More Lessons Of History: The Need For A Left Flank

You have all heard this story by now:

"I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.

-Franklin D. Roosevelt
Comment to a group of reformers. His point: Until they lead the way, they shouldn't expect leaders to follow.

Is the story true? Who knows. But here is a real life example - Oscar DePriest's Amendment to FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps:

During his three terms (1928-1935), as the only black representative in Congress, De Priest introduced several anti-discrimination bills. His 1933 amendment barring discrimination in the Civilian Conservation Corps was passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Roosevelt. A second anti-lynching bill failed, even though it did not make lynching a federal crime. A third proposal--a bill to permit a transfer of jurisdiction if a defendant believed he or she could not get a fair trial because of race or religion--would be passed by another Congress in another era.

That's why you need a Left Flank, no matter who is President.

Speaking for me only

< Obama to Name Richardson as Commerce Secretary Weds. | "World at Risk" Terror Report Released >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Yup (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 02:41:15 PM EST

    Wow! (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Steve M on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 02:50:53 PM EST
    Only one black representative in Congress.

    After 3 decades of (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 03:23:43 PM EST

    Now which region's fault is that. . .? ;-) (none / 0) (#6)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 03:38:05 PM EST
    all of them (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by coigue on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 05:29:59 PM EST
    since none of them voted in a black person.

    Well (none / 0) (#10)
    by Steve M on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 05:34:47 PM EST
    that's true of course, but it's noteworthy that once large numbers of blacks began migrating from the South to the industrial cities in the North, black representatives started getting elected very soon thereafter.

    Of course, there was still a racial issue in the North in the sense that you didn't see majority-white districts voting for a black representative.  But you didn't have the same sort of outrageous vote suppression and disenfranchisement that went on in the South to ensure that even majority-black districts weren't represented by a black person.


    Question your "assumption" on districts? (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by wurman on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 05:58:15 PM EST
    Gerrymandering of congressional boundaries likely precluded actual "majority black" districts (working from memory here) & the combination of poll taxes, literacy tests, & residency requirements kept a very large percentage of blacks off the voter rolls.

    It was 1964 & after before any of the needed changes even began.  Oddly, the rightwingnutz still keep the voting rights act provisions from being extended to all 50 states--should we wonder why???


    Well (none / 0) (#14)
    by Steve M on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 06:01:40 PM EST
    I'm not saying the North was without its problems, but the record shows that as blacks began migrating to the North, black representatives started winning election to Congress.  Surely there were not as many as there could have been, but it was better than zero.

    My comment is about the Southern states (none / 0) (#25)
    by wurman on Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 01:20:09 PM EST
    You're quite accurate about the migration & the changes for the urban North.

    The Deep South, however, probably didn't have any actual "majority black" districts--although it's possible there were a very few.


    agreed. (none / 0) (#12)
    by coigue on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 05:42:23 PM EST
    I was just trying to make the less obvious point....but your historical elaboration is appreciated.

    Ding, ding, ding (none / 0) (#17)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 07:42:06 PM EST
    Every one need a left and a real one (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by koshembos on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 04:29:02 PM EST
    The left is important for many reasons. In the US, where there is no real left, the ship tilts towards the right due to the existence of the extreme right (e.g. Bush). The left has many values that moderate liberal under emphasize. The importance of blue color workers, unions, the poor and small minorities was not emphasized, though it was not totally ignored, in the last elections. Somebody has to campion those that didn't break into the middle class.

    The left has also a wide universal solidarity. WE have lost this part altogether.

    yes, the concept of the (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by sallywally on Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 08:16:02 AM EST
    common good. much better than unity schtick, and that's where obama needs to go.

    it's what the far right has destroyed and why bipartisanship became impossible.


    Agree (none / 0) (#3)
    by cal1942 on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 02:51:07 PM EST
    but choose the issues wisely.

    who gets to decide what's wise? (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by sj on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 03:17:27 PM EST
    I don't trust you to decide what's wise.  Your "thing" might not be important to me.  On the other hand (or maybe it's by the same token) I wouldn't presume to assume that my overarching issue is of concern to you.

    I agree with the post.  No "buts".  Push.  Always.


    My "thing" (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by cal1942 on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 08:02:30 PM EST
    is addressing the most urgent of the nation's immediate needs and insuring that those "things" get done first.

    Don't let Republicans shove phony issues into the public debate.  They will try their best to do just that. Do the BIG "things" first and with such force that the GOP can't be heard.


    my thing is believing ... (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by sj on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 10:23:12 PM EST
    ... that we can do more than one "thing" at a time.  Choosing our battles and keeping our powder dry and needing 60 votes to do anything have brought us nothing.  Okay, I take that back.  The minimum wage got an increase to $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.  But "pushing" got the financial industry 700 BILLION unaccountable dollars.  And it does nothing for any of the big things.

    Advocate like h*ell.  Push like h*ell.  And your Republican phony issue may be someone else's civil rights.  Just sayin'.


    Like things that Republicans agree (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 05:36:02 PM EST

    See that's the thing - a lot of us were considered "unwise" for believing that taking a public position against the Iraq War in 2004 might have been a good idea - and liked the fact that Howard Dean was not afraid to do it.  I don't think we'd be nearly as far along in our thinking as a country now had Howard Dean not "unwisely" chosen to voice his anti Iraq War position during the 2004 race.

    Its like one of those things where there are a bunch of people in a room and no one wants to admit that there is something terribly wrong.  Someone's got to stand up and say it; and that someone is almost always trounced immediately.  But that one voice is often the catalyst for changing the group's view.  If no one says anything though, people generally stick with the status quo.


    Nowhere at any time (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by cal1942 on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 07:40:39 PM EST
    have I ever said anything about compromising with Republicans on anything.

    You made a lot of wild inferences about something that wasn't there.

    I was opposed to Obama in the primaries because of his unity thing.

    We have the juice and 'reaching across the aisle' would be a crime IMO.

    When I say choose wisely I mean giving first priority and laser like devotion to directly addressing the nation's most urgent needs. The economy, economic justice, regulatory rigor, foreign policy, etc.  The BIG stuff. Addressing those needs would attract great public support.  The American public is ready.

    In a comment on an earlier thread I said that the last thing we do is give in to the people who are urging mediocrity, people like the Broders and others of his ilk.


    I was being rhetorical. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 08:22:57 PM EST
    And I was responding to the general tenor of many Democrats' comments lately which is way too timid for the leadership of a party that just won the White House and seen two consecutive gains in Congress in as many elections.    I didn't really think YOU personally were an adherant to the most extreme of that unity stikcht.  I was sort of thinking you'd laugh at my first line.  Sorry to offend.

    The Republicans were different animals (none / 0) (#8)
    by hairspray on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 05:06:27 PM EST
    back in those days.  Imagine the Democrats being the opposition to De Priest's bills to desegregate the dining room.  Of course, it was the Dixiecrats in those days and the same people are the southern evangelicals today.

    And (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by cal1942 on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 07:23:35 PM EST
    today's southern Republicans.

    Two words - Gay rights. (none / 0) (#21)
    by MyLeftMind on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 11:49:53 PM EST
    "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."

    If the straight left doesn't lead on this, Obama won't stick his neck out.  And if we don't fix it, the right wing will bash us over the head with it again in 2010 and 2012.  These kinds of major issues take leadership by progressive in order for elected Democratic leaders to feel secure enough to enact legislation.  Same thing happened with black civil rights.  The people had to lead, and the federal government finally stepped up to the plate to resolve the problems.  

    Here's how Barack Obama can solve the gay marriage issue.

    C'mon straight lefties, step up to the plate.

    For some reason (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Steve M on Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 07:56:06 AM EST
    the argument that the right wing will use gay rights against us only if we don't do anything about it seems quite unpersuasive.  "Fixing it" implies that once we've taken action, everyone will agree it's fixed, but different people simply want different outcomes.

    as in the post, (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by sallywally on Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 08:29:53 AM EST
    the fundamental goals are basically incompatible. why the unity schtick was/is stupid, but the idea of the common good is the real foundation for unity, but something the right wing hates.

    in the 60s, the heavy-duty leftist folks made regular anti-war and civil rights advocates seem more mainstream-acceptable. same with feminism. an important contribution of 'extremists.'


    "Fixing it" means federal changes to (none / 0) (#26)
    by MyLeftMind on Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 03:13:56 PM EST
    the IRS code and all other rules and laws that affect marriage rights and responsibilities.  One sweeping law that repeals DOMA, establishes federal support for states that allow gay marriage or civil unions and makes it clear that states have to recognize other states marriage/domestic partnership contracts (full faith and credit).  That would bring the tax, medical, retirement, survivorship and other benefits, divorce responsibilities and all other marital rules down to the state and local level.  

    Look at the black civil rights movement.  We went around and around for years with lefties wondering why this was still such a problem in so many states, especially in the south.  It took federal intervention in the form of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to stop the state and local level racist squabbles.  It was just too divisive to work on in every community.  Did 1964's CRA put a halt to racism?  No, but it provided a legal path that ended institutionalized racism.  Now we need the federal government to stop these anti-gay, anti-American state level initiatives.
    Gays and lesbians won't stop demanding equal rights until this happens.  And as long as the demand/request/pressure is there, the right wing can use the possibility of gay marriage as a fundraiser and to GOTV.  This move would pull the rug out on their fear mongering.  

    Steve, you could probably write that law.  Why don't you and others here at TL take it on?  It's probably the best thing we could do to help our party's success in the next two years.