Wednesday, January 6, 2010

To Battle (2010)

(Terry's note: I feel this is the most important message I've posted on the site. I know it is a little long, but please find the time.)

2009 was a crazy year, wasn’t it? It is hard to fathom, but it was only a year ago that the nation stood in united excitement and pride over the popular and historic new president-elect. Despite everything that had happened in 2008; the financial collapse, the two seemingly endless wars, the bitter and heated election season, the country somehow seemed stronger at the end of the year. I don’t think I only feel that way because I supported Barack Obama. I guess I could be naïve, or just wrong, but judging by his high approval and favorability ratings at the time, not to mention just the buzz and excitement that seemed to run through everything that January, I think a large majority of the country was ready to start in a new direction. We were ready for change.

What a difference a year makes. As anyone reading this knows, the honeymoon faded fast, and gave way to one of the most brutal and partisan atmospheres since….well, since George Bush was in office. In political terms, not much has changed. The minority party is entrenched deep in their bunkers, only peering out to throw the occasional verbal grenade or political obstruction. The majority party increasingly leans towards the disposition that due to the moral inferiority of the minority, it is appropriate to turn a deaf ear and leave them out. The lines have been repainted in bright new paint. It is political warfare in America, from the Hill, to the blogs, to the dinner table.

Now here we are at the dawning of a new year, a congressional election year, and pedestrians to pundits have already declared it the “Year of the elephant” (GOP). Us on the left are peering in to 2010 with a mixture of apprehension, anxiety, and even dread. And we probably should be.

2009 saw the resurgence of the Republican party, a party that just at the beginning of that year had been declared dead, somewhat reverently by the media and gleefully by the Democrats. After the train wreck of the Bush years, the divisiveness of Sarah Palin, and the Democratic takeovers of Congress and the White House, the Republicans seemed to be gasping their last breath with no way forward. The very tectonic plates of American culture, race, sexuality, status quo, climate change belief, secularity, and more seemed to be shifting against the Grand Old Party.

As we all know, that is not what has happened. At the beginning of 2010, the Republicans stand stronger (in political terms) than any time since perhaps the 1994 takeover of Congress under the Clinton Administration. While obviously the GOP had significant power under the Bush Administration (especially the first four years), I don’t think they dominated the day to day narrative as much at that time. While there have been reports already of in fighting between the tea parties and the Republican party, and even the tea parties themselves, the conservative doctrine is undeniably receiving a significant boom through it all.

What is interesting, and note worthy for those of us on the other side of the political wrestling ring, is that they did it without any true leadership in the sense of a visionary politician or exciting new candidate. Sure, there was the rise of Glenn Beck. Not only in his smash hit Faux TV show, but also in his best selling books, Beck definitely was a major player in the conservative movement in 09. We have always had these controversial magnetic pundits in politics though, from Buckley to Limbaugh, so that can’t be all there is to it. There was also the Michelle Bachmans in the party who tried to latch themselves on to the tea parties and be perceived as their leader, but I don’t think any of those people are responsible for their current momentum. Also, Sarah Palin undeniably had a good year despite her stepping down from office, which a sane person would see as a setback. Nonetheless, her book has predictably sold like crazy, she had a successful tour off of it, and being in the spotlight another year has, in the twisted world of casual politics, made her appear more credible. (Despite the fact she has done NOTHING of actual substance in said year to bolster credibility).

There are two factors that are attributable to the GOP’s winning year in 2009. The first, (bear with me on this), is the people. It is true that more average people are fired up in the name of conservatism in their everyday lives and interactions in a way that they had previously not been. Some of them are legitimately opposed to the Democrat’s agenda and are feeling far away enough from the Bush years to come out from under their rock. Others have been caught up in a trend, a frenzy, the same way that the Obama campaign had its uninformed, the following the moment fan base. This is inevitable in politics, which is all about grabbing a theme, getting the ball rolling, and attracting uninformed and naïve voters on the sidelines.

There is another side, a darker side, to the so called “grassroots” uprising, namely “special interests”. In the contentious battlefields of health care, cap and trade, and financial reform, untold sums of money are being pumped from interest groups in a full frontal assault on the progressive agenda. The money makers on top have decided it’s not worth reforming and fixing these broken systems if it is going to cost them a few extra dollars off of the next profit report. They are throwing everything they have in to opposing the legislation that is going to better serve the American people.

In short, the swelling of everyday American’s militant conservatism is coming from their blindness to the unseen fat cat forces (or in the case of one particular “news” network, masked force) that is whispering in their ear while simultaneously digging a grave for them. It is amazing the effectiveness these powers have shown at turning low income, working people against the very things being put forth to work on their behalf. I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but if you don’t believe there are big money interests working on their own behalf alone, out of the public eye, you are either delusional, blind, or naïve.

So what can we on the left do to prepare for the congressional war of 2010? Organize, inform, and motivate, on every possible level. Basically, we have to be involved. Those of us already involved need to recognize we are going to have to push it in to an even higher gear, perhaps by breaking outside of the blogosphere and organizing events and rallies on a local scale. Do work at the schools, parks, and hospitals in affiliation with your local democratic forces (or just start your own).

Those of us with one foot in, on the sidelines but not in the game, reading and being attentive but not personally actively involved, need to dive in the deep end. First and foremost, find yourself as many sources you trust as you can. When you read a news story or opinion article that impacts you, pass it on, through a personal message to a like minded friend or open minded skeptic. Post your finds on your Facebook, Twitter, blog, or Myspace. Use your social networking to direct as many of your peers as you can to being attentive and having a seat at the table. Also, take up conversations on network posts and discussion boards. The more people you bounce your beliefs and ideas off of, the stronger they will be and the more comfortable you will be with crafting a narrative for them. Democracy only works for us if we work for it.

I want to directly address my generation, the people my age, the 18-25 crowd. We have to step up. We have to pull our heads out of the MTV society. Nobody is going to work on our behalf except ourselves, and there are plenty of powers working against us. We are inheriting an unprecedented world, a world of globalization, terrorism, and too big to fail economics. I know plenty of young people who will loudly state their beliefs against war, in favor of gay rights, or for bottom up economics, but very few who are actively participant on a significant scale. In the same way as it is easier to play Guitar Hero than be a rock star, it is easier to boast about your beliefs than it is to inform yourself on them and fight for them. Carving out your political identity and informing yourself is part one, taking your message to others and encouraging them to do the same is part two.

All of us on the left can’t wait around for President Obama to get everything done, for our talk show hosts to beat back every attack, or for others in general to fight all of our battles. Part of the message of President Obama’s election was that we have to take an active role in our politics, government, and in our future. In 2010, we have to summon the same determination and fight that we had just a little over a year ago to support and reinforce our demand for change and progress.

(P.S.- Start now. Pass this message on.)


  1. This is a great post, Terry!

  2. Excellent read, excellent post Terry. Keep up that positive spirit and encouraging young folks like you to get involved, stay involved - remain curious and skeptical of motives and agendas, especially of special interests, big money, and the right wing nuts. Keep up the good work! Cheers! Stuart

  3. Excellent post!! I will be doing ALL that I can this year and I will definitely share this with as many people as I can!

  4. Very Well Said. It's time "To Take Out the Goalie" and Charge Ahead.

  5. Great post but I despair of America finding a way out of the intellectual morass it is in any time soon. Unfortunately, there are far too many undereducated, ignorant people out there who are unable to reason well. I blame our failing public schools for this but it makes for a voting public that is easily manipulated by the cynical, perfect fodder for the GOP. The GOP plays to the lowest common denominator with no apparent shame. Sadly, I fear that in the era of the undereducated and 24 hour news/infotainment this means that whoever is willing to cynically manipulate the fears of the public will have the upper hand. It is worth it to fight the good fight, otherwise this will never change, but I expect the worst while hoping for the best.

  6. Tectonic plates, not 'tetanic', otherwise nicely written.

  7. As someone from the 45-55 age group, I am glad I did read this long (as warned) post. Deep in concept, simply powerful in truth, and easy to read and grasp. Rather polite, as well. Nice. I am engaged with you on your ideas. In my circle, I am one of a few to stand for the values shared here. Most of my circle loves Glen Beck. It is lonely and mildly scary at times. Yet, I am clear on the causes and do get to connect with a small, but tight group of like-minded friends (in their 30's and 60's)on these issues and how to live in light of them. By the way, some true wisdom and insight is found in previous comments as well.

  8. Could someone please answer a couple of questions for me? I have never understood why Progressives favor more government control and higher taxes when this is the opposite of what our founders wanted. They sacrifice a lot, even their lives, to obtain individual freedom to pursue their dreams without government control. Freedom is our most precious right. I oppose any government official who attempts to restrict our basic liberties. I opposed the (un)Patriot Act. I opposed taxing those who work hard and succeed to give to those who have been "dumbed-down" by our educational system to believe that the government is there to take care of them. The government does not automatically know best. I value the freedom I have to make my own choices in my individual life. I pay more than 50% of my income for some type of tax. At the same time, I have relatives who have made bad decisions and chosen not to work but to live off of welfare. Not only do they not pay any taxes, they get money back from the government. Anyway, my main question for you is why do you support a system of government so antithetical to that desired by our founders? And why are you so willing to give up your freedoms and personal privacy to the government?

  9. Ray, Please read David McCullough's biography or watch the HBO movie "John Adams". Our founding fathers were not of uniform mind. Many believed in central government, while others believed in limited government - all believed that there were some things necessary "for the common good". But what I'm very clear about is that all of our founding fathers would have been appalled that our government is for sale and that there are "career" politicians. I think most Americans now agree that we need to remove corporate influence from government.

    As a small business owner, I have longed for health reform. Health insurance is one of my biggest nightmares. Once you have reached a certain age, costs begin escalating, coverages begin decreasing and denials become altogether too common. Few people are aware of the Medical Information Bureau where ALL your past medical reports reside, but they are not available to you or your doctor, they're available only for insurance companies. If something incorrect gets placed in you MIB file, you will be denied coverage and will have a devil of time finding out why. That is a business run for corporate benefit, not government, that has the power to deny you medical coverage. This is one example in one industry, but I can find others, so I submit to you, Ray, that we do not have the freedom to make choices - we are limited by both corporations and government. We have given up our personal privacy to corporations as much, or more, as to our government.

    As for taxes, welfare, immigration, etc., I, too, believe that they have gotten out of hand. I think there needs to be a social safety net - including healthcare and welfare - but I believe more that just like church and state, corporation and state need to be divorced from one another. We need to remove corporate control of our government and return our government to a representative government - representative of the people!

  10. beenworbed pretty much hit the nail on the head, so I'll leave it at that. I will only add that the brief answer is (as he explained) that our freedoms and right to opportunity has already been enitrely eroded by the unbridled sense of corporatism in the country, and I think it is only appropriate we push back through our elected officials and the bodies put in place to fight for the American people.

    This is a good conversation for us to have. I appreciate the civility on both sides.

  11. Great post, Terry. I think you hit the nail on the head. Thank goodness for our progressive bloggers like yourself spreading the word to fight the GOP machine before it strips us of our souls in the name of corporate greed. Excellent job.

    Come by and visit me sometime at

  12. The We Party
    A progressive response to the tea party