ELECT THE PEOPLE'S LAWYER: David Van Os, Democrat for Texas Attorney General

Monday, October 03, 2005

Fighting for the People

[also published as one of the Greatest Threads at Democratic Underground]

In my humble opinion, interest-group politics within the Democratic Party over the last 20 years has resulted in pandering, patronage chains, cooptation, fracturing, and defeat. This pattern operates across the board, from racial minority interest groups to issue-specific interest groups. The resulting failures are especially harmful for the working and poverty classes of the historically disempowered and disenfranchised African-American and Latino populations, as well as a large mass of similarly situated but politically alienated white blue-collar and agrarian citizens. Such populations especially, need a political party speaking for them, fighting for them, and winning for them. The Democratic Party could be that party and should be that party.

Thirty years ago when Texas corporate money-power lawyer Robert Strauss became DNC chairman, he instituted a new philosophy of chasing the middle and making sure the corporate power elite would not perceive the Party as a threat to its interests. Ever since then, the Democratic Party has constructed its campaign messages around the mythical "swing voters" instead of around the base. Democrats have got to discard that bankrupt philosophy, and in its stead campaign for the base. Going to African-American churches and talking about civil rights and Martin Luther King is not campaigning for the base. Going to Cesar Chavez marches and calling out "Si Se Puede" is not campaigning for the base. Note my phrasing--I refer to campaigning for the base, not "to" the base.

Campaigning for the base means fighting, not just giving lip service to platitudes. It means fighting, forcefully and confrontationally, for economic justice, social justice, and the promise of the Declaration of Independence as the main message of the campaign, the message given to all the voters. The Democratic Party has not done this in 30 years as the overall message of the Party and the top of its ticket. The Party has been reserving its social, economic, and Constitutional justice message for targeted communications delivered to interest group audiences. It should be no surprise when those audiences start wondering if the message is sincere.

Lyndon Johnson, who might have become the greatest president in history were it not for his duplicity and stubbornness in getting the country into the Vietnam debacle, did not confine the Great Society message to speeches to interest groups. It was his main message for America as a whole. By betraying LBJ's Great Society vision with the installation of chase-the-middle mythology, the Party itself played directly into Republican hands in letting civil rights be defined as special-interest politics--which is absurd, but which the Party itself allowed to happen by deliberately downscaling LBJ's main message for everybody into limited appeals confined to interest group audiences--thus demeaning what was the most noble flowering of the Democratic Party's message for America into pathetic pandering.

In this campaign we are restoring the active fight for economic and social justice, a fight that confronts corporate power and racist power rather than trying to pacify them, as The Main Message--indeed as the very reason for the candidacy. This is campaigning for the base. Campaigning for the base actually means, simply, fighting for the base, not begging and pandering for their votes, but fighting for them as their advocate, fighting for the people against the powerful. The people will vote for us when they see that we are fighting for them, not because we are positioning ourselves for votes, but because our convictions compel us. The people will see there is something really worth voting for. The act of voting will not be a buy-and-sell transaction with patronage and promises as the medium of exchange, but rather a joining and sharing of a mission.

In the process we will be expanding the base, expanding it to potentially everybody, no longer confining it to narrowly defined interest groups. It is the opposite of what the Democratic Party has been doing for 30 years. Democratic campaigns that do this, and do it from the heart, will win.

David Van Os

posted by snarko! at 11:36 AM


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