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“It had nothing to do with the wall!” Kenneth Williams explained the recent 35-day government shutdown to the Dallas Chapter of Texas Alliance for Retired Americans meeting on February 6. Williams is a political activist from Rowlett, near Dallas. President George Nolan put Williams on the agenda first.




Kenneth Williams
explained the shutdown

The tipoff, Williams explained, was that Mr Trump had two years in which his party controlled both houses of Congress, yet he didn’t take such drastic action to get his wall. He didn’t do it until the Democrats won the House of Representatives. Williams asked, “If they really wanted money for the wall, why didn’t they do it when they had control of Congress?”

The real reason that Trump provoked the shutdown was to usurp power from Congress. Williams said that Trump was thinking, “We must do something to put them in their place.” But, Williams said, “They underestimated the unity of the Democrats in opposing them.”

Another lesson we learned from the shutdown is that so-called “middle income” job holders don’t have money in reserve. They live paycheck-to-paycheck. The shutdown put a terrible hardship on government employees and contractors. The contractors may never recover.

Will Trump provoke another shutdown? Williams thinks not, because the entire Republican party is not crazy. They know that they lost power and influence and they don’t want any more of it. Williams said, “The Republican Senators are terrified of going through this again.”

One of the activists asked, “How is Trump going to get out of this corner?” Kenneth Williams answered, “He is not going to get out of the corner… he will make up some facts.”

Other retiree activists at the meeting agreed with Williams. Some of them had even stronger statements.

Retiree Meetings Aren’t Just Social Events

The two-hour meeting covered a lot of analysis of the situation confronting retirees followed by recommendations as to how to fight back. Fernando Rojas gave announcements from Senior Source, the local dispenser of government help for retirees. Alliance Field Organizer Judy Bryant went over pending state and federal legislation affecting how retirees live.

Bryant then went on to organize delegations to local congresspersons, voter registration, and other ways that retirees may influence decision makers.

I liked a great deal of what I saw at the Texas Democratic Party convention in Ft Worth on June 22, but not everything.

conv-laborcaucuscrowd

The first thing we attended was the Labor Caucus. Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy presided over a completely packed meeting with people standing three deep along the back and sides. I caught Levy’s opening remarks on “Facebook Live” where you can see them at https://www.facebook.com/gene.lantz.7.

Just about every critical candidate in Texas was there seeking union help. Levy could only recognize most of them briefly due to time constraints. The ones that he introduced to the podium were the most critical statewide candidates such as Lupe Valdez for Governor.

candidate-lupevaldez

I noticed at least two unions had bought ads in the Democrats’ brochure: CWA and UAW. The Texas AFL-CIO booth in the Exhibit Hall was abuzz with activity. They took polaroids of people posing in front of their big slogan, “I’m union, I fight, I vote!’ It has a “big fist” image, to show power and commitment.

Labor’s big impact on the Democrats was evident everywhere. It doesn’t mean that labor is in their pocket, it actually means the opposite. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa likes to say that Labor and the Democrats are “joined at the hip,” but in truth labor’s activities are very much our own. In this photo, you can see Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy thinking carefully while Hinojosa speaks to the Labor Caucus.

conv-levy-gilbertohinojosa

The deep polarization in America is causing working families to support Democrats. Recent news reports show Republicans trying to implement $6 trillion in cuts that would affect working people, less than a year after their big tax giveaway of more than a $trillion$ to the wealthy. The Texas Republican Party’s platform, just finished June 18, is a kick in the face to working families, and especially to our children.

On the downside

In their exuberance, the first dozen or so speakers at the Democrats’ convention emphasized two main themes: immigration and gun violence. These are hot-button issues today, to be sure, but they are issues that the Democrats already own. The Republicans have generously donated those issues and those voters to the Democrats.

But what about fighting the corporate takeover? What about America’s three ongoing wars and attempts to coerce and undermine other nations? What about America’s disgraceful top-of-the-world prison population? What about taking concrete steps to end the health care hodgepodge and support Medicare for All? What about saving the state’s environment in the face of rampant oil well fracking and nuclear waste dumping? I didn’t hear those issues, except for some vague emotional appeals here and there.

The inescapable conclusion is that the Democrats are not ready to forego big corporate campaign donations any more than the Republicans are.

What will you do?

I realize that many of America’s best activists have adopted the age-old goal of trying to take over the Democratic Party. I hope they do, but history tells us that it isn’t likely.

Supporting working families, not candidates nor parties, is the way to go. It may be true that nearly all of labor’s candidates in 2018 will be democrats, and it may be true that an individual activist can be more effective short-term working directly for candidates than he/she might be while working for the AFL-CIO, but that would be a major long-term mistake.

The electoral arena is only one of many, and we must choose labor in every one!

If the goal is to make serious change, activists must recognize that only workers can do that. They are the only ones who can stand up to capitalists. A few years ago, one could not have been blamed for feeling that the AFL-CIO and unions in general were not rightfully the leaders of the working class, but that is no longer true and has not been true since 1995. The AFL-CIO today truly works for the entire class and strives to organize everybody.

That’s the team we should join!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. The “events” tab on the web site leads to recent podcasts. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

 

 

 

A lot of Republicans in the Texas Legislature and the editors of the Dallas Morning News have teamed up to oppose “straight party ticket” voting.

ballot

By now, everybody in the United States, and especially the Texans, should begin to worry when Republicans talk about “electoral reform.” They’ve already deformed our elections beyond recognition with crazy redistricting, outright voter suppression, and opening the floodgates for big money to buy every candidate.

Now they want Texas to join the states that have already outlawed “straight ticket” voting. I laughed out loud when I read the Dallas editors’ reasons. The main one was that the change wouldn’t make any difference because people could still vote straight ticket, they would just have to put a bunch more marks by each candidate on the ballot.

If it doesn’t make any difference, why do it?

And, anybody could turn the argument right around on the editors. If it’s true that people could still vote straight ticket AFTER this “deform,” then isn’t it also true that they could NOT vote straight ticket NOW? They aren’t offering to give people another choice, they’re offering to take one away!

Straight Ticket Voting Makes Sense

I’m not sure what it’s like in other states, but in Texas we have to elect almost everybody that has anything to do with government, from dogcatcher through all the judges and on up (or down, as the case may be) to the Governor and President. Nobody can keep track of all these candidates — then they throw in a bunch of undecipherable propositions and amendments at the end of the ballot. A person is supposed to have all this clear in his/her head before we enter the voting booth, but everybody knows we can’t.

Party Polarity Is On the Grow

The growing polarity between the two capitalist parties makes them more distinct than ever before. When I was a kid, I used to hear people say that they couldn’t tell the difference between the two capitalist parties. Nobody says that now.

For working families, the Democrats’ party platforms sound like Hollywood dreams, and the Republican party platforms come straight from the hallways of Hell.

Like the “local control” issue, the “straight ticket” issue is a smoke screen to hide the intentions of big money as they rob the workers and deform our democracy in order to undermine our ability to fight back.

–Gene Lantz

Find me Saturdays at 9 Central Time at http://knon.org

Watching the Republican convention may have convinced America that never have so many white people gathered for such malevolent purposes. But, every now and then, the TV cameras pick up a dark face and zoom in. A handful of African Americans took the podium, as did a handful of Latinos, women, and a tiny handful of gays. This for a party whose avowed platform reeks of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and hatred. It’s legitimate to ask “Why?”

judasiscariot

Long before the mafia started using the kiss of death, Judas laid it on Jesus

It’s also a good time to expound on the common political phenomenon known as “opportunism.” My glossary of political terms says opportunism is “Sacrificing higher ideals for personal gain. Specifically, someone within the progressive movement who profits by selling out the interests of others.” Judas Iscariot, who turned Jesus in to the Roman authorities for thirty pieces of silver, is a classic example.

In other words, some of those few African American spokespersons for racists are getting paid, as are some of those women and gays. Did you ever wonder if Clarence Thomas is on the Supreme Court because he’s a reactionary, or if he was a reactionary because he is on the Supreme Court?

Closer to home, you can see opportunism every day in your workplace. Almost all of us feel some solidarity with our co-workers, because they’re in the same boat we’re in. Yet, almost all of us would take a promotion into a management job if we got the chance. Once in management, solidarity is gone — even though nobody will admit that. Managers always claim to feel exactly like their employees, but their every action proves otherwise.

When somebody moves from worker to management, he/she is taking advantage of an opportunity. From the point of view of worker solidarity, he/she has also committed an error of opportunism. It’s common. Almost everybody does it or would do it if they had the chance. It’s just the way our economic system works. It turns us against one another.

American politics is filled through and through with opportunists. It’s tempting to say that almost all the politicians in our economic system are opportunists. All of them aren’t. But some of them would sell out their own mothers.

The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other. –Will Rodgers

–Gene Lantz

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