Posts tagged North Carolina

Someone must have slandered Thomas W….

(Story via Freedom Democrats 2008-01-25.)

The primary reason that you should oppose government immigration laws is that the system of international apartheid is based on morally despicable premises, and necessarily involves massive State violence against peaceful people. Immigration laws involve the State in discrimination against, and violation of the basic human rights of, peaceful immigrants. But that’s not all that they do. And if you understand the stupidity and the evil of immigration laws, but don’t yet feel that you personally have a reason to stick your own neck out to actively oppose them, maybe this will help change your mind.

FLORENCE, Ariz. — Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held Warziniack for weeks in an Arizona detention facility with the aim of deporting him to a country he’s never seen. His jailers shrugged off Warziniack’s claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.

In Warziniack’s case, ICE officials appear to have been oblivious to signs that they’d made a serious mistake.

After he was arrested in Colorado on a minor drug charge, Warziniack told probation officials there wild stories about being shot seven times, stabbed twice and bombed four times as a Russian army colonel in Afghanistan, according to court records. He also insisted that he swam ashore to America from a Soviet submarine.

Court officials were skeptical. Not only did his story seem preposterous, but the longtime heroin addict also had a Southern accent and didn’t speak Russian.

Colorado court officials quickly determined his true identity in a national crime database: He was a Minnesota-born man who grew up in Georgia. Before Warziniack was sentenced to prison on the drug charge, his probation officer surmised in a report that he could be mentally ill.

Although it took only minutes for McClatchy to confirm with Minnesota officials that a birth certificate under Warziniack’s name and birth date was on file, Colorado prison officials notified federal authorities that Warziniack was a foreign-born prisoner.

McClatchy also was able to track down Warziniack’s three half-sisters. Even though they hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years, his sisters were willing to vouch for him.

One of them, Missy Dolle, called the detention center repeatedly, until officials there stopped returning her calls. Her brother’s attorney told her that a detainee in Warziniack’s situation often has to wait weeks for results, even if he or she gets a copy of a U.S. birth certificate.

Warziniack, meanwhile, waited impatiently for an opportunity to prove his case. After he contacted the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, a group that provides legal advice to immigrants, a local attorney recently agreed to represent him for free.

Dolle and her husband, Keith, a retired sheriff’s deputy in Mecklenburg County, N.C., flew to Arizona from their Charlotte home to attend her brother’s hearing before an immigration judge.

Before she left, she e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. After someone from his office contacted ICE, immigration officials promised to release Warziniack if they got a birth certificate.

After scrambling to get a power of attorney to obtain their brother’s birth certificate, the sisters succeeded in getting a copy the day before the hearing.

On Thursday, however, government lawyers told an immigration judge during a deportation hearing that they needed a week to verify the authenticity of Warziniack’s birth record. The judge delayed his ruling.

I still can’t believe this is happening in America, Dolle said.

Warziniack began to weep when he saw his sister. They still don’t believe me, he said.

Later that day, however, ICE officials changed their minds and said that he could be released this week.

— Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Washington Bureau (2008-01-24): Immigration officials detaining, deporting American citizens

In the real world, outside of statist power trip la-la land, if you grabbed somebody off the street and locked him up in a hellhole jail cell against his will all through a complete mistake, and you kept him there and stole weeks of his life away from him, all the while failing to notice your fuck-up because of your arrogance and negligence, you would pay for what you did. You’d pay for it on a civil level in the form of restitution to your victim, and you’d pay for it on a criminal level with charges of kidnapping. Morally, the immigration cops who did this should be in jail. But, wait–once you strap on a badge and a gun, suddenly some sanctimonious buck-passing and excuse-making, with an Oops, our bad tacked on along the way, is close enough for government work:

On Thursday, Warziniack finally became a free man. Immigration officials released him after his family, who learned about his predicament from McClatchy, produced a birth certificate and after a U.S. senator demanded his release.

The immigration agents told me they never make mistakes, Warziniack said in an earlier phone interview from jail. All I know is that somebody dropped the ball.

Officials with ICE, the federal agency that oversees deportations, maintain that such cases are isolated because agents are required to obtain sufficient evidence that someone is an illegal immigrant before making an arrest. However, they don’t track the number of U.S. citizens who are detained or deported.

We don’t want to detain or deport U.S. citizens, said Ernestine Fobbs, an ICE spokeswoman. It’s just not something we do.

… ICE’s Fobbs said agents move as quickly as possible to check stories of people who claim they’re American citizens. But she said that many of the cases involve complex legal arguments, such as whether U.S. citizenship is derived from parents, which an immigration judge has to sort out.

We have to be careful we don’t release the wrong person, she said.

— Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Washington Bureau (2008-01-24): Immigration officials detaining, deporting American citizens

Of course, if you really give a damn about avoiding mistakes, you might actually take some steps towards investigating, presuming innocence, and following some kind of basic due process before you throw living people down a legal memory hole. But that would require actually granting suspected illegal immigrants the as good or better legal privileges and immunities as are offered to suspects in a normal court proceeding, rather than presumptively throwing them into a detention center and then running them through a parallel, unaccountable administrative process for today’s federal Fugitive Alien Law. And what La Migra gives a damn about is proving to bellowing Know-Nothing busybodies that they are doing something to crack down on illegal immigration–the lives, liberties, and livelihoods of bystanders be damned.

An unpublished study by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York nonprofit organization, in 2006 identified 125 people in immigration detention centers across the nation who immigration lawyers believed had valid U.S. citizenship claims.

Vera initially focused on six facilities where most of the cases surfaced. The organization later broadened its analysis to 12 sites and plans to track the outcome of all cases involving citizens.

Nina Siulc, the lead researcher, said she thinks that many more American citizens probably are being erroneously detained or deported every year because her assessment looked at only a small number of those in custody. Each year, about 280,000 people are held on immigration violations at 15 federal detention centers and more than 400 state and local contract facilities nationwide.

Unlike suspects charged in criminal courts, detainees accused of immigration violations don’t have a right to an attorney, and three-quarters of them represent themselves. Less affluent or resourceful U.S. citizens who are detained must try to maneuver on their own through a complicated system.

It becomes your word against the government’s, even when you know and insist that you’re a U.S. citizen, Siulc said. Your word doesn’t always count, and the government doesn’t always investigate fully.

While immigration advocates agree that the agents generally release detainees before deportation in clear-cut cases, they said that ICE sometimes ignores valid assertions of citizenship in the rush to ship out more illegal immigrants.

Proving citizenship is especially difficult for the poor, mentally ill, disabled or anyone who has trouble getting a copy of his or her birth certificate while behind bars.

Pedro Guzman, a mentally disabled U.S. citizen who was born in Los Angeles, was serving a 120-day sentence for trespassing last year when he was shipped off to Mexico. Guzman was found three months later trying to return home. Although federal government attorneys have acknowledged that Guzman was a citizen, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Thursday that her agency still questions the validity of his birth certificate.

Last March, ICE agents in San Francisco detained Kebin Reyes, a 6-year-old boy who was born in the U.S., for 10 hours after his father was picked up in a sweep. His father says he wasn’t permitted to call relatives who could care for his son, although ICE denies turning down the request.

The number of U.S. citizens who are swept up in the immigration system is a small fraction of the number of illegal immigrants who are deported, but in the last several years immigration lawyers report seeing more detainees who turn out to be U.S. citizens.

The attorneys said the chances of mistakes are growing as immigration agents step up sweeps in the country and state and local prisons with less experience in immigration matters screen more criminals on behalf of ICE.

[ICE officials] said they were able to confirm [Warziniack’s] birth certificate, but they didn’t acknowledge any problem with the handling of the case.

The officials blamed conflicting information for the mix-up.

The burden of proof is on the individual to show they’re legally entitled to be in the United States, said ICE spokeswoman Kice.

I want to stress that the point here is not that this kind of treatment is wrong because the people being treated this way aren’t really illegal immigrants. I’m not saying that we need procedural protections for suspects because it’s better for a hundred guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be punished. That’s not my point because morally, illegal immigrants aren’t guilty of a damned thing. U.S. citizens aren’t entitled to special treatment just because they are Estadounidenses; they’re entitled to be treated better than this because they are people. If there is no excuse for making U.S. citizens disappearing into legal limbo in a system of prisons and administrative law where they have no real civil liberties and no recourse to due process protections, and no excuse for trashing their lives and livelihoods by locking them up and exiling them from their homes, on the unspeakably arrogant presumption that it’s the citizen who has to prove to the government’s satisfaction that she has a right to live peacefully in her own home, then there’s no excause because there’s no excuse for treating anyone that way, no matter what their nationality and whether or not they have a permission slip to exist from the federal government. The thing itself is the abuse.

But the point that I do want to make is that if you’re a U.S. citizen, and you’re not convinced of the central importance of immigration law–if you believe that you can reliably secure your own freedom without paying attention to the way that governments treat undocumented immigrants–then you need to think a lot harder about what a system of immigration control necessarily entails. International apartheid requires mechanisms for detecting, and then either interdicting or rounding up, unauthorized immigrants. But to discover and then interfere with their presence in the country, it necessarily entails a system of paramilitary border control, and it also necessarily entails immigration dossiers, passbooks, and government surveillance. But these systems have to be inflicted both on citizens and on immigrants for them to make any sense at all; by definition, the government can’t discover immigrants who bypass the official documentation system by getting documentation of their undocumented status, so instead the border control State has to force everyone else to carry papers, to submit to La Migra’s surveillance, and to take on the burden of giving affirmative proof of our status whenever some prick with a clipboard demands it. There’s no way to block off opportunities for undocumented immigrants to move or to get jobs except by limiting everyone’s freedom of motion or employment to government-controlled chokepoints where papers can be demanded and inspected. And there’s no way to make undocumented immigrants disappear into legal limbo without also, at the same time, creating an ominous threat to any citizen who might come under La Migra’s suspicion or might have trouble producing her own papers on demand. There is no way for international apartheid to be enforced on immigrants without massive invasions on the privacy and liberties of non-immigrants, because the basic concept — the concept of a government with the power and prerogative to systematically screen who is and who is not allowed to exist within its territory — requires everybody, whether their presence is authorized or unauthorized by the government, to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so.

What immigration law does to illegal immigrants is despicable. There is no excuse and it should be abolished immediately. But if you, reader, recognize this, but still don’t see how it personally concerns you, then you should look harder at the effects that immigration law necessarily inflicts on the rest of us in everyday life. Immigrant and citizen, documented and undocumented, the fact is that we are all in this together, and if we let the State spy and stomp on any of us, the system for implementing the policy is necessarily going to spy and stomp on all of us in the end.

It’s made of people.

Zack Exley’s Preaching Revolution, which recently appeared in In These Times, is fascinating, and frustrating. The article’s about a diffuse set of Evangelical Christian mega-churches, which have begun to preach nonviolence, opposition to war and imperialism, solidarity with and aid to the poor, the need for radical societal change, and opposition to the theocratic power-grabs of the Religious Right. The leaders of these churches consider themselves revolutionaries, and aim to restore the radicalism that they see in Jesus’s mission and primitive Christianity. The churches, like the conservative mega-churches, are large, well-organized, well-heeled, and technologically sophisticated. Exley thinks that they are an emergent movement that could have a dramatic effect on both Evangelical Christianity and American politics; he also suggests that the secular Left has a lot to learn from them.

In his book Irresistible Revolution, 30-year-old author Shane Claiborne, who is currently living in Iraq to stand in the way of war, asks evangelicals why their literal reading of the Bible doesn’t lead them to do what Jesus so clearly told wealthy and middle-class people to do in his day: give up everything to help others.

The popular evangelical Christian magazine Relevant, launched in 2003 by Cameron Strang, the son of a Christian publishing magnate, contains a Revolution section complete with a raised red fist for a logo. They’ve also released The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World, a compilation by radical, Christian social-justice campaigners from around the world.

Bell and Claiborne are two of the better-known young voices of a broad, explicitly nonviolent, anti-imperialist and anticapitalist theology that is surging at the heart of white, suburban Evangelical Christianity. I first saw this movement at a local, conservative, nondenominational church in North Carolina where the pastor preached a sermon called Two Fists in the Face of Empire. Looking further, I found a movement whose book sales tower over their secular progressive counterparts in Amazon rankings; whose sermon podcasts reach thousands of listeners each week; and whose messages, in one form or another, reach millions of churchgoers. Bell alone preaches to more than 10,000 people every Sunday, with more than 50,000 listening in online.

But this movement is still barely aware of its own existence, and has not chosen a label for itself. George Barna, who studies trends among Christians for clients such as the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Focus on the Family, calls it simply The Revolution and its adherents Revolutionaries.

The article does contain a couple of gaffes that seem to come from the ignorance that all too many people on the secular Left still have about the varieties of Christianity. For example, Exley claims that Where Revolutionaries most part ways with many mainstream evangelical churches’ interpretation of the Bible is in their embrace of women as leaders, elders and preachers. This is actually nothing new in American Protestantism, or even in evangelical mega-churches. Southern Baptists, say, have been and mostly still are hostile to women preaching or leading within the church; but the Pentecostal churches have had women participating in ministry and leadership for over a century now. But there’s a lot here to like. Some of the most interesting things in the article have to do with the participatory culture within some of these revolutionary churches:

If you compare the Mars Hill complex to progressive community centers or union halls, it has no rival. The entire mall has been converted. Most of the stores are now classrooms for the different grades of its enormous Sunday school. One of the large department stores has been converted into an events and youth meeting space with a stage, and ping pong and pool tables. The broad, carpeted concourse is now filled with comfy sofas and chairs for sitting and talking. Though the complex is perfectly clean and attractive, you get the feeling that the church, in renovating the facilities, has spent the minimum possible resources to meet functional needs.

More striking than the size of Mars Hill is the intensity of participation among the membership. The Mars Hill house church program — where small numbers of people come together in a home for Bible study, fellowship, mutual support and as a launching point for outreach into the community — involves more than 2,000 members in hundreds of groups, each with its own leaders. Several hundred volunteer as childcare providers and Sunday school teachers. And hundreds more serve each Sunday as ushers, parking helpers and medics. (With 3,500 people in a room, you never know what can happen.)

Yet Mars Hill is not atypical. According to the Barna Group, nine percent of Americans attend house churches (up from one percent 10 years ago). And tens of thousands of churches are de facto community centers, serving and supporting virtually all aspects of their members’ lives, usually with a significant percentage of members acting as volunteers. In this way, churches have left progressives in the dust in terms of serving and engaging people directly. The union hall is the left’s nearest equivalent, but not only is it dying, it rarely attempts to serve anywhere near as many of the needs — spiritual and practical — as churches do.

At the Isn’t She Beautiful conference, the non-theological sessions were devoted to one of the secrets of this movement’s success: leaders — identifying them, recruiting them, loving them and letting them lead. The pastors at the conference all seemed to view their church memberships as seas of under-utilized leaders, and spent as much time as they could learning from each other and the Mars Hill staff how to be the best fishers of men they believe Jesus called them to be.

This high-density leadership organizing model stands in stark contrast to anything I’ve ever seen working in unions, progressive organizations and Democratic political campaigns. On the left, recruiting and mobilizing leaders has become devalued work that is typically left to inexperienced recent college graduates. The pastors at this conference, however, saw recruiting and inspiring leaders as one of their central callings. Too often, the left pays lip service to the grassroots, but lacks faith in grassroots leaders. The result is that too many of our organizations are one person deep and stretched impossibly thin. At the conference, I tried to imagine what Kerry campaign field offices (where I spent a lot of time in 2004) would have looked like if we had recruited leaders instead of bodies and expected them to be faithful, committed members of a team (words included in Mars Hill volunteer job descriptions). Some organizations on the left do include leadership development in their organizing models. But churches seem to assume that there are already plenty of developed leaders in their midst and go straight to giving them as much responsibility as they can.

We could use a bit more history here. The union hall is dying, now; but that’s only one of the visible remnants of what used to be a much larger, and much more vibrant, labor culture. Before the New Deal, when political patronage, political control, and professionalized bureaucracy combined to create a long, slow managerial stranglehold on rank-and-file unionism, the labor movement was much more than meetings at the union hall and negotiations in the board room. The radical wing of the labor movement, in particular–and these were, for what it’s worth, mostly anarchists–created and sustained a flourishing counterculture, which included not only the union hall, but also reading groups, schools for children, mutual aid societies, banquets, dances, newspapers, songs, stories, cartoons, posters, murals, and more, all organized by workers who unionized with the slogan We are all leaders here. If the radical labor culture can’t hold a candle to what these radical churches now offer, that is because of what the labor movement has become in the era of state-capitalist unionism, and indeed precisely because of the vacuums created by the collapse of labor radicalism in American culture.

What I want to focus on right now, though, is how Exley has missed out on one of the most important lessons that Mars Hill and other revolutionary churches have incorporated into both their preaching and their works. The failure comes out when he turns to speculate on where the revolutionaries’ strategy for social change might lead in the near future:

Andrew Richards is the local outreach pastor at Mars Hill, charged with driving the Mars Hill house church program to reach people in need in the greater Grand Rapids community. We’re not only taking care of the needs of our own community, but we want to respond to the needs that are in the greater community, he said before a recent Sunday service while trying to recruit more leaders. He laid out five areas of focus: urban at-risk youth, refugees, poverty, community development and HIV/AIDS.

Rob Bell and other church leaders seem to be building up to a big challenge. It is unclear exactly what is in the works. (Bell does not give interviews.) But he has been preaching more and more about systemic oppression, poverty, debt and disease — not just locally but globally. And other leaders have indicated to the membership that the current level of sacrifice for others in the community and the world is not in line with Jesus’ teachings.

On Dec. 10, 2006, Bell kicked off a series of sermons, titled Calling all Peacemakers, during which he said:

Never before in history have there been a group of people as resourced as us. … Never before has there been a group of people who could look at the most pressing needs of the world and think: well, we could do it … History is like sitting right there, in the middle of war, and great expenditure, and violence, and the world torn apart in a thousand directions — [waiting for] a whole ground swell of people to say, Well, we could, we could, we could do this. We could do what Jesus said to do.

But, as of now, the Revolutionaries seem to be embracing person-to-person, be the alternative solutions to the exclusion of advocating for social policy that is more in line with their vision of the kingdom. Boyd says, I never see Jesus trying to resolve any of Caesar’s problems.

Wallis believes this reluctance comes from the recent experience of being dragged into the mess of partisan politics on the terms of the Republican party.

… But where will their prayers lead them? Will they forever restrict themselves to person-to-person, relational solutions? Or will they choose to influence political leaders on issues they share with the left — poverty, war, environmental destruction — with the same force that the Christian Right exerted around abortion, gay marriage and other areas?

There is something important here that Exley does not seem to grasp, but his subjects do. Social policy, i.e., government making and executing laws, is not something that happens over and above person-to-person, relational solutions like direct action and person-to-person mutual aid. Governments are made of people, no less than churches are. When governments make laws, there’s no magical zap or mystical assumption that elevates the policy beyond the limited, work-a-day efforts with which ordinary people muddle through. There is only one group of mortal human beings writing down general orders, another much larger group choosing whether to follow those orders or ignore them, and a third group that tries to make the second group follow the orders from the first, by force if necessary. The demands might be just or unjust; the enforcement may be appropriate or inappropriate. But whatever they are, they are just human words and human deeds like any others.

So the question isn’t, actually, whether Christian revolutionaries should aim at person-to-person solutions or else advocating for social policy. Person-to-person solutions are the only solutions there are, and government-enforced social policy is just one more form of relational solution amongst many. The right question to ask is: what sort of personal relationships we should cultivate, between whom, with what structures and in what roles? Should our solutions to outstanding social problems come from person-to-person relationships between equals, based on spontaneous human concern and practiced with mutual consent? Or should they come from person-to-person relationships between government authorities and ordinary civilians, based on political lobbying and backed up by legal force? Should the people working to make a social change carry sandwiches and soup, or guns and handcuffs? Caesar has one answer; the revolutionary Christians have another. And I happen to think that Caesar is wrong and they are right. Whatever short-run gains you might be able to extract by getting into governmental politics and enlisting State power on your behalf, it comes at the strategic cost of making your movement dependent on the good graces of a privileged political elite, and at the moral cost of staining a just cause with coercive means.

But that answer will remain incomprehensible until we have first asked the right question, and Exley and Wallis–like all too many people in the so-called Progressive wing of the Left–have failed to understand it, and so failed to understand those (like the Christian revolutionaries that Exley intends to profile) who put it at the center of their concerns. It’s not about timidity or skittishness or the machinations of the Moral Majority; it’s about having a set of ideals about how you should deal with your fellow creatures and build a community with them. Judging from the views they express in the article, there are a lot of things I’d agree with the revolutionary Christians on; and a lot of other things I’d disagree with them on. But this is definitely something that they see correctly, even if only through a glass darkly, and I can only hope that Leftists like Exley will one day learn the same lesson.

Further reading:

Dear Democrats

Rednecks. Hicks. Hillbillies. Dumb crackers. NASCAR Dads. Trailer trash. Joe Sixpack. Economically masochistic culture warrior fundies. Ignorant, beer-swilling, rib-eating, Bible-banging, truck-driving undereducated yokels. Poor white trash. Those people. You know the kind. The ones who are the matter with Kansas.

That’s why the Democrats lost, isn’t it? Because the True Blue are out of touch with working-class America, and because the yokels are too benighted to see that they are actually voting against their own economic interests. Right?

Wrong. Democrats, quit your whining. Quit your hand-wringing over why the working class doesn’t love you anymore. Quit saying things like:

I think the Democrats are not comfortable speaking the language that resonates with many middle-class and poorer voters: moral values, faith. That’s a message that is reassuring to many voters.

Quit blaming working-class America, and quit worrying about how to get poor people to stop electing Right-wing Republican war-mongers. Why? Because poor people don’t elect Republican war-mongers. Rich people do.

Annual Income % Bush Kerry
Under $15,000 8% 36% 63%
$15-$30,000 15% 42% 57%
$30-$50,000 22% 49% 50%
$50,000-$75,000 23% 56% 43%
$75-$100,000 14% 55% 45%
$100-$150,000 11% 57% 42%
$150,000-$200,000 4% 58% 42%
Above $200,000 3% 63% 35%

If the election were held only for people makng $50,000/year or less, John Kerry would have whipped George Bush 55%-45%. In fact, if it were held only for people making $100,000/year or less, John Kerry still would have beaten George Bush, 51%-49%.

No, that’s not just a regional dynamic. No, poor people still don’t elect Republicans in red states. Bush lost the South (49%-50%), the Midwest (44%-56%), and the West (47%-52%) among voters making $50,000/year or less. If only people making $50,000/year or less had voted, John Kerry would have picked up Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia, and Louisiana and South Carolina would have been too close to call.

(Election data thanks to CNN Election 2004 Exit Polls.)

So, my dear Blue State Democrats, it wasn’t Joe Sixpack or the American working-class or Bubba down yonder who was responsible for the late unpleasantness. If you want to find someone to blame, don’t blame them, and don’t blame the Democrats for not knowing how to connect with them. If you’re a white dude living in a comfortable suburban neighborhood, blame your neighbors, your boss, and your dad. It’s educated professionals making over $50,000/year who went for Bush, and it was the folks making out with $100,000/year and more who put him over the top. This shouldn’t be surprising–being poor doesn’t mean you’re stupid; people tend to know where their bread is buttered and vote accordingly–yet somehow it has been lost amidst vituperation of the South, masochistic rhetoric about the urgent need for Democrats to slither further to the Right in order to reach middle America, and sadistic rhetoric about the grotesque vices of them there rednecks in Oklahoma and homophobic knuckle-draggers in Wyoming. Fancy that–it’s almost as if Democrats were falling victim to some kind of propaganda or ideology or something.

Here is my modest proposal. For myself, I’m fed up with this crap, so I’m not going to worry too much about it, but if Democrats want to put a roadblock in the way of Bushism then it might behoove them to worry about it some themselves. You just won, convincingly, the working-class vote. You got beat on turnout and disenfranchisement. People making $50,000 / year or less are about 75% of the voting-age population; but they were only 45% of those who were willing and able to vote on November 2. If you want to win, what you have to do is not to slither ever further Right, but rather to energize your base to turn out, and fight back against on-going Republican attempts to purge and suppress their votes. You can do that, not by turning into lite war-mongers, but by having the guts to call Bullshit! on this rich man’s war and poor man’s fight. You can do that, not by trashing feminism and gay liberation, or ignoring them as you just finished doing in 2004, but rather by framing them as part of a comprehensive, populist program, together with some serious talk about class in America. (No, this does not mean that I want Smiley John Edwards as the next candidate.) You can do this, not by capitulating to the Republican’s corporatist pork / warfare program, but by defying it. And you can do this by standing up to make sure that every vote is counted and that the victims of the Republican machine (those working class dudes you want to reach out to so much) actually have an opportunity to vote.

Don’t blame Bubba–but don’t try to pander to the caricature of him that the Republicans want you to buy, either. Try sitting down and having a talk with him over some ribs sometime. You might be surprised to find out how much you agree.