Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What Have We Become? (The Collapse of the Big Tent)

What have we become? Do we like what we see when we look in the mirror, America? Why don't we like what we see? Our guest blogger takes a look at the history behind why our country hates looking in the mirror nowadays. Perhaps there's a way out of this collapsing big tent?

The Collapse of the Big Tent
by Coast Watcher

The term big tent, first used in 1975 refers to “a widely inclusive composition or character that allows people of differing backgrounds, opinions, and interests to be members of a group or organization (such as a political party).” (Source: Merriam-Webster)

The Democratic Party is fond of using the term. Although it may stem from 1975, the concept of an all-inclusive party harks back to the glory days of the 32nd President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

After the disastrous Republican administrations of the 1920s, feelings ran strong against the selfish, greedy, generally corrupt or plain inept mainstream parties. The Republican government caused the Wall Street Crash of 1929 following years of corrupt practices which led to economic depression, mass unemployment and penury for millions of Americans. The Democrats were still viewed with suspicion after Woodrow Wilson broke his solemn promise not to involve the United States in WWI. All told, the burgeoning Socialist movement that had made great strides in the United States during the first three decades of the twentieth century promised a better way of doing things.

This frankly terrified the patrician class and Big Businessmen such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts who could see the prospect of a Soviet-style revolution on the horizon if they didn’t act quickly enough.

Roosevelt’s canny promise and shaping of a New Deal coalition united various

unions, minorities, left-leaning voting blocs and interest groups that effectively made the Democratic Party the majority party for thirty years. Even the brief interregnum of Eisenhower’s presidency doesn’t count against this record since Eisenhower himself was pro-New Deal. The coalition effectively channeled the Socialist movement into a safer, more manageable course. What most people seem to forget is the fact that Roosevelt, although a progressive by the standards of his time, was also a patrician–one of those with the most to lose in the event of a Socialist government taking power.

The New Deal coalition began to fall apart in 1968 due to bitter factionalism engendered by the election of that year. Following Carter’s troubled single term in office, Reagan’s presidency took more steam out of the Democratic Party’s engine.

In the 1980s, after a period of navel-gazing spent during their time in the political wilderness, the Democratic Party decided it liked the old adage "if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em" –only they went a step further. The party motto became "if you can’t beat ‘em, become like ‘em." The neoliberal Third Way policies eventually bore fruit in Clinton’s two terms in office, a presidency that showed few progressive values.

The same applies to the Obama administration. Although he put forward a piece of legislation of genuine use to the American people in the shape of the Affordable Care Act, Obama did little to force it through against the reactionary Republicans. He allowed the GOP to include the clause requiring citizens to buy health insurance or face a fine, something introduced with the specific intent of making the ACA toxic to the American voter. (The GOP knew they could rely on the typical short memory of voters to forget they were responsible for the clause, so a future Republican government could repeal the hated piece of legislation – and gain kudos for doing so). Obama also failed to introduce much else in the way of progressive policies beyond a few token environmental protections.

Democratic talk of a big tent was becoming alarmingly familiar as the party dealt with what amounted to a case of “values” shock—the post-election impression that Democrats keep losing because they have lost touch with mainstream American values.  Peter J. Boyer, New Yorker, November 14, 2005
Thrilled as they may still be with their victory, many Democrats are now realizing that … their future depends on a tricky proposition: actually becoming the centrist, big-tent party they've spent two years claiming to be.  Jonathan Darman, et al., Newsweek, November 20, 2006
We have big arguments within the party because we got a big tent…    Barack Obama, quoted in Rolling Stone, October 14, 2010

So, it seems the Democratic Party persists in claiming it has a big tent capable of including many other political-Left viewpoints, but it’s manifestly obvious the DNC is doing little, if anything, to prove it. They actually are the centrist, big-tent party steered by a neoliberal faction. The Democrats recently removed all the progressives on DNC committees. We see their frequent attempts to promote candidates for the 2020 election they think will be acceptable to progressives, yet even a cursory analysis exposes the candidates’ deep corporate neoliberal ties. The New Deal coalition remains the model that party activists seek to replicate, yet the neoliberal faction wants to retain the total control over the course such a coalition will steer as it has done for the past

thirty-plus years.

It’s now obvious the big tent has rotted and is falling over. The three-ring-circus show that is the Democratic Party is winding down as the acts fall out with the neoliberal management and each other. The left-leaning groups, the progressives, even stalwart Democrats who’ve supported their party through thick and thin for decades, are leaving the show. They see little – if any – difference to the rival show put on by the GOP.

There are some, like Senator Bernie Sanders, who think the big tent may be saved. They cling to the idea of a New Deal coalition and seek to replicate the successes of the original. Perhaps they may succeed, but it looks increasingly likely that the coalition will never reform. Few on the political Left want anything to do with the Democrats after what transpired during the 2016 primaries. Perhaps another coalition of the Left will form without the Democrats, and the steady progress toward a Socialist state on the Scandinavian pattern that was interrupted in the 1930s will resume. The Democratic Party’s big tent will be allowed to fall down, leaving only ghostly applause for what once was.

Jimmy Dore points out the how the big tent is fighting against progressives.

BIO: Coast Watcher studies American history and tries to spot the good patterns repeating themselves, but he's a realist. He's hoping America will turn around and make a future to believe in soon.

The first national health care town hall (over 1 million views and counting) was not broadcast by mainstream media but on three digital outlets. Here's the video in case you missed it or want to share it with a friend. Lots of good information.

From Friends of the Earth:

Tell your Senators: Kick Clovis out of the USDA!
Good news! Michael Dourson -- a Monsanto hack -- just stepped down from his job at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last year, Donald Trump nominated Dourson to run the Office of Chemical Safety Prevention and Pollution. Pressure from people like you forced Dourson to withdraw his nomination. But EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt hired him as a senior advisor anyway. Now, months later, he’s leaving that position.

But Dourson wasn’t the only failed Trump nominee to be given a job in the Trump administration. Sam Clovis -- a conservative talk radio host with no scientific background -- is currently serving as a senior advisor at the USDA. Clovis was forced to withdraw his nomination to lead the agency’s science program in November.

This is the second time Trump has gone around the nomination process and given his Big Ag friends jobs that they’re completely unqualified for. Congress could hold Trump accountable -- but we need your help to push it to act!
Tell your Senators: Stop Trump from filling his government with Big Ag cronies!

Clovis says the science on climate change is “junk science” and has made it clear that he will not prioritize climate science at the USDA. But farmers and the agriculture industry are on the front lines of both the effects and causes of climate change. We need science-based leadership to help farmers respond to climate threats.

What’s more, Clovis has a well-documented record of homophobic, racist, misogynistic and anti-science rants as a former radio show host. He called progressives “race traders and race traitors." He’s vocally against fair wages for working people. And he vehemently opposes civil rights protections for the LGBT community.

This is someone who shouldn’t be in any sort of leadership position -- let alone serving as a key advisor on federal programs to protect our food system! Trump likely gave him the job as a reward for his role on his campaign.
Tell your Senators: Kick Sam Clovis out of the USDA!

Thanks to a groundswell of public pressure -- including more than half a million comments from Friends of the Earth members like you -- we stopped Clovis from getting a Senate-confirmed job at the USDA.

This shows that when you speak up, you can push the Senate to act and hold the Trump administration accountable.

We can’t let Trump undermine our critical food programs by staffing his government with anti-science extremists. We need your help to get Sam Clovis out of the USDA once and for all.

Tell Congress: No anti-science extremists leading key USDA programs!

Standing with you,
Lisa Archer,
Food and technology program director,
Friends of the Earth

Also from Friends of the Earth:

Big Ag and the Trump administration are attacking organic farming.
In an outrageous assault on organic agriculture, Trump’s USDA is moving fast to kill protections for livestock on organic farms.

This attempt to roll back the standard is the biggest attack on organic agriculture in almost twenty years.  

Congress could step up and stop the USDA’s attack on organic standards. But we need your help to push it to act!

Call now! Tell your Senators you OPPOSE the USDA’s attempt to kill the organic animal welfare rule!

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule provides animals on organic farms with real outdoor access, ample space to move around, and protection from unnecessary physical alterations. 

Most organic farmers already meet these standards. The rule would ensure that everyone using the organic label lives up to the humane conditions that consumers expect from organic. The rule is overwhelmingly supported by organic farmers, consumers, and animal advocates.

Tell your Senators: Don’t let the USDA eliminate protections for organic livestock!

The organic label was born out of a public outcry for a healthier, safer and more transparent food system. The Senate needs to hear loud and clear that the American people want healthy, organic food from animals who were treated with dignity and respect -- not more giveaways to Big Ag.

Call your Senators and ask them to stop Trump’s attack on organic agriculture!

Standing with you,
Dr. Kendra Klein,
Staff Scientist,
Friends of the Earth

From the Sierra Club:

We can't let this happen on our watch.

This month, the Trump administration proposed opening 90% of US waters to offshore drilling between 2019 and 2024. That's right -- if this plan becomes law, the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Eastern Gulf coasts will all be in the hands of Big Oil. That means oil rigs from Maine to Louisiana, and from Alaska down to California. 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is collecting comments on this catastrophic new five-year plan. We have until March 9 to tell them how unpopular and short-sighted this plan is.
While they attempt to hand our coasts over to oil companies, Trump and his buddies are also rushing to dismantle safety regulations that were enacted after the Deepwater Horizon spill.1 And on New Year's Day, Congress also failed to renew a longstanding oil tax that funds cleanup efforts for oil spills.2
It almost sounds too sinister to be true -- they want to open 90% of our coasts to drilling but won't enforce basic safety standards or fund programs to clean up the inevitable spills. 

Tell BOEM that the people have spoken -- no drilling off our coasts!
Thanks for all you do to protect our coasts,
Lena Moffitt
Senior Director, Our Wild America Campaign
Sierra Club 

1. Eilperin, Juliet and Grandoni, Dino. "Trump administration to overhaul safety-monitoring rules for offshore drilling" The Washington Post. 12/28/18.
2. Eilperin, Juliet and Grandoni, Dino. "Without fanfare, oil companies just received a tax break on New Year's Day" The Washington Post. 1/5/18.


Win Without War

Before you keep reading: This one is sickening.

Okay. Ready for this?

The Pentagon funded forces engaged in child sexual assault and other “gross violations of human rights” in Afghanistan — to the tune of 71 billion dollars.
Appalling doesn’t begin to describe it. But in the deafening chaos of the Trump era, even a story as awful as this might slip through the cracks if we don’t speak up. So it’s up to us make this story huge.

Tell Congress: Immediately halt appropriations to Afghan security forces until the Pentagon proves that no American tax dollars will fund human rights violations.

But wait — it gets worse. The Pentagon knew, this whole time. They also knew that a highly specific law prohibits exactly this situation: Congress has made it illegal for the Department of Defense to assist foreign security forces if they have credible evidence that human rights are being violated. But instead of stepping in, the Pentagon dug up a shady legal loophole to dodge accountability and claim they are in the clear.

Let that one sink in for a minute. The Pentagon’s response to clear evidence of human rights violations was: How can we cover our behinds?

The muck and mire of America’s failed war in Afghanistan just keep getting deeper. And it's clear that the Pentagon isn't about to solve their own fiasco. But Congress created the watchdog agency that dug up this story, and Congress passed the laws that should make this behavior 100% illegal. Now, we need to make Congress shut the loophole and shut down American support for these human rights abuses. 

Sign now: Congress must not send another penny to Afghan security forces while these gross human rights violations continue.

Thank you for working for peace,
Cassandra, Stephen, Amy, and the Win Without War team


Happy birthday in Palestinian Arabic is “kul sana wa inti salmeh,” which literally translates something like, “May you be safe this year and every year.” 
We’re hoping Ahed Tamimi’s next year, and every year after, is safer than this one. Her birthday is January 31st, and this year, her 17th, she’ll be celebrating it in prison. 

Click here to send Ahed a message of support and solidarity on her birthday.

Ahed’s story of slapping an armed soldier after the IDF tried to enter her family’s home on December 15 is but one small incident during an entire young life controlled by military occupation. 

Earlier that day, a soldier shot Ahed’s 14-year-old cousin Mohammed in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet, which required risky surgery to remove. Three years ago, soldiers shot her mother Nariman in the leg. Two years before that, soldiers shot and killed her uncle Rushdi. The year before that it was another cousin, Mustafa, who died from a high-velocity tear gas canister to the face point-blank. This is an incomplete list.

So who is on trial? Ahed. A young girl the same age as my daughter, who is sitting behind bars facing a sentence of 10 years for defending herself and her family. 

Let her know that you won’t let Israel put yet another child behind bars and make her disappear. That you’ll be thinking about her on Wednesday— and next week when her trial begins.

Send Ahed a birthday card that honors her life and her brave act of resistance.

 "Kul sana wa inti salmeh ya Ahed!
Sending you love and solidarity on your 17th birthday, Ahed.
We stand with you and with all Palestinian prisoners.
Thank you for your bravery and steadfastness, and happy birthday!"
Ahed isn’t the first child to be locked up in Israeli military detention and she won’t be the last—until we pressure Israel to change. 

By standing up for Ahed, we are standing up for the approximately 350 reported children currently in Israel’s military detention— for the approximately 700 Palestinian children Israel arrests and prosecutes every year. Ahed herself, when she had a chance to talk with her father, told him “to make a campaign for all the women and children in prison.”

Ahed, her family, and all the nonviolent resisters in her village of Nabi Salih, are heroes in my book. They endure tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, home invasions, arrests, and tragedy after tragedy. 

To ensure a safer year— a safer world— for Ahed and all Palestinian children, we must continue to work towards ending these many decades of military occupation. And we will continue to push for the legislation introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum, the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Detention of Palestinian Children Act, to prevent the use of U.S. tax dollars for the Israeli military’s ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children. 

Today, please join me in saluting Ahed and wishing her a happy birthday, and a safer, happier, more peaceful future.
I know it’s getting closer.

Communications Strategist



  1. It's interesting and rather risible to see the way the Democrats insist that left-leaning voters 'must' vote for their party. No party, no candidate is entitled to anyone's vote. They must earn it. The vote is between voter and their conscience, and is never 'wasted.'

    1. Well said. No voters "must" vote for a mainstream political faction if it doesn't represent their values and principles. There are other options on the Left, and the DNC should have learned in 2016 that pretending to be a "big tent" that welcomes progressives is not a winning strategy by a long shot.

  2. There is nothing in American history to be proud


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