Sunday, December 06, 2009

Never Give Up What Is Rightfully Ours

Almost unedited thoughts by Anthony McCarthy

In the huge disappointments of the increasing troop deployments in Afghanistan, the blocking of real universal healthcare coverage and numerous other shortcomings in these first eleven months of the Obama administration it is tempting to give up. Indeed, you can hear that all over the leftist blog threads.

The story might be a myth, for all I know, but it’s one of the stories of my childhood , that when Abraham Lincoln proposed a “back to Africa” policy for freed slaves that Frederick Douglass said, no, that black people had a large hand in building the United States and so had a right to their part in it. It’s an unanswerable argument. Why should people who have built something not insist on their ownership of it? Why should the results of those years of toil and sacrifice be left to be enjoyed by others? It’s part of the necessity of justice that the results of labor are the property of the laborer. Lincoln, himself, said it best in an ambiguous statement in answer to arguments about racial inequality he said about a hypothetical black woman

“ her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without asking leave of any one else, she is my equal, and the equal of all others.*”

Why should the left, which put President Obama, the Democratic majorities in the Congress and Senate in office, give up eleven months into the present administration? It would be foolish for us to abandon what is rightfully ours, a position as a major player in shaping policies and laws, along with others who put these people into office. We’re not going to get everything, we won’t even get most of what we want. But the possibility to get something from these people is there, still. We have to insist on being heard and on getting what results we can. These people will lose without us. President Obama will be a one-term president, Democrats will lose their majorities in the House and Senate without us.

People seem to have short memories. Remember what George W. Bush was doing a year ago, stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down and much that was for himself and his cronies as he prepared to leave the office he gained by theft. He was doing so with the help of some of the same people who President Obama has foolishly kept on at the Fed and in Treasury. That was the biggest mistake he has made so far. There is push back from the left in the Senate, my heartfelt thanks to Senator Sanders (and a handful of Senate Democrats), may your hold on Bernanke’s renomination have an impact. My thanks to the members of the House and even in the Senate who have been agitating against the market idiocy of and making life difficult for Summers and Geithner, may your efforts prosper.

My thanks to the members of Congress and the Senate who are resisting the troop build up in Afghanistan. In the United States it is always a lot easier to get into a disastrous war than it is to get out of one. Afghanistan was a lost cause when Bush installed a corrupt crony from the oil industry to run it. Lots of us predicted it would be a disaster even before he invaded Iraq. Indeed, many on the left knew Afganistan would be a nightmare for the United States when Ronald Reagan began arming and training the worst of Wahabist fundamentalists and corrupt warlords, and we said so at the time.

If President Obama and his administration find it hard to resist the war mania that is promoted by the corporate media, that’s hardly new in this world. But it is a good thing to remember how we got started there and it was largely through the incompetence of Republicans and blue dog Democrats twenty five years ago that we find ourselves in this quagmire today. It is the right that is responsible for these disasters. You’ll hear mighty little of it on TV or in the major dailies, certainly not on hate talk radio or the useless NPR but the left has been warning about that going back to the beginning. We have been right on foreign policy, on military policy, on economic policy, on environmental policy, on health care, education, civil rights, justice, on literally everything. But you won’t find that reflected in the corporate media because doing the right thing results in economic justice, it’s economic justice which has been and always will be anathema to the rich and powerful, you can’t build up an obscenely rich oligarchy in a country which is founded in justice and which practices it. It is no surprise to us when a corporate media, concentrated based on welling itself to the highest bidder, does the bidding of their owners. They have sold us out, they use their freedom to freely serve The Peoples’ enemies here and abroad. President Obama’s decision to not re-institute media fairness, public service and other requirements essential for democracy might be the mistake that ends up in destroying his administration. He should forget what he learned in law school about that, the prevailing dogma on that issue is just too opportune for the opponents of democracy**. If there is one thing that is clear, he doesn’t understand that the corporate right of the media is subservient to The Peoples’ right to the truth in order for us to govern ourselves. Unless that basic misunderstanding is corrected, the misunderstanding of the relationship between the obligations of The Peoples’ right to self government and press freedom, democracy is doomed.

We don’t have an effective, democratic, media, we do have our votes and the power to influence our elected officials. We can have some influence with the Democrats in office by the power of our vote. We will never get the Republicans to do what we need and want. It’s a basic misunderstanding of many on the left that you would think forty years of political powerlessness would have corrected, we’re not going to be able to do more than influence decisions.. Not today. We have to do what we can, today. We’ve got to get through today to get to tomorrow. We’ve got to do what we can to get there. We don’t have any alternative to take disappointment and to fight on.

*While the full statement, itself, was hardly a model of racial or gender enlightenment, it was a lot farther along than those it was answering. Part of that was due to the exegencies of politics, without which any politician on the left will win major office. Here, as used by Mary Francis Berry, is a quotation from Carter G. Woodson on Lincoln’s changing positions:

Lincoln, as President of the United States, could not carry out his own personal plans. In a situation like this an executive must fail if he undertakes a reform so far ahead of the time that his coworkers cannot be depended upon to carry out his policies....
As the experiment had not been made, the large majority of Americans of Lincoln's day believed that the two races could not dwell together on the basis of social and political equality. A militant minority of the descendants of those Americans do not believe it now. The abolitionists themselves were not united on this point. Lincoln, moreover, gradually grew into the full stature of democracy.

It is our job to persuade President Obama that he not only can but must put more of our agenda into effect. It was never going to be easy to stop the two wars that were handed off to him or to fix the results of the thefts of the Bush II regime. But, as he, himself, said, one of the essential parts to making progress is by real healthcare reform..

** The libertarian superstition that giving the broadcast and cable media a free hand will be good for democracy is an experiment that has failed the test of reality. The media that has enjoyed virtually no restrictions has been the foremost tool used by the wealthy to destroy democracy. The dangers of regulation for democracy are more than matched by the dangers of concentration and the freedom to peddle opportunistic lies. The dangers of an elected government distorting reality through the media are real and possible, the dangers of an unelected elite doing so are an absolutely certain and now entirely predictable.