We Shall Organize on the Beaches. We shall organize on the landing grounds, we shall organize in the fields and in the streets, we shall organize in the hills; we shall never surrender.
OK, it's some poetic liberty, but when I saw Meteor Blades' post Never Surrender, the resonance and rhythm of these words popped into my head. As bad as things may feel to today, with Samuel Alito ready to be appointed to the Supreme Court, people have stood before worse. As Meteor Blades pointed out, think of what his hero, Fredrick Douglass faced in his struggle to end slavery? What Americans fighting and organizing for social justice and progress always face. It's always tough, and no real progress comes without struggle. As one of my favorite songwriters once wrote:
Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight--
Got to kick at the darkness `til it bleeds daylight
We should look for inspiration from our heroes. But tonight, we should also look beyond the examples of our heroes, and the difficulties they had to face to prevail. Tonight, also look at the example of our adversaries.
And we should remember, the conservatives NEVER give up.
Most of you will know this answer, but it's still important to ask the question:
What is generally considered the most important galvanizing event for the modern conservative movement?
The crushing defeat, in 1964, of Barry Goldwater.
Did the conservatives give up after what should have been a humiliating defeat in 1964? Of course not. They never gave up, not once. They organized in just about every precinct in America. They put out legions of volunteers. They created organizations, and think tanks, and press operations, and trained and developed and nurtured young political operatives. They raised money. And throughout it all, they pursued a two-pronged approach:
- They did whatever they could to create Republican majorities.
- They did whatever they could to take control of the Republican party, and where possible nominate and elect conservative fellow travelers to office.
So what are we going to do? I'm tempted to say "did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?", but that may be too glib for some in this serious moment. But I do like the sentiment. Are we going to lay down on our backs, or are we going to organize and take over the Democratic party?
Remember, in many places the progressives do largely control the party and the actions of our elected Democrats reflect our principles. Tomorrow, many of us should do what Meteor Blades already did, and call our Senators who voted the right way and thank them for their committment. Both of my Senators--Levin and Stabenow--did the right thing, as I always figured they would. One of my former congressmen, John Dingell, was on NPR's Diane Rehm this morning lacerating Bush on just about every policy imaginable. Diane repeated that one of his nicknames is "Mean John," because he's still, at 78, one of the most feared members of Congress. His former legislative assistant, John Conyers, is talking impeachment. (That's how long Dingell has been fighting for working families, that 20 term Congresman and second ranking member of the chamber Conyers used to work for him...) I don't worry too much about most of my state's Democrats. But there is still work to be done in my state, and there's lots of work to do in just about every state. But instead of just calling to voice displeasure, for those of us who can, we should also voice our appreciation and respect.
But remember those two points above. We need to take over the party. But we also need Democratic majorities. So abandoning the fight for the Democratic party now is to the detriment of the country your friends, and all who will follow you. There are only two games in town, folks, the Republicans and the Democrats. Regardless of what some may wish, we're in a winner-take-all system, so your choices are the following:
- Actively help change the Democratic party into the party you want.
- Actively help change the Republican party into the party you want.
- Do nothing within the parties, and be a passive consumer of what the parties present to you.
a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective. Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth--that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only a leader but a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word.
Be a leader. Be a fighter. Hell, why not even aspire to be a hero. But whatever you do, remember, if we want a better Democratic party, it's up to all of us to accept some responsibility for making the party what we believe we Democrats and the entire country deserve. And like Meteor Blades said, never surrender.