Palecek website: www.mikepalecek.com
I'll be a guest of Denny Smithson on Cover To Cover, KPFA radio, Berkeley, Monday, Aug. 27, 3 pm, PST. We will be talking about "The American Dream."
When will Americans have had enough?
Is This Heaven?
by Mike Palecek
Here is a letter I recently sent to some people to see if anyone wanted me to run for Congress again.
I was the Iowa Democratic Party's nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives,
Fifth District, 2000 election. I ran against Tom Latham and received 29%, about
67,000 votes. My platform was anti-war and pro-immigration.
I am writing today to see if there is any interest out there in me running again
in the Fifth District.
Briefly, I will be 52 soon. I live in Sheldon. I work for Hope Haven at a group
home for disabled adults. I am a novelist. You can find information about my books
and my writing here:
[I wrote a novel after the 2000 election, which is based partly on my experiences
as a candidate. The book is "Joe Coffee's Revolution." You can find
it on Amazon by searching for my name.]
I am originally from Norfolk, Nebraska. We have lived in Sheldon since 1997. Ruth
and I have two children. Ruth works as a dental hygienist in Sioux Center. She is
orginally from a farm in southweast South Dakota.
My background, briefly: Wayne State College; Catholic seminary, St. Paul; anti-war
protests, civil disobedience, jail and prison terms, for non-violent civil disobedience
at Offutt AFB during the 1980s. I spent the '90s in newspaper work, small towns
in Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa. The small paper Ruth and I owned in southeast Minnesota
was named the newspaper of the year by the MNA in 1994, though we went out of business
later that year.
My platform this time around would be much the same. I would be in favor of immediate
withdrawal from Iraq. We should never have been there. We were lied to. Bush and
Cheney should be impeached. They should be in prison. I am in favor of open borders.
I think that Iowans should welcome Hispanic immigration. I think we should decriminalize
immigration. These are poor, good people trying to make a life here for themselves
and their children. We are Christians and should take this opportunity to put our
religion into practice. It is also a good strategy for growing our commmunities,
restoring some tattered main streets.
I am in favor of universal healthcare, though not an expert on the details by any
stretch of the imagination.
The last time I ran I tried to understand farming and the economics of agriculture,
but found that it is very difficult. I have questions, such as why do any farmers
get subsidies. I am in favor of supporting poor families and individiuals with public
money, so I would not be against subsidizing farms in that sense. It would have
to be explained to me further.
I do not think that any candidate should be expected to be an expert on every subject,
or care equally about every subject or issue. That is just not possible.
I think the Democratic Party could be so much stronger, so much more meaningful
if it were just to speak from the heart, rather than trying to tiptoe around. People
want to hear us speak from our guts, to stop war, to stand up to Bush, to feel something
for the poor.
That was an issue in 2000. People in the district would tell me, you can't say
those things in this district, it's too conservative.
I say that doesn't matter. I say that should not be a consideration. Say what
is the truth and let the chips fall where they may. That is what a real candidate
I don't have any money or any prospects of getting any money.
When I ran the last time that is how the Des Moines Register and others dismissed
me. They equate dollars with being electable. They do not examine the issues, do
not deal with right and wrong, with people. All dollars. That is wrong. I don't
have a plan to combat that attitude, but I will not fall into the trap of trying
to raise massive amounts of money to make me feel good about my campaign.
I know what is right and what is wrong. That makes my campaign credible from the
Also - the last time, toward the end of the campaign, I endorsed Ralph Nader over
Al Gore. Nader was clearly the better candidate. I am loyal to the best person,
the best ideas. Al Gore and Bill Clinton had bombed Iraq, continued the sanctions
against Iraq for ten years, "reformed" welfare, expanded the federal prison
There is no way I was in support of that. I do not regret endorsing Nader.
I wish he would run again.
I think our current Democratic front runners, Clinton
and Obama, are far too militaristic. We need strong leadership, someone who would
be willing to investigate the Bush involvement in 911, for example. I think what
we might expect from either Clinton or Obama is more of the same. We need something
far different from that. The people deserve better than that.
Okay, that's enough for now.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your time.
From "Joe Coffee's Revolution"
I wrote JCR after I ran for Congress in 2000. It is published by Badger Books of Madison, Wisconsin. [www.badgerbooks.com]
I like Joe Coffee because it tells the truth about the Democratic Party and about farmer revolutionaries and farm kitchen tables.
"Palecek's greatest talent lies in his ability to depict the ordinariness of life. After a few chapters of Palecek's tender attention to the characters' small lives, readers will feel the same itch for revolution that the characters give into."
- Meta Hogan, Voice Of Olympia [Olympia, WA]
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Badger Books LLC (April 2003)
Amazon: click here
View JCR cover: www.mikepalecek.com
Okay, here is Joe Coffee, later dubbed "Coffee Joe" by the Iowa press, giving his first speech, at the district convention.
"... It was also a time of the destruction of the Berlin Wall, the release of Mandela and later the election of Clinton.
He began to make eye contact as he read his speech.
Along with others, I hoped for the better, for a peace dividend in the United States that would give hope to the poor. It never came.
Those in places of power, who make money from military procurement, could breath a sigh of relief that it was deemed prudent that the United States military remain unnaturally strong. My sister in Nebraska with eight children to raise on her own could find her own way to get by, our leaders said.
We have schools in Agnes and Ernest, all around the district, that need fixing. We have made staff cuts at our school. Many school boards are making the same sorts of heart-wrenching decisions, for lack of money.
And yet we continue to build state and federal prisons at a rapid rate. The United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any nation on earth. State governments invariably spend more on prisons and jails than on colleges and universities.
... It is a mistake to regard idealism as a sentimental weakness.
Joe put a touch of bass to his voice. He heard his voice going out. He knew where he was, but willed himself not to think about it.
Those quotes come from the early Wilson era, when providing for the poor while seeking to limit the reach of the rich and powerful were talked about openly.
Today liberal is a swear word.
The real obscenity is the way political parties and politicians will stick their fingers into the air to check the wind and then sprint in that direction.
... I did not choose to run because I suddenly felt qualified. I just realized that I wished politicians, newspaper reporters and news anchors talked about issues the way I wanted them to be talked about - as if they thought we had a brain in our head.
Jane cheered with a half dozen others in the audience. She had not seen Joe's speech because she demanded he write it himself.
Nobody comes around and asks you if you want to bomb Iraq or Kosovo, whether you want thirty new federal prisons built this year. Nobody asks you if you want your son forced to sign up for military induction. Nobody asks you - so sometimes you just have to tell them how you feel.
... Until we come to grips with our idolatry of the military and of prisons the rest is secondary. How many persons are we willing to kill or starve or lock up in order to ensure our own postcard-perfect lives. How can we act as if the only real problem we face is the fine-tuning of our own comfort?
Reporters ask me why I am running. Well, do you remember, just after the Columbine tragedy, President Clinton asked our young people to find non-violent ways to solve their problems. Well, that was while President Clinton and the rest of us adults were bombing Yugoslavia every morning, afternoon and night.
Our children are watching us, every step we take. And they are down there, low, with a perspective to be able to really see which direction we go.
... Joe stood on one leg and turned over his last page to find the rest of his speech.
With all due respect, the standard Democratic platform is as boring as watching paint dry, and just as useful.
As the song goes, you have to sing like you don't need the money.
Joe looked up, expecting applause or a chuckle.
Our children expect, they just assume that this is a good world.
Joe tried to speak slowly and louder.
We owe it to them and to the child within ourselves not to give up on that dream too soon.