Class War or a Viable Third Party???
In recent years I've taken to telling people about an impending CLASS WAR and encouraging them to side with the Proletariat/ BROletariat. I'm keenly aware of the increasing tensions between the haves and the have-nots and of the broken promise made by Washington, DC's mayor Vince Gray (2011-2015) to make our nation's capital into “One City” – a campaign slogan that plays off of the title of a Charles Dickens book called “A Tale of Two Cities”. In 2010 I ran across an article that referenced predictions by Gerald Celente, the renowned and fiercely accurate predictor of socio-economic trends and the director of Trends Research Institute. He predicted in 2008 that by the end of 2012 there would be, among other things, jobs marches, a reaction to the Wall Street bail-out, food riots and revolution in the UnitedStates – some of which happened.
Fast forward to August 4, 2014 (President Obama's 53rd birthday). That afternoon, after leaving a dual-purpose rally in support of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan who was in DC and against Boko Haram, I attended a protest against Washington Harbor for them having asked the police to (illegally) remove people selling prison art from a wide median near their business. (The police actually guarded our protest in Washington, DC's ritzy Georgetown neighborhood. LOL.) While there, I spoke to DC Council at-large candidate and good friend Eugene Puryear about these rising tensions, a recent attack on a homeless man by anANC commissioner and the impending, long overdue and much-needed CLASS WAR. He seemed to agree with all that I said and then proceeded to tell me about a recent piece written by venture capitalist and near-billionaire Nick Hanauer entitled “The Pitchforks Are Coming”. In it he explains that the income gap between the rich and the poor in this country is greater than it's ever been and that, if something isn't done by the wealthy to mitigate the negative effects of poverty and inequity, then the poor will rise up in CLASS WAR.
On August 5th, 2014 after eating at a place that serves homeless people, I spoke to another client named Robert. I began to tell him that, through 1968 the U.S. Government was a savior of sorts to Blacks – that the feds actually made laws against various Jim Crow practices and went so far as to send in the troops so that Black children could attend integrated schools. I went on to say that presidents became overtly evil starting in 1969. Richard Nixon was inaugurated on January 20, 1969. I was born 26 days later on February 15th. Robert asserted that God made man who made government and that all governments are dictatorial and inherently evil. I said that we have to give governments some latitude to be government – that we must empower them with enough authority to get their job done. He adamantly disagreed. With that he was gone, having offered no solution. No good.
Later that day I did a media interview about the criminalization of homelessness and told Erin Bell what I knew about the homeless people in various U.S. cities being arrested for sleeping in public places when they have nowhere else to sleep and for partaking in other necessary human activities on public land. (Let's remember that, when U.S. soldiers were accused of depriving their Iraqi captives of sleep, it was called torture.) I also told her of good people being arrested for feeding the homeless and of my multiple interviews with Al Jazeera Television where I talked about the aforementioned mistreatment of homeless people in this country. (Several years ago, dozens of United Nations member nations drew up a resolution accusing the United States government of human rights violations. The world is watching with much help from Al Jazeera.)
I also told Erin that I firmly believe that a new form of American fascism is arising. We generally associate fascism with federal governments. However, U.S. fascism is "asserting" (not to be confused with "creating" or "defining") itself in a much different way. With the supreme court having solidified corporate control of the U.S. Government firmly in place, it is the local governments which are now making the draconian laws that target poor people. (And you thought Budapest was bad?!) The federal government is merely turning a blind eye to the domestic mistreatment of poor people as the feds focus more on creating international havoc.
Immediately following that interview, I spoke with friend and fellow homeless advocate David Pirtle about the need for CLASS WAR. He is a bit of a pacifist and tried to dissuade me from touting such violent rhetoric. He made the point that Americans aren't ready for CLASS WAR, especially since the government gives the poor just enough for them to worry about losing if they were to rise up – e.g. food stamps and subsidized housing. (I know all too well about people not rising up lest they lose their meager public benefits.) I then offered the idea of creating a viable third party and said that, of the “many third parties” (go figure), none is viable enough to break the two-party dynamic of our nation. David pointed out how that a relatively miniscule Tea Party has gained control of the Republican party and pushed its agenda through. I'd say that it's something to think about; but, might be harder to do again in lieu of the fact that the Tea Party, both major parties and others are watching to make sure that third-party politics don't become the new normal. After all, the creation of a viable third party would make it such that people don't have to flip-flop back and forth between two parties that are screwing them over time and time again – which hearkens back to the creation of party primaries. They'd have to think more in-depth about what defines each party and its candidates for different positions rather than just thinking in terms of “opposites”. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats want that to happen.
The primaries were supposed to give us a larger field of candidates so that we don't need to choose between two crooks in November. We now start with 10 to 20 crooks per position and narrow it down to one. When presidential term limits became the law in 1951, it was supposed to ensure that no president would become a dictator. But a lame duck president is less inclined to please his constituents than one who can run indefinitely and has to think about the next election. Furthermore, with Bush 43 having basically told America to go f**k itself, if the Dems were to put forth such a froward president, it would become crystal clear to Americans that they can't find salvation in either major party. However, that doesn't answer the pressing question: “What are we going to do about it?”.
Even if you disagree with my CLASS WAR rhetoric and aren't sure what to do about dirty politics, I can help you to summarily dismiss any notion that changing the way we vote (as was done by the creation of primaries) will do a substantial amount of good. Consider the aforementioned challenges associated with creating a third party. Add to that the fact that this viable third party would be regulated by the same capitalist vanguard. This third party would serve to make our government more cohesive for a short while before being co-opted by the establishment and melded into the capitalist class. So, you can see why I wouldn't spend an inordinate amount of my time trying to create a viable third party, though it is still good as a temporary means to an end. Furthermore, I don't feel strongly about the need to vote. I would however emphasize the need to inundate our respective incumbents with our demands – uniting against the feds first and then fanning out to the states and locales. They are supposed to work for all of their constituents once they take office.
On August 2nd, 2014 I was in a park when I noticed a protest nearby. It turned out to be a protest against Israel albeit in the U.S. capital. While there, I spoke with Matt Glover about the need for CLASS WAR. He agreed and expressed his frustration with get others to see the light. He asked how we should organize such an uprising. I suggested that we use social media to encourage over 600,000 U.S. citizens per day to come to DC and protest the U.S. government – cycling through most or all of population annually. He added that some people might stay for more than one day. We imagined that, if people were to remain for 5 days at a time, there could be as many as 3,000,000 protesters in DC on any given day and we could shut down our infamously ineffective congress. We've established on-line contact and will collaborate on such an effort. (You can help by sharing the aforementioned idea with as many people as possible.)
While many of my REVOLUTIONARY friends are like Robert insomuch as they choose only to disparage the government and don't recognize it as having ever done any good whatsoever, I beg to differ. I'll avoid the slippery slope of discussing motives. However, on its face, some of what the U.S. government has done in days long gone has been good. In 1934, during the first of Franklin D. Roosevelt's four terms (him having died in the first year of his fourth term), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was created. (They actually used to help poor people purchase houses, as opposed to simply paying most of the person's rent.)
The Great Depression was five years old and would continue for another eleven years. State and local governments which are not allowed to run deficits were unable to foot the bill for social services any longer. The federal government decided to use its right to run a deficit by creating social services that would replace those at the state and local levels. Such was the logic for creating HUD. Now Congress speaks of wanting to decrease the deficit. To do this, they are decreasing social services funding. So, the logic of 1934 has been flipped on its head. The feds have gone from creating federal social services due to being able to run a deficit over to cutting back those social services in order to reduce the deficit. What's missing is a stated analysis of the effect this will have on the poor. Will we just lie down and die without a FIGHT?!
While the poor and dispossessed have many needs, it has been the need for housing or shelter that has brought out the most FIGHTERS over the years and this will probably remain true for many years hence. During the Reagan administration, hundreds of homeless people and many housed advocates put life, limb and personal freedom on the line to go up against the president and force him to turn a dilapidated, vacant federal building into a shelter with a thirty-year covenant stating that it would serve the homeless until at least July 7th, 2016. With the covenant about to expire, I initiated a process that has led to the DC Council creating a bill that will force the mayor to develop a plan for the shelter's 1,350 residents (one-sixth of DC's homeless population). These FIGHTERS also effected the creation of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Services Act which was renewed in 2009 as the HEARTH Act (Homeless Emergency Assistance, Rapid Transition to Housing) and signed into law by Obama on May 20th of that year. It was handed off to HUD to be implemented and is expected to be fully implemented later this month.
All of this lends itself to the fact that, during my life (almost to the day), there has been an awkward and strained relationship between the feds and the poor (the “fed-up's”). The poor were offered salvation from the federal government during the Great Depression. That would continue through the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. Fifteen or so years later, during the latter half of Reagan's first term, many homeless Vietnam veterans would find themselves FIGHTING against Reagan's Keynesian politics on the home front – albeit without the BIG GUNS. We had to actually FORCE the leader to lead properly – to care for the least of his constituents. Today we still find ourselves FIGHTING against the desire by Congress to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. We're still up against what is essentially a bait and switch – creating federal programs to replace state and local programs and then attempting to end those federal programs at a time and in a way that is most inopportune for the recipients of those services.
We now have a president who is half Black, though many people fail to acknowledge his Caucasian side. Some time ago, I spoke with friend and fellow advocate Linda Leaks about the fact that Obama has done close to nothing for Blacks. (It was noted that he is not the president of Blacks only.) We discussed how that he can't be expected to come out and say that he's going to do this or that for Blacks. She then said that he should say “poor” – that if he was uncomfortable saying he's doing something for Blacks, he should say that he's doing it for the poor. Good point.
I'll offer yet another possibility. As a homeless advocate, I deal with the poorest of the poor. I also know that the top reasons for homelessness I this country include lack of affordable housing or a living wage, domestic violence, medical bankruptcy and untreated mental illness. It stands to reason that an effort by the president to end homelessness would cause him to have to address many other social ills as well. I've said in the past that a president could pretty much govern the country simply by devoting himself to ending homelessness. But Obama has failed to confront those who call him a Socialist. He should've stood up to them and asked if they were implying that he should ignore the poor. But he didn't. His time to show strength and assert the need for a more Socialistic government that adequately assists its poor is running out. He might have to deal with a Republican majority in both houses during his last two years – 2015 being characterized by stress and futile assertions on Obama's part and 2016 hopefully being characterized by CLASS WAR.
I'm not saying that poor people should be expected to remain on social services indefinitely. However, the federal government has offered these services long enough for generations of poor people to become dependent on the and to lose whatever job skills and life skills they may have had at one time. It makes no sense to just pull the rug out from under these dependents. The government should take steps to connect people to living-wage jobs – the jobs that the government can't create. Social service recipients shouldn't be weaned off of their government assistance unless and until that government can effectively connect them to another form of sustainable sustenance via living-wage employment. (maybe they'll pull it off by 2114.)
This awkward and strained relationship between the feds and the “fed-up's” (poor), though it can be traced back as far as Nixon, really came to a head during Reagan. The Gipper really showed us one again that the words of Frederick Douglass remain true: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and I never will.” By caving to pressure rather than governing by conscience, he set himself and many other politicians up to be inundated with people's demands – to have positive laws and policies enacted by applying pressure from the bottom up with grass roots advocacy.
Now the efforts of homeless REVOLUTIONARIES in the 80's have come full circle. There is action being taken on the future of the CCNV Shelter as its covenant comes to a close. There is the HEARTH Act which as part of its renewal has new elements that require any city which receives HUD money to put in homelessness place a power structure that allows for quick decisions to be made concerning the homeless. Here in Washington, DC Kristy Greenwalt has been hired as the first ever director of the DC Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH). She previously served as the housing policy director for the USICH. She has about three weeks to bring DC into full compliance with the HEARTH Act. I trust that she'll pull it off.
It is worth noting that many of the concerns which the poor and the homeless have raised are met in her. She has to implement legislation that was created during Reagan, renewed by Obama, implemented over the course of five and a half years by HUD, under-funded by Congress and handed down to state and local governments. She also has to contend with the exponential increase in DC's homeless population and the fact that we are not in a state and therefore don't have that funding source. Add to that the fact that there has been a dismal response to homelessness by the feds since 1987 when the Mckinney-Vento Act was passed and that there have been many missed opportunities over the years to humanely end homelessness in the District. There is a heightened level of distrust and frustration among the homeless concerning government and the non-profits that advocate for the poor. Kristy Greenwalt will have to deal with all of this and more. But failure is not an option; for, just over the horizon in the spring of 2016 I see CLASS WAR!!!!!