Don’t Be a Ninny, Make Your Case on Fox

New Orleans      What are we up to now, more than two dozen candidates in the Democratic sweepstakes for president, right?  What does it take to win the general election?  I know Donald Trump doesn’t believe this, but really, I’m pretty sure a candidate has to face all of the voters and hope they go with you, even if that didn’t work out for Hillary Clinton or Al Gore.  Yes, I know the Electoral College sucks, but the odds still favor you overwhelmingly if you win a majority of all of the voters.

This may seem a strange way to introduce the subject of Fox News, the deservedly maligned hater network, Trump drumbeater, and scourge of all things progressive.  I’m not trying to reopen the question of whether or not they should host one of the candidate debates in 2020.  The Democratic Party and its chair, Tom Perez, were correct not to reward Fox News and its team the ability to moderate one of the debates.  The Trump debacle with Megan Kelly and all of the drama last time should have been enough, but their daily fare of vitriol is also more than a plenty.  Fox News doesn’t know the meaning of the word “moderate,” and they think calling someone a moderate is a high-dungeon, slap down cussword.

Nonetheless for a candidate to refuse to do a townhall with their viewers seems crazy to me.  I’m biased, having been interviewed twice by Fox folks during their attack on ACORN.  I’ve often told the story to hundreds of organizers that one of the lessons I learned indelibly as a 20-years old as head organizer of Massachusetts Welfare Rights Organization was that you need to be available to those who disagree with you, even violently, just as you are to those who agree with you, even enthusiastically.  If you want to change minds, you have to be willing to soak up the anger and handle the hard questions.  In the American political culture, there is respect to be gained by taking the field, even in a fight against long odds, but there is none gained in hiding or running from trouble.

How are candidates going to sway voters, if they do not take the opportunity to make their case?

Bernie Sanders did a town hall on Fox, and there were 2.5 million viewers.  Two million may have hated his guts, but they listened, and maybe he moved a half-million.  That was worth an hour of his time.  Same for Senator Amy Klobuchar for 1.6 million and Mayor Pete Buttigieg with1.1 million viewers.  You don’t have to get every vote.  Just most of them.  Elizabeth Warren has said she’s not going because the Fox business model is hating.  Kamala Harris has also said no.  Believe me, others will say, yes, and they should say, yes.  This is an opportunity.  It makes it harder to demonize them as targets.  Furthermore, the policies advocated by Democrats appeal directly to the Fox demographic.  You don’t always get to pick the ground, so fight them where you can.

Here’s a last great reason for all the two dozen to line up for a Fox town hall:  it’s driving Trump crazy!  He was madman tweeting that Fox should deny the Democrats access.  He had to be reminded by one of his Fox boys that “covering candidates from both parties is part of the job of a news channel.”  He was also called out for being too chicken to be interviewed by Chris Wallace.

Face the tigers in the den, and you win.  Anyone who wants to be president needs to learn that quickly.


The Long March Against Chemical Poisoning in Death Alley

New Orleans         In a close vote, the Louisiana legislature recently rejected an effort by the oil, gas, and chemical industry to allow companies in the state to self-report to the state environmental quality agency any violations of pollution standards from their operations.  The other gift the industry was seeking was the ability to restrict any report and evidence of violation from public inspection and freedom of information requests.  In essence they wanted to report that they had polluted, but keep it secret from everyone and have the state simply take their word for the fact that they had done it, and they were truly, truly sorry, but mum’s the word.  The shocking surprise was not the pure, unadulterated impunity of the industry, but the fact that the arch-conservative Louisiana legislature, long a lap dog for the oil, gas, and chemical lobbyists, didn’t rollover for a tummy scratch, but instead barked a bit.

The stretch of the land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans has long been known as “cancer alley” because of the number of refineries and chemical plants located alongside the easy shipping access, and the level of pollution and contamination that comes with such industries.  Many of the communities most victimized have been lower income African-American areas so the evidence of environmental racism has been long established.

The Coalition Against Death Alley (CADA) has recently been organized by a variety of environmental and community groups hoping to bring attention to these issues and the continuing alarming health hazards in these communities.  ACORN’s affiliate in Louisiana, A Community Voice, is a member of the coalition, as is the progressive forum for many groups called Justice and Beyond.

CADA has called a five-day marathon action that would convene at Whitney Plantation, the restored operation highlighting the horrors of slavery near Convent, Louisiana.  From there they are hoping to march from five to seven miles each of three days back and forth across the river to highlight the tragedy, sleeping and eating in various churches along the route until a final rally on the fifth day at Southern University in Baton Rouge.

Part of the route includes traversing the famous Sunshine Bridge, so named in the Long era because it seemed to be connecting little more than sunshine from one side of the river to the other.  That climb would be 2.8 miles, so the flesh would need to be as strong as the spirit there, if it’s allowed.  The two parishes of St. James and St. John are both trying to deny the CADA marches permits that would allow some marches along the highway and over the bridge.

Admittedly, CADA faces a number of barriers to make this all come together in the blend of civil rights tactics and human rights and environmental concerns that they are seeking to merge in order to continue to bring attention to the imperiled communities facing major corporate and industrial interests.  Raising issues of climate change is front page news, but these issues have to come to the fore from the back pages, so here’s hoping they attract the attention to this march that it deserves.