Public Interest Network Filling Some of Old ACORN Space

New Orleans     Talking to old friend and comrade, Zach Polett, on Wade’s World was great fun, and, as always, a political education about the state of play around the country.  Sitting in the KABF broadcast studio, we began by noting that the station was celebrating completing its 34th year, having gone on-the-air at the end of August, 1984.  I asked Zach, if he wasn’t the head organizer for Arkansas ACORN at the time, and indeed he was there as Scott Holliday hit the buttons to begin this long playing “voice of the people” station that is now an institution in central Arkansas

Before the show went on the air, I joked with Zach that I was happy to have him on so that I could finally understand what his current job really entailed, and he laughed and said essentially “about the same as it was,” just not ACORN.  Over recent years since the shuttering of ACORN in the US, Zach has been campaign director for the Public Interest Network, the network directed by Doug Phelps that also includes the old Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a legacy of Ralph Nadar, and Environmental America, a membership organization.  By the end of the show, it was clear that Zach was still as up to his elbows in progressive politics, initiatives, voter registration and engagement, as he was for all his years as ACORN’s political director.

Their voter registration program is focused on six states, and for the most part they are the ones that count mightily for the mid-terms, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, and California.  He expects their new registrations might hit 175,000, which he noted isn’t ACORN-scale, but still makes a big difference.  And, he’s right!  Talking later about North Carolina’s latest slap down by federal judges of their Republican legislature’s ham-fisted and discriminatory gerrymandering based on race and of course power, he commented that looking at the decision it was clear that the judges had just gotten ticked and lost patience with the gang, not caring what little time they had before the vote.

Looking at the political landscape from his position on the playing field, Zach was less optimistic than many of the Demo-strategists and pundits about the chances of control of the House of Representatives flipping in the mid-terms.  His verdict was basically, it’s possible, but let’s see if the Democrats can’t blow it.  Two ways that could hurt he underlined would be continuing to talk about disbanding ICE and impeaching Trump, both of which are playing into the President’s hands and are likely to energize their base.  Though complimenting California billionaire Tom Steyer on his contribution to making a relatively unknown African-American mayor the Democratic nominee for governor in Florida, Zach was plain-spoken about the damage Steyer’s impeachment drumbeating is doing.  When it comes to the Senate, Zach thought the Democrats would lose three or four seats this round short of a miracle, though he thought John Tester would survive in Montana.

The more we talked about the national scene, it was clear that Zach and the Public Interest Network have done a good job of filling some of the space left with ACORN’s departure from the national field, albeit with a different constituency and policy tilt, and that’s a blessing for the hopes of American democracy now and in the future.


New President in Mexico Could be Gamechanger

Source: Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

New Orleans      AMLO as Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is known, has been elected president of Mexico by a wide margin with his new party promising to end violence and corruption and run the government on a progressive platform.  Not only did Obrador win, but his coattails also are carrying his new party into office in several states and into a stronger position in the Mexican Congress.   His victory promises huge changes in the political and economic culture in Mexico and could reverberate to the benefit of the United States as well.

Despite news reports to the contrary, Obrador is not the Mexican Trump.  He is an experienced politician and former mayor of Mexico City.  He has also been a contender in previous elections, losing narrowly several years ago in an election his supporters still believe he won.

The only passing comparison to Trump might be the fact that he is disrupting the normal political class in Mexico, but in his case, it is avowedly for the common people of Mexico rather than the entitled and long-standing elites.  He campaigned aggressively on a progressive and reform platform.  In his victory speech Obrador couldn’t have been more inclusive saying,

“I call on all Mexicans to reconciliation, and to put above their personal interests, however legitimate, the greater interest, the general interest.  The state will cease to be a committee at the service of a minority and will represent all Mexicans, rich and poor, those who live in the country and in the city, migrants, believers and nonbelievers, to people of all philosophies and sexual preferences.”

He has promised to help farmers who have been hard hit, driving some of the migration pressure at the United States border.  He has promised to raise pensions for workers.  He has promised to review oil and other public contracts that have been sources of inefficiency and corruption and to fund some of his programs with the money saved from eliminating corruption.

As a progressive on the left, Obrador is already been baited by business interests invested in the status quo claiming he would be a Mexican version of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, but there is little evidence that this would be the case from his record.  The very huge size and scale of the country and its economy also means that using oil wealth as Chavez did, will not be possible in Mexico.  On the left, there are concerns that he has promised too much.  Sounds like he is in perfect position.

Who knows how deeply President Trump and his advisors understand this.  Hopefully they will not divert the hope here with ridiculous proposals for Mexico to pay for Trump’s folly, the border wall.  Regardless, the rest of us will have our fingers crossed that Obrador can turn the ship of state in the direction he has pledged.  A healthier and more equitable and secure Mexico is not only good for Mexicans but vitally important to the United States.


Please enjoy Stop this War by At Pavillon.

Thanks to KABF.