Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Small Engagment Ends Well

About a month back the Craver, Hicks, Watson, Newberry Duo played an enjoyable gig up in Washington, VA in a pretty field down below the historic jail. While there was more law there than paying patrons, the jail still being in use, we played well and had a great time with our host and impresario, the Right Honorable Ben Jones, former Congressman from Georgia, former character player "Cooter" on the Dukes of Hazard back when we were all young and free and gas was 50 cents, same as Luckies.

This is some of the constabulary, viewing the situation as the stage is being finalized. You can see it was a beautiful setting, and later on Brer Ben mounted the stage and sang with his very capable country band, as well as MC-ing the whole deal and still finding time to take Craver and I on a grand tour of his digs, just outside of the town General Washington laid out back in 1749.

Anyways, Ben is a very engaged person in his life, and whilst he was working on this nice show, he also sent out a letter to his worthy constituents (to quote Dizzy Gillespie), which I will reprint here:

To The Editor:

There was a time not so long ago when the South was called “The Solid South” by the national Democratic Party and the national press. The Republican Party in the South was, where it existed at all, historically on “the disabled list.” The two-party system in the South was “The Democrats who were in, and the Democrats who were out.”

So the action was in the Democratic primary, where the eventual winner was inevitably coronated. So that was where Democrats voted, where Republicans voted, and where independents, libertarians and everybody else voted. The general election in November was an afterthought. It was, after all, a foregone conclusion that the Democrats would win. For many years in Virginia, that was most likely someone connected with the Byrd Machine.

With the shift to Southern Republicanism that began in the South in the 1970’s, the game has changed. But not all that much. Congressional re-districting (in which the inmates decide who is going to run the asylum) has resulted in Virginia having Congressional races for what are clearly “safe seats,” that is, seats drawn by the incumbents, of the incumbents, and for the incumbents. So the general election decision is made in the primaries. Unless there is an unexpected lightning strike, that is simply going to happen. It is the next thing to being disenfranchised.

But by voting for David Brat in the Seventh District Republican primary, we Democrats, independents, and Libertarians can make a big difference in American politics. It is your right to cast that vote. It is an “open” primary and it doesn’t preclude anyone from voting anyway they wish in November. It may be the only way to empower those who want to make a statement about the dysfunctional Congress and “politics as usual.”

From what I know of Dave Brat, he is a good, honest, and honorable man. And from what I know of Eric Cantor, I can say only that he ran a truly dishonorable campaign against me back in 2002. He ducked debates, slandered me in slick mailings, questioned my patriotism and even mocked my Southern heritage. He simply cannot be taken at his word. You can call that “sour grapes” if you want to, but I am just telling it the way it was, and surely is. I can tell you that you will likely hear the same thing from his other former opponents, both Republican and Democrat.

Under Cantor’s Majority Leadership, the Congress has sunk to its lowest public standing in history. Our nation has lost faith in our most important institutions. This is not a laughing matter. It is a national crisis. Eric Cantor should not be rewarded with another term.

Every 7th District voter, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Independent can take an historic action on Tuesday, June 10th. A vote for David Brat will be heard not just throughout Washington, D.C. but around the world.

Ben Jones
Washington, Virginia

It was a pleasure watching Mr. Cantor concede last evening, and an unexpected one. However things go in the fall, removing Mr. Cantor from the House of Representatives is a small bit of justice achieved. A tip of the Hatlo Hat to Mr. Jones, for his part in a small victory for sanity and the common man.



Driftglass twitted the following last night: Brat ending his victory speech with "the Lannisters send their regards" seemed a trifle harsh. #RuinACantor

Over at Digby Laura Ingraham is given some credit for the results. This is certainly possible:

As with many things in this great land of ours, conjunction is frequently mistaken for causation.


Saturday 6/14 Update: Ben Jones gave an interview with Salon:

Ben's probably right about Cantor running into karma, if you believe in that sort of mechanism. The fact that the GOP has now removed the one and only Jew from its congressional ranks can't be entirely coincidental, can it? And the fact that Cantor's Virginia Congressional district was gerrymandered yet again in 2010, presumably to further enhance Cantor's invincibility, must also be considered Cantor karma. However, I find Ben's outright support of Brat, now that Brat is the Republican choice, alarming. Mr. Brat is a Randite, a foe of Social Security, and even further to the right than Mr. Cantor. Moreover, Ben's characterization of the Democratic Party as drifting ever leftward seems strange and outright wrong to me--a cliche without much footing in reality. In 1992 the Democratic Party had a choice between Bill Clinton, a southern-state governor who seemed to be similar in his policies to what once was called the Rockefeller Republican, and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who supported traditional labor positions and expressed much concern with America's over-seas loss of jobs. In electing Clinton, the Democratic Party moved to the right. Indeed, the Democratic Party has been chasing the Republicans ever rightwards since the '90s, vainly searching for the rightward shifting center. Even the Affordable Health Care Law is a solution to the terrible problem of health care accessibility in the United States which depends on the private insurance company sector for success. It was an idea developed by the Heritage Foundation and put into play in Massachusetts by an oligarch Republican governor.

Meanwhile, public schools and the Post Office are under sustained attack. It's hard to perceive much leftwards drift since the Reagan Revolution. President Obama is continually portrayed as a "leftist" by Fox News and the Many Pundits, but--as a right-leaning correspondent of mine says--he's really an "appeaser": of Republicans so intractable that it's been time and past for him to draw some red lines that have real teeth in them. Mr. Obama's efforts at reasonableness have led us to the sequester, and to a phony deficit crisis which could have been averted by making the plain case to the public that we simply must increase revenues if we are to do what must be done. Had Obama let the Bush tax cuts expire as planned, much of the energy behind Ryan's and Cantor's crocodile deficit tears would have been dissipated. Bush's "off the books" wars, plus the sequester sledgehammer, leads directly to the VA crisis of the moment. The Republicans have managed to make taxes, per se, a "leftist" endeavor. The Democrats have let them do it. Next week President Obama may yield to a neocon foreign policy which is an historically proven disaster and start down the path to a Third War in Iraq.

While I'm happy for Ben's success (insofar as Cantor's loss can be construed as Ben's doings), I would certainly hope that he would at this point move his support to a far more worthy candidate, Mr. Brat's Democratic opponent and University colleague. The country doesn't need more Rand Paul clones in an already broken Congress.

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