Sunday, November 14, 2004

Power to the people, right on

I heard the most amazing speech today. KPFK, my local Pacifica outlet played an address by Bill Moyers, the gentle yet fierce progressive who has found a home on PBS in recent years. As I didn't hear the intro, I had no idea when the speech was given. Only after I did some web research did I find out that it was from June 4, 2003, and had been presented to Take Back America conference sponsered by the Campaign for America's Future. I'm really glad I didn't hear it then, but rather now, since it still seemed so relevant. It was by far the most uplifting, invigorating, and important speech I can remember hearing, especially in light of recent events...you know elections?

I have resisted posting anything about the red states/blue states post election naval gazing that has been present in the blogosphere since 11.02.04. Others have done wonderful jobs of dissecting the left's failure to prevail, while many have leaned toward conciliatory actions to the right wingers, especially regarding the "morals" thing.

Step back with me to the curtain-raiser, the founding convention of the People's Party – better known as the Populists – in 1892. The members were mainly cotton and wheat farmers from the recently reconstructed South and the newly settled Great Plains, and they had come on hard, hard times, driven to the wall by falling prices for their crops on one hand and racking interest rates, freight charges and supply costs on the other. This in the midst of a booming and growing industrial America. They were angry, and their platform – issued deliberately on the 4th of July – pulled no punches. "We meet," it said, "in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political and material ruin....Corruption dominates the ballot box, the [state] legislatures and the Congress and touches even the bench.....The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced....The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few."


But Moyer's address is what I have been waiting for: a validation of everything I believe is right about the left. The progressive attitude, compasson for humanity instead of corporations, a call for control over markets and monopolies, in short, the credo of the Democratic left.

This is what's hard to believe – hardly a century had passed since 1776 before the still-young revolution was being strangled in the hard grip of a merciless ruling class. The large corporations that were called into being by modern industrialism after 1865 – the end of the Civil War – had combined into trusts capable of making minions of both politics and government. What Henry George called "an immense wedge" was being forced through American society by "the maldistribution of wealth, status, and opportunity."


And he credibly defines the current administration and its real architect:

We should pause here to consider that this is Karl Rove's cherished period of American history; it was, as I read him, the seminal influence on the man who is said to be George W.'s brain. From his own public comments and my reading of the record, it is apparent that Karl Rove has modeled the Bush presidency on that of William McKinley, who was in the White House from 1897 to 1901, and modeled himself on Mark Hanna, the man who virtually manufactured McKinley. Hanna had one consummate passion – to serve corporate and imperial power. It was said that he believed "without compunction, that the state of Ohio existed for property. It had no other function...Great wealth was to be gained through monopoly, through using the State for private ends; it was axiomatic therefore that businessmen should run the government and run it for personal profit."


And here it is brought completely forward, the manifestation of Hanna in the guise of Rove:

This "degenerate and unlovely age," as one historian calls it, exists in the mind of Karl Rove – the reputed brain of George W. Bush – as the seminal age of inspiration for the politics and governance of America today.


That the "leaders" have moved so far away from the idea of "...of the People, By the People..." is frightening. And yet, so many in both the governed populace as well as those who govern seem to be not bothered by this at all. And the argument can be made that the far right is consciously promoting this agenda, where people are mere tools of corporate and government schemes.

Much was done in the late 19th century that was clearly progressive, including ideas championed ty the Republican President Theodore Roosevelt:

Here is the simplest laundry-list of what was accomplished at state and Federal levels: Publicly regulated or owned transportation, sanitation and utilities systems. The partial restoration of competition in the marketplace through improved antitrust laws. Increased fairness in taxation. Expansion of the public education and juvenile justice systems. Safer workplaces and guarantees of compensation to workers injured on the job. Oversight of the purity of water, medicines and foods. Conservation of the national wilderness heritage against overdevelopment, and honest bidding on any public mining, lumbering and ranching. We take these for granted today – or we did until recently. All were provided not by the automatic workings of free enterprise but by implementing the idea in the Declaration of Independence that the people had a right to governments that best promoted their "safety and happiness."


More about this as I fully digest Moyer's words. But as I read the transcript, I still feel what I experienced as I heard this address on my car radio; an affirmation of what the left is truly fighting for. We're competing for the badge of Warriors for Humanity, Fighters for Fairness, Resistance Forces against oligarchy, and we're convicted in our beliefs of justice and morality.