Archive | Class War

Realism

Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig on “realism” versus leadership:

But here I have to get off the bus. For if it is realism that we need, how about this for “realism”: Fifteen months ago, America elected the most compellingly progressive president in fifty years. It also elected the largest Democratic majority in the House and Senate in more than a generation. Yet practically every major reform that this young president has promised is now stalled in Congress. Health care languishes. Global warming legislation is no longer even discussed. The financial services sector has yet to be re-regulated (Congress is taking a break from that while they shuttle back and forth to Wall Street fundraisers). The bold effort to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency has died the death of a thousand cuts, as exception after exception has been inserted into this the mother of Swiss cheese reform.

Loyalists, of course, blame all this on the crazy Republicans. No doubt, the GOP has pushed the tradition of partisanship to an extreme. But to pin the faults of the last 13 months on one party is to betray an extraordinary ignorance about the dynamic of the fundraising Congress. The defeats of the past year were not forced on this president by Republicans alone. When the House Banking Committee voted to adopt Republican John Campbell’s amendment to exempt car dealers from the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act (after all, who ever had a credit problem with a car dealer?), it was the string of “frontliner” Democrats, as the Huffington Post brilliantly recounts, that flipped the vote against the President. And when the President had promised that “[a]ny [health care] plan I sign must include … a public option,” (July 19, 2009) it was the resistance of Democrats like Ben Nelson and Max Baucus that made it impossible for his promise to stick.

No doubt the Republicans have united effectively to block this super smart president with a super majority in Congress. But as commentator after commentator has recognized, extremism is an effective fundraising strategy. And whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, the job of Congress is increasingly not the job of solving America’s woes, but instead, the job of raising campaign cash. Who could believe that members, some of whom spend between 30% and 70% of their time raising campaign cash, aren’t affected by this dependency? Who could believe this dependency is benign?

So if it is a “dose of realism” that we need, here is some realism: Connect the dots. The bold hopes of this extraordinary President have crashed on the shoals of the Fundraising Congress. Every single major reform is going to die, or get gutted, until this economy of influence changes. Tinkering is not enough. Returning to the world before Citizens United is not enough either. We need a leader to get America to see that there is a way to recover this democracy, and to get America to demand that change.

Mellencamp for Senate?

(h/t Heather.)

I wonder what it would be like to have a real honest-to-god working-class progressive populist in the Senate. A girl can dream, can’t she?

For the past quarter century, he has been penning and performing smart, often very political songs — focusing on the farm crisis, economic hard times and race relations. He’s been a key organizer of Farm Aid and other fund-raising events for good causes, and he’s been a steady presence on the campaign trail in recent years, appearing at the side of numerous Democratic presidential candidates, including Barack Obama.

So, could Mellencamp perform in the U.S. Senate?

Could he be the right replacement for retiring Senator Evan Bayh, D-Indiana?

Forget the blah-blah-blah about celebrities in politics. We crossed that bridge decades ago.

The question is whether this celebrity makes the right connections with this state.

Mellencamp certainly has the home-state credibility. Few rockers have been so closely associated with a state as Mellencamp with Indiana.

Mellencamp has a history of issue-oriented political engagement that is the rival of any of the Democratic politicians who are being considered as possible Bayh replacements.

And Mellencamp has something else. He has a record of standing up for disenfranchised and disenchanted working-class families in places like his hometown of Seymour, Indiana.

In other words, he’s worthy of the consideration that has led to talk of a “Draft John Mellencamp” movement. In fact, he might be just enough of an outlier to energize base votes and to make independent voters look again at the Democratic column.

I’d sure love to work for the man who wrote this:

And the face of the nation
Keeps changin’ and changin’
The face of the nation
I don’t recognize it no more
The face of the nation
The face of the nation
So many lonely people
Damn those broken dreams.

A Small Act

I read about “A Small Act” through Roger Ebert’s coverage of the Sundance film festival, and of course it appealed to me because I so strongly believe that small acts really can change the world.

But Ebert compares this film to the situation documented in “Waiting for Superman,” about the class-stratified U.S. public school system, the failure of which the director lays at the feet of the teachers’ unions. (And no, the director isn’t a conservative. In fact, he directed the Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”)

Read it – and the comments, which strongly rebut Ebert’s conclusion. What do you think?

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