Thursday, November 15, 2012

Alan Grayson A Champion From The Franklin And Eleanor Roosevelt Wing Of The Democratic Party


Alan Grayson doesn't get to vote in the lame duck session. So the ruse of dragging the failed Austerity Agenda across the Atlantic and inserting on these shores-- what DC political elites call the "Fiscal Cliff"-- isn't something he has to go on the record about. But if you think the congressman from central Florida's new 9th CD is just going to sit back and watch something this important go forward without getting involved... then you don't know Alan Grayson. This week he was on Cenk Uygar's Young Turks show and the first question Cenk asked him was whether he supports the Grand Bargain as it's currently structured.
ALAN: I'm entirely against it. Look, Naomi Klein wrote a whole book about this, called The Shock Doctrine. This is an artificial shock. It's being induced in order to be able to justify policies you could not possibly justify on their merits, and I think that people are getting very frustrated about this. The polls clearly show that over three quarters of the population doesn't want any cuts in benefits in Social Security, or any cuts in benefits for Medicare, in order to be able to reduce the deficit. What they want, a majority, want cuts in the defense budget, and they want an end to the war in Afghanistan to reduce the deficit. And instead what we are seeing is this artificial creation [of a crisis], right after we saw a real crisis. We saw a real crisis in Hurricane Sandy, and that's what a real crisis looks like. An artificial crisis is being instituted to steal from us, to steal from the Middle Class, and to steal from people in need.

CENK: It's so refreshing to hear a Democratic Congressman actually say that. So now, unfortunately, not only do you have the Republicans against you, it appears that you've got the Administration against you. They can't wait to do this Grand Bargain. So how in the world do progressive Democrats fight back to make sure it doesn't happen?

ALAN: Well, first we have to make sure people understand there is a third choice. We can't have the Republican Party saying, "We want to strip away your Medicare and your Social Security," like they do in the Ryan Budget, which they all voted for and which passed the House, and then have the Democratic Party say, "Have half." That doesn't work. There's got to be a third alternative. Somebody has to say, "No, that's just not the way we are going to do this. We're not going to strip money from the people in need. We're not going to throw Grandma from the train. We're just not going to do it."

What you're going to see is that this will become a litmus test. This will become a litmus test in the Democratic Party, in the same way that favoring tax cuts for the rich has become a litmus test for the Republican Party. Anybody who votes for cuts in Social Security and cuts in Medicare can expect a primary in the year 2014.

CENK: That would be terrific. Now, as you go into this Congress, and unfortunately you are going to get there after the lame duck session, where they might cut this Grand Bargain. How much of a fighting squad do you have with you? How many progressives can stand up and actually say that? Is it a large enough block to actually throw a roadblock into what's happening?

ALAN: Yes, but it shouldn't come to that. The Democratic Party should be united. We are the Party that created Social Security. We are the Party that created Medicare. We should stand behind it. We should protect it. It's amazingly popular among the voters. Why should we shoot ourselves in the head by saying we're going to end these programs, we're going to cut back these programs, when we created them and the voters love them?
Grayson's chat with Cenk reminded me that I wanted to share something with you that Michael Moore dug up-- one of the more sordid episodes from Democratic Party history.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt made plans to run for a third term in 1940 he decided to drop conservative Vice President John Nance Garner from the ticket, both because Garner disapproved of Roosevelt running again and Garner's opposition to much of the New Deal. Instead Roosevelt chose Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace.

However, many of Garner's fellow conservative Democrats, including the party's reactionary wing based in the South, despised Wallace for his liberalism and attempted to block his nomination at the convention before Roosevelt's arrival. The book American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A. Wallace describes what happened next:
At the White House, Franklin Roosevelt sat in the Oval Room playing solitaire, listening to the proceedings with growing disgust…It was a hot, humid evening in Washington, and Roosevelt was out of patience. Suddenly he reached for a pad and began to scribble. Shortly he handed his notes to [federal judge and confidant] Sam Rosenman and told him to "clean it up" because he might have to "deliver it quickly."
Below is the letter which Roosevelt drafted, in which he vowed not to run if his fellow Democrats blocked his choice of Wallace. (In the end the letter was never sent, as a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt turned the tide for Wallace at the convention.) Roosevelt's letter, with its powerful critique of the Democratic Party, was published almost nowhere and was essentially unknown before it appeared in Oliver Stone's new Showtime documentary series Untold History of the United States:
Franklin D. Roosevelt Letter to the Democratic Convention

July 18, 1940

Members of the Convention:

In the century in which we live, the Democratic Party has received the support of the electorate only when the party, with absolute clarity, has been the champion of progressive and liberal policies and principles of government.

The party has failed consistently when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.

The Republican Party has made its nominations this year at the dictation of those who, we all know, always place money ahead of human progress.

The Democratic Convention, as appears clear from the events of today, is divided on this fundamental issue. Until the Democratic Party through this convention makes overwhelmingly clear its stand in favor of social progress and liberalism, and shakes off all the shackles of control fastened upon it by the forces of conservatism, reaction, and appeasement, it will not continue its march of victory.

It is without question that certain political influences pledged to reaction in domestic affairs and to appeasement in foreign affairs have been busily engaged behind the scenes in the promotion of discord since this Convention convened.

Under these circumstances, I cannot, in all honor, and will not, merely for political expediency, go along with the cheap bargaining and political maneuvering which have brought about party dissension in this convention.

It is best not to straddle ideals.

In these days of danger when democracy must be more than vigilant, there can be no connivance with the kind of politics which has internally weakened nations abroad before the enemy has struck from without.

It is best for America to have the fight out here and now.

I wish to give the Democratic Party the opportunity to make its historic decision clearly and without equivocation. The party must go wholly one way or wholly the other. It cannot face in both directions at the same time.

By declining the honor of the nomination for the presidency, I can restore that opportunity to the convention. I so do.

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At 4:48 PM, Anonymous me said...

Interesting letter. Thanks for publicizing it.

Too bad FDR dropped Wallace the next time around. We as a country would have been much better off if he had kept him.


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