Dealing with the future by learning from the past

Sam Smith – A time of crisis like this can bring back some old values and skills that we had been taught were no longer important in a time of modern media and capitalism.

For example, what are farms’  new role in a time like this?

Beyond providing food, there’s something else to be gained from farms. Farming was built on a model that emphasized skill, cooperation and multi-tasking in a way not seen in a typical corporation. These are skills that we are going to need in a big way these days.  For example, you can own a farm, but to run it well you’re going to need help you not only pay, but respect, work well with and rely upon.

And like these times, we can not longer escape reality by clever marketing. Reality is all around us. Just like at a farm. I was taught this early in summer work  When I was 13 I helped to move a house and about the same time helped jack up a 120 foot barn to put more rocks under it. Both these incidents remain in my mind because they showed the triumph of skill over talk, a quality necessary to successful farming. Nelson Mandela, for example,  credited cattle farming rather than universities as his inspiration. Moving herds around, he explained, had taught him how to lead from behind.

The other place where I discovered skill and cooperation leading power was as an officer on a Coast Guard cutter. All 50 men on our ship, regardless of their rank, were essential to our work and while one might have more authority than others, you were still highly dependent on them, leading to a spirit of mutual assistance.

I was reminded of this with the firing of Captain Brett Crozier of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. Like a good captain would, he put his crew first with his plea for help. The Navy Secretary, Thomas Modly – despite having once been a Navy officer himself – acted as he might in his former job as managing director of PricewaterhouseCooper – and dumped Crozier. It is worth noting that the crew cheered the captain Molby had fired.

Such qualities as skill and cooperation soar in times like these. It was a matter I addressed back in 1994, in my book Shadows of Hope:

The question we ought to be asking is not what a failing system should be doing but whether such a system can do anything except to make matters worse, all the more so by trying to do something about it. The problem is similar to that illustrated by President Eisenhower’s bumbling agriculture secretary Ezra Taft Bensen. When Bensen announced that he would be working day and night on the farm problem, another politician wisely commented, “I wish he wouldn’t. He was causing enough trouble when he was just working days.”

Ironically, we have come to our present unhappy state in no small part because of our willingness to turn over individual and communal functions to the very systems we now ask to save us.

Functions formerly performed by community, family and church have now been assumed not only by government but to an increasing but unappreciated degree by the private corporation. Consider the modern shopping mall, a common contemporary replacement for a town business district. Although these complexes clearly serve a public function (and are often built with considerable public concessions), they are in fact controlled by a single corporation…. The village square has thus been privatized….

There is also the economy that Hazel Henderson calls the counter-economy — the non-monetarized economy — which she says is “still invisible to most economists and policy makers. It is based on. . . altruism, volunteering, community and family cohesiveness, cooperation, sharing, respect for the environment and the rights of future generations, and conservation of all resources — human and natural.” The economic effect of this economy is enormous. For example, the UN’s International Labor Organization, studying the role of women in the nonmonetarized segment of the economy, has reported that women globally work 47 percent of all productive hours, but receive only ten percent of the world’s wages and own only one percent of the property.

We have been forced into a time when public relations, clever systems, corporatism and technology won’t save us. We need to rediscover some of the earlier values and techniques used in times not as purportedly clever as ours were meant to be.  We need cooperatives more than corporations, skill more than slogans, and decency over just winning.

Surviving misery and fear

Sam Smith – The virus crisis  periodically raised in my mind the question: have I ever been through something like this before? Three cases came to mind:

First, was my bout with prostate cancer three decades ago. One thing that sticks in my mind was driving by a fast food restaurant in my neighborhood and thinking that my life was over. And then, minutes later saying to myself: “This is my life now. I’ve still got to live it.” A moment to remember.

The other thing I recall is coming out of surgery and being told by the doctor that they had to give me extra anesthesia. Why, I asked.. “Because you were talking too much politics.” Even at the peak of this dismal experience, I had apparently found refuge elsewhere.

Then there was the time six decades ago, with the draft was in full swing,  that I applied for Coast Guard Officer Candidate School. At that time all CG officers had to have top secret clearances and my investigation  concluded that my father, who had been in the New Deal from beginning to end,  might be sympathetic to communism. It wasn’t true at all, but it was only six years after Joseph McCarthy had been finally censored and so it was still not strange to be asked, “How many Communist books have you read?”

I fought the charges successfully and went to OCS, graduating second in the class among reserves. I would serve as public information office for a CG district, aide to an admiral, operations officer of a cutter, and executive office of a reserve unit.  But none of this erased the horror as a 23 year old having to prove yourself not a traitor. It would so impact me that I even turned down jobs at the NY Times and the Washington Post in part because I was afraid that this issue would rise again. The irony was that I became an alternative or “underground” journalist, led to the left in part by the pain of what I had experienced.

Five years later I started a community newspaper on Capitol Hill in Washington, only  it was called the Capital East Gazette because it served not only those  close to the Capitol but a larger area that was in total 70% black. I was inspired by a former staffer of Saul Alinsky who was organizing our ‘hood and we even got a grant from a local Lutheran Church.

But  a year and a half later, Martin Luther King was assassinated  and our ‘hood became the target of two the city’s largest riot areas. I would later joke that too many of our readers wanted to burn down too many of our advertisers but it was for me, like the city as a whole, a total disaster.  Our living room had smoke from the fires four  blocks away and the store on the corner near my office was smashed. .

We had tried to make our community better but too late.

I tell these stories merely as my own examples of what we all live through: moments we had not anticipated or known how to handle. And I tell these stories to encourage you to think of your own and to remember that you did survive them and will again. Living through madness is part of the price of being human

Memories revived by "The Irishman"

Sam Smith I went to see “The Irishman,” expecting just the fine movie that it is, but was surprised by a number of passages that also brought back memories of my own life. For starters there were the shots of the 1957 Senate hearing by the Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management. I was then a 19 year old sophomore with a summer job as a reporter for WWDC News in Washington and covered the hearing shown in the film, including an interview with Hoffa. And then there were a number of references to mob involvement in the assassination of John F Kennedy, an alleged role that remains unresolved. Kennedy also kept popping up in my life as I wrote about some years back:

In the summer of 1957, I covered a Senate investigation of the Teamsters Union. Among those seated at the long panel table was young John F. Kennedy from Massachusetts. His brother, Robert, served as a counsel for the committee. At one point, a prostitute witness made some off-color comment that brought guffaws from the audience; and Bobby’s own giggles were amplified by his mike. The humorless chair, John McClellan, rapped his gavel and told Kennedy that “This is not a joking matter.” It would be the only time I ever saw a Kennedy look chastened.

The testimony of Hoffa went like this:

Robert F. Kennedy: Did you say, “That S.O.B., I’ll break his back”?

Jimmy Hoffa: Who?

Kennedy: You.

Hoffa: Say it to who?

Kennedy: To anyone?

Hoffa: Figure of speech… I don’t even know what I was talking about and I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Kennedy: Uh… Mr. Hoffa, all I’m trying to find out, I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. I’m trying to find out whose back you were going to break.

Hoffa: Figure of speech… figure of speech.

Later, I wrote in a 1959 letter:

The Kennedy brothers – like the remark about the Quakers — came to Washington to do good and did very well. Jimmy Hoffa, who’s astute if corrupt, told me once in the midst of the rackets hearing, “Bobby Kennedy is trying to make headlines for his brother so he can get him to the White House, but he can’t find his way out of this room.”

It may be that what happened in that hearing room helped to lay the groundwork for Kennedy’s later assassination – if theories of a mob hit are true. Certainly Hoffa hated the Kennedys and Washington investigator author Ron Goldfarb wrote that in “August 1962, Hoffa recruited an aide to kill RFK. In February 1963, John Kennedy told Newsweek’s Ben Bradlee that Hoffa had recruited an assassin to kill the attorney general.”

Frank Ragano, long-time lawyer for both Santos Trafficante Jr. and Hoffa, wrote a memoir with NY Times reporter Selwyn Raab in which he recalled several conversations between the two mobsters:

<blockquote class="tr_bq">
<p>Trafficante: Somebody is going to kill those sons of bitches. It’s just a matter of time.</p>
<p>Hoffa: Something has to be done. The time has come for your friend and Carlos [Marcello] to get rid of him, kill that son of a bitch John Kennedy. This has got to be done. Be sure to tell them what I said. No more fucking around. We’re running out of time – something has to be done.</p>

After JFK’s assassination, Ragano claimed that Marcello told him, “When you see Jimmy, you tell him he owes me, and he owes me big.”

And Trafficante thought they had got the wrong man: “We shouldn’t have killed John. We should have killed Bobby.”

Goldfarb quotes the brother of Sam Giacana as boasting, “We took care of Kennedy. The hit in Dallas was just like any other operation we’d worked in the past.” Writes Goldfarb: “Sam Giancana himself was murdered in 1975 just days before he was suppose to talk to the Senate intelligence committee about plots to kill Castro.”

He also notes that “Two biographies of leading mobsters report that Marcello exclaimed, ‘Don’t worry about that Bobby son of a bitch. He’s going to be taken care of ‘ According to one participant Marcello told his listeners he would recruit some nut to kill Kennedy so it couldn’t be traced to him, ‘like they do in Sicily.’” Marcello would later deny the quote.

As Goldberg – who went on to work for Bobby Kennedy and knew a lot about organized crime – wrote in a 2009 article for Daily Beast:

Drawing on incriminating tapped phone conversations, new literature and investigations, and Trafficante’s lawyer’s 1994 memoir (Frank Ragano’s Mob Lawyer), I concluded that the assassination was generated by Jimmy Hoffa. Oswald was, as he claimed, a patsy. It was a mob touch to use someone to carry out their deadly assignments, and then to kill that person to avoid detection.

Photo by Hank Walker, Life Magazine.

If Goldfarb is right, then during my introduction to journalism, I not only interviewed John F. Kennedy but one of those responsible for his assassination. I interviewed JFK moments after he had announced he was running for president, a photo of which appeared in Life Magazine. Later, in January 1961, I made my only foray into the real world of network television. I was hired for Kennedy’s inauguration by CBS News as a news editor. Along with fellow WWDC newsman Ed Taishoff, I sat all day capped with a headset in a ballroom of the Hotel Washington, turning phone calls from CBS correspondents into stories which were then placed on Walter Cronkite’s personal news ticker. If there was one thing Ed and I knew, it was how to take news from callers, turn it into copy and get it on the air fast.

Meanwhile, the military draft was breathing down hard and the Coast Guard had accepted me for its officer candidate school. My strange first assignment was as public information officer for the Second Coast Guard District, headquartered in St. Louis. I would explain that it was harder to guard the coasts in St. Louis, because on the Mississippi River there were two of them.

The Coast Guard was short on officers and so one’s list of collateral duties ran long, in my case two of them thanks to the newly elected John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy had noted during his inauguration parade the lack of any blacks in the Coast Guard Academy contingent and called our bosses at the Treasury Department the next day to seek a remedy. And so the word went forth, even to the federal building in St. Louis, to do something about it and I found myself, although the name hadn’t been invented in 1961, serving as the district’s affirmative action officer.

I was totally unsuccessful. St. Louisians of any ethnicity were disinclined to think that going out on any of the major oceans was a good idea for either themselves or their children. The black businessmen and civic leaders I addressed agreed and seemed to regard me as an agent of the devil when I described what a Coast Guard officer actually did and under what circumstances he often did it.

Kennedy had also declared the nation unfit and wanted the military to set an example for everyone else. And so I found myself assigned to run a physical fitness program for the hundred men of the district headquarters. It all went somewhat better than the affirmative action effort, but in the end those who started out fit tended to stay fit while similar trends prevailed among the flabby. Being in charge of all this inertia did, however, inspire my own efforts and I pumped iron regularly in the dingy YMCA gym with that marvelous assortment (including my case a professional wrestler) one found in such places before fitness was defined by silly people in spandex jumping up and down and yelling faux encouragement at their bedraggled wards to the sounds of excessively loud rock.

Eventually I would end up as operations officer aboard the CG cutter Spar out of Bristol RI. Our job was maintaining aids to navigation and heavy weather search & rescue. In November 1963 we were also assigned to take two 40 foot patrol boats to be used to guard John F. Kennedy when he was vacationing in Florida. At a flank speed of 15 knots it had taken us days to get down there and days to get back. I had the conn as we finally pulled up to the dock at Bristol with everyone anxious to go ashore.

We weren’t more than a hundred feet off the dock when a crew member came out on the deck below and called up to the bridge, “President Kennedy’s been shot.” I thought: what a stupid thing to say ata time like this. I edged the ship up gently to the pier, got the lines properly secured and went below. Only then did I realize that it was true. Despite days away from home port, no one left the ship for three hours as we huddled around the mess deck’s television.

The fading of ethics

Sam Smith – Watching the House investigation into the Ukrainian situation has led me to feel that I was seeing two vastly different species of human beings. On the one hand, many of the foreign service officers were precise, fact based, honest, and non-judgemental in their descriptions of what had happened. Meanwhile, their Republican questioners chose to create false or mythical conflicts, exaggerate or distort, and, in general, sound like third rate attorneys for Donald Trump. In searching for a precedent, I thought of the years that Dixiecrats fought civil rights in Congress.

It also reminded me of how the moral in our society  – whether offered by teachers, ministers, public servants or activists – has been increasingly downplayed by a media in favor of serving power that is clever or entertaining, but indifferent to ethical content. Even in religion the mainstream news prefers to quote noisy faux Christian evangelicals more often than real Christians who lack the hype that the media wants to project at every opportunity.

And nobody talks about it. It’s just a given. As I thought about this topic, however, I had to confess that even I contribute to the problem. I ride my recumbent bike daily watching TV shows like The Office, Parks & Recreation, Mad Men and Rake – all programs that feature people cleverly manipulating  their roles without much concern for honesty or ethics. But then, from a theatrical point of view, moral values are sort of dull. So I save them for my news reporting, but not my bike riding. And, in my defense, Steve Carell is certainly more decent than Rep. Jim Jordan.

And yet our politics have increasingly become a form of entertainment. Go back before television and it would have seemed really strange to nominate an actor like Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump for president. Our understanding of a congressional  hearing would have been based on the reporting of print journalists rather than treated as another mid-day online contest.  

How to deal with this irony – in  which political news has become a battle between alternative fantasies – is hard to tell. But if we don’t want to live the rest of our lives with politicians like Trump we better start talking and doing something about it.

Diversity is more than two

Sam Smith – One of the reasons it’s so hard for America to come together these days is that we have increasingly divided the nation into twos: black and white, male and female, old and young, rich and poor, socialist and capitalist. One of the few exceptions is LGBT+ – a bizarrely bureaucratic phrase, to be sure, but one encompassing the varieties of alternative sex.

Ironically a lot of this bifurcation is done on the premise that it is helping to reduce racism, sexism and so forth. In fact, the more you minimize the complexity of groups, the more the results become cliches. including highly derogatory ones that work counter to the presumed goal.

For example, applying the term “white privilege” to all whites ignores the fact that there are more poor whites than there are blacks in total and that applying the term, say to a mine worker or a car builder is not likely to help your cause.

And, as noted here before, Barack Obama is almost universally described as our first black president yet, in fact, spent less time with a black parent than he did at Harvard Law School. What is rarely noticed is that one reason Obama may be as popular as he’s been is because he understood  both cultures and the complexities in their relationship.

In fact, Obama, as a child of an interracial couple, reflects 17% of all marriages today and 10% of all married folk. Back in 1967 only 3% of marriages were cross-cultural.

Further, while strong  identity may have considerable psychological and cultural value, it can work against one’s political goals for the simple reason that if you don’t represent a majority you have to find allies. Finding issues that one shares with others won’t damage your self-identity; it will in fact improve the view of that identity in the minds of those with whom one works. This has been perhaps most strongly exemplified in the past by groups like the Irish and Jews who learned that one of the best ways to advance is for a minority to lead the majority – as, for example, Martin Luther King Jr did so effectively.

In reaching this goal, it helps to educate both children and adults in the true complexities of various cultures. If, for example, you teach kids about the varieties of history and culture within blackness, they will be less likely to reduce it all to a cliche.If the media would stop oversimplifying it to an either/or matter, adults would be helped as well. For example, the media might admit that our society is partly socialist already and we’re not about to dump our public fire departments.

i learned about cultural complexity as one of six kids with the same last name and skin color but different in many other respects. I like to tell the tale about having my older brother – then energy secretary of Puerto Rico – working to build an oil port there at the same time that my youngest sister was fighting one in Maine.

And living in DC where, for five decades, we whites were in the minority. skin color didn’t hold a candle to neighborhood, job, politics, education, achievements and so forth. After all, in many elections you had to choose between two or more black candidates. You learned to replace race with a name and a record.

According to the latest projections, America will become like DC in a couple of decades. Whites will be in the minority. The best way to handle this is to stop dividing American into twos. And for the media to report the true complexity of our various demographic groups instead of quietly supporting the damaging cliches about them. And let’s stop treating cultural diversity as a two sided coin rather than countless variety. After all, the more true diversity we recognize, the more likely we will find something in common.

Six decades on the case

Sam Smith

Sixty years ago I got my first full time journalism job, working for a Washington radio station and a news service for 26 stations around the country. I covered everything from murders and fires to White House news conferences. driven in part by the assumption that given the facts, the public and its leaders would do the right thing.

For the next two decades the changes occurring in America lent support to this idea. From civil rights to getting out of Vietnam it was just a matter of working hard enough at it.

Even my own role changed. I no longer just wrote about things, I became a part of things – like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the DC anti-freeway movement. I started one of the early publications of what would become known as the underground press and brazenly turned my back on job offers from the NY Times and the Washington Post.

There were plenty of things to do. For example:

In the 1970s we published a first person account of a then illegal abortion.
In 1971 we published our first article in support of single payer universal health care
In 1970, we ran a two part series on gay liberation.
In 1970, we proposed DC statehood and explained how it could be achieved. We also proposed an elected district attorney which the city would get in 2014. Today statehood is supported by 80% of DC’s residents.
In 1966 we published two articles on auto safety by Ralph Nader
In 1965 we called for the end of the draft.
In the 1960s we proposed community policing

You didn’t know when change would come, but you knew it would if you and your friends just worked hard enough. Even such things as the DC riots or the heavy struggle over Vietnam didn’t slow you down.

But forty years ago something began happening that would ultimately climax in the mob regime of Donald Trump. Something that would turn action based on heartfelt optimism into a grim existentialism in which you tried to do the right thing regardless of the outcome. As one existentialist had put it, “Even a condemned man has a choice of how to approach the gallows.”

A decade ago when my wife and I left Washington I put it this way:

Washington has contributed so little to the nation other than to endorse, codify and promote policies leading to the collapse of the First American Republic. Since 1976 Congress has passed more laws than it did in the previous two centuries. And to what end? To place us in the dismal condition in which we now find ourselves.

I sometimes find myself reciting the lines of Tennessee Williams in Camino Real: “Turn back stranger, for the well of humanity has gone dry in this place. And the only birds that sing are kept in cages.”

Those of us who have fought for alternative approaches have constantly been met with contempt and disinterest by those in power, whether in politics or the media …. One of the privileges of power is to set standards, even if they are the standards of the slowest kids in the class. Another privilege is never having to say you’re sorry. Which is why, beginning in the 1980s, we began to lose the struggle and have been doing so ever since.

In considering what caused this change I often turn away from traditional news and think about the changes in our culture, those alterations often massive yet under-reported because they don’t have public relations agents. Here are a few things that come to mind:

Corruption has changed massively. As I have noted before, prior to television corruption was a feudal arrangement in which power was traded for services. If you examine the big bosses of an earlier time – like Mayors Curley, Daley or LaGuardia – you find men of great influence without great wealth. But with television, service was replaced by image, and the question became who could could get the most money to pay for the best image. Actual service to the community became irrelevant.

The corporatization of America over the past forty years has not merely been an assault on economic justice. It has vastly changed the nature of our culture, as I wrote some years back:

About sixty years ago, America was just a decade past the last war it would ever win. The length of the average work week was down significantly from the 1930s but real income had been soaring and would continue do so through the 1970s. We had a positive trade balance and the share of total income gained by the top 1% of the country was only around 8%, down from 24% in the 1930s.

As Jermie D. Cullip describes it:

“From 1950 to 1959, the total number of females employed increased by 18%. The standard of living during the fifties also steadily rose. Most people expected to own a car and a house, and believed that life for their children would be even better. . . The number of college students doubled. Getting a college education was no longer for the rich or elite

“Over the decade the housing supply increased 27 percent . . . Growth in the economy also led to increasing popularity of other financial intermediaries. Life insurance companies flourished for the first half of the decade and a large number of new private firms entered the market to absorb the excesses of personal savings.

“By mid-1955, the country had pulled out of the previous year’s recession and gross national product was growing at a rate of 7.6 percent. The boom was so great that the budget for 1956 predicted a surplus of $4.1 billion. With the surges in production and the economy, the 1950s is often recognized as the decade that eliminated poverty for the great majority of Americans. Over the decade, GNP per capita almost doubled and the public welfare reacted accordingly as the cost of living index rose by just 1 percent and unemployment dropped to 4.1 percent'”

But here is the truly amazing part – given all we have been taught in recent years: America did it even as its universities were turning out less than 5,000 MBAs a year. By 2005 these schools graduated 142,000 MBAs in one year.

In other words, even the economy was doing well before the corporatists took over. Now we not only have a tougher and far less fair economy, the corporate values we have been taught have overwhelmed the country’s traditional community, religious and moral standards.

The rise of the gradocracy: MBAs wasn’t the only degree that exploded in recent decades. For example, when I started over half the reporters in the country only had a high school education. I didn’t let my sources or my colleagues know I had gone to Harvard because often it would have worked against me. Also, in 1977 there were 10,000 lawyers in DC. Now it is about 55,000. That’s 788 per 10,000 Washingtonians vs. only 89 per 10,000 in New York.

The rise of a gradocracy in the capital and in the country had a number of effects. For example, the politicians I covered when I was young were notable because of their social intelligence. They were able to relate personally with their constituents.

Again, before television, politicians knew how to make real contact with real people. But as pols became better educated they thought and spoke differently. For example, the plethora of MBAs and lawyers put the emphasis on approved process rather than wise politics.Lyndon Johnson, for example, would never have proposed legislation as complicated and hard to decipher as Obamacare. The old pols talked about public works, not infrastructure

The growth of education has also affected liberalism generally, moving it away, for example, from the working class approach to things. I can still remember a couple of labor songs I learned when I was young because liberals back than thought unions were important: “When you see a sign on a picket line saying this place is unfair, just pass it by like a real nice guy. The stuff is just as good elsewhere.”

The average liberal today speaks much more like someone trained in class rather than in the ‘hood. One of the prices of this is an emphasis on analysis over action. Thus racism is constantly dissected even as actual efforts to rid us of it are weak. And being verbally correct on an issue has become more important than dealing with it effectively.

The atomization of liberalism – When I got involved in activism, one of my mentors had been trained by Saul Alinsky. Among Alinsky’s principles was bring different groups together to combat those at the top. As Wikipedia puts it, “He wanted them to start ‘banding together to improve their lives’ and discovering how much in common they really had with their fellow man.”

Today we have a strong atomization of those groups that could reach their goals far easier were they in alliance with others. Aided by the niches of the Internet and the sanctity of analysis taught by colleges, it hard to find cross-cultural alliances. There is little understanding, for example, that there are more poor whites than there are blacks in total or that while ethnic prejudice is bad, economic disparity can be more damaging. And if a low paid white guy sees someone attacking “white male privilege” on television it’s not a particularly useful way to bring him into the cause.

The Dixiecrat revival: While there has been a lot of talk about the similarities between Trumpism and fascism, America’s own South may be a better model. In fact, even the Nazis got some of their ideas from the segregated south, as Becky Little notes:

In 1935, Nazi Germany passed two radically discriminatory pieces of legislation: the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor. Together, these were known as the Nuremberg Laws, and they laid the legal groundwork for the persecution of Jewish people during the Holocaust and World War II.

When the Nazis set out to legally disenfranchise and discriminate against Jewish citizens, they weren’t just coming up with ideas out of thin air. They closely studied the laws of another country. According to James Q. Whitman, author of Hitler’s American Model, that country was the United States.

“America in the early 20th century was the leading racist jurisdiction in the world,” says Whitman, who is a professor at Yale Law School. “Nazi lawyers, as a result, were interested in, looked very closely at, [and] were ultimately influenced by American race law.”

In particular, Nazis admired the Jim Crow-era laws that discriminated against black Americans and segregated them from white Americans, and they debated whether to introduce similar segregation in Germany.

Yet they ultimately decided that it wouldn’t go far enough.

What Trump has done is to revive the spirit and strength of an anti-black predominately southern culture that had been suppressed by the civil rights movement. As with the Dixiecrats, it is dependent upon the powerful giving license and language to those who hate. And the essential trick was for rich whites to convince poorer whites that their problem is poor blacks.

In thinking how to tackle these problems, it is worth remembering that good change is most easily driven by the young and by the local. The young did it in the 60s and it can happen again. And we tend to ignore the fact that most change is started by local activism, including, for example, the environmental and marijuana movements.

It is also worth remembering who creates and controls our problems. They are not the folks who have been badly misled by the likes of Trump; they are a small group of the powerful who are actually quite afraid. Bear in mind that as far back as the Middle Ages, the powerful were scared enough to live behind moats and castle walls.

Today’s elite is just as afraid. How do we take them on? By bringing all who feel screwed together. To find what your identity and subculture can share with others. Not everything to be sure, but if blacks, Latinos, women and labor unions sat down and reached a consensus on things that mattered to all, the powerful would not only be scared, they could be beaten. at 4/29/2019 Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Some Democratic primary concerns

Sam Smith – There are several concerns about the Democratic primary race that are worth keeping in mind, not because they are decisive but because they might have an insufficiently noticed effect. They include:

Are there too many candidates? It’s an extraordinary number and one of the problems is that it will distort the results of state primaries. In other words, someone might win a state by, say, 29% but not be the collective second or third choice of that state’s voters. In other words, the biggest niche beats the consensus. Among other things, this reflects the lack of clear leadership in the Democratic Party. Of course, still to be enacted ranked choice voting would deal with the problem but that’s for the future. 

Is show business going to beat substance? Trump is our greatest example of image defeating reality, but it is an increasing character of much of American politics. It helps to explain the number of candidates who have personalities but are weak on policy and experience. And it helps to explain why someone of real substance  – like Elizabeth Warren – (who comes across as sort of teacherish)  isn’t doing as well as she might. 

Are the two leading candidates – Biden and Sanders – too old? Your opinion on this doesn’t matter. It is a decision voters in general are going to make and it could be something of a sleeper. Bear in mind that only 8.4% of those 75 or older work full time in U.S.

– How do you attract white voters if you attack them? Too much liberal talk includes sweeping criticism of whites. Bear in mind the next time you talk about “white privilege” that there are more whites in poverty than there are blacks in total. The rhetoric needs to focus on the guilty leaders and not their followers.