A Short Trip

I have been trying to slow down.  Over the past eight months, I’ve recalled the mantra of my friend from the ESL certification class: Live slowly.  An absolutely impossible task.  My idea of living slowly included meditating for as long as I could in the morning, running to work, dashing to the yoga studio and wallowing in my own garbage for the rest of the evening.  I’d often come to and realize I hadn’t taken a real breath in hours.  I could not seem to find or make the space I needed.

In India, life is unhurried.  On one instance last week, Kyle and I were under the impression there was a school holiday.  We stayed around the house leisurely drinking tea and immersing ourselves in European literature.  The following day we returned to school and casually caught wind of the fact that there was, in fact, a full school day, yesterday.  The incident was never mentioned to us by the administration.  
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In truth, its been efforting to adjust to being under less pressure.  Here, the children are much less controlled. They’re not forced to stand in lines until silent, pay petty respect to meaningless displays of authority or comply with militaristic classroom organization. (Although the devotion to religious observations can be equally authoritative.) The lively exuberance of the children stands out as a contrast from what I recall from my own youth. In elementary school, I was reprimanded and heard the word “no” constantly. This type of baseless scolding is far less prevalent from what I’ve observed. The aggressive pace and order which dictates American life is absent.    

Yet, I see many people in India attempting to recreate perceived aspects of American life.  Today, was my first day encountering this sort of Western fatuousness. While waiting for my vegetable naan bread, I was forced to listen to an inane twenty-something-year-old Indian man.  He rambled on for what seemed like hours – but was only maybe five minutes – talking about some failed relationship.  Posturing Western pretensions, he complained loudly about women and each sentence contained a slew of slang and profanities.  My irritation led me to make comments like, “I’m talking really loudly in a restaurant.”  Still, it wasn’t so much the noise that bothered me as simply the illusions to Western stupidity.  Each trek into town I encounter the pusher, the sorostitutes, the spiritualist, and a myriad of other Western stereotypes. Is it inescapable?    

In an effort to push it all aside for awhile, Kyle, myself and our fellow teacher Janosch rode Indian-style on his motorcycle to a neighboring town, Vattakanal.  I had no expectations – which is probably a product of juvenile nihilism rather than fragments of an adult enlightenment – and was pleasantly surprised.  We parked on the side of the rode and walked to a path which led through the woods.  The path was directed downward and I anticipated entering a village with a few small shops.  The town is known for catering to Western tourists, especially Israelis.  To my own amazement and satisfaction, the path led to a large mountain ledge.  Kyle suggested we walk up to it.  I responded that it, “probably wasn’t the edge, there’s always like five edges.”
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I was wrong.  The ledge cut straight down at, what might as well have been, a 90 degree angle.  Miles and miles of India were visible.  Uninhabited mountains, the flat sweeping plains and more mountains covered in dense forest.  It was not only breathtaking, but physically disorientating.  I literally felt that I might just fall over.  I’ve done a fair amount of climbing before, but never felt this sensation.  My body simply could not physiologically make sense of the environment.

Another bewildering aspect of the isolated mountain spot was the amount of trash.
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Before piling back onto the motorcycle, we perused the streets a bit.  I drank lemon tea, pet a stray dog and met a man whose family member is faculty at UW-Stout (which I attended for one year).  A fairly average day in India.   After returning home, I stayed up late, spent a good 45-minutes crying and attempting to my sense of myself.  Then, finally, I succumbed to the unconscious.  I’ve come to conclude that life in India can consist of chasing various trivialities or be a slow and prolonged step toward a more full expression of my self.

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On Doing the Right Thing

It’s taken me a couple of days to collect my thoughts about the recent local elections, and I think I’m now in a clear-headed enough place to jot a few things down.

I think the core of my politics has stayed largely the same since reaching adulthood. But over time I’ve learned to connect politics to a deeper sense of morality.

Notions of right and wrong can certainly be subjective but, in politics, the moral stance is usually quite obvious, even if one chooses not to acknowledge it, in my opinion.

In the D8 race, one candidacy prioritized issues of social justice, workers’ rights and others important to those struggling in our community; the other talked a lot about economic development and issues of student safety. One candidacy had the support of Progressive Dane, labor unions, community leaders and activists; the other had the support of the College Democrats, College Republicans and campus media. One candidacy counted students of color as part of its core base of support; the other relied on a very homogenous group of students to achieve victory. One candidacy did its best to tap into the spirit of resistance awoken by the great protests in this state; the other maintained a very firm line on prioritizing the traditional ‘student issues.’

I can’t really say what is in the mind and heart of my onetime opponent, Scott Resnick, but the issues, tone and supporters of his campaign indicate a complete ambivalence regarding marginalized people in Madison. As for us, the motivation for our candidacy can be summed up in the answer we always gave: To make a difference in the community.

One of the many funny moments during the day-long battle for votes at Gordon Commons came after a particularly heated exchange, when one of Scott’s volunteers began harassing a member of our campaign team. It got rather ugly, if hilarious, for about a minute. After this unfortunate incident, I turned to Scott and said, “I really do like you personally, but some of the people supporting you are just pure evil.”

“I know,” he said. “I know. I wouldn’t disagree.”

It was a startling thing to admit, although I guess a candidate can’t exactly choose all of his supporters. But then it occurred to me that I had nothing but positive things to say about every individual and organization which supported, volunteered and contributed to our campaign. Indeed, I was very humbled during the entirety of this race to be embraced by the agents of progressive change in this city. I’m truly sorry for Scott that he didn’t feel the same way about his own people.

Unrepentant progressive candidacies, as our was, tend to annoy a lot of professional pundits, as many of my PD friends know firsthand. But going into this race, I knew that we would face not an insignificant amount of criticism, lies, distortion and, at times, utter hatred. This was understood from the beginning, even if unfair and ad hominem attacks can sometimes be hard to take. Regardless, I am very proud of the fact that, unlike the other side, we always took the high road, ignored the personal and absurd attacks and only focused on the reasons for which we were running.

And again, I think our reasons were the right ones. I am also very proud of the fact that we never watered down our message and maintained an “unabashedly progressive” stance in everything that we did. Doing so doesn’t win one powerful friends, but not doing so would have made our candidacy completely meaningless and not worth anyone’s time.

Ultimately, it’s hard to say what we could or should have done differently. The media bias was inevitable (although probably not a decisive, or even important, factor), the College Republican/Democrat forces are a tough thing to overcome and the unexpected, massive turnout completely changed the landscape of the election. Ultimately, it’s worth pointing out two things:

  • In the dorms, which essentially comprise two wards, or half of the district, it basically ended up a tie – we lost by 38 votes at the Witte/Sellery ward (Gordon Commons) and won by 1 vote at the Lakeshore/Chadbourne ward (Union). Scott’s margin of victory came from Langdon and the Spring Street area, both of which have large, locked buildings and inaccurate information on the voter file – meaning many people from these parts of the district were never directly reached by either campaign. For whatever reason, areas where universal direct contact was difficult or impossible were areas in which we did relatively poor.
  • The number of Prosser voters, much higher as a percentage of student voters than I would have anticipated, was much higher than the margin of difference between the two candidacies. Certainly, many of these were under-votes, but given the last-minute College Republicans endorsement of Scott (conveniently issued on the day of the election, before anyone could call him on it), many of them went undoubtedly went to the non-progressive candidate. It’s probably safe to assume that we received approximately 0 Prosser votes. In truth, it’s hard to say what the outcome of this race would have been had the Supreme Court race not also been on the ballot.

Nonetheless, there are many, many things that progressives can learn from this campaign for future elections, the details of which I won’t bore readers with here. The point is, there is always room for improvement.

Ultimately, as I said countless times during this campaign, whether we win or lose, we did the right thing. This is truly where the satisfaction of any political endeavor should come from – not from the result (the power, not us, is usually the victor), but on the value of the work itself. Had we not been so uncompromising in our message, perhaps we would have fared better electorally, but it would have bankrupted this aforementioned value.

On a final note, I want to say this: Regardless of the very real political differences I had and have with Scott, I want to wish him the best of luck on the City Council. If nothing else, I think he will represent D8 with competent and hard-working representation. Also, his quote from the Daily Cardinal article is worth pasting:

“The story that will never be written is that the two of us became pretty good friends out of it,” he said. “The two of us would run into each other at midnight before doing lit drops and sit there and talk for an hour.”

This is all very true, and I can honestly say that I have a deep respect for my erstwhile opponent on a personal level. It’s a shame, perhaps, that political differences so often have to turn into personal ones, and I’m certainly not perfect in this regard. However, I did make an effort to say ‘hi’ to Patrick M, a blogger who I’m told has written some not-so-nice things about me as of late, a few days ago, and his response was pretty odd: An awkward wave and blatantly obvious shock and even fear that I would acknowledge his presence in the flesh-and-blood. (Here’s the thing, if you’re going to slander someone to the point of stalking them, you should probably find the courage to at least say a few words to that person’s face.)

Anyway, regardless of the setbacks of PD/progressives (well, technically, PD actually went from 3 to 4 seats on the Council, despite losing 3 of its elections), there are always reasons to keep the faith. Paul Soglin won the Mayor’s race and so the Committee system should be restored to fairness and there are many encouraging things going on here on campus, too – positive ASM election results, emboldened resistance to the NBP, the fall of the stale, male and pale faction (or the Good Ol’ Boys, as some have aptly called them) in ASM, and a lawsuit which calls them out for their corruption and real – as opposed to manufactured – theft of student money for private political purposes.

So long as there are so many good, hardworking progressives in this community – people who involve themselves in politics because they want to make the world a better place and for no other reason – I don’t think I can ever fall into disillusionment.

Peace and solidarity,

Kyle

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More Campaign Fun

There has been a considerable amount of commentary on District 8 in the last week, and so I’ll add a few words.

In my opinion, it is a very fortunate thing that 1) The campus press does not represent student opinion and 2) Students overwhelmingly don’t read the campus papers. Regarding the latter point, I’d point out that at not a single student door has anyone ever mentioned reading about me or this race in either the Cardinal or the Herald, and certainly not in any of the blogs.

I certainly have respect for many of the people who work at these organs (I used to write for the Herald myself, of course), but the fact remains they don’t have an impact on anything, and when the intended impact is to destroy progressive causes and candidates, I think that’s a good thing.

However, unfair and dishonest criticism can be very hard to take at times, I will be the first to admit, regardless of the electoral impact. Some of the commentary in the blogosphere regarding our candidacy has crossed the line into stalker-ish territory, and so some of this stuff can be very creepy to deal with. Which is why I usually don’t read it.

However, I’m not feeling sorry for myself; I have no excuse to. Talking with my friend Brenda Konkel and others, the plight of the progressive candidate in the student district is always a tumultuous one. Another friend of mine, Ashok Kumar, faced an even more intense hatred during his time representing students. This type of thing is to be expected, and so a progressive should not run in this district if he or she is not up to being regularly portrayed as the devil incarnate.

Earlier today, the Badger Herald endorsed my opponent, and this of course will be followed by the Cardinal in a few days. It occurs to me that every issue and cause I have been involved with during my time on this campus – anti-war activity, fairness on the SSFC, opposition to the ASM Constitution, progressive slates, progressive local political candidates, immigrant rights – has been vehemently opposed by the Herald and Cardinal. To have been endorsed by either of these papers would be an affront to everything I believe in and everything I have fought for (successfully or otherwise) during my long time on this campus. It would be the surest sign that I am doing something seriously wrong as an alder candidate.

(Side note: The Herald/Cardinal will rarely endorse a progressive, however. This happens when the progressive’s opponent is looked upon as so unqualified – ie a candidate who lies about several of their endorsements or is universally opposed by a district’s neighborhood associations – that supporting this opponent would be utterly embarrassing.)

I would say that we’ve dealt with it all, but I’m sure we can look forward to more fun articles and posts in the remaining days of this election. One would think that a paper’s decision to print THREE articles about a single (very honest) piece of campaign literature would top the absurdity chart, until one is told that this same paper hasn’t even printed a response piece from the campaign.

But again, this biased treatment was understood from the beginning. It’s the cost progressives have to pay for daring to prioritize issues of social justice, workers’ rights and causes not immediately relevant to the white male non-progressives who are almost singularly behind this commentary.

As this campaign comes to a close, the intensity of this hatred very much assures me that we are doing the right thing. Ours is the only candidacy which has expressed a determination to confront issues of poverty, racism and other forms of inequality if elected. Madison’s local government currently has only a few voices which even bring up the plight of those suffering in our community, and it’s very clear that my opponent will not be an additional one if elected.

Whether we win or lose, I am very proud of the fact that we have ran a principled and unabashedly progressive campaign. It will have been worth it either way.

 

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Campaign Notes

There are many things worth commenting on regarding the District 8 alder race, but I’ll confine myself to just a few things here.

First, I wanted to follow-up about a fairly hilarious email sent out by a group called the Young Progressives, aptly commented on by Lukas over at Forward Lookout. Without apparent sarcasm, the author of this email accuses our campaign of engaging in dirty tactics and then goes on to compare me to Scott Walker. Having always been accused of being too far in the other direction – usually an accurate accusation, incidentally – this ad hominem attack was rather funny to come across and, I think, must be a first.

Anyway, there are a few things to comment upon here. First, critiquing the differences of one’s opponent is – I’m pretty sure – a fairly standard political practice. Obviously, I think I would be a better D8 representative than my opponent, and especially in absence of a debate, I want voters to know what the differences are. And so that’s what we’ve done in a recent lit piece.

Obviously, there would be legitimate criticisms to be made if untrue, slanderous things were said (i.e. comparing my opponent to Scott Walker). But this wasn’t the case – ie my opponent is not a student, has been endorsed by DMI and the cops, compared the Common Council to a business, and says nothing about social justice in his platform. These things, from the perspective of an actually progressive campaign, are worth pointing out. (Incidentally, the nature of these criticisms are really very soft. A particularly pro-business, pro-police voter would probably even end up thinking my opponent is more worth voting for. If we had wanted to be really negative, we could have, for instance, pointed out that my opponent has the support of the Chair and Vice-Chair of ASM – both Walker voters.)

As for the Young Progressives themselves, I guess I’m just really confused. The College Democrats endorsement was entirely appropriate given my opponent’s history in the organization, and so I entirely respect that. Of course, as far as I can tell, the membership of the YPs entirely overlaps with the College Dems, so I guess things make sense in that context.

But the fact remains that the local progressive community is otherwise united behind our candidacy – from the Cap Times to organized labor to community leaders to local left-wing public servants. What’s more, my opponent’s platform completely ignores issues of social justice and workers’ rights, whereas mine prioritizes those issues.

Ultimately, even if the YP’s support for my opponent was an inevitability given the group’s connection to campus Dems, I can still say I’m honestly appreciative of their invitation to me to speak before the 10 or so members back in February. The people at the meeting all seemed perfectly nice and receptive to what I was saying, and the one or two that I’ve run into while doing doors have all been pleasant encounters. It’s tempting to believe, in this context, that the hostility stems from this one person sending emails.

Either way, if this group wants to spend its time NOT campaigning for Parisi and Kloppenburg in order to defeat an actual progressive candidate for alder, then all I can say is that I wish them the best of luck in this endeavor.

In other news, ASM elections are next week and there are a number of great progressives running. Do vote for them sometime next week Monday-Wednesday.

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History in the Making

What we are witnessing in the streets of Madison is unprecedented in modern American history.

The Huffington Post estimates that the protests have, at their peak, amounted to 70,000 people. And they’re only getting bigger.

There is so little I can add that hasn’t already been said – or witnessed. Words cannot express the feeling at the Capitol or what this means to the changing consciousnesses of those involved. It has to be experienced to be understood. Get to the Capitol!

The teachers at my alma mater, Rufus King High School, have closed down the school and many have made their way to Madison. Students at the school staged a spontaneous walkout in protest against Governor Walker’s policies. I am so proud to be an alumnus of this institution.

My one hope is that this massive, beautiful movement will come to encompass other struggles for justice. We are starting to see the beginnings of this solidarity, with UTI carrying a banner entitled “Immigrants Support Unions” and a member of Fair WI appearing on the Ed Schultz Show commenting on the commitment of the LGBT community to the current labor movement. Next on the docket at the Capitol are massive cuts to education and social services and an Arizona-style anti-immigrant bill. We need to bring all of these issues together under one banner – in the 60’s they called it “The Movement.” An injury to one is truly an injury to all.

And then there have been the “Tea Tory” counter-protests. They are (almost) all white and all monied. One can’t help but remember that throughout the twentieth century, workers’ struggles have always faced massive resistance from what eventually becomes fascism. Thankfully, their numbers have been pathetic in comparison to those who have showed up to support the dignity and welfare of working people.

People have been sleeping in the Capitol, missing class, calling in sick to work, braving freezing temperatures – but what else could possibly be more worthwhile at this moment in history! Here in 2011, in the streets of Madison, people are finally holding the line and shouting, “Enough!” The labor movement, working people, democracy – the decades-long assault will stop here. As so many commenters have noted, the country has its eyes on Wisconsin.

This fight will not stop until we are victorious.

Onward.

Peace and solidarity.

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On the Campaign Trail – and Other Thoughts…

With only a few more days until the primary for the District 8 alder race (along with other WI non-partisan races), I can honestly say the campaign trail has been good to me. Perhaps not in the mental health sense, but for the most part, it’s been very smooth making the transition from progressive organizer to progressive candidate for political office.

As I’ve said in many other contexts, the amount of support I’ve received in this endeavor has been overwhelming, and that’s certainly been helpful in encouraging me to keep up the momentum. Obviously, many of the endorsements and pledges of volunteer support have come from personal friends; but most support has come from people who had only heard of me, knew me peripherally, came over to my side due to friends’ encouragement or took a liking to my distinct platform.

The little coverage of this race in the local media has focused on this issue of endorsements, and so I’ll take the time here to briefly give my input. (For an outstanding account of the more substantive issues in the race, read this Cap Times overview.) First things first: They largely don’t matter. In this sense, I very much disagree with Kevin Bargnes’ recent Herald column on the issue. One of my opponents, Scott Resnick, was recently endorsed by the current D8 alder, Bryon Eagon, and has been doing his best to spread the news via press releases and announcements at various forums. Bargnes seems to think this will somehow give Resnick’s campaign a boost; I tend to think it’s mostly irrelevant, since the only people for whom an Eagon endorsement is likely to positively impact are mostly types who wouldn’t vote for a candidate like me, anyway.

Beyond that, Eagon’s name carries almost no weight on this campus – outside of the College Democrats (again, along with certain ASM leadership types, the one significant campus milieu with a built-in resistance to my candidacy). I agreed with Resnick’s criticism of Eagon at the Young Progressives forum two weeks ago; at the event, the candidate critiqued the current alder for his “lack of engagement with his constituents.” Christian Barry, the other candidate in the race, voiced similar criticisms in a recent interview.

In addition to this lack of constituent outreach, Eagon has not been a particularly active alder, as more than one current Council member has discussed with me – with considerable disappointment, given that the two previous D8 representatives were Eli Judge and Austin King, both of whom were very passionate about the position. For these reasons, Eagon’s support was not sought by my campaign, nor would it have been accepted had it been offered.

Ultimately, when I say that endorsements don’t matter a whole lot, you can probably trust that I’m being unbiased since, in this sense at least, I have a huge advantage over both of my opponents. The seventeen current or recently serving Council, Dane County Board and School Board members who have endorsed my candidacy literally represent a majority of the most important local progressive policy makers over the last half decade. This type of support, almost unheard of in student races, has left me truly humbled. In addition, the various endorsements from student and community leaders and local organizations has also been highly encouraging. I would like to think I have earned this support from my years of community involvement during my time as a student-activist here in Madison. Regardless, I look at it as a challenge: A call to live up to these very high expectations, set by some truly amazing people and organizations, if elected.

If these endorsements aren’t electorally all that important, why bother seeking them out? First, they do matter a little. For instance, one can imagine a student thinking more highly of a campaign having received a flyer with the Teaching Assistants’ Association’s seal of approval. Second, they’re a good way of indicating to everyone interested in my candidacy the type of alder I intend to be. As my endorsements show, I view people like Austin King and Brenda Konkel as role models for this position. Finally, endorsements express commitment. By garnering the support of Audre Lorde cooperative members, for example, one can probably guess that I intend to prioritize issues that are important to people of color.

Moving on…I would have liked to have seen more in-depth coverage of the D8 race from the campus media (as I noted above, Kristin over at the Cap Times has done an amazing job). The Opinion coverage has been almost nonexistent, while the News articles (also few) did little to educate readers about the differences between candidates. Except for those voters who received a knock on the door or piece of literature from the candidates, and those who are members of politically-charged groups like SLAC and the College Dems (an infinitesimally small percentage of students), the residents of this district are unlikely to even be aware that there is an election this Tuesday.

Which is why I was grateful for Bargnes’ recent column, even if I did mostly disagree with it. On a personal note, however, I can’t tell you how enviable a position it is to be assigned the label “underdog” by the media, as Kevin did in his piece – it certainly takes off a lot of the pressure.

There was another point that Kevin made in his article that is worth mentioning, too. Actually, it’s important enough to quote him at length:

In closing, the district eight race will largely be debated online. To be frank, this newspaper is not interested in wasting valuable space to cover mudslinging rants written by the student government wonks that now infest the fledgling campus blogosphere.

This is a clear, and devastating shot at some of the more recent noise that has come out of the student blogosphere, and I’m very appreciative of Kevin’s insistence that this type of thing should not be considered part of the legitimate debate in this race. It’s nothing new; it harkens back to the incessant online dishonesty directed at former student leftist Supervisor Ashok Kumar, who regularly endured incredibly obscene and racist vitriol (regularly hosted by the Critical Badger) that makes most of the current stuff look tame by comparison.

So, the fact that politically inactive conservative bloggers have decided to target my candidacy, as well as the good work of some of my friends in the student activist world, is not a surprise. Their posts may be obsessive and ad hominem and dishonest – all the hallmarks of Glenn Beck’s style – but they are, more importantly, irrelevant. So, I encourage them to continue having fun at what they do.

Ultimately, I have grown very thick skin over they years and fully expected all sorts of attacks on my character from various student conservatives with whom I’ve battled in the past – right from the beginning of this race. In truth, the ability to overcome even the most viscous personal attacks is something I’ve gained a lot of practice in doing from my years of political involvement. On a personal note, this has helped me in becoming increasingly less sensitive to ad hominem attacks in my non-political life as well. The ability to go through life immune to the ridicule and cruelty of others is a great gift, liberating the individual from so much of the noise that normally drags one down. I’ve achieved an enormous amount of progress in this Zen-colored goal and, for this, I have the “mudslinging rants written by the student government wonks” to thank. Come to think of it, I am enormously indebted to them.

Finally, I want to give a huge shout-out to the TAA, SLAC and everyone else out there who is tirelessly working to coordinate the incipient protest movement against Walker’s fascistic attacks on this state’s organized labor. He can bring in the National Guard, but the beautiful public working people of this state and their allies will not be intimidated. Since arriving on this campus in 2005, I don’t think I have ever witnessed such a rapid and widespread mobilization of progressive forces. I was briefly talking with Tyler Junger on Facebook tonight, and he told me that members of the ASM leadership have also been participating in this effort and plan on attending the massive demonstration on Tuesday. If you need any better proof that this movement has hope and inspired large swaths of people of this state, I can’t think of a better example in making this point.

It’s true that, regarding the impact for local progressive candidates, Walker’s announcement to destroy the public sector could not have come at a worse time. I’m guessing my friends T.J. Mertz and Brian Solomon are also relying on a campaign team and volunteer base of activists that would otherwise be involved in the anti-Walker activities. Further, it’s also diverted a lot of resources away from our campaigns. This is the nature of running a campaign that considers itself one with the labor movement and other progressive causes.

However, for those who have worked over-time on my campaign in the midst of this new crisis – especially Adam Porton, Leland Pan, Michael Johnson and others – I hold an enormous amount of gratitude. They serve as a reminder that for social justice candidacies, the individual candidate is not what the race is about; rather, it’s about a larger movement, a larger set of values and issues, a larger vision for what our small part of the world can look like.

In this vein, I think the candidacies of myself and like-minded others can draw strength and energy from the inspiring acts of resistance we are currently witnessing.

Peace and solidarity.

 

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Some Things Need to be Said

My excuse for writing this post is I feel compelled.  Compelled to set the record straight. Of course, this is probably why I’ve written 90% of my blog posts over the years; it really is too bad that a handful of people, lacking legitimate arguments and facts, have to resort to falsification and distortion.

Jack Craver, with all due to respect to the guy, seems to do this a lot – especially when writing about PD and other people and groups associated with the left.  In particular, it’s as clear as day he doesn’t like me personally. Which is fine and all, but someone needs to tell him: It’s getting rather old. I’m really sorry I harshly criticized his best friend and former Herald Editor two years ago for writing obscene things about rape and race relations, but even this person under discussion seems to have gotten over it. How long can one hold a grudge? But more importantly, how professional is it (I take it Jack considers himself at least something of a professional) to air this laundry every time he writes a post about me?

He’s called me “crazy,” a “malcontent,” “inflammatory,” “hopeless” – and used a buffet of other pejoratives to describe me. And recently, a friend and supporter of mine, in the hopes of convincing Scott McDonnell of doing joint lit-drops on campus with my campaign – which mostly would have been to the benefit of Scott and not myself; I want Scott to beat the conservatives in the race – started a conversation (over cards) about what he believed the Executive candidate would agree with in my political history. From what I was told, he was interrupted by Jack, who was also there, and Scott was then informed that I am mentally deranged and perhaps psychotic. According to this friend, this interruption struck more than one person in the room as downright bizarre.

So, here’s my suggestion to Jack. People know you don’t like me, so rather than continuing to lose credibility through exaggeration and (as I’ll explain below) deception, why not just vent your hatred over some beers with some of my anonymous online detractors?

Because here’s another point worth mentioning. The number of people utterly shocked to meet me in person after having only been exposed to what’s been written about me online is – well, the number I’ve met who fit this description is not small. Truthfully, I can’t really blame people for thinking bad things of me having only read pieces like those written on The Sconz. These aren’t nice things! I’ve grown thick skin over the years and, fortunately, I know this type of thing isn’t relevant to election results. But it’s worth pointing out that, upon meeting me in person, people tend not to dislike me. This is why I’m usually pretty adamant about meeting fellow politicos for coffee and reaching out to them in person to avoid (always unnecessary) bad personal feelings in the midst of political disagreements. I’m actually a pretty nice guy, as my parents will tell you. In fact, I can’t think of a single seriously adversarial relationship I have with any human being who I haven’t met through the local political scene.

Anyway, the real reason I want to respond to Jack’s post is because, due to its untruthfulness, he seriously distorts what happened at the recent DPDC meeting and ends up smearing progressive Democrats – both PD and non-PD alike – as a result.

There’s [sic] no better place to see sheer human drama on display than a meeting of the Dane County Democrats, especially ones in which members vote on endorsements in local elections. The conflict often centers on the participation of Progressive Dane members, many of whom show up only to vote in the endorsement — and often against the wishes of the Dem Party leadership.

Ummm, yea – talk about distortion. I’ll assume from this last sentence that 1) Jack is not and never has been a member of the Democratic Party and 2) He is not and has never been at a DPDC meeting. This line about about PD as “interlopers” in the DPDC is so tired; I thought it had been retired by now. Apparently not. Presumably, Jack made this claim from having been an avid Critical Badger reader back in the day, not knowing that it has been entirely disproven.

A few points to this end. First, people can be members of both parties! Wouldn’t it make sense that people involved in an exclusively local organization like Progressive Dane might also want to attach themselves to a party with statewide and national relevancy like the Democratic Party? Why is this so wrong? Historically, PD members have have served in the leadership of the DPDC, worked on Democratic campaigns and served as DPDC-endorsed locally elected officials. In other words, there is no reason why there should be any hard feelings between the two parties. The truth is that the anti-PD line is simply a way for the right-wing of the DPDC to maintain control of the leadership, keep the party from involving itself in progressive activism and maintain its cozy place in the city’s establishment. This is why you will never hear prominent progressive DPDC members like Lindsey Lee or Russell Wallace use PD as a bogeyman. Whether Jack knows it or not, in writing posts like these he does a great job of promoting the Wayne Bigelow faction of the local Democratic Party.

What’s more, the vast majority of the people at last Wednesday’s meeting were non-PD people who rarely attend party meetings and showed up on that particular night to vote for the (non-PD) candidate of their choice. Assuming that showing up only to vote for endorsements is a bad thing (as Jack implies), why don’t they garner any criticism? In truth, everyone knows that these endorsement meetings turn out large numbers of people (probably about 125 at last week’s) because candidates try to get supporters there. If you go to July DPDC meeting, you’ll find about 15 people in attendance.

Neither Sam nor TJ realistically expected to get the endorsement after having been excluded from the interview process in virtue of their PD membership – and their opponents’ “recommended” for support as a result. They came mostly to say their piece as DPDC members and in hopes of garnering support from individual progressive Dems at the meeting (in this latter respect, I know both were successful). It was very distasteful to watch the hour-long verbal harassment of Sam during the D2 discussion by the right-wingers in the room; they did no favors in recruiting young people, issue-based organizers or those with a propensity for self-criticism to the party. I was also disappointed to watch the party-first mentality during the D13 debate. Apparently, enough people agree with Sue Ellingson that “Nothing is more important than the party” – including issues, values and the people she’s intending to represent.  Most unconscionable though, was having to sit through the unfathomably grotesque treatment of Brian Solomon, the details of which I will never discuss on this blog. He is an amazing alder and incredibly decent human being.

Regarding my endorsement. I’m sorry it wasn’t controversial enough for Jack, but then there was no reason why it should have been anything but formulaic. The bylaws of the party state that a 2/3 suspension of the rules is required to make an endorsement before primaries in which there are at least two DPDC members in good standing, as is the case in D8. So, I got up to briefly introduce myself and stated all of the following: I’ve been a party member for a number of years, actively worked on a number of Dem campaigns going all the way back to my middle school involvement on the Gore campaign trail, most of my political work has been not through the party but fighting on issues party members support (like environmental causes, immigrant rights, labor advocacy, etc) and so I don’t see why the rule should be suspended in this case.

After I spoke, two or three other people talked right after me, all in support of what I had just said. It’s worth pointing out that I knew none of these people personally, nor were any of them PD members. The logic of my argument was just so simple yet irrefutable. It’s true, after all, that I haven’t been involved as an insider DPDC member, but then neither has my opponent.

It appeared that, without opposition to my candidacy, the debate was about to go to a vote, but then Molly Rivera of the College Democrats got up and spoke, which she certainly had every right to do. I definitely respect what she said and, as a friend and political ally of Scott’s, it was entirely reasonable. Ultimately, her remarks failed to convince people or garner a larger discussion not because she was inarticulate or ill-spoken (she was neither) but mainly because she didn’t have much of a case to make. She basically had to prove that I was somehow unworthy of seeking the DPDC endorsement; in absence of downright lies, I don’t know how this could have been accomplished. As a result, all she could say was Scott and I aren’t the same candidate (true), the 4 or 5 College Dems in the room are supporting Scott (presumably true) and that I had opposed the College Dems for as long as she could remember (I’m not really sure what she meant by this, since I don’t recall ever doing anything in opposition to an action or campaign the group was involved in, nor am I aware of specific actions or campaigns I could have opposed. It’s possible she was referring to Bryon Eagon’s candidacy two years ago, but then I did write an article in the Herald endorsing him after the primary.)

The attempted suspension got nowhere near the 2/3 needed.

It’s also true that I have criticized “prominent Democrats,” although I’m not really sure what it mean to “throw allegations” at them, as Jack states I have done. Either way, if the DPDC was a Stalinist, ideologically rigid party which didn’t tolerate internal criticism then Jack would be right: My candidacy should and would have been immediately disqualified from an endorsement. I’ve never claimed to be a “good party man” -either to the DPDC, or PD for that matter. I’m a progressive first and foremost, and my ultimate allegiance is to my values and the issues I support.

I’m sure this post will do me no favors in garnering favor with certain members of the DPDC, and that’s fine. I hope those of you who got through the entirety of this post (sorry about the length) found some useful information in it. Again, I feel it needed to be said.

Peace.

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