After 2004: Resources for Dealing with the Aftermath of the Decision

Like the rest of America, we immersed ourselves up to our necks in the presidential election of 2004. The stakes were high, and the consequences were dire. Since Election Day 2004, we've learned just how right we were that the consequences of America's choice would affect every aspect of our lives. Of course, because the vote was almost evenly split, we have to remember that while half of America chose progress, another full half chose a big step backwards into mankind's dark history of fear, superstition and violence. We've created After 2004 to follow through on the efforts we made in 2004, and to help others translate their own efforts into effective post-2004 action.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Think Tank Schmink Tank

Since George W. Bush's narrow victory over John Kerry in November of 2004, the more insecure members of the Republican Party have been wringing their hands about what's wrong with the progressive movement. "How can we be more like the Republicans?" ask these lily livered imitation liberals, with their lower lips quivering in uncertainty. "After all, the Republicans won in 2004, and what we want most of all is to win, right?"

These worryworts come up with the oddest ideas to explain Bush's re-election victory. One of their favorite concepts is that the Republican team won because Republicans have lots of "think tanks". Someone in the freaked-out wing of the Democratic Party thought up the idea that Republicans have captured the American imagination because the Republicans have been able to take a lot of corporate donations and use them to fund little groups of conservative enthusiasts, who do nothing but sit in tanks and think up ways to win. In response the neurotic pseudoprogressives have called upon everyone on the left to donate lots of money so that liberals can start foundations, and consortiums, and committees, and institutes.

Oh, Yick! Of all the weird, antilogical ideas to come out the mushy-minded collaborationists in the Democratic Party, this one is the number one stinker. The last thing that liberal America needs is more "think tanks". I mean, first of all, who wants to think in a tank? Not me. The "tank" metaphor for a thinking center is plainly rotten. It embodies all the formality, orthodoxy, and containment that stifles creative thinking and effective action.

Let's be clear about one thing: Liberal America has always had more think tanks than the Republicans, and it's been a great disservice. All across America, little liberal think tanks have been going full tilt for generations. One of their guises is the Peace and Justice Center. A Peace and Justice Center is a place where a bunch of liberals come together to talk to one another, mostly arguing about little differences of opinion like whether Mumia Abu Jamal should be freed or should be given a fair trial. In Peace and Justice Centers across America, people have responded to the war in Iraq and other dangerous policies of the Bush Administration by, well, holding discussion groups and working to revise their mission statements.

It's nothing I have against Peace and Justice Centers in particular - the point is that, on the liberal side, the moral formal organizations become, the less responsive to events they are. I've had this trend confirmed by the results of a project I've undertaken in the last few months to build up a new framework for progressive networking across America. Overwhelmingly, the progressive groups and individuals that have been the least responsive have been those organizations with the more formal titles and structured procedures. Individuals and small, informal groups that focus on quick action instead of theory and process have been those who are quickest and most effective in the effort, adding their efforts. The liberal equivalents of "think tanks" have explained that they're just too busy with committee meetings, if they bother to respond to the call for action at all.

What we liberals need is to be liberal. Let the high-ups in the Democratic Party establish their new progressive "think tanks". When it comes to those of us who are in the rank-and-file, marching in lock step to the commands of the foundations and committees is among the least effective forms of action. Each one of us has a great deal to contribute to the progressive movement - as free and creative individuals. As foot soldiers merely executing the plans of people who do nothing but sit around in tanks and think, we're expendable and cheap.

Dare to be just another troop member in the big culture wars. When you get active, cooperate with others, and participate in networks, but never allow those networks to overcome your individuality. In a struggle to protect freedom and celebrate the worth of humanity, we will achieve victory only when we decide that we want to win on our own terms.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Fighting the Cartoon Culture Wars

Who would have thought that the religious right wing radicals would gain so much power after the re-election of George W. Bush that America would be reduced to fighting about the morality of cartoon characters? I never would have guessed it myself.

But here we are, on Groundhog's Day 2005, and the Republicans have gotten themselves up in such a frothy tither about their Crusade for fundamentalist values that the Republican base is now waging war on cartoon characters.

Yesterday, I got an email from the American Family Association. Now, I'm not a member of the American Family Association, and I was more than a little bit bothered about that when I received the email. I mean, after all, I am an American, and I do have a family. What's more, my family is made up of a husband, a wife, a son and a daughter. How could you get more Ozzie and Harriet than that?

But, then, I read the rest of the email and I understood. You see, you only get to be an official member of the American Family Association if you have the right values. Specifically, you only get to be an official member of the American Family Association if cartoon characters make you so angry that you make financial donations to programs specifically designed to destroy them. Yes, that's right - destroy cartoon characters.

The Republican anti-cartoon crusade started with Spongebob Squarepants. You see, the Republicans had caught Spongebob actually holding hands with a starfish! I mean, that's gay, when a sea sponge holds hands with a starfish, right? Although sponges don't really have hands, and starfish don't have hands, starfish do have little sucker feet, right?

Well, the Republicans are not content to accuse Spongebob Squarepants of joining in a homosexual conspiracy. No, now the religious Republican radicals are going after talking bunny rabbits. That's right. The Republican base now is screaming its head off about how talking cartoon bunny rabbits are the source of impending doom to the traditional heterosexual family.

Specifically, these Republicans launch on their shrill tirades against Buster, a little boy talking bunny rabbit on a nice children's television show called Arthur. Well, it turns out that in one upcoming episode, Buster actually visits two female bunny rabbits who live together in a house as partners.

Now, the two female bunny rabbits don't kiss, and don't have sex on screen. They just get along really nicely together, and tell Buster a little bit about their relationship. For this, the Republicans demanded that PBS pull the episode away from the series, and, with a few exceptions, PBS affiliates around the country complied with their demand.

To me, this controversy is a sign of how far away Republican Americans have gotten from a little thing that we call: the difference between reality and pretend!

See, in reality, bunny rabbits don't live in houses. Bunny rabbits don't wear clothes. Bunny rabbits don't talk. Furthermore, bunny rabbits do not form monogamous relationships with eachother.

What's weird about the religious right is that they're willing to accept a cartoon show that depicts bunny rabbits doing all these unnatural things, and more, but then go running around in circles, waving their hands, screaming in outrage when the same cartoon bunny rabbits form same-sex relationships! All of a sudden, the cultural threat of lesbian cartoon bunny rabbits walking on their hind legs and living in a house together before going off to their office jobs is percieved as an unacceptable threat to reality and is placed at the top of the Republican culture war agenda.

Now, the rest of us understand that make believe is make believe. Biology teachers do not hold press conferences to declare that they're in a tizzy about cartoon rabbits that are shown wearing sunglasses and listening to the radio. So, what is it about Christian fundamentalist Republicans that makes them blow a fuse when cartoon bunny rabbits do other unconventional things?

The plain fact is that religious Republicans have a demonstrated inability to separate fantasy from reality. That's because they can't accept reality. The real reason that Republicans are spending so much time attacking make-believe cartoon characters like bunny rabbits and starfish is that the wacko base of the Republican Party can't handle reality.

Religious Republicans want to hide reality from children. Reality is that many, many lesbian couples exist. But, Republicans want to lie to children about that reality.

What really gets under Republicans' gizzards is that the same-sex female cartoon bunny rabbit couple shown on Arthur was depicted as basically happy. That's another reality that the holy-rolling Republicans can't handle. Reality is that many, many lesbian couples are very happy together. Republicans want to lie to children about that too.

Republicans want to tell children the outrageous lie that all lesbians are awful, wretched, desperately unhappy people. The plain truth is that that's a lie. Now, I happen to think that it is immoral to lie to children in such an outrageous way. But, if Republicans want to go on telling that lie, that's their own business, and they can go ahead and get their own cartoon.

How about a cartoon about a Siberian female ostrich brain surgeon that lives in an unhappy lesbian relationship with a female iguana massage therapist until she finds Jesus? Hmm... Maybe there's a reason there aren't many successful fundamentalist Republicans in Hollywood.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Bush Mandate: Destroy Public Education

Is there a Bush mandate after the 2004 election? Some people say so, although Bush got only a narrow victory, with just 51 percent of the vote.

But, let's humor the Republican mandate crowd. Let's say that Bush did get a mandate. Well, whatever was that mandate for?

We can get a good indication of what the Bush voters really want by looking at the election results in a strong red state, like Alabama. In Alabama, the majority of voters voted for Bush. What is less known is that an overwhelming majority of pro-Bush voters also voted in favor of a provision in the Atlanta State Constitution that declares that children have no right to public education.

Now, it's uncanny, because on the national level, Bush supporters keep on talking about "states rights" without ever bothering to explain just what they mean by that. Now you know: When Republicans go on about how they favor "states rights", they're really talking about helping Bush supporters in places like Alabama put an end to public education. That way, only the children that Alabama Republicans think come from the "right families" would get any schooling.

The plain fact is that Bush could not have won the election without strong support from people who voted for measures to abolish public education.

If Bush has a mandate, it's this: Close the schoolhouse doors and return to Jim Crow.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Considering the Greens

Over the last year, I have been heavily involved with the local Democratic Party organizations, doing a lot of volunteering and making some good donations too. For all that, almost none of the Democrats running where I live won their campaigns, and the local Democrats completely failed to even run any candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives. After taking a lot of money and using up a lot of people's time, the Democrats here have now gone into hibernation, and we haven't had an awful lot to show for it.

Nationally, I'm seeing an awful lot of Democrats in Congress start to cave in and surrender to the Republicans' nationalist agenda. The leadership of the national and state Democratic parties are starting to screech about the need of the Democrats to become more conservative, just like the Republicans, in order to WIN.

In short, I'm getting pretty disappointed in the Democratic Party, and wondering what point there is in getting a Democratic win when the Democrats won't even stand up for the strong liberal ideals of its long-neglected base.

So, as seems to happen every now and then, my attention is wandering to the Green Party. I agree with a lot of the Green Party's ideals, after all. Nonetheless, I've just never had the guts to make the leap to the Greens. Part of my problem is my long memory. I remember when the Green Party in Memphis, Tennessee "lost" my voter registration form back in 2000. I took note of the way that the Republican Party successfully infiltrated the Green Party during the 2004 election season.

But, in addition to past concerns, I've got some real questions about what the Green Party is doing now - if the Green Party is doing anything now. Specifically, I was looking at the web site for the New Hampshire Green Party this afternoon, and what I found was:

  • A posting about how people are complaining that the New Hampshire Green Party isn't doing anything - dated in early August 2004. The posting asks people to talk about whether there maybe ought to be a statewide meeting held sometime. In over four months, two people have responded to the suggestion.
  • A poll asking what people think the Green Party ought to do about the presidential election of 2004
  • A short article written in April of 2004, about how Ralph Nader, who wasn't running with the Green Party anyway, gave a speech - in Chicago.

    I'd love to have an organized alternative to the Democrats, but if the "activity" of Greens in New Hampshire is any sign, the Green Party is just not capable of being that alternative. Instead, I'm a more dramatic alternative: A temporary boycott of electoral politics, with the option for an extension if it seems to be working well for me.

    Oh, I don't mean to give up politics at all. I'm just tempted to stay away from electoral politics for awhile - no support for Democratic candidates, no volunteering in elections, and definitely no lackluster campaign rallies. There's a lot to be done outside of political parties in general, and there are some fantastic organizations out there doing the job every week, every year, without consideration of whether there is an election coming up.

    I'm not sure that the Democratic Party is really able to hear the concerns of its disaffected supporters, the loyalists who have been trashed by the likes of Terry McAuliffe and Joseph Lieberman. But, might things change if large numbers of Democratic activists like myself re-registered as independents and started replacing party activities with personal involvement in progressive non-profits? I'm hoping it's the case.

    However the Democratic Party leadership feels about it, I think it's high time that they stopped getting the lion's share of attention from America's liberals. Other organizations have been much more effective in promoting the values of liberty, fairness and enlightened decency in our country, and I for one am starting to get a lot more interested in their work, as opposed to the posturing of self-important politicians. If you feel the same way, you can find links to a good number of progressive organizations worth your consideration at our Irregular Links page, and in our ever-growing network of progressive resources for America's irregular states.