November 19, 2013

We cannot hallow ... but we must consecrate

Abraham Lincoln uttered the first phrase 150 years ago, in his Gettysburg Address. It is up to us, today, to continue to do with the second phrase, reversing his secodn "cannot," started being done on Nov. 19, 1963, so that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

In an era when BOTH major political parties actively support spying on We the People, actively support dissing We the People by pandering to the rich, and cast crumbs to the "dogs" of seemingly loyal constituents, including increasingly nutty ones on the GOP side, this is more important than in many a decade.

Allen Guelzo does a good job of that, from a mainstream history point of view. His new book, "Gettysburg," is worth a read indeed. But, we must go beyond mainstream history and gauzy veils. That is then, this is now.

Voting Green, or Socialist, or even Communist, rather than Democratic, at least for today's national Democrats, is part of that, for me.

It is about this:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
And doing so requires moving beyond today's largely neoliberal (certainly at the national level) Democratic Party and its leaders. Period. As Lyndon B. Johnson said a bit over a century after Lincoln, you don't take the shackles off someone and immediately expect them to start running and sprinting. (Unfortunately, he was on a sprint to send more troops to Vietnam, too.)

Speaking of, I forgot all about LBJ's speech at Gettysburg, not at the official 100th-anniversary celebration, but earlier in the year:
One hundred years ago, the slave was freed.

One hundred years later, the Negro remains in bondage to the color of his skin.

The Negro today asks justice.

We do not answer him--we do not answer those who lie beneath this soil--when we reply to the Negro by asking, "Patience." ...

Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact. To the extent that the proclamation of emancipation is not fulfilled in fact, to that extent we shall have fallen short of assuring freedom to the free.

And, if only LBJ had known, at the time he was escalating in Vietnam, that Kennedy traded Turkish (and Italian, which most people don't even know) missile sites for ones in Cuba, he might have been less likely to escalate quite as much, perhaps.

Anyway, speaking of him ...

We must dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work of a 21st-century Great Society, something about no national Democrat of today would endorse. Jobs training programs? Enforcing the Fair Housing Act? Enforcing both environmental and labor safeguards in NAFTA? Ditto in the WTO?

Oh, no, because that might offend rich Silicon Valley donors.

But, We the People need "a new birth of freedom." And, it's insanity to expect that to come, in terms of labor rights, economic equality, class-based as well as race-oriented opportunity assistance, and more, from going back to the same old well, time after time.

Abraham Lincoln was the first president of a new party, founded less than a decade before he was elected. We have liberal third-party vehicles now. We need to boost them. We need to unite them. We need to get Greens to better explain the jobs value of environmentalism, and its health value. We need Socialists to better explain to Greens why they want a focus on jobs, income equality and related issues above all else. We need the Justice Party to explain adequately why it was ever formed as another party in the first place, especially since 2012 presidential candidate Rocky Anderson ain't all that liberal.

Above all, we who already feel this way need to convince more other people to stop voting Democratic for nothing other than "fear factor" reasons. After all, what did Obama provide? An underfunded stimulus, a national health care plan handout to insurance agencies and even more spying on Americans than Bush. Gay rights? His administration opposed DOMA, and gay marriage was a state-level issue. Besides, while not belittling civil rights, without economic rights, that's still neoliberalism.

That said, third parties start from the ground up. That was a bit true with the 1850s GOP, and its very true today. So, that means voting for Green or Socialist city council members, county commission members, state representatives and such, too.

It also means third parties finding better ways to sell themselves to the public. And, it means better running the ways they already have. I asked the Texas Green Party a couple of weeks ago if there had been people filing for 2014 elections yet. I got no answer to my email, and the last news bit on the website is from the start of August.

Finally, third parties of the left, without totally ditching idealism, must have real, realistic policy proposals. Regular readers here know how much I critiqued the various wrongs of the Occupy movement. And, third parties, even more than national-level Democrats, must not let linguistic political correctness substitute for real liberalism.

That, that whole train of the last few paragraphs, is what LBJ was getting at in that same speech:
The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law. Law has not failed--and is not failing. We as a nation have failed ourselves by not trusting the law and by not using the law to gain sooner the ends of justice which law alone serves.
He worked hard to that end, to bend the arc of justice. That arc needs further bending today.

The more national Democrats continue in their neoliberal pandering to big banking and big business, the more opportunity opens up for alternatives. But, this won't come easily.

A simple first step? Extending the presidential campaign finance law to Congressional races, and making it easy for third-party candidates to get at least partial financing.

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