The Trumpet Summons Us Again
June 10, 2006
Editor's Note: In this guest essay -- originally published at The Huffington Post -- political analyst Brent Budowsky examines the prospects for profound political change in this election year:
To Actors, Bloggers, Financial Angels, Writers Activists, Patriots and Venture Capitalists
Ignore the spinmeisters of the consultariat class of the Democratic Party. That Francine Busby did not make a Paul Hackett-like stand in the district of a corrupt Republican was a kick in the butt to Democratic strategy, and a red-alert call to arms for all who oppose one-party rule in Washington.
The source of the American crisis, the cause of our discontents, the opportunity for change and the dangers of failure all follow from one simple truth: George W. Bush is a war president and the war he wages is what Pat Buchanan declared in 1992: a culture war pitting American against American, a partisan war that treats American neighbors as domestic enemies, and a political war that uses every weapon of money, slander, abuse of the system and personal destruction in a single-minded quest for total power.
I have written elsewhere that America stands on the brink of an epic and historic election that will be remembered for generations. I believe the Democrats will win control of the House and make a run for the Senate with the possibility of a landslide. However, the hard lesson of the Duke Cunningham seat is that even with such enormous disapproval of the President and the status quo, a well-funded, aggressively fighting, and totally committed Republican machine can prevail even in the district that is a hallmark of Republican corruption in Congress.
Considering the stakes, it is outrageous that Republicans outspent Democrats two to one, again; that Republicans dominated the machinery of elections such as absentee voting, again; that Democrats failed to issue a convincing rally cry to voters, again; and that Democrats were not only victimized but were complicit, again, in a last-minute smear.
Does anyone seriously believe that Francine Busby was calling on illegal immigrants to vote illegally? Apologize? Sure, the people who should apologize are those who tried to intimidate blacks into not voting in Ohio through deliberately planned long lines, not those who try to inspire young Hispanics to be active in politics. With enough spinmeisters to fill Yankee Stadium, the best the Democratic Party could do was have an under-funded candidate issuing closing-day apologies for urging people to participate?
We are the majority, and we should start acting like it. We are on the side of truth, and we should shout it from the rooftops. We are believers in the passionate patriotism of true freedom and democracy and it is high time we fight for it, fully understanding the power and money behind those who debase our institutions and demean our neighbors.
George Bush's aggressive war against fellow Americans has divided our country more than at any time since the Civil War, launching one preemptive attack after another, against other Americans, building to a 2006 election that will be as bloody and decisive as the Battle of Gettysburg.
Make no mistake, if George Bush can translate 31 percent support into another victory of one-party rule in America he will be emboldened to even more radical assertions claiming unilateral and inherent power to violate laws he disapproves of, and to violate the Constitution and Bill of Rights when they stand in his way.
He will feel even more emboldened to wage foreign war at will and ignore the Congress and courts when it suits him. He will be even more aggressive in seeking to pack the courts for a generation with judges who will legalize whatever he does in the tradition of King Louis XIV and Richard Nixon: if the President does it, that makes it legal.
In the world of George Bush and his partisans, even if a Democratic Congress acted with generosity seeking national unity, which I hope and believe they would, there is a deep and dark nightmare in the Republican soul about the secrets that would almost certainly emerge, and the devastating consequences that would almost certainly follow for those who committed such deeds.
So, here we stand, with the electoral Battle of Gettysburg approaching, with two competing visions of America, with much blood destined to cover the grounds, with great and titanic stakes that will define the fate of our generation.
So, to the actors, bloggers, venture capitalists, angels, activists, and patriots from the studios of Hollywood to the military families of middle America to the visionaries of the Internet who are the Lexington and Concord colonists of our times, I propose:
It is time for a new alliance, new spirit, new engagement and political and entrepreneurial drive that can mobilize and monetize the 50 percent of America that is totally appalled by the state of events, the 80 percent of independents who deeply want a better way, and friends of democracy everywhere.
It is time to make a stand and mobilize and empower, politically and financially, the many ten of millions of Americans who are deeply committed to change and highly organized around blogs, Internet sites, networks and groups. In fact, George Bush's domestic wars have created the largest and most powerful movement in waiting that has ever been assembled in the history of the Republic.
Looking at our politics and media, how many of us have thought, like John Adams in the play 1776: "Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see? What in hell are they waiting for!"
Consider the numbers: George Bush assumed office after the 2000 election with a 48 percent party and a divided nation, and from that moment on, he has waged his civil war, and as he did, his support has fallen to 42 percent, then 38 percent, then 32 percent. As the concentric circles of his support shrank, the concentric circles of opposition rose, from 48 percent to 55 percent, then to nearly 70 percent with the one-party Congress support falling to the historically unprecedented and humiliating 20 percent.
As Bush and his partisans wage their endless preemptive wars against other Americans, the potential of our power only rises, if only we would recognize it.
Just in recent hours, our war president escalated his attack against patriotic and law-abiding Hispanics who sing our anthem in Spanish, then our commander in chief launched his armies against gays. Not to be outdone, his partisan air commander, Bill O'Reilly, implied the Marine heroes who took Iwo Jima committed war crimes, to downplay Abu Ghraib and Haditha, while his special forces agent, Ann Coulter, charged that the widows of 9/11 seem to be enjoying the death of their loved ones. Every new slander broadens our reach and intensifies our commitment.
In fact, the greatest under-reported story in recent history, the greatest potential for patriotic change in decades, and one of the greatest untapped business opportunities since the cave men first traded coconuts, is this: From every direction outside the inner elites, the masses for patriotism change are congregating, new institutions of media and politics are being born outside the comatose insider establishment. The Gettysburg Battle of 2006, which we did not declare but intend to win, will be the transforming catalyst for the next era of American politics, media and entertainment.
Politically our aspiration is not only to prevent the democratic Armageddon of a one-party state, but to set the stage for the historical reaction that inevitably follows such times, a new era of patriotic reform reminiscent of Theodore Roosevelt, FDR and JFK and to create new waves of community, media and entertainment that will challenge and supplant the comatose status quo.
I'm new here, and this is self-serving but true, but on any given day there is more diversity, truth, insight, excitement, and even entertainment on HuffingtonPost than on Fox and the Fox-Lites put together. To sites such as Consortiumnews, Alternet, smirking chimp, and others there is mass migration of eyeballs seeking deeper and truer commentary and news than one ever finds from the cable talkers or the editorial page of the Washington Post.
The mobilizers, motivators and aggregators -- dailykos, democracynow, firedoglake and countless others -- have far greater eyeball share, and far more engaged participants, than Fox, CNN and MSNBC combined and are a force for change of immense potential political power, and enormous potential monetizing power, with their numbers and commitment, to expand their mission and capability any way they choose.
In their fusion of principle, media and mission, these are the Tom Paines and Ben Franklins of our times, the pamphleteers and believers and activists who led to the Lexington and Concords. They are the Ed Murrows of the earlier days of television who created the fusion of media and ideas that advanced America from the red baiting of Joe McCarthy, to the slow-moving change of Eisenhower, to the explosion of inspiration, art and social change of JFK and the New Frontier.
After leaving politics around 1990, I became involved in the public-affairs side of the entertainment business, including major business with the agency representing Frank Sinatra among others. Today there are many important parallels with the early stages of the Hollywood-Washington activism of the JFK-Sinatra years.
Many actors, including George Clooney, are beginning to look like Sinatra circa 1959, when he stood up for Sammy, supported civil rights, and at the peak of his artistic powers, rallied artists to the cause of JFK. I believe we have entered a new era of activism and engagement in the entertainment industry with artists standing for good causes, studios green-lighting motion pictures about big themes and issues, and songwriters performing stories and creating new anthems for our times.
From Brokeback Mountain to Clooney's film about Murrow to Al Gore's documentary about global warming, the revival of activism by talent is paralleled by important product touching great issues. When Fox or MSNBC claims Hollywood Hates America, they are only attacking what they fear. In my experience Hollywood Loves America, artists from left to right believe deeply in the freedom of art, and thought, and the obligations of citizenship and it is no coincidence that artists from more liberal Kris Kristoffersen to more conservative Mel Gibson have much to say for the spirit of hope over the politics of fear.
The next great wave in politics, media and entertainment will be the realization that the crisis and abuses of recent years have created an enormous, highly motivated, increasingly organized mass of new media, activists, eyeballs that will realize their own power, attract financial angels and venture capitalists to expand their power to propagate ideas and promote change.
The sheer numbers, quality and commitment that these groups and sites attract create not only the power to mobilize votes and promote ideas, but to monetize these masses and frontally challenge through Internet television, the power to promote music and motion pictures, the capability to revive publishing and support authors, the opportunity to expand the reach of Air America and gain the rightful place of the majority in cable and satellite television, and satellite and digital radio.
There is enormous potential power for a new wave of documentary film addressed to this mass market of believers, major power for any form of pay-per-view entertainment cross-marketed to these huge principled audiences, incredible win-win potential for any project that combines the Hollywood publicity machine with the new American idealism machinery of hope.
These many tens of millions of highly engaged hearts, minds and eyeballs have the power, if they choose to exercise it, to create affinity ecommerce sales machines, box-office drivers for major motion pictures, music and books that appeal to their sensibilities with potential for win-win revenue sharing.
These mega-blocks of principled patriots have the power to win the battle of ideas, spread alternative policies from advocates of change, attract corporate advertisers with greater numbers than right-wing propagandists, collaborate with each other to increase shared power and revenue, create new media and invade old media, and get out the vote and mobilize workers in unprecedented numbers.
The dark side of our crisis is the preemptive civil war initiated by Bush. The red-alert warning is the defeat in the California congressional election that proves that ideas, organization, commitment and the will to fight and win must all come together.
The great hope, and the great moment, come from the under-recognized truth that we are the majority, we are the future, we are the heirs to the printing presses that published Franklin and Paine, who now carry the banner of the Murrows and Sinatras who paved the path to their New Frontier, as we will establish ours, when we realize our power, and use it for good.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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