Republicans are Government Interventionists, Not Conservatives

montana-governorMissoula    The patterns are just too obvious now.  The Republicans are into Big Brother and total government control.  They are not conservatives at all!  It is such a mistake for any of us to get suckered into that slick trick.  What they really want it becomes increasingly clear is total government intervention, intrusion, and control of virtually every aspect of our lives.
I was actually struck by this reading The Missoulian before heading off the gird for a couple of days to check on how the Silver Bullet weathered the winter and prepare for whenever spring shows up for real here in Montana.  The article had to do with a tiff between the Governor of Montana and the Repub majority and his view of the unconstitutionality of what both houses of the legislature wanted to do to any poor suckers who had prescriptions for medical marijuana.
I’ll get to that, but the pattern became crystal clear suddenly.

It started with the police state requirements of last year’s unconstitutional, but frequently copied, Arizona anti-immigrant law and its requirements that folks to always have “papers” on them or risk a quick frisk and a trip to jail if they looked “out of the ordinary.”  Starting with profiling, police could then have someone on the bus to Mexico or beyond because they lacked ID.  Why did the Republicans want to allow government this kind of power to intrude on privacy and personal liberties?

Now we see it cropping up everywhere in the attempts to disenfranchise the poor, the young, or anyone else who seems different (read possibly Democratic) to Republican legislatures.  And, once again, it’s “big brother BS!”  Many of these bills require people to present their birth certificates in order to register and then have a “government approved” photo ID in order to vote.  These are the same people that don’t even believe President Obama’s birth certificate despite a small army of Hawaiians standing to certify it, so what chance is the average person going to have if there’s any kind of problem.  Furthermore, people better be prepared to pay to retrieve a certified copy of their birth certificates, because you can just imagine old Xerox editions are not going to cut it.  There are tens of thousands of people in my hometown of New Orleans alone who have NO original records anymore after Katrina.  Would they be denied the right to vote?

Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer is buckling at signing the so-called medical marijuana reform act in this state because he’s convinced it is unconstitutional as presented and passed by the Republicans.  Why?  Well, it requires having an ID on you at all times AND a copy of your prescription AT ALL TIMES.  The bill also requires that you be willing to submit to search of your house and property at any time by the police and other authorities, if you have a medical prescription.  The bill requires that your medical records be public and that you be listed as having such a prescription, just like a child molester, in any community where you live.  The Republicans did mess up.  They didn’t require an embedded GPS chip up your butt so they could track these suckers every minute of the day, but once they think of that, a new bill will be coming.  Schwietzer happens to be a Democrat, but he also happens not to be stupid.  He actually wants reform on this medical marijuana thing which has been a hot issue in the state ever sense folks from throughout the Northwest registered last year for prescriptions.
Nonetheless, the Republicans when left to their own instincts just want the government to intrude everywhere in the most authoritarian, police state ways imaginable.  This is not a pretty pattern.  It has nothing to do with being conservative.  It’s about brining a “cold war” into the country and using government as a tool to herd and punish, sort and select, and mainly to tilt the field and stack the deck their way.  There are no principles to any of Rthis; it’s just all about how the powers that be can use government to be as punitive as possible.


Ralph Kinda Right, Kinda Wrong

New Orleans ralph_naderRalph Nader has been riding the fence line for many a year to good result and much effect, even though he’s been on the highline at the timber edge for the last few years given the disdain many had for his quixotic runs at the White House.  He weighed in with a letter to the editor printed in the New York Times the other day taking issue with the final snarky, “what the f**k” paragraph in an editorial where the paper was upbraiding the folly of a Tea Party proposal to try for an amendment that would allow state legislatures to overturn Congressional acts at their leisure.  Re-reading the paragraph, it is hard to disagree with Nader about how much of a below-the-belt, out-of-the-blue cheap shot this was in a piece that otherwise was simply a standard Tea Party takedown:

“In past economic crises, populist fervor has been for expanding the power of the national government to address America’s pressing needs. Pleas for making good the nation’s commitment to equality and welfare have been as loud as those for liberty. Now the many who are struggling have no progressive champion. The left have ceded the field to the Tea Party and, in doing so, allowed it to make history. It is building political power by selling the promise of a return to a mythic past.”

Ralph correctly lauds the work being done by so many:

“Hello!  There are plenty of distinguished progressive champions lobbying, rallying, exposing, suing and organizing at the national, state and local level.  Yet they have been mostly left out of the mass media, on television and radio and in the news, feature, style, opinion and book review pages of major newspapers, including The Times.”

In his letter he finishes (or at least this was the published version) with:

“After all, mass media coverage matters greatly for social and political movements.”

In the 70’s when we were working with Ralph, I used to comment that we had to be careful because “if you lived by the press, you died by the press,” which in the crypto speech of organizers meant that if you counted on the press to build your base, then you had to also beware that when the press tired of your act, you could lose your base as easily since they controlled the gateways.  We should never denigrate the huge value of advocacy and advocates, but this is the peril of speaking to and speaking for a base, which is unorganized and not organizational.  Frankly, it was why the right knew how important it was to kill something like ACORN as a membership organization with a clearly defined base and to weaken and destroy unions for the same reason.

And, this is where Ralph is kinda wrong and speaking to our old times 30 and 40 years ago, rather than the new times where we currently organize.  Now there are more outlets for more voices both in established and informal media including the internet, so that frankly the monolithic press is dead, drowned in thousands of voices, including advocates, though still a powerful and incoherent follower of the herd once it is stampeding.  Though Ralph is right that the media amplified a lot of small sounds from the Tea Party, he is wrong to not understand that their unquestioned ability to organize and evolve a national base with deep grassroots in lots of communities and actually contend for power is something for which progressives have no answer and no current match.  Having fought at the hustings, they also sometimes lost, but also sometimes won.

It hurts me to say that despite their rudeness and their wrongful finger pointing, the Times is right that we have failed to organize a deep, grassroots base willing and able to contend for power across the country and not simply around Pennsylvania Avenue and Congressional watering holes.  Until we are willing to organize deeply and aggressively at the local level, contend for power win-lose-or-draw, and meet and match the challenge of the Tea Party at that level, any protests about unfairness are about as powerful as writing a letter to the editor of The New York Times.

Needless to say that’s just more “speaking truth to power,” and powerless by definition.