Georgia Gwinnett College and Progressive Georgians

A story ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this morning entitled Tough Times at Georgia Gwinnett College.

As a Georgian I saw nothing unusual about the story.  The weak commitment to education of the Republican majority in Georgia is leading to devastating cuts in yet another institute of higher learning here.

What interested me was the comments below the article.  One commenter blamed the cuts on “the underprivileged”.  Another comment blamed it on immigrants.

Progressives in Georgia absolutely have to take an in-your-face approach to both the cuts themselves, and the bigotry which gets stirred up when the issue arises.

Education is how people advance, and the Democratic Party of Georgia and progressives here have got to fight and roll back the Libertarian nonsense which puts forth the notion that only those from families who are already affluent enough to afford it should be able to attend college.

College needs to be cheap and it needs to be high quality.

We need to be contacting our legislators, even those of us in conservative districts, and energetically advocating for not only maintaining the current levels of funding for education at all levels, but improving the system.

As for the xenophobic and racist comments often accompanying the sort of article at the link above — answer them directly. The article made no mention of undocumented immigrants, yet a couple of posters jumped in to blame Georgia’s crappy commitment to education on immigrants.

We need to start pushing back on this nonsense in a big scale way.  I’m not saying we need to be shrill (in fact we shouldn’t be), or make pie-in-the-sky demands (we should learn the issues and figure out how each proposal gets funded).  But if we don’t start fighting why are we even here?

If you are reading this, and you are a Georgia citizen, I ask you to do two things which will only take a few minutes.  Go to the link above and leave a comment on the article.  And go to the website of your state legislator and leave them a comment expressing concern (or outrage, take your pick) over the cuts to Georgia Gwinnett College.

Why I Don’t Think Barrow is the Most Electable Democrat

There is a notion prevalent out there that the best chance for a Democrat to win the U.S. senate seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss is to choose the admirably resilient conservative Democrat John Barrow of Georgia’s 12th Congressional district.

Even the national press is getting in on that meme in articles like this one in Salon.

I think the assumption that our task as Democrats is to entice the Dixiecrats  who left the party for the GOP to return to the party would be a serious mistake.  The Dixiecrats are dying off here as certainly as their older conservative white counterparts are in other parts of the country.

We need to be energizing the base which makes the progressive Democratic party Georgia’s future: minorities, young voters, environmentalists, young labor activists, and other parts of the progressive coalition.

Campaigning for someone who, for instance, is equivocal on the notion that health care is a right for all citizens is not going to engender enthusiasm among the Democratic Party’s natural constituency.

As much as I admire Representative Barrows’ ability to survive a hostile environment, I’d rather he stick to his district.  We need to run a candidate who is a pragmatic progressive.  Our biggest obstacle is a lethargic Democratic Party of Georgia.  We need to break out of that with a candidate who makes it a joy to knock on doors and work in phone banks.

Barrow is not that candidate.

Until the Georgia Democratic Party gets its act together, forget about national party support

I would love it if the national Democrats started viewing Georgia as as a battleground, and started pouring money into the state democratic party.  Not only is that not likely to happen, but I think the national Democratic Party might be wasting its money at the moment if it did.

I’m reluctant to criticize people who are doing work in areas where I haven’t been involved.  I’ve been primarily a local community activist, working on things like historic preservation and environmental issues.  I’ve been a small-time but regular contributor to Democratic electoral campaigns for decades, but I haven’t been directly involved in the party itself until recently.

Exciting things are going on nationally for the Democratic Party, and that momentum should be translating into excitement and aggressiveness here in Georgia.  The same demograptic trends which are strengthening the progressive coalition nationally are at work here in Georgia.  The GOP is pushing itself further and further onto the fringe of American politics, so we should be able to make inroads into segments of the Georgia population where the GOP has been recently dominant.

But the Democratic Party seems frozen into a defensive fetal crouch.

We are not running candidates.  For an electoral political party that should be a no-brainer.  The Libertarians are running candidates more aggressively than we are.  The fact that of 14 candidates running in the recent special elections only one was a Democrat is positively alarming. 

This isn’t a progressive vs pragmatist vs blue dog issue. Hell, if any of those three parts of the party were out there fielding candidates it would be an improvement.  This is a matter of dysfunction as an electoral party.  We need to be recruiting and developing candidates everywhere, and we need to be building functioning organizations in every county, no matter how “red” that county is.

The GOP is already practically wearing a clown costume, and they are still winning elections here, so we can’t depend on GOP missteps to swing the state toward us.

And we’re not faced with an “either/or” question of building county parties versus running candidates either.  For a party which is supposed to be one of the parties in a two party system, those activities should be complementary. 

The Democratic Party needs to be building itself precinct by precinct, county by county, and along the way we should be running candidates for school boards, county commissions, city councils, state House and Senate, US House and Senate, and every statewide office.

Secession talk, progressives, and nutiness

Nutiness is often a lot of fun, particularly if the person exhibiting the nutty behavior realizes that they are behaving in a nutty fashion.  It’s fun, therapeutic, and is often a good way to blow off steam.  But it’s probably not a good thing for nutiness to become an operating principle in politics.

Since Obama’s re-election, there have been a number of petitions circulated calling for the secession of various parts of the country.  The most well known ones originated from the South (particularly Texas, where a segment of the population seems to shout about secession every time something happens that they don’t like)

Inevitably, when the secession talk starts, a few progressives respond with “go ahead and secede!!”, often accompanied by the customary depiction of southern whites as ignorant rednecks.

I can see how this could be fun for both the people circulating the secession petitions, and the progressives who are ridiculing them.  Two things should be made clear, though.

The first is that nobody here in the south who isn’t already hunched over their keyboard wearing a tinfoil hat takes the secession talk seriously.  The petitions were mostly part of the general outpouring of disappointment Republican southerners felt over Obama’s re-election.  Perhaps a few of them took the petitions seriously, but most were just engaged in an outpouring of grief.

The second is that we progressives aren’t going to convince white southerners that they would benefit from our policy proposals if our response is to stereotype them as ignorant bumpkins.

The south is an integral part of the United States, and is going to continue in that status, and southerners are happy with that.  Secession didn’t turn out very well for the south in the 1860s, and a solid majority of the population here, of all races and national backgrounds, is aware of that fact.

So let me address a paragraph each to the two groups I’ve talked about: the people circulating the secession petitions, and the progressives who are ridiculing them.

To conservative southerners who fantasize about secession, take a few deep breaths and go on with your life.  The world out there is the same world it was the day before the election. Your side lost the election, but losing an election is no reason to go publicly nuts.  If you want to discuss the finer points of constitutional law on this issue, fine, but realize that in a practical sense the issue was settled 150 years ago with over half a million Americans dead.

And as for progressives, you are supposed to be the segment of the political spectrum which most values inclusion and diversity.  Act like it.  I’m a white, southern, Georgia progressive Democrat.  If I didn’t believe that Democratic values, and progressive values, were universal, I’d find some other way to spend my time.  White southerners are not the uniformly racist neanderthals some of you seem to think we are.  If the progressive movement writes off any part of the population, and fails to try and convince them that our ideas and our values are the ones to move the nation forward, we might as well just retire to the forums on Poltico, or Wonkette, and be done with it.

So, that being said, everyone resume trading insults across the internet.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.