Dems fail first test

Dear Friends,

For the status quo, it was another great week in politics. The Democratic National Committee — long controlled by the corporate-friendly Clintons and their pals on Wall Street — elected Tom Perez over Keith Ellison as the new Party chair.

Tom Perez with Hillary Clinton

Some of my friends argue that Perez has a progressive track record as former Labor Secretary under President Obama and is now the first Latino to lead the Democratic Party. So what’s the fuss?

They miss the point. What’s now known as the Bernie Wing of the Democratic Party (what Sen. Paul Wellstone called the “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party” and what used to be known simply as “The Democratic Party”) backed Keith Ellison — a solid, independent-minded progressive who made no bones about challenging the Party’s establishment.

Keith Ellison with Bernie Sanders

By all accounts, the establishment knew it couldn’t control Ellison. So it cleverly picked a candidate who, despite a reasonably progressive history, would make sure the Party’s status quo went unchallenged.

Symbolically, if not functionally, the election of Perez as chair is a disaster. It sends the message that the DNC is about business as usual. Sure, Perez attempted to throw the Bernie Wing a bone by appointing Ellison as deputy chair of the Party. But few believe this token gesture will have any effect on altering the Party’s direction.

Here in Iowa, we were shocked that all five of Iowa’s voting delegates supported Perez. The new chair (Derek Eadon) and new vice chair (Andrea Phillips) were swept in on a wave of reform. Eadon beat the establishment’s darling, former State Senator Mike Gronstal, handily. And yet the new leadership’s first significant action is . . . what? Vote against the candidate universally endorsed by reform Democrats? Take that, you Bernie people!

So, what’s a reform-oriented, progressive voter to do? Well, you can stick with the Democratic Party and try to reform it from within. I admire your perseverance and hope you prevail.

Or you can register as a Green or Libertarian, work to start a new party, or campaign for people who run as third party or independent candidates. Yet, I’m not convinced that any existing third party has the gumption and diligence to do the grueling, voter-by-voter groundwork needed to become a serious threat to the two-party monopoly. Prove me wrong.

Or you can choose to remain unaffiliated, and hope that the Democratic Party again finds the soul it abandoned back in the 1980s, or that a new Party becomes strong enough to emerge as a viable alternative.

My path, for now, is to continue to hammer away at the critical issues through building strong, broad grassroots coalitions that bring together voices and interests that haven’t traditionally worked side-by-side, but need to if we’re going to see success at the ballot box and in policy debates in city halls, legislative chambers and the U.S. Congress.

At all costs, soldier on. There are so many ways to make a difference. Even if while trudging along your chosen path you feel like a voice crying in the wilderness, you’ve gotta persist. The stakes are too high to sit back and do nothing.

While your one voice may seem weak and frail even though you scream at the top of your lungs, when that voice unites with dozens, hundreds, thousands and eventually millions of other voices, it becomes a clamor for freedom and justice that cannot be ignored.

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Dems Must Toss Out Establishment

Dear Friends,

As a kid, I would watch with a mixture of wonder and horror as my Irish kin butchered chickens. Spellbound by a headless hen running around the yard, I once asked, “How can she do that, run around like that. Isn’t she dead?”

Wicked_Witch_of_the_East_is_dead“Well, Eddie,” said a cousin in his lilting brogue. “It’s like that movie you watch back in the States, where your good witch drops a house on your bad witch, and the little coroner man comes out and declares, ‘She’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.’”

For the record, I would never butcher a chicken that way. But the memory conjures up an appropriate metaphor for the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP). The corporate “Establishment” that has controlled the Party is not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

Cartoon chicken running around with head cut offYet the Establishment doesn’t realize it — or perhaps it’s simply pretending not to realize it. The Establishment hopes you won’t notice. It hopes you’ll buy the lie that conflicting elements within the Party simply need to come together and everything will be fine. It hopes somehow that its hegemony will continue, despite all signs that it is headless and hemorrhaging.

But we know better. The Democratic Establishment is defunct. It has been for years, running around in circles, creating the illusion that it’s still alive and viable. But the reality is now too obvious to ignore.

From a political perspective, a quick look at numbers and election results make it clear that the IDP is a failure. Of even greater concern, from a policy perspective, the IDP is a failure as well.

Under Establishment control, the IDP has turned its back on populist concerns while kowtowing to big business. The Party platform reflects the will of the grassroots, mostly. Yet the Party’s elected leadership has ignored that platform and pursued an anti-populist agenda. As a result, Iowa has moved from a slightly blue state to one that is as solid red as Nebraska.

But hope is on the horizon. The number of progressive populists within the IDP’s leadership is increasing. It is time for them — and for all rank-and-file Democrats, plus those of us who left the Party in disgust — to call out the Establishment’s lie.

It’s time to turn the page on this sad chapter of IDP history, when corporatists took control and ran the Party into the ground.

It’s time to ignite a revival that unites rural and urban concerns under one progressive, populist banner.

It’s time to stop pushing an agenda for the economic and political elite, and instead focus on the concerns of the vast majority of Iowans who have seen their influence grow less and less as the grip of monied interests grows stronger.

The first step in this revival comes on January 21. The 49 members of the IDP State Central Committee (SCC) will vote that day for a new Party chair. If SCC members elect an Establishment candidate (former State Senator Mike Gronstal being the most glaring example), then expect continued exodus from the Party.

Expect continued losses in elections and Republican dominance.

Saddest of all, expect continued failure of the policy changes Iowans are hungry for, changes that are long overdue, changes opposed or ignored by the Establishment in both parties.

Changes like:
* Restricting the influence of money in politics;
* Reining in the abuse of eminent domain;
* Defending local livable-wage ordinances;
* Returning control of Medicaid to the public;
* Allowing local control over the siting of corporate-owned hog confinements.

If the 49 members of the IDP State Central Committee get it right, citing another avian metaphor would be in order:

The Phoenix rising from the ashes.

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Honoring a great American tradition

Dear Friends,

Filling in for me Monday, August 8th at 11:00 on the Fallon Forum is Maria Filippone. Her focus will be on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and her guests include Isaac Christensen with Jewish Voices for Peace and Kathleen McQuillen of American Friends Service Committee. An important part of the conversation often overlooked is the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. See below for details for how to listen to the show live, rebroadcast, or as podcast. And callers are always welcome at (515) 528-8122 during the live broadcast on Monday at 11:00 CT.

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In every fight against injustice, there comes a point when men and women of conscience must defy laws allowing that injustice to persist. In the protracted fight to stop the Bakken pipeline, we have arrived at that point.

The crowd at a South Dakota Farm Alliance Rally on Feb. 12, 1985 (from The Daily Republic).

The crowd at a South Dakota Farm Alliance Rally on Feb. 12, 1985 (from The Daily Republic).

Over the past two years landowners, farmers, tribes and environmentalists have done everything possible to stop the pipeline.

We have pursued legal and legislative channels at great cost of time and money.

We have held forums, rallies, protests, flotillas, press conferences and more.

We have written letters and opinion pieces for our newspapers, spoken with radio stations and TV reporters, and written countless letters to government agencies.

We have learned more about pipelines, climate change, watersheds and eminent domain than we ever imagined we’d need to know. With the knowledge we’ve acquired, we’ve educated others — and public opinion has moved our direction. The most recent Iowa Poll shows less than half of Iowans support the pipeline while 3/4ths oppose the use of eminent domain to build it.

We await court rulings on a lawsuit filed by ten Iowa landowners and another just filed by Tribal leaders in the Dakotas, and remain cautiously optimistic that the court will decide in our favor. But barring an injunction, those cases may take time.

Meanwhile our land, water, property rights and climate are being trampled.

From the perspective of climate change, it is unconscionable that our government enables this pipeline to go forward. President Obama claims to understand the seriousness of climate change, having said, “No challenge–no challenge–poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” Yet he hasn’t lifted a finger to stop this pipeline.

From the perspective of eminent domain, Republican Governor Terry Branstad campaigned against the abuse of eminent domain, yet now has no problem with its use for a powerful, wealthy pipeline company.

From the perspective of our environment, Democratic officials like State Senator Mike Gronstal and Congressman Dave Loebsack either openly support the pipeline or refuse to stand with their constituents against it, despite grave concerns about the potential impact on our land and water.

As with many great struggles before us, when those elected to represent and protect our interests fail to do so, it is incumbent upon the people to challenge an unresponsive government through nonviolent civil disobedience.

In this struggle against the Bakken pipeline, there are two key examples of the failure of law and government to respect and protect our rights.

First is the Army Corps of Engineers’ abdication of its responsibility to assure the safety of our waters. In issuing a permit to Dakota Access, the Corps failed to assess the full range of the pipeline’s probable impacts.

Second, the decision by the Iowa Utilities Board to issue eminent domain to a private company providing no service to Iowans is an assault on the sanctity of our right to own and enjoy property. If government can allow your land to be confiscated for an oil pipeline, where will the assault on liberty strike next?

Yes, it is time to defy an unjust law, time to defend liberty, time to fight the expansion of the fossil-fuel infrastructure and the accompanying destruction of our environment.

In the tradition of other great American struggles for freedom . . .

From the Boston Tea Party to the labor movement struggle to secure rights and freedoms we still enjoy and take for granted;

From the fight for women’s suffrage to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s;

From the Farm Crisis when farmers stood with their neighbors to block foreclosure auctions to the struggles happening now all across the country in opposition to fracking, pipelines and oil drilling;

. . . It is time to step forward and risk arrest.

Over a month ago, a Pledge of Resistance was circulated. The Pledge was initiated by Bold Iowa and supported by Iowa CCI, CREDO Action and 100 Grannies for a Livable Future. To date, over 1,000 people have signed the Pledge, which reads:

“{W}e are the conservatives, standing up for a safe and secure future for our families. It is those we protest, those who profit from poisoning our water, who violate our property rights, and who are radically altering the chemical composition of our atmosphere — and the prospects for survival of humanity — that are the radicals.”

If you are moved, please sign the Pledge and stand with us in a final attempt to stop this pipeline that our planet can’t sustain and most Iowans don’t want.

*******

Listen to the Fallon Forum:
– Live Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CT on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines, IA)
– Outside of central Iowa, listen live here: FALLON FORUM LIVE-STREAM
– KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames, IA)
– KICI.LP 105.3 FM (Iowa City, IA)
– WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans, LA)
– KPIP-LP, 94.7 FM (Fayette, MO)

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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