Let me warn you right now, as I sit here at my computer Im
feeling pretty cranky. Now maybe its because Ive just turned 50
born on the day Dwight Eisenhower was elected president (But for the
intervention of my New Deal Democrat father I would I have named Dwight).
But Im pretty sure something else is at work here.
Maybe its the fact that Mark Kroeker is handing out medals
to every cop that killed a Portlander last year, including the two who killed
Jose Mejia Poot.
Or maybe its the fact that while 18 cities around the
country have adopted anti-war resolutions, were lucky not to get beaten
up protesting the man who is bringing us our latest war.
Then theres the fact John Ashcroft will soon be sifting
through my credit card bills, internet activities and other pieces of my private
life once protected by our now shredded constitution.
But I think what is really making me cranky is the spin coming
out of progressive circles about the 2002 election.
I realize theres no use in remaining in the doldrums many
of us found ourselves the day after the votes were cast. The fact that the
GOP won the biggest victory since people stopped liking Ike is hardly good
news, but it is what it is and we must make plans accordingly.
Before the final thin wail poured form the lips of the Democrats,
however, we were hearing the same old story of being outspent by the Right.
A few more dollars here or there and we could have pulled off a few victories.
Then there are those on the Left who, while critical of the
Democrats, say there is little they can do in light of the power wealthy elites
have over our government. If they dont tow the line, they wont
win next time.
Neither of these statements are without some element of truth
to them. But in trotting out these same tired arguments we too easily overlook
some important facts.
Take, for example, Kevin Mannixs surprise near-win in
the governors race. Most progressive thought the choice of Mannix meant
a shoo-in for Kulongoski. Yet with less money and infrastructure, Mannix came
very close to pulling off an upset. But the interesting part of the race is
found in Marion County.
In Marion County, Mannix received 52.46 percent of the vote.
While portions of Marion County are part of Mannix old legislative district,
theres a more important fact about the county and its voting habits.
Marion County has one of the highest densities of unionized public workers
in the nation. That means a significant number of public workers who belong
to unions voted for a man who has made no secret of his desire to slash state
jobs and roll back workers rights.
In Marion County, at least, the Right didnt outspend progressives
they out-organized them. Its a story that was repeated in many
races around the nation. But you arent hearing that from the Democrats
or from progressives.
Here is where someone would usually chime in about last minute
media blitzes shifting voters. I know from experience they can have an impact.
But voters arent tabla rasas waiting to follow the first message imprinted
on them. Convincing working people to vote against their own best interest
means somebody is doing a better job of talking or perhaps listening
then we are, even if the solutions they offer are false.
Which brings me back to a few questions that regularly appear
in this column: Why do we find it easier to shout at empty buildings than
talk to strangers who most likely share our concerns? Why do we seem unable
to build depth within our own base?
These questions go beyond electoral politics. The campaigns
being developed to stop the war, to stop the erosion of our civil liberties,
and stop the dozens of other attacks being carried out or planned against
us will fail unless we find answers and find them soon.
Progressives will never have more money than the elites we oppose.
We will never have a system dominated by elites work in our favor on its own.
Liberals will always run for cover when those with the pursestrings show their
anger. This is an environment created by and for the elites so they can prosper
and continue to enjoy unthinkable pleasures at our expense. To repeatedly
point to these facts is meaningless.
But one thing is clear. We need to start talking to anyone who
will listen and do everything we can to convince those who wont to do
so. We need to stop talking about long struggles even though they will
be long and start thinking about how we recruit more people for the
fight thats brewing the next week, next month and next year.
Most important of all, we need to offer people a clear and real
alternative no matter how difficult it may be to achieve in its totality
and start delivering some of it as soon as possible or well all
be cranky for a long time.
Dave Mazza is editor of The Portland Alliance
The Portland Alliance
2807 SE Stark Portland,OR 97214
Last Updated: January 27, 2003