Sage Advice for Barack Obama
- an Ex-CommunityOrganizer, Ex-Professor, Ex-President -
Dear President Obama,
I heard Valerie Jarrett on MSNBC saying you were delivering "sage advice" to, paraphrasing, those who had strayed #TooFarLeft
100% sincere CREDIT for engaging a very difficult subject.
However, HOW did it come to this? How is it that an Ex-President feels compelled to leap into a delicate situation at a politically dangerous time.
This is NOT a new thing. I, myself, first got involved actively in politics in 1984 with the Jesse Jackson for President campaign, here, in Maine. Muskie, Mitchell, and the folks who built the modern Maine Democratic Party up from nothing - went from amused to annoyed and beyond.
In 1988, we so far exceeded expectations with a 2nd place showing that is was, effectively, nearly a win. In 1990, we elected the Chair of the 1988 Jackson campaign as Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. That year, we elected Tom Andrews to Congress - upsetting a field of conventional candidates.
In 1992, I ran the Jerry Brown for President campaign in Maine. We won. We reelected Tom Andrews. We flipped Maine from Red to Blue. BUT, we had, "never been there, before". So we did not have enough people who understood power, organization, and negotiation. Some of us did and we tried to build bridges with the more conventional folks - those who were also willing to try.
While we remained together & active & engaged, we had some party bridge-building success, here & there. We conceived of, developed, promoted, and instituted a Coordinated Campaign Committee to link campaigns together with the party to promote cohesion & coherence. It remains in practice to this day.
But, this dynamic was not new in 1984, 1988, or 1992. The convention of 1968 remains a low mark of how NOT to run a successful party & convention. So, while we have made some progress since then - mostly, with some dangerously stupid regressions - we have FAILED to make the Democratic Party a 200,000 precinct infrastructure of grassroots democracy & community & citizenship. Yes. I have high ideals. Fortunately, I have high organizing real skills, it is 100% achievable, and, FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION - if we are going to have true self-government.
I have done my damnedest over decades. I keep hitting walls of culture. A true culture of democracy would be a strange new world and people are too busy struggling to survive to go exploring strange new worlds. Key components of the culture of our status quo are the severely limiting walls of ideology which keep us divided & conquered and also tend to block/frustrate bridge-building communication efforts.
So, I, too, struggle to survive and struggle to dream & maintain hope that we can, all, together, take a shot at doing something different so we can expect some different results. Beyond just dreaming & hoping, I have sketched out my best take on how we might proceed. Here is a basic "brochure site" with some quotes & a few paragraphs of concept: AmericanCommons.com - An American Evolution of a Civil Civic Culture of, by, & for Common People with Common Sense & Common Decency | I hope to start hoping for this, again, after we get past this near-Civil War in 2020.
So, I am certainly NOT surprised that no one has been foolhardy enough to try to untangle the HACKed-up hot mess the Democratic Party had become - even with decades of relative peace to work on it. (Tom Perez seems to be doing a good job of making forward progress.)
HOWever! NOW? The wild horses of humanity have been running wild & free for too long now - well, at least, as relates to the Democratic Party. People have been struggling to hard for too long and have been treated far, far, far too badly by the Democratic Party to be whipped back into submission.
I am 57, now. When I was 21, I pulled back the curtain of the Democratic Party and saw it was NOT run by the Great & Powerful Oz! I saw the potential for it to be worthy of its name - to be the party of the people and the party of democracy. Despite their best efforts to dissuade me, I brought my lefty friends along and then a huge wave of back-to-the-lander organic farmers & folks came from all corners of the state where they had been since the 60s & 70s.
The young folks, today, have never experienced what I have. Even for all the difficulty, I know what is possible because we did it. I know we can do it again IF we learn how to organize sustainably - A BIG, BIG heavy lift & cultural shift, I know. But, I know. SO, I know I do NOT know how to begin to persuade enough people who do not have my experience of what is possible to try to democratize the Democratic Party and rework it into a party of, by, & for the people.
But, I DO KNOW we, the people, expect and demand respect.
I DO KNOW that 50 years of DIalogues CANNOT be compressed & force-fed in 50 days of harsh alienating MONOlogues.
And, you've been kinda busy between 2008-2016, right? & before that as a father, husband, professor, & US Senator... understood.
Please bear with me as I try to describe how I am hearing your message, right now. I get that you are frustrated, worried, & sincerely mean well.
But, you are coming across as saying something like, "Hey! You crazy kids stop listening to those reckless old radicals who refuse to act their age! Now shut up, grow up, sit down and just give us grown-up experts your time, your money, and your votes! Get a life and get a job!"
And, just what the hell is Left vs. Right, anyway?
Socialism vs. Capitalism?
It has such a Flat-Earth sense to it.
It is not as if there is an infinite continuum in either direction.
The extreme beyond Socialism is its TOTALITARIAN form: Communism.
The extreme beyond Capitalism is its TOTALITARIAN form: Fascism.
History shows us, plainly & painfully, TOTALITARIANISM IS TOTALITARIANISM - whatever the color & style of the uniform.
China, for example, went, ostensibly, from Communism (totalitarian socialism) to Fascism (totalitarian capitalism) - same stylish hipster red star uniforms.
What makes the difference is democracy - demos (PEOPLE) + kratos (RULE).
The balance between people & parties is derived via the stable-dynamic chaos of a dynamic democracy. A muddle in the middle is the muck & mire where herds huddle in fear.
We have the opportunity to convert the crisis of this presidency into a great national civics lesson. By necessity, we are learning this, together, as best we can. But, we must make the most of the opportunity or we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of 2016 & worse! We, citizens, can discuss & debate in a civil manner and BUILD COMMON GROUND. We will never agree on everything, but, we seem to have it backwards & upside down, now. We focus on our disagreements rather than our agreements. We must seek agreements where we can and agree to disagree where we cannot - and then keep at it over time in a civil manner by generating more light than heat. The truth is constructed with skill & virtue in a social context - NOT with skill & vice in an ANTI-social context.
But this takes time & culture & practice & work & infrastructure to support & facilitate it. We are circling the void created by our collective failure to fully implement this. We must act while we still can.
If you do not trust the PEOPLE - HUMANITY! - enough to educate & elevate them and help them learn & practice mature self-government - in 200,000 precincts, 50 states, and ONE nation - then you will treat them like a herd of beasts of burden to be driven to market & to the polls.
SO, again, 100% sincere CREDIT for engaging a very difficult subject.
SOMEHOW, to save America & Humanity - YES, I am 100% serious - we must transform the Democratic Party into a BIG-TENT, fun & fierce force for change! We can't beat each other up & expect to win in 2020.
I close with two of my favorite quotes from a couple of folks who communicate the core idea of true democracy as well as anyone ever has, to my knowledge.
“There can be no patriotism without liberty, no liberty without virtue, no virtue without citizens; create citizens, and you have everything you need; without them, you will have nothing but debased slaves, from the rulers of the State downwards. To form citizens is not the work of a day; and in order to have [whole human beings] it is necessary to educate them when they are children.”
– Jean Jacques Rousseau
“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
– Thomas Jefferson
All the Very Best to You & Yours.