[Editor's Note: Devotees of my old blog may remember Cranky Bear, a rather impolitic friend of mine who is not shy about speaking his mind. I thought that my blog change would keep ruffians like him out, but since I am taking this Labor Day off to relax before a hectic week, I'll late Cranky have the spotlight.]
Cranky Bear here, with a rocks glass of straight sweet brown bourbon at my side, the tangy flavors of aged Kentucky gold on my tongue and ready to shake you namby-pamby liberals up for a change. Labor Day is a special holiday in the Cranky Compound when I can celebrate a past when the Left improved the lives of the American working and middle classes rather than engaging in tedious narcissism. I do enjoy me some "slow food," especially kielbasa from the traditional Polish butcher down the road, but shopping at farmers markets and driving a Prius is not doing diddly squat to avert our slide into a fearsome Gilded Age of high unemployment and the enrichment of the robber baron class. It's just one more goddamned consumer choice that reinforces our consumerist mindset, the thing that's rotting civic duty and social justice.
Take a long hard look at the following clip, wouldja? Lord knows Ted Kennedy wasn't perfect, but unlike most supposed liberals these days, the man actually FOUGHT, and fought for the right things.
Nowadays the consensus is that his primary run in 1980 was divisive and harmed the Democratic Party. I heartily disagree. He was trying to revive the real Democratic Party, which Carter had betrayed by selling out labor, pushing deregulation, and prioritizing inflation over unemployment. The horrific spike in interest rates by the Fed under his presidency slayed inflation (but too late for Carter's 1980 campaign), but did untold economic damage to people on the margins of poverty. (It also helped get Ronald Reagan elected president and solved the inflation problem for him with the economy recovering in time for the 1984 elections, one of the lesser known of the most significant economic policy decisions in this country's history.) Ever since 1980, the voices of those who shared Kennedy's passionate dream have faded, with perhaps only Bernie Sanders left in Congress to continue it.
Thirty years later we have another Democrat in the Carter mode in the White House who is similarly straying from the urgent need to provide employment and ease the economic pain of those not lucky enough to sit at the top. Like Carter and Clinton before him, president Obama likes to present himself as above politics, and to appeal to the middle by running down his own base. Any time the president raises the issue of social inequality, the Right's propaganda organs scream "class warfare" like the braying asses that they are. Usually this leads the president to retreat rather than to double down. After all, there IS a class war going on these days, but only one side is bothering to fight it.
Let me be especially frank here. The labor movement is the backbone of the Democratic Party, and has been so since at least the New Deal. On election day nobody gets the voters to the polls like the unions, and nobody is more willing to take to the streets when necessary. Remember what happened in Wisconsin last year? Walker went after unions because he knows that they are the one group on the Left with real money, and money in our current political system is power, the only power that matters. Remember the response? These are people who fucking FIGHT. Labor's demise at the hands of globalization, job migration to the South (a phenomenon made possible by federal funding of highways), and what amounts to the legalization of union busting has gone hand in hand with the erosion of the Democratic Party's grassroots support. The nouveau Democrats at the party's levers of power since the 1970s have seen it fit to be centrist by doing the bidding of what passes for capitalism's conventional wisdom. To wit: NAFTA under Clinton, deregulation under Carter, and a health plan that is a boon to private insurance companies under Obama (a plan that is Romney's write large). Guess what assholes, you helped kill off your most vital constituency. And let me not let labor's leaders off of the hook, either. You fuckers got fat, corrupt, complacent, and removed from the concerns of the rank and file.
A goddamned economic and political hurricane is currently ravaging the working and middle classes, we are truly in the fight of our lives. Right now, the same people who scream "class warfare" then turn around and cry their eyes out about the 50% of Americans who are too poor to be able to pay federal income taxes, as if they, not the billionaires who pay a lower percentage than their secretaries, are the real cheats. And these fuckers control the public discourse. Liberals, progressives, whatever the hell you want to call yourselves, what is your fucking problem? Get off your asses! Are you irritated at the president's tendency to fold under Republican pressure? Well fight their narrative, and put some of your own pressure on him, for fuck's sake! Are you scared or something to tell people that corporate America is rogering them with the red hot poker of laissez-faire capitalism? Or are you so wrapped up in your low-impact lifestyle and lip service to the right causes that you've forgotten that politics is a street fight, not a parlor game?
People are suffering, they are frustrated and looking for answers. Democrats, now's the time to ask yourself an important question: what do you believe in, anyway? As far as I can tell, the Democratic Party has completely failed to answer that question. They won't figure a solitary thing out until those of us at the grassroots level give a swift hard kick to the party's big old DLC butt.
Let me provide one answer, just so you know what I mean. I believe that it's a disgusting travesty that people in Newark and Camden are being murdered because the authoritarian fat fuck who's the governor of New Jersey would rather grandstand for the national GOP than provide funds for local governments to provide enough police officers to keep their streets safe. People are fucking dying so that millionaires in New Jersey don't have to pay a slightly higher income tax rate. Maybe it's time to be frank about the costs of "austerity" and to end the fiction that it is any way a "shared sacrifice." Since the victims are poor and black, nobody outside of these communities seems to give a fuck. If the supposed progressives out there aren't moved by these travesties to get pissed off and push for some real change, I fear that Ted Kennedy's dream may finally be dead.