Sit on Your Ass and Watch Democracy Pass: People Need to Act Not Just Talk

There’s little question that the 113th Congress will be as vengeful and radical as we’ve seen in modern times. The singular aim of the minority Republicans in the Senate is to filibuster every issue the Democrats hold dear. With its substantial GOP voting margin, the House might as well be called “233 Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (special elections remain to replace Jessie Jackson Jr. and Tim Scott).

The goal of the cuckoo right-wing lower chamber is to block all constituent-friendly Democratic initiatives and replace them with pre-ordained wrecking ball legislation. All written in large measure by lobbyists for billionaires. Of course none of this crap has a snowball in hell chance of passing, but the bills do serve as precursors to what could happen should the Republican’s maintain control of the house and capture the Senate in 2014. Right now, it’s a government of tasteless trade-offs and gridlock.

Sectors threatened with annihilation sooner or later are Health Care, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Education and the Environment with other agencies and departments targeted by the Tea Party not far behind. The latest Ryan budget is a Weapon of Mass legislative Destruction aimed at expunging the federal government of virtually all non-military funding, influence and power.

Where are the voices in opposition? Where is the progressive body politic? I don’t mean just the occasional vocalized despair of well-intentioned Senators like  Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren or a decent Jim Clyburn-type Democratic Representative voice in the wilderness; I mean citizen voices en masse.

I go back to an era where voices were HEARD along with the determined pitter-patter of as many as hundreds of thousands of little, medium and big feet. There were dozens of high-profile leaders of opposition groups including the iconic Dr. Martin Luther King and Julian Bond. Broadcaster and civil rights leader, Reverend Al Sharpton marched anywhere there was a civil rights demonstration as ded Jessie Jackson. We remember and admire women’s rights ground-breakers Gloria Steinem, still as sharp and impressive as ever at age 78 and her feminist colleague, the late Betty Freidan. Who will ever forget life-long anti-Nuk and anti-war activist, Dr. Benjamin Spock (who was still bitching into his 80’s and 90’s).

There were the hell-raising, anti-Vietnam war Priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan. From the 60’s Weather Underground emerged Mark Rudd. Abbie Hoffman occupied Wall Street in the 1967 before there was an “Occupy Wall Street” movement. He and David Derringer and 5 others were part of the Chicago 7 that raised havoc at the Democratic National Convention in ’68. A little over 20 years later, the bipolar Hoffman was to commit suicide. Ironically, “Yippie” founder, Jerry Rubin, another Chicago 7 member, went on to work on Wall Street. He also died a violent, premature death after being struck by a car. Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver were the public faces of the Black Panthers. The late Tupac Shakur’s parents were members. The Panther’s initiated many needed projects in the African American community such as education, tenant rights and self-determination, but regrettably, their party became most noted for shootouts with law enforcement. Former Panther Bobby Rush is a 20-year U.S. Representative for Chicago’s South Side.

Those are just a few of the fiery voices of the 60’s and 70’s and, unlike today, they could turn out the crowds. Tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of demonstrators yelling, carrying signs and shaking fists against the Vietnam war and racism and for women’s equality were routine in the era of political push-back.

Even as late as 1995, there remained hope for the public message carriers. The Million Man March didn’t quite reach the number in its title, but attendance in Washington DC was impressive. ABC carefully calculated the crowd at 835,000 give or take 20% either way. The National Park Service had halved that number obviously aware of a Republican Congress that controlled their funding. The controversial Louis Farrakhan was the featured keynoter. That didn’t bother me at the time figuring any port in a racist storm.

Fast forward to recent years. I recall a Saturday, November 12 Republican Presidential televised Primary debate at Spartanburg, South Carolina’s Wofford College featuring the slate of the moderate Jon Huntsman and the 7 mental Dwarfs. Local Democrats arranged for a demonstration carrying signs pointing out the extreme positions of most of the participants. About a dozen people showed up. Some 50 signs were stacked up against a nearby tree. Ron Paul’s herd was out in force.

Later, in support of the Democratic candidate for South Carolina’s 4th District House seat, an outdoor gathering was organized by the party. About a half-dozen of us showed up standing by a busy street waving signs around, our miniscule numbers undoubtedly encouraging the opponent. A year ago I went to join a protest against a local Walmart’s employee practices. There were 7 or 8 of us. A union beef against a major phone company drew a dozen (but lots of supportive horn-honkers).

A contemporary movement of promise is “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS). Its greatest accomplishment so far has been adding the phraseology of the “top 1% and the remaining 99%” to the political lexicon of the generation. The vital demographic of youth signed on and it spread to chapters nationwide. Occupy Wall Street was indeed willing to Occupy Wall Street or at least the immediate environs on September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park to be exact. The occupation grew from an initial few hundred souls to thousands over time. Media started swarming. OWS was THE lead story in all print and on all electronic venues that mattered. This was a welcome progressive revival of the earlier public demonstrations of prior decades.

About a month after Zuccotti, a “Day of Rage” primarily aimed at financial institutions and large corporations, drew massive crowds (probably totaling in the millions) in 80 countries. You don’t hear nearly as much from the movement these days. In some ways it’s become mired in the minutiae of the social terminology and definition of ‘blocks’, consensus (unanimous, modified?) majority voting and other administrative distractions stealing attention away from OWS’s real purpose.

Hopefully OWS has shitcanned the bickering. There’s huge potential here, but nobody wants to risk losing the momentum over essentially administrative issues. And Democrats, if they want to save their country need to start wearing out some shoe leather. There should be pro-ACA demonstrations in front of every State Capital and/or hospital or City Hall in the country. And further actions in front of every Republican and Democratic Congressional office in every Congressional District in the U.S. Appoint spokespeople, wave homemade signs and “ALERT THE MEDIA.”

OWS, NOW, Teacher’s Union’s, State and County Democratic Parties are just some of the sources of ready personnel depending on the issue. Put together your own group; “Okies for Obamacare” or during the 2014 elections; “Save Lives; Vote for (fill in Democratic candidate)!!!” Call the local media. If they don’t show up, picket, cancel subscriptions and call sponsors. They’ll be there next time.

There’s your template. Use it or lose it (our democracy)!

Correction: Re Republicans trying to take Congress and White House in 2014, removed White House.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.