New York City
Bob Moser’s lead article “Purple America” [Aug. 13/20], about reaching Democrats in red states, is marvelous! I’ve been preaching this for years. We really can win in 2008!
The Democrats’ fifty-state strategy may be good for party-building and grassroots organizing, but it makes no sense to throw resources at states whose electoral votes are out of reach in 2008. “Purple America” exists only in fifteen to eighteen “swing” states. Bob Moser’s home state, North Carolina, is firmly in the Republican column. Despite having a North Carolinian on the ticket in 2004, the Kerry/Edwards campaign barely improved its vote over Gore/Lieberman in 2000. The only way Democrats can carry “red” states in 2008 is if they are carrying the country by a landslide. And that’s not in anyone’s forecast. The best hope for a “purple America” is the National Popular Vote plan, which would make every vote equal in presidential elections.
Port Sanilac, Mich.
Bob Moser is right on the mark, as I can attest from personal experience. I was 2004 campaign manager for a candidate to the state legislature in a district that had never elected a Democrat. With a “grassroots blueprint” in the hands of 200 inspired volunteers, we beat on doors, handed out materials, marched in parades and put activists in most of our forty-eight precincts. The “experts” in Lansing said the numbers were against us, the Bushies would smother us, but as a token they would give us Palm Pilots (which never came). For less than half of what the opponent spent, our guy got 55 percent of the vote, and Bush got 55 percent. And our guy, of Hispanic heritage, won in a district that’s 99 percent non-Hispanic. Just to show it was no fluke, in 2006 he won with 71 percent, and in the adjoining district (also never represented by a Democrat) the same blueprint was put into play and a Democrat won. Now Democrats control the Michigan House.
Thanks, Bob Moser, for an excellent article about the accomplishments of the fifty-state strategy. It perfectly accords with my experience here in Berks County, a swing county composed of farms, the diverse city of Reading and suburbs of Philly. I became a precinct leader a year ago, after years of outside-the-party activism. A fellow Deaniac recruited me. For the first time in twenty years our little Republican precinct now has Democratic precinct leaders. Last summer, a dynamic new DNC organizer (a community-based hire) organized precinct leaders into regions by district. In the 2006 election, we chalked up victories in three out of four offices on the ballot, including winning our seat in the State Assembly, which had been Republican for twenty years. Statewide, Democrats won a new, one-seat majority in the Assembly.
Howard Dean has not only put organizers into the states; he has also inspired many of his supporters to run for office. Our local party is enlivened by many 2004 Deaniacs who are now precinct leaders and who may develop into candidates. Dean has also introduced the democratic you-own-it online organizing that fueled his campaign. Check out the Party Builder software at www.democrats.org; it enables you to establish an online profile, event announcements and groups, and to find and communicate with local Dems.
While the DNC was spending small amounts to help us build our local party in 2006, the DCCC wasted millions in poorly conceived direct mail and TV ads that turned off voters. The campaign in our 6th District was directed by Washington people we never saw and who did not know our region. And when the DC staffers left, they took all the volunteer databases–leaving us with nothing to build from for the next attempt to take back this Congressional seat. The DNC organizing efforts, by contrast, have both an immediate and a long-term focus, helping us to build local organizations that will carry over from one candidate and election year to the next.
“Purple America”–what a wonderfully written blueprint/battle plan/wakeup call to arms! I live in a place “owned” by Republicans forever. But in 2006 Democrats, using the tactics so well described in this article, took a Congressional seat away from a thirty-five-year GOP incumbent. We’ve already begun to plan the 2008 re-election of freshman Congressman John Hall, who has so rattled the Old Guard Republicans. They’ve targeted him like the terrorists they are because they can’t abide a politician who represents the interests of those less wealthy than the Bush/Cheney bunch. I hope the Dems won’t interfere with this movement. It’s the best chance we have of saving the country. Let’s not blow it!
Dems certainly need to be focusing their campaign with more effort in the Southern states. If you look at election history, nearly all Democratic Presidents either were from the South (i.e., Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter), or they won two or more Southern states in the Electoral College. Yet most Democrats seem to think “Dixie” is a dirty word. They seem afraid to come here. Here in Nashville, we always have a Democratic mayor and council, and Democrats dominate in the polls. I have also lived in other “liberal” cities, such as Louisville and Atlanta, where a lot of Democratic support remains unnoticed. Not everyone down here is happy with the Republican Party; I think it’s time for Democratic candidates to show some appreciation, because Southern Dems are just as eager to give it back.
LETTING MANAGEMENT OFF THE HOOK?
Liza Featherstone’s July 16/23 “Andy Stern: Savior or Sellout?“–her profile of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president–does a good job of exposing the limits of labor-management healthcare “reform” coalitions based on the lowest common denominator (which, when Wal-Mart’s involved, can be pretty low). As Featherstone gets Stern to admit, the only thing his corporate partners in Better Health Care Together are likely to agree on is that there’s “a problem.”
But the strategy of challenging management to work with labor on a real solution to the healthcare crisis has considerable merit. That’s because some of the unionized firms involved in Stern’s group are quite different from Wal-Mart. Thanks to decades of collective bargaining, companies like AT&T do provide comprehensive medical insurance for active and retired employees and their families. Like Detroit automakers, however, they now want to curtail this coverage, shift the costs to employees or unload their “legacy benefits” onto a risky, union-negotiated Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA).
These employers should be facing far greater pressure to support a single-payer solution. Just urging them–in the company of Wal-Mart–to endorse vague “principles of unity” about “universal coverage” is letting them off the hook politically (as do VEBAs). It also obscures the question of which proposed system of “healthcare for all” actually provides it.
To pressure politicians and employers effectively, unions must do more membership education and mobilization, plus public agitation, about replacing job-based health insurance with something that would indeed be better. The promotion of Michael Moore’s Sicko by the California and Massachusetts nurses associations (and other pro-single-payer unions) is a good example of such work. Unfortunately, because Moore criticizes Kaiser Permanente, a longtime SEIU “partner,” and other private insurers, Stern’s union has been missing in action from recent healthcare worker rallies around the country, which used Sicko as a high-profile teaching tool.
HIT THE ROAD, JACK
Having followed Jack London for many years, I am looking forward to Jonah Raskin’s new book about him [“Kings of the Road,” July 30/Aug. 6]. It is important that London was a racist as well as a nationalist. It is also important to see his philosophical side. “Star Rover,” for example, is a story that has much to do with the mind-body dualism first noted in Western thought by Plato, and of course the influence of Nietzsche cannot be understated. London was both a product and historical agent of his times and his notion of a nationalist socialism is one that needs to be explored. His adamant imperialist calls for the invasion of Mexico and his belief in the superiority of the white male are all topics that must be seen within the eugenics of the time.
Rohnert Park, Calif.
Danny Weil is quite right, and in my book I do discuss in depth all the important topics he raises about London–his pernicious racism, the profound influence of Nietzsche on his work and his imperialist ideas. I don’t let him off the hook in The Radical Jack London, not for a moment. I did not feel, however, that I could cover every aspect of him in my essay about The Road and On the Road and the connections between the two Jacks, London and Kerouac. In addition, there is little if any racism and few imperialist ideas in The Road, and there are times when in fact London overcame his racism and talked about the brotherhood of man, and meant it, and believed in equality between men and women, too. London contradicted himself again and again. He is a profoundly flawed American writer and a tragic figure, too. Most authors who have written about London have not seen his contradictions, the weaknesses as well as strengths. I look at the whole man. I urge Weil to read the forthcoming book and get the full picture.
KEEP YOUR CARDS TO YOURSELF!
In the September 24 “Letters” column, reader Michael Coogan says he puts Nation subscription cards in right-wing books in his local bookstores. As someone who has owned and operated bookshops for twenty-three years (and who has subscribed to The Nation for close to thirty years), I feel I can speak for the majority of noncorporate booksellers (and no doubt a lot of corporate ones) when I say that very little pisses me off more than when someone makes my shop the unwitting medium for any proselytizing, no matter to what extent I agree or disagree with the message.
Post your opinion or subscription card on the community bulletin board I provide or stand outside my shop with a sandwich board, but keep your religious tracts out of my Darwins, your right-wing malarkey out of my Chomskys and your Nation cards out of my big, fat Limbaughs.
The Munich Readery