By: B.W. Ellis
One of the things that capture the imagination about politics is how thoughts and ideas can be turned into life altering realities over both short and long time spans. It’s more than a little scary at times.
One such time in the history of the Democratic Party was in the 60’s when the party leadership slowly and painfully came to the realization that racism was not representative of the American people and therefore could not serve as a viable direction to move forward in. With great courage and more than a large amount of sacrifice, the great purge of the Democratic party began.
I am not old enough to have seen this happen first hand yet I have seen its repercussions in society my entire life. The Southern Strategy that has altered the way our representatives are elected, the extreme measures taken to root out and push away the influences that drive us to despise one another.
I can easily understand the frustrations that this major shift caused and the massive fight for equality that must have taken place to make it a reality. I have seen the footage of the fire hoses and the beatings. I have seen the scars on people’s faces from a life lived fighting for equality, and I have seen the people who have fallen as a result of that fight not nearly being finished.
It has been over 6 decades and we are still fighting the battles of race and division and inequality, in many ways now more than ever.
My wild and crazy perspective on the situation is that we need to step up the fight. As Democrats, we need to set our sites back upon the prize, back upon the struggle, back upon the reality of making this country the model of civilization the world is waiting for it to become.
I see the dire need for a new purge of the Democratic Party, and this one is required for the same reasons as the last.
There is a segregation in this country, but instead of pridefully sticking it in all our faces with “colored” signs on the bathrooms and drinking fountains the division is in the way we distribute wealth. Instead of hooded men lighting fires and hanging people we have an economic and criminal justice system whose failings produce the same results.
Like the first era of Jim Crow laws and open brutality toward minorities, we are seeing the same elements rearing their ugly heads in America this very year. These violations of human rights and dignity require no less of a response from the Democratic Party as the purging of the bigoted and racist of its ranks.
This new division is based on economics, not only racism and bigotry and sexism. For proof of that statement look at the economic position of minorities all these decades after the civil rights movement. Undoubtedly we are in a much better place in some ways, yet we are in much darker and scarier territories now. The stripping of representation, the giving of greater power and a voice to money regardless of the source, and worse yet the acquiescence of the standard bearers of the Democratic Party to the moneyed interests who have purchased them. It is they who should be shown he same exit that the racists in the 60’s found themselves on the outside of.
It is the dealers who are willing to sell their votes cheap rather than take on the fight that could end their careers. It is the false representatives who make the real the statement that America is no longer a representative democracy, but an oligarchy.
Such a purge is most difficult because there is no clear line in the sand as there was with open and belligerent racism the way it was in the 1960’s. This red line in the sand will require a more nuanced look at the way a representative, or a candidate, accepts money and alters their votes accordingly.
The misconception that fights against this concept is the fallacy that we already have laws that prohibit the bribing of elected officials. This could not be further from the truth.
With the disastrous decisions made by less than honorable ideologues of the right wing in the Democratic Party, we have a campaign finance system that functions perfectly for an oligarchy and is diametrically opposed to democracy. This makes the next step in this movement so incredibly difficult that it would take such an impossible series of events to occur that statistically, it would seem out of the realm of reality. On that point, I am happy to have been proven wrong.
This type of purge required someone Like Lyndon Baines Johnson in the 60’s. A man who became president through tragedy was re-elected in the aftermath and continued on eventually not planning to serve a second full term. A president who enjoyed a brief moment of historical shock and clarity wherein he could be swayed to incorporate some severe and long lasting change in his party and his nation.
A similar series of events is building around us now. Simultaneously surging like the beginnings of a tsunami and fragile as a whisper on the breeze. The unprecedented support from everyday Americans donating in small amounts pushing the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the Black Lives Matter movement speaking out as loudly as they can fighting for racial justice and equality, the massive protests fighting the system of inequity and winning a $15 per hour minimum wage for 20% of the country’s population.
These are not victories of a generation past, these are victories of future and current day generations and they have both power and fragility in equal measures. They need to be supported by someone in power, someone who has the unusual circumstance combined with the rigid and unshakable compassion of a statesman, of a leader.
There is significance in these things, in these movements. They can be as powerful and as supportive as a loyal Congress or filibuster proof senate, at least at the street level where we need them the most. The people who are stepping up are the representatives of their community, they are the leaders of the future and today.
They need a president who will agree with them, who will want to engage with them and work to solve the problems Obama couldn’t get to.