Thursday, January 28, 2010

Zinn's words in 1980 ring true in 2010

Yesterday, Howard Zinn passed away. But like with all great writers, his life lives on with his words. Zinn wrote many great books and articles, but in the last chapter of A People's HIstory of the United States, he masterfully summarizes the problems in our country in 1980 that still ring true today.

Democrats all over the country have felt the pain of this month's losses. Many of the reasons for our defeat are due to what Nixon called, the "silent majority,"-the white working class population that feels alienated, and ultimately, has helped move our country to the right in the past forty years.

In one of many paragraphs that predicts our current problems, Zinn writes,

" In the mid-seventies, another study (Donald Warren, The Radical Center) found that alienation has spread upward into families above the poverty line. These are white workers, neither rich or poor, but angry over economic insecurity, unhappy with their work, worried about their neighborhoods, hostile to their government-combining elements of racism with elements of class consciousness, contempt for the lower classes along with distrust for the elite, and thus open to solutions from any direction, right or left."

After re-reading Zinn's last chapter in A People's History of the US, I am in awe of his ability to summarize the problems in 1980 and predict the ones in 2010. He knows that once all the oppressed groups can align themselves, a new people's movement that acts on the behalf of the majority, without race or class acting as a hindrance, is attainable. He writes,

"In the past, aggrieved groups had been set against one another, preventing that unity which was necessary to combat the power of the elite. Was there a new possibility, now, for such unity?"

Let's honor Zinn and Obama's words in the State of the Union, and find new ways to form coalitions that put a stop to an establishment that does not benefit the majority of American citizens.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

State of the Union Eve

Obama's first State of the Union is upon us, and it has been quite the year for the 44th President. We all had high hopes after a groundbreaking campaign, but we also knew the scope of problems that he was expected to fix. After Scott Brown's surprise win in Massachusetts, the Tea Party is setting high expectations for the potential of their political power (see this week's New Yorker article). To others, we fear what that may mean. Thomas Friedman wrote last September about the sentiment against Obama that has become angrier and more hateful. It reminds him of the months leading up to Rabin's murder in Israel in 1995.

"I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing...Even if you are not worried that someone might draw from these vitriolic attacks a license to try to hurt the president, you have to be worried about what is happening to American politics more broadly. Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work."

Why can't we, the American people, agree that we are getting screwed? How many people voted for Scott Brown who have been denied access to an affordable health care plan because of a previous illness? How many people in Massachusetts rail against health care when they have been receiving benefits from the government to make their lives easier? The anger coming from the Tea Party is scary and out of control. Obama must feel helpless. No matter what he says, he does not reach people who scowl at his presidency.

In a March 11, 2009 New York Times Book Review Article, Michael Tomasky reviews a book that analyzes what the lobbying industry has done to Washington and our country. At the end of his review, he looks at the road ahead for Obama.

" Obama's approach on health care and other matters is to bring all interests together and tell everyone up front that they'll be heard but won't end up getting everything they want. This openness may well end up being a weakness. The President's bet- and he might be overestimating his own powers of persuasion- is that he can use his high approval ratings and popular support for reform on these matters to force outcomes that are negotiated in more or less good faith. "

Almost a year later, it is sad to see the opportunity that was squandered and those who have stood in his way, for no other reason, but a political one. While Friedman examines the pressures that Obama feels, Tomasky accurately predicted the mistakes he made. Obama no longer believes he can use his popularity to bring about change. Instead, he should return to the skills that allowed him to emerge from the trenches of Chicago city politics. In a time of crisis, our country needs strong executive leadership. No more consensus building moderate positions. We may not agree on everything, but we elected Obama to fight for us, and we hope he will.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Deconstructing Parties and Cars

If Coakley doesn't win today, the Democrats must deconstruct their strategy, just like Damian Ortega did with the Volkswagen Beetle.

Monday, January 18, 2010

10 in 10 Version 2

A slightly altered version for Invade NOLA, the new brain child from Curious Tribe. I met Justin Shiels several years ago, and asked him to design flyers for NOLA YURP.

His work was always very impressive. I've been wrestling a lot with the future of media, and this online magazine has a lot of potential.