gerry's thoughtsHi everyone, I wrote this piece in response to someone’s request for information about what the new Progressive Caucus stood for.
Dear___, It is a pleasure to correspond with you.
I will try to answer your questions, but can only speak for me, not the whole caucus. I hope you will bear with me as I try to explain my views; perhaps you are not interested, in which case I write to clarify them for myself.
If I tell you I got my MSW at UC Berkeley in 1967, you will understand that I knew about activism and about Saul Alinsky and about SNCC, and about Selma, but not about the party, nor how to influence it. And, one by one, as every strong and charismatic leader was lost to assassination I think many of us just became really depressed the possibility of influence, and concentrated on being good people in our personal lives and good citizens in our communities. Since the 1960’s, I have worked as a clinical social worker, raised kids, became a New Thought minister, a writer, and am now raising my second batch of kids - my grandson and my partner's son, both Sophomores in high school.
If Bush and Cheney had not been such a complete disaster for America, I would probably still be only concentrating on church and family, teaching and working for peace and social justice at a community level. As it was, I was ready to say "yes" when another PC recruited me during the 2004 Dean primary campaign.
As an activist, I knew that all my friends were leaving the Democratic party in droves to become Greens or Independents or to stop voting altogether, passionately, deliberately, because in the Democratic Party they felt betrayed. They thought I was selling out by working for Democrats.
I have to tell you that I can agree with them that as I look up, I see almost as many Democrats whose votes have been "bought" by corporate lobbyists as Republicans. I am appalled along with my friends at the rush to the right of well known Democrats, and at their inarticulate spinelessness when attacked by the neocons and their media minions, and at their voting records against the interests of working families and the poor, and their silence in the face of the destruction of what I thought Democrats held dear. I guess I think that voices of dissent are essential to the democratic party, we’re the “give ‘em hell” party.
I resent more than anything the DLC idea that to win elections we must be more like Republicans. Hogwash, I say.
I tremble as the neocons deliberately disassemble the work of several generations in social policy, through legislation and through rules and regulations and through "starving" needed programs, while Democrats for the most part sit quietly by. I reject the notion that to be pro-regulation and pro-labor is to be anti-business. I believe in balance and the win-win solution. Of course capital must appreciate to stay invested, but as a small investor, I haven't noticed my own portfolio exactly flourishing. I will never agree that dishonesty and bullying can bring us long-term prosperity.
Democrats may have lost their backbone, and the media may have been bought out and lost their edge, and many Democrats can probably also justly be accused of corruption, which is probably why they are silent, but we are more creative and stronger as a people than to go down as Americans to any of that. It has been almost like Democrats have been fighting with their teeth extracted and both hands tied behind their back. I look at the Al Gore of today and the Al Gore of 2000, for instance, and I wonder where he was during his own campaign, and I know that it was DLC Democrats who silenced him, not Republicans. Then Howard Dean told us in his campaign that it was our own fault that the party had fallen into the state of disrepair that it had, because we had abandoned it. I am here to tell you that at least in S. AZ, almost all of the people I working actively on the phones and house-to-house in the 2004 Kerry campaign were Dean supporters, who personally disliked John Kerry.
I am not a politician, and although I am a bit of an armchair philosopher, I am not an intellectual. My aim is to infuse the energy of the grassroots activists, who count me as one of their own, and who had been abandoning the party, and who are "mad as hell" at the current state of affairs, and who hold a strong vision for a future of an honorable, peaceful world that works for everyone, back into the Democratic party, so their views are in fact represented and considered. Their values are honesty, honor, and fairness, based upon the worth and dignity of every human being, inextricably interconnected, and a belief in government as the moderator and advocate of the common good.
The issues at stake include corporate ownership and manipulation of the political and electoral process, political elitism, nationalism and militarism in general, especially in partnership with unregulated robber-baron corporatism, the oil wars, improper American dominance and bullying in the world, American human rights abuses and abuses of international law, war profiteering, our hypocritical buildup of new nukes while we deny other countries a similar buildup, our looting of other countries wealth and resources on behalf of our corporations in the false name of "free trade," (and then being upset when millions try to flee the abject poverty that we ourselves caused by coming here), our interference with the culture and politics of other countries on behalf of US corporate interests during both Republican and Democratic administrations, and, at home, the Katrina spectacle multiplied across the country, based on corporate welfare and de-regulation in every area of public interest, regressive taxation, unemployment and underemployment, the income gap and loss of real wages for working families, continuing disparity of lifestyle, education, housing, and wealth for white-privileged vs minority citizens, undermining of civil and privacy rights of every kind, destruction of the social safety net, inadequate health care and retirement, senior and womens’ issues, separation of church and state, oil dependence for energy needs, wanton destruction of our environment, dismantlement of our public education system, over-incarceration of especially minority Americans, the death penalty, invasion of privacy in so many ways, media reform, and so on. I guess I do have a list of grievances, do I not?
It just seems like basic decency and honesty has departed the American political scene. Then, to add to the mix, we have an entirely different global situation than we did 50 years ago, and the conceptual frames that we worked from in 1965 in large extent just don't apply in 2005. We do have to embrace globalization and an interconnected planet, because they are here to stay, but with ingenuity, honesty, and honor we can dream up global solutions that benefit the entire planet instead of plundering it for the greedy few. It is no longer a matter of labor versus business, it might be more a matter of multi-national, tax-free mega business, in partnership with the institutions of power, versus the interests of the rest of the world.
I’ll bet you weren’t expecting a social science lecture.
Anyway, I hope that you find our ideas compatible, and that you will want to help us introduce issues such as these into the dialogue within the party, and that you agree that the voices of people who are working on important issues, like the voting integrity issue brought to us by AUDITAZ and others, should have a hearing within the party.
Have a great Thanksgiving,
Peace and more peace,
Rev. Gerry Straatemeier, MSW
AZ State Democratic Committee
Co-Chair, Progressive Caucus