Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
State and Local Democrats From California to New York:  The Standup Party, or the Party of Excuses?

For some time now, many have wondered when or if Congress and the president would ever stand up against Wall Street, the insurance companies, the militarists, gentrifiers and privatizing vampires, and what it might take to make them do it. But if Democrats don't stand up at the state and local level for the interests of ordinary people, why should we expect Democrats in Congress or the White House to be profiles in courage?

State and Local Democrats From California to New York: The Standup Party, or the Party of Excuses?

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

When a kidnapper takes hostages and threatens to murder them all unless demands are met, do the good guys arrive and say, OK, OK, we will meet your demands, or maybe half your demands, and you can kill half the hostages? If they do this of course, we have to conclude they are not exactly good guys, and they haven't ridden to anybody's rescue.

When California Republicans earlier this year proposed the cutting of thousands of state jobs, the end of home health care, payless paydays for state and municipal workers, the end to (relative) guarantees of clean water and uncontaminated food and dozens of other vital services, service cuts that cost the literal lives of Californians did that state's Democrats stand up and ride to the rescue? Of course they didn't.

The solution of California Democrats was to propose the same cuts as the Republicans, only a third to half as deep. And that was an initial bargaining position, they were prepared to go higher if need be. They told voters, and the Republicans OK, shoot half the hostages and we can live with it. OK, OK, maybe sixty percent of the hostages but this is as high as we go, absolutely. This is not a heroic picture. This is not a profile in courage. This is not a Democratic party standing up for the interest of ordinary people. It's also nothing new this year, and not at all unique to California. How many of us from Maine to Miami and Mississippi to Montana have held our noses, suppressed our gag reflexes, and perhaps grabbed our ankles while we voted for, or encouraged others to vote for the party of Marginally Less Evil? And how many more times are we prepared to do it?

What does it mean when New York state's first black governor David Paterson, tells reporters at Harlem's paper of record, the Amsterdam News, that although he is proposing the most drastic cuts to health care, to education, to mass transit, mental health and across the entire spectrum of services government is supposed to provide, that it's going to be tough, but at least it's not California. That's not riding the the rescue, and it's certainly not standing up for New Yorkers. It's an excuse, one that makes you wonder if a generation of promises and sweat and hopes invested in a party that can only provide excuses has in fact been a bad investment. It's not that Democratic voters didn't invest enough. Corporations and bankers and the wealthy have money to give, they can fund your career. All poor people can do is vote for you once every two or four years.

It's the end of October in an off-election year, exactly halfway between the last elections to Congress and most state houses and the next one. And Democrats at the state and local levels still have no idea how to produce jobs. Democrats, including black ones have yet to come up with a model for inner-city economic development other than moving poorer residents out and richer ones in, so their friends in the real estate racket can make a few billion and break them off a piece.

California Democrats are in a corner. New York Democrats are at a dead end. On both coasts and everywhere in between bankruptcies and foreclosures are rising, and anger is building as people wonder if Democrats on any level will ever be ready to mobilize their base to rupture the envelope, the change the rules, to do something different. Like fight. Or whether the best they can offer is the excuse that hey, at least they aren't Repubicans. They don't shoot all the hostages. It could be worse. You could live in California, right.

For Black Agenda Report, this is Bruce Dixon. On the web you can find us at

Direct download: 20091028_bd_standup_party.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 8:31am EDT