Finding and Losing Voice: Jesse, Jr., Marty Peretz, Ashley Judd

ACORN DC Politics Ideas and Issues

New Orleans   Jesse Jackson, Jr, 47 years old and recently re-elected and now former Chicago Congressman and of course the son of Rev. Jesse Jackson, well-known civil rights leader over the last 50 years, conceding guilt to misappropriation of campaign funds said:

“While my journey is not complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right.”

Ashley Judd, 44 years old, noted Hollywood actress for movies hardly remembered, sister and younger daughter of country music stars Winona and Naomi Judd and boisterous cheerleader and fan of the University of Kentucky where as an Ashland native she did time in school is thinking about running as a Democrat against rightwing Senate Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, thereby igniting wild whooping and hollering from Tea Party Republicans and some no-backbone Democrats in the state that thinks she is way, too liberal.  Funny thing though, when you read some of the quotes from Kentuckians in the Times:

But those attack lines might not prove as potent as Mr. McConnell’s supporters hope, judging by conversations with voters in here in Ashland. Even discounting a tendency to support a local girl made good, the city of 22,000 on the Ohio River is the embodiment of many Kentucky communities, a onetime Democratic stronghold whose voters feel the national party has drifted too far left.  Still, many residents said Ms. Judd’s character, which they admired, was more important than her politics.  “She may be a little too liberal for me,” said Janice Taylor, a 71-year-old retiree. But neither was she a fan of Mr. McConnell’s. “I’ve got tired of him,” she said. “He’s always against everything.”  Perry Dalton, 67, who retired from the AK Steel plant in Ashland, said he was a Republican but liked Ms. Judd because she was not a typical politician.  “I know she wants to come back to help her state, her community, just from her heart,” said Mr. Dalton, holding the hand of a granddaughter before a ride on an electric indoor train at the Town Center mall. “I know she’s more liberal than me. But honesty is more important to me than anything.” Joan Christian, 42, a hospital technician, said she previously voted for Mr. McConnell but would not rule out Ms. Judd even because of her current residence out of state.  “I think she’s as qualified as anyone,” Ms. Christian said. “She was an educated professional woman before she was an actress.”

Judd has spoken out and campaigned for Obama, why would she not want a voice, win, lose or draw?  Just in the same way that Jesse, Jr. has clearly been depressed and fighting for years against the fact that he might have his voice taken away.

Central to the organizing process is the quest to create a collective voice for those who have no voice in public life on issues that are important to their families, communities, and personal well being.   The phenomena of men used to railing in their backyards and women stuck at the kitchen table that sees involvement in organizing catapult them to the front of the room as leaders is not a miracle, but part and parcel of the process itself.  For low and moderate income it is the organizational base that builds the platform where such leaders can finally be seen and stand and be heard.  Without an organization their voice is once again silenced.

For Jackson, Jr. and Ashley Judd what they have is only their own solitary, tenuous bond weakly linked to a community of people.  Why would they not regret its passing or strive to secure it more firmly?

Martin Peretz, the former college professor and publisher of the New Republic magazine is a prime example of how painful it can be for some people when they lose their voice in such a way, even when they know it is gone, or in Marty’s case, actually gave it away by selling the New Republic to someone else.  (As a disclosure, I should mention that I knew Marty back when in Massachusetts largely through his wonderful ex-wife, Anne, and her work with the Sherwood Forest Fund, which was a critical funder of ACORN in the early 1970’s both in Arkansas and as we expanded nationally in the middle years of that decade.)  On the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal recently he wrote a weird piece that was frankly uncomfortable to read in which he tried to slam and trash out Chris Hughes, the Facebook “zillionaire,” as Peretz calls him in an exercise I suppose of biting the hand that had just fed him for having made changes to the magazine over the last year since Peretz sold it.  Seems he believes that the magazine now is different than when he ran it.  Seems he doesn’t like many of the new New Republic policy or political positions. What is the surprise here?  Of course it is different.  One voice was exchanged for another.  Marty seems to be tone deaf to the reality that if he had wanted to keep his voice through that base, then he should not have sold the magazine.  Having sold, he then needs to go with his life and until he creates a new base, he needs to have the good sense to shut up.

I’m rooting for Ashley Judd to take a shot and find her voice, win or lose.  Jesse, Jr. understands that though Marty may not, but needs to go back to school and learn some of the basics from her.