A pre-election message to Democrats: We the people.

T.A. Barnhart

We’re coming down the homestretch: In just a couple of days, ballots will “drop” in Oregon. Most of us will have them in hand by Monday, and then we can finally — finally! — do what we’ve been waiting to do since 2004: Vote George Bush out of office.

And Gordon Smith. Vote down Mannix and Sizemore’s ballot measures. Add more Democrats to Congress and the Oregon Legislature: Kahl, Barton, Howe, Gilbertson, Stiegler, Van Orman, Matthews and others equally deserving of mention. We can complete the job we began in 2006 of ridding government of as many Republicans as necessary in order to get back to the business of building a government that serves the people.

It’s crucial that voters understand that party affiliations do matter. For all the failures and short-comings of Democrats, both nationally and locally, the difference between the two parties is massive and historic. There are voters who understand the differences in ways that younger voters simply cannot understand.
FDR fireside chat
FDR fireside chatA couple of weeks ago, I was in Silverton as part of the Bus Project’s new secret project, the “Strike Force”. i was out knocking on doors for House candidate Jim Gilbertson. Near the end of my day, the door at one modest cottage was answered by a sweet woman in her mid-80s. As I began my spiel — in a raised voice, due to her hearing problems — she interrupted me with the only question that mattered to her: “What party is he?” And when I responded that he was the Democrat, her response was emphatic: “Of course I’m voting for him.”

Of course she is. People of her generation have damned good reasons for voting for Democrats, and those reasons are based on policy and experience. For people in their 80s, some of their earliest childhood memories would be of the Great Depression, of people losing jobs, homes and more. Their own parents may have stood in soup lines or travelled cross-country in the vain hope of a job, any job.

As this woman came out of childhood, she would have seen the country changing and a new leader bringing calm, stability and, in time, prosperity. That same man, a Democrat who had been derided by many prior to his election as a lightweight, led his nation and the world through a world war and set the stage for decades of peace and prosperity. For this woman and her contemporaries, Democrats represent not “the other party” — Tweedledee to the GOP’s Tweedledum, as self-serving demagogue Nader would have it — the Democrats, for these veterans of some of America’s darkest times, are the party that took care of them and their families. The party of strong national security, freedom, jobs, education, prosperity. The Democrats are the ones who ended the specter of their “golden” years being impoverished; African-American elders not only can remember a Democratic president signing Medicare into law but the Civil Rights Act.

We have forgotten the great 20th Century heritage of the Democratic Party. We’ve allowed the propaganda of the past forty years to warp our memories and obscure a clear vision of what the party of FDR has, for the most part, remained: the one national party that serves the middle and working classes, that seeks to end poverty, that still believes in the Bill of Rights and a free, public education, that ended the Great Depression and defeated Hitler. The neocons’ greatest victory was not winning the White House or gaining a foothold in the Supreme Court: it was getting Democrats to forget who they are and believe the lies of the right wing noise machine.

As you prepare to vote for Obama, Merkley and other great Democrats who stand ready to serve us here in Oregon and in Washington, recall once again what this party was and can be. There is a reason people like the great, lamented progressive Paul Wellstone are Democrats, and it’s not political expediency. Wellstone knew his party was the political party that could and would bring the kind of change to this country that we needed.

Others know this, too, and have a gift for delivering the message clearly. Adam Klugman has produced two great videos that remind us why being a Democrat is a thing of which we should be happy and proud. The first was made in 2004, co-written with a man no one can deny is a great Democrat, Jefferson Smith.

(I love this video, with Jefferson’s voice imploring: “Not left, not right, but forward.”)

The second was made this year with Adam’s business and creative partner, Enrique Arias, an active Oregon Democrat (chair of the DPO Faith Caucus) and a delegate to the 2008 Convention. The Democratic Party of Oregon partnered this effort:

As we get ready to cast our votes, it’s time to take back our state, our country — and our heritage as Democrats. Our party spans the nation’s history; the brilliant declaration of our nation’s independence was penned by the first great Democrat. The two world wars were won by Democrats, and it was Democrats who ended the Depression, segregation and the careless, suicidal use of our planet’s resources without even stopping to do a little science. Yes, Republicans and others have played significant vital roles throughout these vital changes — although Lincoln would have no comprehension of what has become of his party — but always at the fore were Democrats.

Take back your nation, but take back your party as well. Vote Democrat, all the way up and down the ticket, without any regret or shame.

And be ready to continue the work when they take office. The election is just the beginning. The real work begins the next day. That’s when we prove this party is what America needs.

  • Ray Duray (unverified)

    T.A. you say "it’s time to take back our state, our country — and our heritage as Democrats."

    Does this mean you'd be willing to purge the DLC from the Party? As an old fashioned unvarnished progressive of the old-school I came into the New Deal coalition as someone who supported the "Economic Bill of Rights" concept put forth by FDR in his wonderful 1944 State of the Union speech. FDR knew that Germany and Japan were already defeated nations and he was looking rorward to a world that John Reed, Emma Goldman, Eugene V. Debs, Mother Jones and Big Bill Haywood would approve of. In other words, the goals of the socialists, communists and trade unionists of the early 20th Century were becoming mainstream concerns. (And not a decade or two too soon, I might add.)

    Having established the basis of a fair society with the regulatory zeal and "socialized" spending of the New Deal, here's what Roosevelt proposed in 1944 to further the goal of a decent society:

    1) "The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;"

    [The DLC was a principle promoter of the Wall Street initiated NAFTA scam which has been utterly devasting to working people in this nation.]

    2) "The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;"

    [Instead of fighting for working wages, the DLC coddles big business in order to secure bribes, euphemistically called campaign financing, in order to subvert democracy and replace the processes of democracy with 30-second hate ads which turn out to be extremely remunerative to a handful of media CEOs while utterly defiling the political process. As far as food is concerned, the DLC was totally pliant to the scheming of Archer-Daniels-Midland and Cargill to create the unabashedly grotesque corn ethanol industry which has created a global crisis in food price inflation.]

    3) "The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;"

    [While vast subsidies flow to ADM and Cargill in their ethanol racket, essentially zero row crop or fruit orchard farmers receive a penny in government price support. Grain farmers are proportionately subsidized in an insane scheme such that larger, more prosperous and more corporatized a farm operation is the greater the likelihood of a farm subsidy. This is completely upside-down economics. It is corporate welfare for the rich. It is DLC policy.]

    4) "The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;" " [The majority of DLC Democrats acquiesced recently on the obsene $850 Billion scheme to hold harmless the reckless gamblers in the Wall Street casino. While 9 banks are considered to be the "chosen ones" and are subsidized and coddled by the DLC via Henry Paulson, about 4,000 of the nations 8,000 commercial banks are likely to be forced out of business in one of the most horrendously wrong-headed social experiments of our era. Ask your local community bank president if he approves of DLC Democrats conspiring with Wall Street megalomaniacs to eliminate community banking and I'm sure you get an earful.]

    5) "The right of every family to a decent home;"

    [In the Great Depression the FDR Administration did the decent thing and protected the homeowners of America by buying up troubled mortgages in the Resolution Trust Corporation. Today, the DLC has abandoned America's homeowners in favor of bailing out the criminal class on Wall Street that precipitated today's financial crisis.]

    6) "The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;"

    [The Democratic Party for the first time since 1944 has abandoned it platform plank stating that it is party policy to fight for universal health care. The DLC types in the party have been captured by the grotesquely inefficient American medical swindle system.]

    7) "The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;"

    [At every instance imaginable the DLC has capitulated to the will of Wall Street to transform our nation's pension system from one of defined benefits to one of uncertain outcome via 401(k)s and other efforts to defraud the honest working people of the nation.

    8) "The right to a good education."

    [Any decent nation knows that education is essential to preserving a way of life. Somehow in this nation however we have come to insane notion that strapping aggressive debt packages on those seeking higher education is somehow OK. I think this is a swell racket for the bankers, but it is insane national policy. Of course the DLC loves the fact that the hyper-rich bankers who gorge on profits from Sallie Mae and other debt-creation swindles are great campaign contributors.]

    9) "All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being."

    [And finally, the DLC seems to be in love with imperialism and bloated mindlessly useless military budgets and immoral expeditionary wars for profit.]


    So, T.A. when you tell us to "get in ranks and support the Party!", I'm a bit hesitant. I actually, as you can tell, don't see the Party as deserving of the loyalty of the great preponderance of the population who are being abuse by both major political parties at this juncture. And if you don't believe me, just watch the pandering, obfuscation and mealy-mouthed indifference to the realities facing America's masses at tonight's mis-labeled "debate".

    Further resources:

    Open Debates

    Democracy NOW!'s Amy Goodman will host a Pacifica Network Presidential Debate this Sunday at 8 PM at Columbia University. Expected attendees include Ralph Nader (Independent), Cynthia McKinney (Green Party) and Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party). I dare say that there will be vastly more truth expressed at Columbia than at Hofstra... WBAI-New York will have the live stream.

  • Makaden (unverified)

    You can't vote Bush out of office. The constitution puts him out. Ticky-tack, maybe. But true.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    "The right of every family to a decent home;"

    What about those who don't have a "family"...i.e. Single people who are over 40, no kids, no spouse - don't they have a right too? Or are they pariahs?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    The majority of DLC Democrats acquiesced recently on the obsene $850 Billion scheme to hold harmless the reckless gamblers in the Wall Street casino.

    That was after Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank rigged their committee hearings to limit testimony only from Paulson, Bernanke and Cox and reject opposing opinions. As more is revealed we are are learning that the Clinton administration can take credit for some of this latest debacle.

  • (Show?)

    the DLC is the worst thing to happen to the Democratic Party since 1980. the only reason the organization thinks it matters is because Clinton won the presidency twice. but he did so because of his own personality; everything else the DLC touches turns to shit. they are the most weak-assed Dems of all. fortunately, most Dems could give a rat's ass about them; that's why Howard Dean is DNC Chair.

    i don't favor "purging" anyone, Ray. that's not how democratic politics works (note the small "d"). DLCers have the same right as anyone to participate in the Party. good luck finding many in Mult Co, but they are around the state. but the emergence of Obama and others of the Dean mindset indicates the DLC is already an historic anomaly.

    also, you make the big mistake of assuming the Party to be a coherent entity. Oregon Dems are tremendously diverse, and we differ greatly even from what is going on in WA or CA, much less Alabama. the current crop of Dems in Oregon politics and govt not only deserve loyalty but have earned it. from Kitzhaber and Roberts to Kroger and Brown and Merkley to Gelser and Kotek and Clem and too many others to name, these are people who have demonstrated they are not Party hacks but citizens who care about their state, who work tirelessly on behalf of other citizens, and who find common purpose and support in the Democratic Party here in Oregon (parties).

    you could have just asked me my opinion of the DLC in the first place and saved a lot of typing.

  • (Show?)

    Makaden, i knew that when i wrote it, but it just sounded too good to change. literary license. it will feel like we're voting him out. at least this time we're pretty sure voting for the Dem will actually work (not ruling out another coup entirely, however; i'm not stupid).

  • (Show?)


    I wish it were true that the DP is still the party of FDR, but it isn't, and hasn't been for quite a while. It still remains largely the party of Clinton. You know, "the era of Big Government is over." Despite having beaten Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama is a consumately Clintonian candidate.

    Here is what FDR said in October 1936, on the eve of his greatest landslide:

    We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.

    Is it really possible to imagine Barack Obama saying anything of the sort? He's a smart and admirable man, who I hope will be elected to avoid a McCain disaster and because of other good effects his election will have on the country, but he isn't and doesn't aspire to be an FDR.

    The Nation hopefully opines (more or less) that we might in the current crises make is so again. Perhaps they are right, but it won't happen automatically or just by voting D. Personally I'm not sure how to make it so. Perhaps you have ideas from which I can learn.


    Our party spans the nation’s history; the brilliant declaration of our nation’s independence was penned by the first great Democrat. The two world wars were won by Democrats, and it was Democrats who ended the Depression, segregation and the careless, suicidal use of our planet’s resources without even stopping to do a little science. Yes, Republicans and others have played significant vital roles throughout these vital changes — although Lincoln would have no comprehension of what has become of his party — but always at the fore were Democrats.

    frankly is ahistorical claptrap. Jefferson was a slaveowner who unlike the Federalist Washington did not manumit "his" slaves in his will, and the Democrats were the party of slavery, "Redemption" from Reconstruction and of disfranchisement of black men and poor whites, and Jim Crow. Woodrow Wilson ran on a disingenuous anti-war platform on which he reneged in World War I, and, as an ardent Southern segregationist, introduced segregation into federal government employment, and supported the resurrection of the KKK by showing Birth of a Nation in the White House. Democrats prevented the passage of anti-lynching legislation through the '20s and '30s. FDR relied on votes from the "Solid South," with results including segregation of federal housing, exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers (overwhelmingly black in the Southeast, with increasing Latino & Filipino composition as you moved west and up the Pacific Coast) from the National Labor Relations Act union organizing rights, segregation of the armed forces in World War II, and previously mentioned failure of anti-lynching laws. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, it was a bipartisan effort, with a larger majority of Republican reps and senators voting for it than the majority among Democrats.

    It is to the DP's credit that it came to reject its racist heritage, despite the electoral costs. But this is not a matter of consistent progressivism throughout DP history, it was a major break from the past. (Current Republican efforts to disclaim the consequences of Nixon's "Southern Strategy," and the entire heritage of Goldwater anti-Civil Rights Republicanism since 1964 are disingenuous, of course).

    The idea that the victory in World War II was in some way partisan is unworthy. It is truer that pre-war isolationism and pro-German sympathies were disproportionately Republican.

    Ray, I think you describe an important section of FDR's supporters, but I don't think he fits the picture himself. Among other things, the figures you cite all favored class struggle and the victory of workers in that struggle -- contrast to FDR identifying "class antagonism" among his enemies.

    There is also the issue of Democratic support of U.S. imperial power and adventures, whether it be e.g. Wilson's occupation of Haiti, or FDR's backing of the first Somoza in Nicaragua ("He may be a bastard, but he's our bastard"), or JFK and LBJ in Vietnam ("Johnson's War"), or the Clinton/Albright position that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis under a failed sanctions policy were "worth it," or the support of most party "leaders" for our aggression against Iraq in 2003.

  • (Show?)

    You know, "the era of Big Government is over."

    Of course, the era of Big Government is back. And it's bigger than ever.

  • (Show?)

    Good point, Kari, and I hope to get a chance to see how Barack Obama responds to that situation and to work to influence it. Just to be clear. :-> As a historian, I've always been partial to the idea that the times make the actors as much as the other way around, or more. Obama, or McCain (heaven forfend), certainly will have occasions to which to rise.

    Also, TA, despite arguing history, thank you so much for your vigorous activism.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    The two world wars were won by Democrats, and it was Democrats who ended the Depression, segregation and the careless, suicidal use of our planet’s resources without even stopping to do a little science.

    In 1917 the British and the French would fight one day to gain a few yards and the Germans took them back the next, and so on for several months. The conditions were favorable for a truce that Britain, France and Germany considered, but the British had an understanding that Wilson would get the United States into the war and bring victory over the Germans. So the possibility of a truce was rejected and the war continued taking the lives of somewhere around a million men until the last few minutes before the armistice was signed. Several historians have expressed the belief that Wilson in effect set the stage for World War II. He also set a precedent for the abuse of civil rights that G. W. copied.

  • Gus Frederick (unverified)

    Add more Democrats to Congress and the Oregon Legislature: ... Gilbertson ... and others equally deserving of mention...


    "Gilbertson" is from Central Oregon, and as far as I know, is not running this year. However, Jim GILBERT, (which is where the "Gilbertson" link goes) IS running for State Rep in District 18, (Silverton, Molalla, Aurora), against voice actor Vic Gilliam, who was appointed after the Republicans shamefully and knowingly ran a man with terminal lung cancer who resigned a month after the election, and died several months after that.

    Gus Frederick Silverton, OR


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