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Front Page > Issues > 2002 > December

A few words from the editor, December 2002

Let me warn you right now, as I sit here at my computer I’m feeling pretty cranky. Now maybe it’s because I’ve just turned 50 — born on the day Dwight Eisenhower was elected president (But for the intervention of my New Deal Democrat father I would I have named Dwight).

But I’m pretty sure something else is at work here.

Maybe it’s the fact that Mark Kroeker is handing out medals to every cop that killed a Portlander last year, including the two who killed Jose Mejia Poot.

Or maybe it’s the fact that while 18 cities around the country have adopted anti-war resolutions, we’re lucky not to get beaten up protesting the man who is bringing us our latest war.

Then there’s the fact John Ashcroft will soon be sifting through my credit card bills, internet activities and other pieces of my private life once protected by our now shredded constitution.

But I think what is really making me cranky is the spin coming out of progressive circles about the 2002 election.

I realize there’s no use in remaining in the doldrums many of us found ourselves the day after the votes were cast. The fact that the GOP won the biggest victory since people stopped liking Ike is hardly good news, but it is what it is and we must make plans accordingly.

Before the final thin wail poured form the lips of the Democrats, however, we were hearing the same old story of being outspent by the Right. A few more dollars here or there and we could have pulled off a few victories.

Then there are those on the Left who, while critical of the Democrats, say there is little they can do in light of the power wealthy elites have over our government. If they don’t tow the line, they won’t win next time.

Neither of these statements are without some element of truth to them. But in trotting out these same tired arguments we too easily overlook some important facts.

Take, for example, Kevin Mannix’s surprise near-win in the governor’s race. Most progressive thought the choice of Mannix meant a shoo-in for Kulongoski. Yet with less money and infrastructure, Mannix came very close to pulling off an upset. But the interesting part of the race is found in Marion County.

In Marion County, Mannix received 52.46 percent of the vote. While portions of Marion County are part of Mannix’ old legislative district, there’s a more important fact about the county and its voting habits. Marion County has one of the highest densities of unionized public workers in the nation. That means a significant number of public workers who belong to unions voted for a man who has made no secret of his desire to slash state jobs and roll back workers rights.

In Marion County, at least, the Right didn’t outspend progressives — they out-organized them. It’s a story that was repeated in many races around the nation. But you aren’t hearing that from the Democrats or from progressives.

Here is where someone would usually chime in about last minute media blitzes shifting voters. I know from experience they can have an impact. But voters aren’t tabla rasas waiting to follow the first message imprinted on them. Convincing working people to vote against their own best interest means somebody is doing a better job of talking — or perhaps listening — then we are, even if the solutions they offer are false.

Which brings me back to a few questions that regularly appear in this column: Why do we find it easier to shout at empty buildings than talk to strangers who most likely share our concerns? Why do we seem unable to build depth within our own base?

These questions go beyond electoral politics. The campaigns being developed to stop the war, to stop the erosion of our civil liberties, and stop the dozens of other attacks being carried out or planned against us will fail unless we find answers and find them soon.

Progressives will never have more money than the elites we oppose. We will never have a system dominated by elites work in our favor on its own. Liberals will always run for cover when those with the pursestrings show their anger. This is an environment created by and for the elites so they can prosper and continue to enjoy unthinkable pleasures at our expense. To repeatedly point to these facts is meaningless.

But one thing is clear. We need to start talking to anyone who will listen and do everything we can to convince those who won’t to do so. We need to stop talking about long struggles — even though they will be long — and start thinking about how we recruit more people for the fight that’s brewing the next week, next month and next year.

Most important of all, we need to offer people a clear and real alternative — no matter how difficult it may be to achieve in its totality — and start delivering some of it as soon as possible or we’ll all be cranky for a long time.

Dave Mazza is editor of The Portland Alliance



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Last Updated: January 27, 2003