Tuesday, July 05, 2005
The turnout was less than I expected. Lots of reasons for that, I suppose – beautiful Spring day, competition from south by southwest, no/little publicity (I only knew about it because I got an email from CodePink.) But still.
I am totally clueless about how to estimate crowd size, but the march itself seemed to be three or four blocks long, if that tells you anything. We ended up at our new city hall. This being Austin, the music was great and speakers not too bad, either.
This one's for Tom Kertes. Veterans for Peace. American flags. Alternatives to the draft. What more could you ask, Tom?
Jackie Goodman, City Council member and mayor pro tem was speaking when I arrived at City Hall.
Music from Slaid Cleaves.
Robert Jensen spoke next. Impassioned. I’ve been a fan of his writing for some time – he has op-eds in the Austin American Stateman from time to time. See A Defeat For an Empire and Sinners or saints: The contradictions of conservative Christian politics for samples of his work. I agreed with everything he had to say – except – when he attacked Democrats as no better than Republicans. The problem is power, and that those who have power protect it at all costs, he said. Yeah, I get that, Bob, but I really think that the first priority is to get the maniacs currently in power out of power and I think the Democrats are the only hope we have of doing that.
Eliza Gilkyson up next. Unbelievably powerful song, “Man of God.” It was a message to George W. “you are not” a man of God. I wish I could make a link to it, so you can listen, but I couldn’t find it, and it doesn’t seem to be on her new album. But if you can find it anywhere, by all means, Go Listen. It’s awesome.
She also did “Highway 9.” Sample of the lyrics:
Well, the white god said to the little man
we're gonna fulfill scripture in the holy land
between the Tigris and Euphrates, it's a lot like hell
go on and liberate my people and the o-i-l.
Got your big trucks rollin' down hiway 9
put on the armor, it's party time
gonna dance with the devil of our own design
get your big trucks rollin' down hiway 9.
So the little man gathered all his chicken-hawks in
and the neo-cons and his daddy's kin
With their own clear channel and a helluva spin
and a white man hidden in a black man's skin.
Big trucks rollin' down hiway 9
pulverize the public, it's payback time
who's tax dollar is it? your's and mine
keeps the big trucks rollin' down hiway 9.
Listen to a sample here.
There were the Protest Warriors “counter-demonstrating” across the street. Truly disgusting signs. Cracked me up when the anarchists went over and put their signs in front of them, so the Protest Warriors had to hold their signs up higher.
And then one of my long-time favorite singer songwriters, James McMurtry. Started off by saying that there was plenty of dancefloor space in front “if you’re not a Baptist. And if you are, pretend you’re a Methodist, because we can’t tell the difference.”
Well, I’m not a Baptist or a Methodist, but if James McMurtry’s playing and there’s room to dance, I’m not missing the opportunity. I look across the way and there’s a fellow “woman of a certain age” dancing too, so I danced over to her and the two of us old fogies showed the young lefties how it’s done. (I’m the one in the yellow shirt.)
James shouted out for us to come up close to the stage “because we play better that way” so we did. Others joined in. Felt so good, but with an underlying sadness, since I couldn’t help but remember dancing on the main mall at UT during Vietnam era protests. Same insanity. Different war. 1970.
Thirty-five years and it comes around again. I was 21, now I’m 56. I danced this time for the same reason I did then – because this is what life is supposed to be about. Springtime. Music. Kids and dogs and people who care.
The “counter protesters” were gone. Guess their arms got tired. Wimps.
McMurtry ended with “We Can’t Make It Here.” Go Download.
By the time he finished, rain clouds were coming up from the southwest. Lightning and thunderstorm and hail soon after.
I had never heard Jackson speak. I swear I'm surprised the walls of the buildings at Huston-Tillotson University (where DemFest is being held) are still standing. The passion of the man is beautiful.
Here's what he had to say:
The republicans have a simple theme: Less government, lower taxes, strong defense. It doesn't matter which Republican is running for whatever office - the theme is consistent and clear. Democrats don't have a theme. We wait for the presidential candidate to tell us what the theme is, and we rally round. Four years later - a new candidate sets a different theme, and we rally round it. Then four years later - another candidate, another theme . . . We wait each time to be told what the theme is - what Democrats stand for - this time. It's time for us, the people, to say what Democrats stand for and for the candidate to take our message to the country.
We need to start standing for people's rights. What rights do the Democrats fight for? . . . . NONE! We fight for policies.
Now there's nothing wrong with good policies - but every time, the Republicans co-opt our policies, distort them beyond all recognition and pass them into law. Marian Wright Edelman worked to give every child an equal, high-quality education. She called on America to "leave no child behind." Instead of her vision, we now have the travesty known as NCLB, courtesy of the republicans. Prescription drug benefits. Protecting Social Security. Ad nauseum.
Republicans use constitutional amendments as a weapon. In non-election years, they introduce constitutional amendment after amendment - to ban gay marriage, to ban abortions, to ban flag-burning - on and on - one amendment after another. Why? It is unlikely that any of the amendments will ever make it all the way through the process and become part of our constitution. (Thank god.) They do it because during non-election years they can force votes on these proposed hateful amendments and then use the votes as a wedge when elections roll around.
Republicans use proposed constitutional amendments to define what they are for - even though what they are for is hateful, telling people what you are for is always more powerful and persuasive than telling people what you are against.
Democrats can use the same amendment process to define what we stand for. Rep. Jackson has introduced three amendments.
Did you know that we do not have a constitutional right to vote in presidential elections?
In Bush v. Gore, justices in the 5-4 majority reinforced their belief that "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote..." Although their statement refers to electoral votes for president, it reinforces the view that voting is merely a state function and a privilege granted at the discretion of those in power.
Rep. Jackson has introduced HJR 28 - an amendment to the constitution that would give us a constitutional right to vote.
He has also introduced HJR 29 The Right to A Public Education of Equal High Quality Amendment and HJR 30 The Right to Health care of equal high quality.
What is Rep. Jackson's theme? "Toward a more perfect union."
A few hours later at Stubb's, Rep. Jackson had the crowd roaring with his powerful support for Howard Dean. The Backbone Campaign fought their way to the stage to present him with a Golden Backbone trophy.
And damn straight he deserves it. The Congressional Black Caucus is saving Democracy.