Monday, January 29, 2007

The Southern Insurgents

by Bernie Quigley - for The Free Market News Network, 1/29/07

An essay this weekend at The Daily Kos, "Sweeping Jim Webb Under the Rug,” brings out what I have been feeling all week: That we crossed a river in this country on Tuesday night with Jim Webb’s rebuttal of the President’s State of the Union. Jim Webb is Pathfinder to a new political country. His speech was very possibly the first important event in the new century.

I’ve actually been feeling it longer than that. When I first listened to one of Jim Webb’s speeches last Spring I wrote that he is possibly the most effective public speaker since Malcolm X. What I meant was that he had a friendly and engaging quality to his conversation and an earthy Southern appeal to common people, but at the same time he could scare the pants of you.

He scared them the other night. It is the first time Wall Street suits heard themselves called Robber Barons by a prominent Senator since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, Poncho Villa and Woody Guthrie.

The Daily Kos author, TocqueDeville, a prominent blogger and critic, claimed that only candidates today appealing to Wall St. are allowed to survive.

Said TocqueDeville: “I've argued for some time that the real bias in the media is not left or right per say. It is pro Wall Street. And never has this bias been more transparent than with the coverage of Jim Webb's response to the State of the Union address.

“My interest in the way the establishment media would react to Webb's speech began somewhere around the time he said "fairly" in the same sentence with "globalization" and "international marketplace." By the time he got to "robber barons" and "corporate influence,” I was speechlessly stumbling for my laptop.

“You see, there are just some things one does not say in proper company. Much less in a national address. And Jim Webb said a few of them.”

I would like to add that this Wall Street influence is a conditioning that most Americans themselves are constantly "programmed into" - a subtlety that they are acclimated to and not fully aware of, but likewise, this is only a skin (and an inauthentic one) which can and will fall away quickly and from which a new self can (and will) awaken.

What Webb brings forth is something which is underneath - something which is there already; something which has always been there, but something the Dems left behind 25 years ago. TocqueDeville quotes one of Webb’s advisers on the substance of this insurgency: “Recently, to explain the devotion and commitment working class Americans once had to the Democratic Party, Mudcat Saunders described how in the old days, people had two photographs on their living room wall: Jesus and Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

Jim Webb is bringing the Democrats to a new country. And it is increasingly clear now even to the head-in-the-sand corporate media and its bastard child, the info-entertainment industry, that there is a division now in the Democratic Party. There are the upscale Globalists who married into the concept mid-term into Reagan’s regime, and there are now the new economic populists. Webb leads the charge, but John Edwards and Wesley Clark are both beginning to speak the same language. Last week Clark was speaking Union to a church-basement crowd in Montgomery, AL; a crowd as far from Wall St. as one could imagine. I would like to see Senators Clinton, Dodd, Biden and Obama address these NASCAR Moms on the same topic.

It is hard not to notice that the new insurgents, Webb, Edwards and Clark, are all proudly Southern. And to the reality-based, this should come as no surprise, for everything of consequence that has happened in this country since Eisenhower, - from Elvis to Oprah with Little Richard, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Johnson, Tammy Faye Baker and the Intimidating #3 in the Big Black Car in between - has risen from the South. The demographics on economy and population demand it. And as Newt Gingrich once pointed out, the rise of his own movement 20 years back depended on the New York delusion that they still ran things. They are still reality impaired: These Democrats show who and what they are as they constantly seek the photo op with the Conspicuously Rich and Ostentatious, such as Virgin Atlantic Airways’ Richard Branson, Mick Jagger and Bill Gates.

But things are beginning to change quickly. Mainstream press has begun to look at Democratic front-runner Senator Clinton, darling of the DLC crowd, and find her leadership abilities to be less than sterling. On Sunday, Frank Rich of the NYTs calls her mission “unaccomplished.” He writes: “Mrs. Clinton has always been a follower of public opinion on the war, not a leader.”

The small fish follow the big fish. Her candidacy will begin to fade now. Likewise, Senator Obama, who draws almost exclusively white crowds and is pitched as well to the same audience of “upper working class” suburban whites as a Great White Hope. There is nothing wrong with Obama. He has been used and abused by the info-entertainment industry. His only flaw is that he allows himself to be.

I personally find Senators Clinton and Obama "brand marketed" to the "suburban" Democrats the author talks about to be appalling, with front-leading Democrats pitching a universal health care system to the denizens of Manhattan’s penthouse dwellers, billionaires and Nantucket dilettantes.

Harvard’s John Kenneth Galbraith warned Democrats about becoming the Party of the Very Rich in his 1992 book, “The Culture of Contentment” but he was ignored (and even despised) by the new group that had come to power in the Democratic Party which featured most prominently Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore. Still they send forth their candidate to the Presidential Election today. (There is nothing new to this either: Back in South Boston we used to call the Democrats Galbraith criticizes, “Lace Curtain.”) But when the "new realization" begins to hatch, these “market brand” Democrats so comfy to Wall St. will pass quickly. The season has changed. It changed on Tuesday night.

Virginia has just crossed the psychological river sooner than the rest of us. Here in the mountains of northern New Hampshire we are lucky to have the occasional voice of Haviland Smith, a retired CIA station chief, giving his opinion in our local paper. Like Clark and Jim Webb, Smith opposed the invasion of Iraq from the start. He says this week in The Valley News: "Those Democratic members of Congress who fell for the Bush rationalization for the Iraq invasion and voted to enable it are, quite frankly, morally and politically compromised on this issue. Except for those few who have repudiated their own votes, they have lost their standing and credibility."

I would take it a step further and say that although it is good that they repudiated their vote, they showed failure of leadership at the critical moment and should not be considered for higher public office. Indeed, they should resign, as the phrase, “I take full responsibility,” which Senator Clinton used this week about her poor leadership on Iraq at the critical juncture, once implied voluntary retirement. Now it means nothing. Now it means: Let’s talk about something else. If they were hockey or football coaches they would be fired. (And their wives would not be allowed to coach their team after that, either. Visualize that, with the Chicago Bears or the Broad Street Bullies.) We should show them the same love and respect and send them home.

The Democrats are still in a state of denial RE the leadership failure they have been experiencing in this country over the last 25 years, particularly since Democrats lost the House and Senate and the will of the country in the mid-90s, giving an easy ride to the most egregious group of radicals ever to disgrace the Oval Office & its sacred space. Some Dems today want to go back to the '90s, some to the '60s, some to the '50s.

But there is no going back. There is only the trail ahead. When they fully face the Iraq crisis, the economic crisis and the leadership crisis they will press on Jim Webb, John Edwards, Wesley Clark and other Southern Insurgents sure to follow.

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