JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY.
THE LONG JOURNEY
THREE ROADS TO THE WHITE HOUSE
By Jack Random
In the late sixties to mid seventies, a caravan of wisdom seekers set out from the east in VW vans, bound for glory and enlightenment on the golden west coast. Some reached their destiny in a testament to ingenuity, perseverance and will. Countless others stalled, broke down, and either settled in the places where they came to rest, creating islands of resistance to middle American thought and values, or they found their way back home. Some would retool, regenerate, and try again and again, reluctant to accept the cold reality that their vehicles were not designed for the long journey and their destiny was to settle for something less than the land of their dreams.
As a long-standing advocate of independent and third party politics, like the idealistic pilgrims of the late sixties, I have grown weary of the road. I am no longer satisfied with symbolic protest or movements that will never reach their destiny because, in fact, they were never designed to do so. Unlike the many who have walked this path before, I am not ready to settle in an island of resistance. I am not prepared to erect the walls of isolation, if only to shield myself from complicity in the crimes my nation will unleash upon the world.
After the profoundly disturbing experience of the recent election, which I am compelled to write about in the past tense despite the ongoing recount effort in Ohio which has the potential to shock and awe all Americans into recognizing the patent absurdity of our system, I am more convinced than ever that real change can only come when we have broken the monopoly of two parties controlled by the same corporate interests and shattered it into a thousand pieces.
What we desperately need now are leaders that recognize the long-term nature of the political journey. What we need now are movements that do not sleep for three years after a presidential election. What we need now is an acknowledgement that the age of symbolic struggle is over. It has only allowed the power elite to point at us with mocking glee as proof positive that we are a free society, free to speak (though our words will never be heard), free to assemble (in concrete pens surrounded by barbed wire), free to organize and participate as long as we are removed from real influence and remote from exerting our influence on the policies of governance.
At this stage in our history, I am uncertain which is more self-defeating: those who believe we can accomplish our goals by working within the system or those who believe we can exert our influence by staging yet another symbolic campaign.
As Karl Rove can attest, the road to the White House is long and hard. It requires decades of planning and work. By my reckoning, there are only three paths to a viable presidential candidacy. No matter how we might wish it otherwise, a viable candidate must either have won statewide election or risen to the rank of a military commander.
Like it or not, these are the criteria that qualify a candidate for a run at the nation’s highest office. Any candidate that does not fulfill them is a dreamer, an influence broker, or a charlatan. The words may be harsh but the reality is no less severe. If the intention of the last two Nader campaigns was to influence the major parties toward a more progressive or populist stance, all indications are they have failed. Indeed, both parties have moved in the opposite direction and the only discernable change is that both parties have expended time and resources facilitating or obstructing third party efforts for strategic purposes. It is difficult at best to see how these efforts have forwarded the cause of independence; to the contrary, they appear to have done considerable harm.
Given these parameters of legitimacy, there are few viable candidates on the independent horizon for the next presidential campaign. Former Governor Jesse Ventura may have alienated some within and without his own state but he is the only candidate to have demonstrated the methodology of third party success: divide and conquer. Ventura aside, there is no independent or third party governors (former or current) and the only independent senator, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, is seventy years old. Former Senator Bill Bradley has been virtually silent in this time of crisis and former Governor Mario Cuomo, even if he were to awaken from a long slumber, is too entrenched in the Democratic Party.
The most viable candidates for 2008 may come from the military realm: Former Generals Wesley Clarke and Colin Powell. For different reasons, both are distinctly unsatisfactory at present but nothing is broken that could not be mended by breaking free from the yoke of party constraints.
Barring the unforeseen and unlikely, the candidates we should be scouting, encouraging and supporting now are those that are relatively young and dedicated to the long haul. Matt Gonzalez, the Green Party candidate who should have been mayor of San Francisco and would have been if not for the ironic intervention of the Democratic big wigs (ironic because the party’s choice, Gavin Newsom, is now being blamed for tipping the national election to the evangelical right) is a clear and uncompromising choice. Another is Amy Goodman, a well-spoken and passionate voice who has made her mark with Democracy Now! Still another is Winona LaDuke, the Green Party vice-presidential candidate whom we did not hear enough from during the 2000 campaign but when we did, we listened.
The black community must also answer the call. We have heard much of their discontent. They have finally begun to wonder if their allegiance to one party has rendered them powerless. The consideration is valid but the inference that blacks should align themselves with the party that has developed tokenism to an artform and given rebirth to Jim Crow is worse than absurd. All minorities, by color and philosophy, are disenfranchised by the two-party system. When the black community is serious about real change, they will join the Independence Movement and their leaders (Kweisi Mfume, Jesse Jackson, Barbara Lee, Al Sharpton, Carol Mosley-Braun, et al) should begin with a run at statewide office.
While I am not yet aware of any suitable candidates from the Libertarian position, I am open to them and hope they emerge in the days and months ahead. As the outsiders trying to crack the system open, we must be inclusive and able to embrace a variety of philosophical perspectives. It is often observed that the traditional left-right divide no longer applies in American politics. There is nothing conservative about the war in Iraq, the Bush Doctrine or inane economic policies that exponentially multiply the national debt. Legislating morality is antithetical to traditional conservatism. Similarly, there is little liberal left in a Democratic Party built on the Clinton legacy of free trade and welfare reform.
Our arms must be open to the possibilities but they can never again be open so wide as to embrace the great compromise of 2004: A war candidate who forced us all to hold our collective nose as he promised to be tougher, stronger and even more brutal than our obscenely brutal incumbent president.
The most important message we can take to heart now is that we must keep moving. We need candidates at every level of the political spectrum and we must deliver for them as we did for Dean and Kerry in the Anybody but Bush campaign.
As Barrack Obama can attest, success in politics is being prepared for the unexpected. Our nation faces potential catastrophe on all fronts, foreign and domestic. The parties in power have no satisfactory solutions to the systemic failures we must soon confront. They have built their empires by catering to the elite and, therefore, they cannot offer initiatives beyond the limits of their power base.
When disaster strikes, as it must, a window of opportunity will open wide. If we have done our work and properly positioned our candidates, our destiny will beckon and success will be within reach.
The war is not over. Indeed, it has only just begun.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). HIS COMMENTARIES ARE WIDELY DISSEMINATED. WWW.JACKRANDOM.COM.