Sunday, April 01, 2007

DFL Progressive Caucus, Keith Ellison meeting

The meeting was announced in an e-mail broadcast by Charley Underwood, and was billed as a meeting of the DFL PRogressive caucus. The e-mail announcement is in my post from yesterday, where I promised to report back to you on what transpired.

The meeting was attended by members of the Green Party, as well as one person distributing the People's Weekly World, a newspaper which a wikipedia entry describes as being affiliated with the Communist Party of the USA.

That being said, the majority of the the attendees were people that I recognized as people who worked hard on previous Democratic campaigns, who had party officer positions in the the DFL, and have taken their oaths to support endorsed DFL candidates very seriously.

Everyone in the group, when polled, wanted withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq to begin immediately, and probably everyone but me wanted a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region, if it were possible. Personally, I would put Iraq back "in the box" and under a forcible arms embargo (infiltration/exfiltration of weapons, including small arms, and known terrorists, should be prevented, if possible. Occupation isn't preventing this, instead there is an incentive and a justification to sell weapons to the Iraqi government, and it is not clear they can keep those weapons out of the hands of terrorists, perpetrators of genocide and sectarian killings, other non-state actors).

Among people who are involved in blogging, in constructive engagment with the political system, the sympathy for Keith in making his vote for the 2007 Supplemental Iraq War funding measure, even a split in their declared positions before the vote, for and against the supplemental. For the older, less wired crowd, especially those with a career of antiwar and social justice activism that stetcghed back to the Vietnam period to the Freedom Rides, etc., defunding the war, and a no vote against any supplemental has always been the strategy. I actually agree with them, despite the amount of time I devote to following current events and poltical organizing online. The strategy of ending the war by defunding it, and impeaching Bush and Cheney has been consistent since before 2004, when I really started to get to know this crowd. The tactics of the the current Congress and the supposedly anti-war majority party, and the constraints they have engineered for themselves in Congress, in the House and Senate rules, in the Rules committee before debate began on H.R. 1591 on the House floor, these things betray that the Democratic leadership (in contrast to the Congressional Progressive Caucus) remain pro-war, pro-occupation. No body wanted to hear that, but it is true.

Few people had the insight, the clarity of language or intent to answer a fairly straightforward question put out by the moderator: something like: "What can Democrats in Congress do to win support for their strategy to end the war, or create a better strategy that will accelerate the end of this war". The best answers that were direct could be boiled down to one word: transparency.

A longer version of this was voiced by Demi Miller, that had to do with the question of how to be effective in the future with the part of the democratic process we know best, as a group, getting people elected, "We must understand these pressures and be able to innoculate the next batch of candidates against these pressures" that cause elected officials from delivering on their promises to accomplish the goals and honor the strategy of the anti-war movement.

An aweful lot of the responses were emotional, and directed towards Keith, with phrases like "I felt betrayed" common enough, and also respectful for the person of integrity that some had known Keith to be, before he was elected. "We owe it to him to be pissed off with his vote" is what I managed to write down from a longer statement from Charley Underwood.

Some of the emotion was tinged with an awareness and experience derived from participation in the struggles for peace and justice in a previous era. One statement from Aurthur Himmelman was essentially, "This is way more serious than the 60's" and the we faced a "declining empire that will fight to the death" in the personages of the Bush Administration and the coroporate interests the were operating at the behest of in starting this war.

What is clear is that there will be an effort on the part of the crowd that David Sirota neither understands or respects, to continue to put pressure on Congress and society at large, to make them unconfortable for as long as this war persists. The boldest stroke that can be considered a plan in action is a general strike. While some authors have called for a general strike every 20th day of the month, Marv Davidov announced at this meeting that planning for a national general strike was being planed for one day on the 21st of September, and the hope was to incrementally increase the number of days the strike would run for every month from that date, until the war ended. So pay down your debts, save up your money, stock up on basic staples to survive economic disruptions and shuttered grocery stores, because if the war doesn't end, eventually the economy of convenience will, and an economy of conscience must replace it.

If the Australians can dim the lights of their cities to protest global warming, we can stop business as usual to end the war, or Congress, and Congressional, inside the beltway insiders like David Sirota can start delivering on the need to get real antiwar legislation passed that actually accomplishes a redeployment of troops from Iraq, instead of just talking aout it, as Rep. Murtha started doing over a year ago.

Anyway, politically, the peace movement is completely split, and probably by design. I think it is ridiculous that there are groups that proclaim themselves to be political, but are sideshows at this point, and serious political discussions about strategy towards using the small levers we do have in Congress should probably exclude these characters in the future. Personally, I like Michael Cavlan, and I think he ha integrity and is a better campaigner than most DFL policians, but his permanent commitment to outsider status with the Green Party is a diservice to the message of social justice and non-violent organizatuion unless he can make a credible attempt at getting elected to office on that message, and it is hard enough keep DFLers with an antiwar agenda together, and focused on creating an effective strategy to end the war via exercising political power. I would welcome Michael Cavlan, his message and his contribution as a peace candidate if he sought the DFL endorsement for U.S. Senate, but I think we might need to be clearer in defining the organizations of the Progressive Caucus, and the DFL Progressive Caucus in holding meetings like this. The larger Progressive Caucus was designed to be informal, and multiparty, but the chartered DFL Progressive Caucus should be focused on influencing Democratic Party strategy and achieving electoral success for progressive candidates in the DFL party (e.g within the party structure, if not endorsing candidates for electoral office), insread of bending over backwards to accomodate Greens and Communists that aren't trying, seriously, to end this war politically.

The mass actions rock, and have to continue, but they are a social pressure, and an entertaining spectacle, and there is nothing wrong with social spectacles. Non-commercial social spectacles are definately needed in America today, for providing face to face networking opportunities for people outside of the frames of employee/boss and coworker relationships, between the public face of the consumer and the service industry employees that pour our beers and check out our groceries.

We need to network aggressively and grow our base, and realize that MoveOn, that prominent bloggers, that even our most trusted elected officials are very likely to let us down or intentioanlly betray us unless we are alert, and in communicatipon with them in a meaningful way.

So, there were two opportunities in April that were mentioned as opportunities to close the loop with Keith Ellison, on April 15th in a town hall meeting, and on April 10th, there is some sort of opportunity to meet face to face with other MoveOn members. I will probably have moreinformationon both of these events, but my focus will be getting out to Las Vegas and having an impact in Nevada on 2008 and developing some connections close to Sen. Harry Reid, and getting to California to participate in lobbying on free speech related issues with my favorite people from the porn industry.

No one is too weird to be applying political pressure on the political clss right now. You don't have to be good looking and smell nice to have a voice. If you are a U.S. citizen, you are someone's constituent, and you should not hesitate to let them know, often, that you want this Iraq war/occupation thing to end beginning now. Even Green Party members remain someone's constituent, and they have a voice, directly with their elected representative, but I feel, as long as the remain committed to attacking oour process and system as immoral and flawed, I think they reamin outside the party.

I think the confusion caused by the fact that I agree with Cavlan about many issues, and consider myself his friend, make it harder for me to describe the true but unpopular reality that the Democratic leadership has been gaming to prolong this war since well before the last election. Attacking Pelosi and Harry Reid for their manipulation of the process, for their use of framing in a misleading way (calling this Iraq War Supplemental an antiwar piece of legislation), for the way they did not truly seek a Democratic majority in the Senate (look how they targetted primary/endorsement resources against antiwar candidates in 2006).

At some point I think we need to have that meeting again, with serious people, and maybe live, present members of the Congressional Progressiove Caucus, their suport staff, and maybe prominent national bloggers that remain on message against these supplemental war funding measures and unrestrained militarism (like the Out of Iraq Blogger Caucus). There has to be a way to get more progressives elected to Congress, and more seats on these critical committees like Appropraitions and Rules, that will not bend in the wind like Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum did.

I'll probablyhave more on this meeting and some other direct quotes and concerns, but I am going to write up something more organized, intense, and factual to share with the people I know were interested in this meeting that could not attend. It might be useful to sit down with others who were thaere and watch that video, if there is time.

I also would love to know more about what is happening with Peace in the Precincts and their April 28th event, with preparations for any Jack Nelson Pallmeyer or other peace candidate for U.S. Senate. In a way I have checked out of serious orgainizing in close colloboration with the obvious, established personalities in the peace community as we know it in Minnesota, but I am trying to grow my own base, and be useful where I can, and I badly need a change of atmosphere for awhile.

Apart from wanting to see more direct participation in the core party process of caucusing in 2008 in the metro area, as I want to see outstate, I am not sure that it is particularly useful for me to try to influence metro area organizing or politicsm, though more interest in impeachment in Saint Paul DFL conventions this year might be worth generating, and I am hungry for gossip and facts that can be shared with a larger audience.

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