You don’t bring “Kumbaya” to a gunfight

Look, I’m not going to write a “candidate diary.” I never read those, and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to read them, either.

But BenGoshi’s diary on the Big Orange Satan today got me. I hear what he’s saying.

Forgive me, but none of these really address my issue with Obama, to wit:  Happy Talk, Hope, and Fairy Dust will run into a BUZZSAW of GOP/Neo Robber Baron opposition that will CRUSH all those pretty notions of “change” . . .

[I] got very turned off, not at “hope” (hell, I hope, too!) but at what I consider to be a milquetoasty naivety that hope alone, that a willingness to be conciliatory, that wishful thinking and a willingness to compromise — before even beginning to join the fight — will do anything but (again) leave a large swath of the American citizenry under the heel of the most powerful corporations in the world, and a hellofalot of stunned Obama supporters wondering if anyone got the number of the truck that ran ’em all down in the weeks and months following Inauguration Day 2009.

Amen to that. And I’m not just speaking about Obama – I’m talking about every Democrat, including those in Congress.

Listen, I was as gung-ho as anybody about the Democratic takeover of Congress way back in November of 2006 (remember that?). Yeah, I gave Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid the benefit of the doubt, even after Pelosi had taken impeachment off the table. Long after.

The reason I did so was that I held on to the belief – based on no evidence – that the Democrats were pursuing some clever, brilliant political strategy that involved somehow concealing their true intentions. You know – saying one thing and doing another, right?

But unfortunately for we who worked so hard to get them elected (and unfortunately for the rest of the country as well), the Democrats under Pelosi and Reid’s leadership did what they said they would do – and nothing more. During their campaigns, they made it a point to assure everyone that it wasn’t their intention to be confrontational, that they just wanted to “work with” their “colleagues” across the aisles, that “bipartisanship” would be the order of the day, that impeachment was “off the table.”

We all know where that has gotten us.

I for one have grown weary of Democrats who tremble in fear at the thought of confrontation over fundamental issues. I am mystified by milquetoast Democratic proclamations of comity and cooperation with Republics who have repeatedly and without apology blocked, trampled upon and derided efforts by Democrats to pass legislation that would benefit the vast majority of Americans, or that would ensure protection of the civil liberties of Americans.

What I really don’t understand is why it is that Democrats who are so damn concerned about getting elected don’t seem to understand that making a principled stand for protection of the individual also happens to be, at this moment in American history, a very politically savvy thing to do?

So – why won’t so many of them make that stand?

I’ll let you, dear reader, come to your own conclusions as to the answer to that question.

Democrats must be unapologetic and, indeed, fiercely combative in their pursuit of what is right for the American people. Anything less, particularly in light of the undeniable history of scorn demonstrated by Republic officeholders toward the interests of individual Americans over the past seven years, is pathetic and inexcusable.  

Anyone who is actually serious about advancing a “Democratic agenda” – as opposed to just pandering, saying what he or she thinks voters want to hear – surely knows that Republic opposition to any single iota of that agenda will brook no half measures. There is no “making peace” with Republics in office. The last twelve months of ostensible Democratic control of Congress should be enough to remove any doubt on that score. If anyone needs further proof of the necessity for uncompromising pursuit of Democratic policies, I do not know what to say to them.

The reason that there is no making peace is that Republics are simply doing the bidding of their corporate masters. And what BenGoshi said in his diary is absolutely correct: unless they are backed into a corner and forced to do so, in 99,999 cases out of 100,000, corporations will only do whatever in their opinion will most greatly enhance their profitability in the near term. Period. That is what they do.

I work in corporate business. I speak from personal experience, as do BenGoshi and John Edwards: In dealing with corporations, when push comes to shove, good intentions get you nowhere. (Although certain corporate executives – particularly those in the health insurance field – might find those intentions useful for paving the thoroughfare to their eternal homes.) Corporations act out of a profit motive, pure and simple. In the vast majority of cases, regardless of what their TV ads or their annual reports might say, there are no “values” that guide those corporations beyond the “value” of increasing the value of their shares – indeed, it can very truthfully be said that the directors and officers of those corporations would be in violation of their legal obligations, their fiduciary responsibilities, if they were to act any differently.

So – corporations look out for their own interests. That is what they do. There is no sense arguing about that; it is a fact. Once you accept that fact, you realize that in order to best serve the interests of the human beings of this country (as opposed to the corporate beings), we must, when necessary, fight the corporations not only in the courts but in the other two branches of government as well. Because of their financial resources, corporations – which have no vote – have plenty of “friends” who work hard to influence government to act in the corporations’ interests. Voters have only themselves, acting at the ballot box. The question facing American voters – not just in this election, but in every election – is, How much of the government that is supposed to be representing ME do I want to hand to the corporations?

Is there anyone among the readers of this blog who believes that the Republics and their corporate cronies (and, for that matter, the representatives of corporate interests among Democrats) will not fight tooth and nail, using every tool at their disposal, to take care of their interests during the next administration? By that same token, it is only right that those who are fighting for the people’s interests should do the same – and should strongly and unashamedly say, during their campaigns for office, that they intend to do so. Otherwise – particularly given the Democrats’ recent history of playing nice – just like they said they would when they were running for election before November 2006 – it is only logical to assume that any Democratic candidate will approach citizen advocacy exactly as they say they will during their campaign. And if their support for citizen advocacy is tepid during their campaigns, it makes sense to assume it will be no more enthusiastic once they have taken office. And if insipid, mealy-mouthed, tepid-at-best citizen advocacy is what is promised during the campaign, you can rest assured that after the oath of office has been taken,  the relentless, merciless corporations will have their way.

Until any Democrat comes out and – in so many words – says that he or she will fight corporate interests wherever and whenever they conflict with human interests, I will not believe that they intend to do so. And even if they do proclaim such a position, I reserve my right to be skeptical. But at the very least – again, based on bitter experience after the November 2006 election – I will believe that no candidates’ actions once elected will be more forceful than their words on the campaign trail.

The great news is that it’s not too late for all of the Democratic candidates to come out and – in so many words, not cloaked in some ambiguous platitudes, but expressed forcefully and pointedly – state exactly where they stand when it comes to Humans vs. Corporations

And, in case anyone is thinking that this diary is a “hit piece” – I’ve got no dog in this fight; I was a Dodd supporter. Ever since I went to his breakout session at the YearlyKos convention, I have appreciated his outspokenness on issues of Constitutional importance.  To me, there was nothing more pressing facing this country than the defense of our founding document. But I also realize this: The threat that Republics in general and this administration in particular represent to the Constitution – that is, to the individual liberties guaranteed by that document to all Americans – flows naturally and unavoidably from their single-minded pursuit of corporate profits, to the exclusion of any other regard.

It therefore naturally follows that any Democrat who makes it his or her stated purpose to take a stand for the interests of individual American citizens when they are in opposition to those of corporations is standing for the protection of the Constitution – because the Constitution was never intended as an instrument designed to protect corporations.

Those who support defense of the Constitution will support Democrats who hew to that principle. And – it is to be hoped – those Democratic candidates who hew to that principle will say so, loudly, repeatedly and without apology.

Also available in Orange


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  1. this is NOT a candidate diary.

    At all.

    So please don’t even go there.

    • nocatz on January 7, 2008 at 2:49 am

    to the most recent four or five essays here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

  2. Democrats to figure out.

    Great essay, occams hatchet.  Thank you.

  3. Amons’t the gunfight’s in this primary madness it talks about the real fight. In pursuit of a winner we seek to not offend our enemy? The right has gone to far and had too much help from the Democrats. Somebody takes over your house and trashes it to this point you don’t all sit down and try to make up until the place is cleaned up and the invaders are gone .  

  4. if you’re a dem. You bring platitudes and rhetoric.  You try to look unthreatening to everybody.  You try to get undecided independents to vote for you.  You talk about hope and change and prosperity and fairness. Yadda yadda yadda.

    That’s why imo electoral politics is bs.  Anybody who speaks from ideology is unelectable.  Anybody who really has a plan for something is unelectable.  Anybody who talks against corporate power won’t get their funds to buy a water pistol to bring to the gunfight.

    I might be cynical, but the best we can hope for is getting the mfers out of the white house and congress and replacing them with something that’s not as horrible.  I wish it weren’t so.

  5. Very well summed up.  Many words I wished I had at least thought sort of together and it would have been heavenly to be able to say them together but couldn’t get them to make one big one today.

  6. Obama may be many things, but he isn’t naive.  To the contrary, he’s extremely savvy. He’s putting out a message that’s winning.

    Let him make his way to the gunfight first, then we’ll see what kind of weapons he has.  

    • TMC on January 7, 2008 at 4:51 am

    you have to fight fire with fire. The Dems need to use the same tactics that were used against them when they were in the minority. The Democratic Candidates have to take a hard stand against the Republican/Corporate machine in order to defeat it. It is time to bring a gun to the knife fight. Senator Dodd did it when he stood up willing to filibuster telecommunication immunity. And where were Obama, Clinton and Biden, huh? NO COMPROMISE. None of this wishy washy rhetoric, this country is way past that. We need a candidate who will take a stand. Unfortunately, I don’t see one on the list.

  7. better than I can, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

    I want to link to a DKos diary of mine, which for short I’ll call “2009 preconsidered”, which I’m told may have played some small role in subtitling this site.  This is what I’m agitating for: using the criminal justice system to lay bare what has happened under this administration, putting the people who lie about it in prison, and deterring its ever happening again.

    I don’t think there is much chance of Obama or Clinton signing onto the proposal in a programmatic way before the election.  You have to be fairly up on events to understand why something like this is necessary, and most people aren’t; to them, this proposal can be attacked successfully as partisan “criminalization of politics” rather than what it is: ferocious defense of the Constitution.

    So, I don’t care if they campaign for it, sidestep it, etc.  They should do whatever they think best.  Their job is to get elected.  Mine is to pressure them to do what is right once in office.

    You are right, OH, that you want to be tough and aggressive to win fights in Washington.  But I am not convinced — and Obama is not convinced, even though my man Edwards seems to think it so — that this is the way to get elected from the left (especially if one is Black) to an office from which one can do it.  Those favoring hiding lights under bushels are probably right.  I really hate it, but they probably are, for reasons mostly to do with the sickness of our political system and apolitical culture.  Where I disagree with you is that this is necessarily diagnostic of what they will do in office.  Obama (or Clinton, for that matter), if elected, will be largely a pig in a poke.  They offer at least the opportunity of reform; we’re probably (barring some Edwards resurgence and his improbably making it past the media into the White House) not going to do better than that.

    What I find lacking in the focus of your commentary is that it focuses on what others should do rather than what we should do.  Your argument (at least the part of it to which I respond), is roughly this:

    (1) We need to fight our foes hard in order to defeat them.

    (2) Most Democrats are not pledging to fight hard.

    (3) If they don’t pledge to fight hard now, they won’t do so once in office.

    I disagree only with point (3).  Certainly, what you propose is the safe bet — but then we know we’re not going to get Obama or Clinton to support anything like my proposal, don’t we?  (I’d be happy with some blandishment that reinforces the need to uphold Constitutional rule and keeps the door open for something like this to happen.)  We disprove point (3) by making the next Democratic President do what we propose.  We — to coin a phrase — make noise, yell louder.  More than that, we convince the public to demand action.  To go back to that FDR quote I love, we first convince the President that it’s the right thing to do (probably not that hard), and then we force him or her to do it.

    That means, to me, that griping at the Presidential candidates right now is ill-placed.  They are simply not going to do anything that they think is going to threaten their electability.  They won’t.  I’d argue that, given the stakes of continued Republican rule, they shouldn’t, though I may disagree about what does and does not threaten their chances.  But that leaves us with another option, something that we should be doing right now (and always): we need to prepare the environment of 2009 in such a way that their path of least resistance is in the direction we wish.  We need to convince the public that we’re right on these issues.  We’ve done a good job on Iraq; we need to do a better job on the sorts of issues that you and I raise.

    Behavior is a function of person and environment.  We need to find a person who has a decent chance of behaving well in the right environment.  But what we really need to do is to change that environment.  If the environment does not call for Kumbaya, our next Democratic President will not be as likely to take that path.  That environment is paved with public opinion.  We need to spend more energy convincing the public that we’re right rather than bewailing to unwillingness of candidates to take the correct positions that ought to be safe, but aren’t.

  8. and, in particular, the Bill of Rights.

    Never did.

    Then how come it has endured?

    Consider the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa that wants to make the Ten Commandments the law of its government.  The LRA is the most vile rebel group I have ever heard of.  How could they possibly care about the Ten Commandments anymore than the fundamentalists of our own country?

    I was truly astonished once to hear a psychopath talk about how wrong it was for his striking union to use violence.

    “There’s a big mean guy looking for you,” Kayo warned me.  “Aww, that’s just Carl,” I told Kayo. “He just wants to sell me a car.”

    Could have been harmed by that but I had already been warned by Earl to first pay the junk yard where Carl had gotten the car before giving Carl anything.  Carl had been driving the car for a year or so.  Carl never made a payment in his life.  Then I should hope nobody recognized the tires or other parts said Earl.

    Sat a spell with Kayo and Earl and Gordon.

    “Why didn’t you tell Carl that the beehives underground causing the earthquakes was bullshit?” asked Kayo later.  “You’re supposed to know about that stuff.”

    “Why didn’t you?” I asked Kayo.

    The answer was obvious.  It was not safe to tell Carl anything.

    When Carl was arrested for incest, I knew about the murder conviction but had no knowledge of all the others (rape, burglary, grand theft, embezzlement are the only ones I recall).

    Carl wasn’t in the pen long for incest either.  Did I mention Carl was a psychopath?  One universal trait of all psychopaths is charm. It is mystifying to those who haven’t been charmed.  Carl charmed some nuns who helped him get out, got some money to help Carl start a business…  

    I imagine Carl was all for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the Ten Commandments just like he was against violence by union strikers.

    Politicians really can appeal to ideals if they just will.  Hard for such people to do though.  Like Carl a lot of them are psychopaths.  Hard for politicians to match ideals with their lifestyle and be believable.

    Best,  Terry  

  9. as we witness John McCain being able to make a stand in NH.  McCain is a flawed candidate as much as any of them but more electable I think than Huckabee.  I’m a flawed voter who sneered last week at a conservative Major explaining to me that he was holding out for The McCain.  Yeah right, I began listing McCain’s stuff just so I could hear myself be smug (it’s been a rather long current presidency for a progressive so please forgive me).  My Major friend smiled back at me gently while whispering that even Marion Barry was currently holding a high office in the land. Grrrrrr…don’tcha hate when conservatives burp up a fact like that just to watch the smile slip from your smug little lips?  John McCain has survived a few shoot outs at the O.K. so I already know he’ll be bringing an arsenal and the kumbaya in that arsenal is only going to be used to publicly cherish the memories of the other candidates around him who somehow sadly came to be decimated and incinerated after he pummeled them to death.

    • kj on January 7, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    most diaries in the blogosphere today remind me of the old saw:

    “Generals still fighting the last war.”

    In 2004, a knock-out punch to GWB’s kisser was exactly what was called for.  Kerry delayed the punch and lost his moment. (and 20,000 other things happened.)

    This is 2008. Kumbayba, which seems to be the newly favored word, might be what gains us the White House.  We’re also not up against GWB and that is a significant point I haven’t seen addressed. That drastically changes the parameters of the battle.

    I don’t have a dog in the fight, a horse in the race, a candidate I’m backing. I’m watching from the sidelines. And what I’m seeing is young voters signing up, Independents changing registration, and more people getting involved in the political process.

    We’ll get the nominee we get. The blogosphere might not influence this primary season in the way ‘it’ might want to, but as I’ve said before, the blogosphere will have an influence, if we choose to, after a Democrat takes residence in the White House.  

    And we can’t compare the 2006 Congress to a 2008 Democrat President either. One is a group, the other one person.  Whoever gets in the White House is going to beholden to the masses.  And what is the blogosphere if not the masses?  @;-)

    Plenty of time to fight… when we win back the White House.

    • TheRef on January 8, 2008 at 3:46 am

    How many Hip Hip Hooray’s for Edwards are required to make this a ‘candidate’s diary’. Several actual and subliminal Edward’s plugs are evident in your piece.

  10. That’s a tough one.  I’ll have to think about it.

    Seriously, thank you for giving me a clue as to what that diary was about.  I hadn’t read it.  

    It is a great point that the buzz-saw is there, will be there, regardless of the kumbaya.  Nevertheless, I do believe Kumbaya has power–totally out of fashion I know.  But I’m a singer, and I think stories and songs have power to gather people together, and create a sense of community, building loyalty to the group, which might then incorporate . . . and create a new buzz-saw (but I digress).  

    I also think people seem to be hardwired when the chips are down to rally around a prophet.  Unfortunately (Because that can lead to disappointment).  It could be that Obama’s rise is a sign of the times–pretty desperate.

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