First, for six years, I was a card-carrying Democrat.
Then, with 1992, in came the Clintons. In came NAFTA, the federal death penalty, invasions of Somalia and Serbia, abortion rights rollbacks, Don't Ask Don't Tell, DOMA, WTO, and the corporatization of welfare.
Out of the Democratic Party went I.
In 1996, the choice between Clinton and Dole made me Ralph. (Sorry, Mr. Michael Moore, you got that quip from me, and I got the bumpersticker to prove it).
In 2000, Clinton's use of armored personnel carriers and riot police to suppress Seattle's WTO protests made me sicker still of the Democrats. (Or maybe that was the pepper spray that made me feel nauseous).
Then in 2004, after three years of preventable war, I was in no mood for a Democratic Party that had given Bush most everything he'd wanted.
But something changed in the early months of 2008. The despised Clintons began to lose. The same Hillary Clinton who had stood "shoulder to shoulder with the President" lost state after state. And a liberal Black candidate who spoke positively of America's progressive aspirations started winning the primaries.
I wasn't about to turn in my Green Party card. I'd been around this block a few times before, and knew that despite a progressive record in other areas, Obama was terrible on trade, weak on the war, and too close to the coal companies. Besides, I remained convinced that if the U.S.A. was to get real democracy we needed a strong, independent progressive party.
But all the same, I began to see that someone was actually beating the Clintons. I saw that Obama was something different from Gore and Kerry. And I began to feel... hope?
Obama would win the primaries. It looked like his year. The Republicans nominated McCain. It looked like Obama would be president. Driven by the war, the economy, and climate change, Americans were moving toward progressive politics. Obama might prove to be a new Roosevelt. It would be morning in America.
In February, I made plans to attend the Democratic National Convention. My wife and I secured press credentials. We thought that maybe, just maybe, we would see something new in Denver.
And then the empire struck back. The Clintons pulled out the old Dixiecrat playbook. They portrayed Obama as uppity. An America-hater. Muslim. A cokehead. Un-American. A danger to white women.
We all know what happened then. As Obama lost ground in the polls, he responded by dissing Muslims, betraying civil liberties, backtracking on the war, and wearing a flag pin, causing people to begin to seriously wonder for the first time whether the charge was true that Barack was all bark and no bite.
Incredibly, it now looks as though the Democratic Party may have taken its best historic opportunity to transform itself, and change America in the process... and flubbed it.
I sort of liked those few months earlier this year when I began to believe that change could come not only from outside but also from inside the political system. But thanks to the past few weeks, I am cured of daring to believe in change from within. I go to Denver free of such illusions. Thank you, damn you, Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The Pirate King of Protest Music
Speaking of protest music, which Isthmus did in a feature this week, the Pirate King of protest music, Democracy Now" by Amy Goodman, to "the modern Phil Ochs," Rovics is known for performing at mass protests and movement benefits from Hiroshima to Berlin. This time, his Madison show will benefit the legal defense of three environmentalists targeted by the federal government for alleged sabotage.
I met David Rovics via another local Ben - Ben Masel - in the mid-1990s. At that time David was doing the drug decriminalization rally circuit and looking for broader causes to connect with. He's made those connections, and then some. David takes swings at corporate capitalism, authoritarian communism, and lifestylist anarchism, easy targets all of them, to be sure, but he lands his punches with vigor. And in between rounds he offers up radical romanticism, children's songs, and yes, a few odes to the drug cannabis.
David Rovics' upcoming Madison show takes place at 9:30pm, Saturday, September 6, at Café Montmartre on the Capitol Square. Cover is $10, with proceeds going to benefit Eau Claire's Aaron Ellringer and several others facing prison time for alleged roles in a raid on the federal government's forest genetic manipulation lab in Rhinelander.
Ellringer and co-defendant Katherine Christianson have entered not guilty pleas, and whether one believes them innocent of the charges or not, or agrees with the sabotage of such facilities or not, at the least it must be agreed that they and their co-defendants are entitled to competent legal representation. The feds have poured hundreds of millions into "counter-terrorism" operations targeting the