"If you're old enough to fight you're old enough to vote" was the saying during that misbegotten war called Viet Nam. Now a whole bunch of people, born before November 1990, are turning the saying on its head. "If you're old enough to vote you're old enough to fight against more war. " Once again, another misbegotten war. I know some have other reasons to be engaged. I wish I knew what they are.
In 1940, I was 18 and newly enrolled at the State University of Iowa. I graduated before I was able to vote. Let me tell you about Henry Wallace and me. I followed FDR since the first days of 1933 because we were scared our bank would close and we'd lose the farm. I sympathize with children today who worry about paying the mortgage after the housing bubble burst. To tell the truth, my problem was even worse, because soup kitchens were already stretched thin. If only we could stay on the farm we'd have enough to eat, although Dad had to figure out whether paying freight to ship cattle to Omaha would leave any profit.
Secretary of Agriculture Wallace was an important person to farmers back then. I was elated that he would be Vice President and could hardly wait to get to Iowa City to talk with real Iowans. Talk about bubbles bursting! I waited until a group of girls were in rump session to exclaim how happy they must be to have a Favorite Son for VP. The silence was deafening until one kind soul explained that Iowans were Republicans. That, before I even enrolled for American Government 101!
I got the degree in Poli Sci and was still at Iowa when FDR's fourth campaign started with Harry Truman, he of the Commission to ferret out wartime corruption. World War II was about to wind down, at least in Europe, and thoughts were of peacetime issues. The GI Bill had passed. (In googling it, look for all the changes which have happened since the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944.)
Light at the end of the tunnel had us dreaming of end of beef rationing. By the time VJ Day came, I had a ticket to Washington, DC for a real fulltime job. All of this just in time to learn about the politics of divisiveness. Tricky Dick Nixon was front and center, making political hay with McCarthyism, and I'm thinking what will happen when Truman runs on his own ticket.
Believe me. Nothing 2008 throws at us can hold a candle to the summer of 1948. Democrats had three contenders (not in the primaries but for the real prize) against retread Thomas Dewey. The centrist won. Harry gave them hell. Dixiecrats were doing what Southern Democrats did before they became Republicans--they played the race card. And Henry Wallace carried the banner for the Progressives. (See what Americans for Democratic Action are thinking about at Denver: http://www.adaction.org/pages/posts/ada-releases-policy-reports-in-advance-of-denver-convention47.php
Americans for Democratic Action still exists. Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Jim McDermott have both taken the podium in more recent times.
If you haven't read the Common Dreams article about what Henry Wallace wrote during the summer of 1944 when President Roosevelt ran against Tom Dewey the first time, now might be a good time. Thom Hartmann copied it for us during the heat of the 2004 campaign: http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0719-15.htm
So I end with the question I started with. What will the kids who think they are for Progressives do?