kind of subversive notion by the corporate media. How then to reach the Reagan Democrat in the essential effort to change that conscious mind?
Mass demonstrations against warlike policies are a necessary but insufficient strategy of mass education and awakening. They provide those who do not march a template against which they can compare their own way of thinking. But marchers must steel themselves to charges of a lack of patriotism no matter how large their numbers, repeatedly deflated by elite newspapers and misfilmed or misedited by television networks. And they must understand the necessity of their participation. It is impossible to claim significant political dissent in a nation without mobilized masses, but they will never be the critical difference. The two strategies that encourage hope are the electoral and the economic.
There must be candidates who are willing to say what it is so painful to hear. There must be candidates who are willing to read their own political obituaries on a daily basis. There must be candidates who can envision a decade and not just a season. There must be candidates who are fearless or capable of great courage in spite of their fear. They must be able to say, and mean it when they say it, that the battle is for the future of a nation and the grandchildren whose lives that future will embrace. And every conversation must hinge upon an exposition of democratic principle and the extent to which congealed power and its substructure of media and public relations subverts it.
The proposed economic strategy embraces the boycott, that ancient mechanism of popular dissent. If Exxon-Mobil can earn over ten billion dollars in a quarter as the result of instability in the Middle East, the result of articulated and implemented policy of the US government, it is only because an enormous portion of the American people could not think not to buy their gas. If Fox News or the New York Times act in their different ways as propagandists for American hegemonic strategy, as certainly they do, their audience has offered its assent. If General Motors advertises its cars on those screens or in those pages, the watchers or readers have given financial incentive. This nation’s citizens have a voice that cannot be ignored, should it be chosen for use. The children can be its enforcers. Let there be the maintenance of lists of violating entities within each household. Let the parent feel the disapproval at the viewing or the purchasing of offensive commodities. Let us be ill-informed, if we are, on the internet, or late-informed through the reading of books. Let burgeoning strategies of boycott spring forth on MySpace. Let the power know we have demands. They may well begin with instant run-off voting, but they do not end with publicly financed campaigns. They are as boundless as our imaginations but may be simply drawn in the following proposition that town hall meetings be convened throughout the country to learn the will of the people, maybe as the birth of a new democratic understanding of America.
1. A vital and healthy electorate assumes a health care system with equal access for all.
2. An educated citizenry of a true democracy requires a school system that teaches all without regard to race, class, or community.
3. The foreign policy of a true democracy sees all of the world’s people as part of a common humanity and does not pursue hegemony or imperial design through the exercise of economic or military might.
If these ideas provoke your agreement, help us put meat on their bones. If these ideas do not resonate, put forth others. We proceed from the premise that this nation’s founding principles are worthy of resuscitation..