This is a combination: on the one hand, it looks at our Veterans Day reminiscence in a progressive way; on the other hand, it examines the run-off battle for Georgia's Senate seat, in which the themes of a VD recollection recur repeatedly, and, for anyone with a pulse and a brain, require support for Jim Martin, which this piece details how to develop powerfully.
We are ten years shy of the centennial of the first gigantic slaughter's end, which brought us the holiday today that most folks recall falsely, if at all. Instead of recollecting General George S. Patton, he of the pedigreed license to kill, giving the order to fire into the huddled ranks of the "bonus army," which was seeking succor-for-its-service to replace starvation during the worst days of the Great Depression, we get the heroic image of the flag hoisted atop Iwo Jima, without Clint Eastwood's astute deconstruction. Instead of the insights of a commander of the Marine Corps, Smedley Butler, who twice won the Congressional Medal of honor and went on to retire and acknowledge that he had spent his life as a 'capitalist thug,' we get images of liberated Italians and happy Parisians ready to party thankfully for the assistance of Uncle Sam. Nowhere is this pandering to prevarication more entrenched and stalwart than in Georgia.
Thus, the inevitable likelihood that one of the slimiest perjurers in political history will win a second term to the U.S. Senate, in the person of Saxby Chambliss, is apropos, despite the nausea that accompanies this realization among those who combine a pulse with some semblance of rationality either social or historical. For, more than ever before, Georgia desperately needs progressive voices in the highest offices of the land. More than ever, we need leaders who can countenance acting for the common good instead of for personal gain and ruling class predominance. While the triumph of Chambliss may end up being unstoppable, certainly only a powerfully articulated strategic vision, which in turn results in a potent tactical expression of this overview, can possibly unseat the nefarious and gregarious Mr. Chambliss, whose charisma far outweighs that of someone as quiet and inward looking as Jim Martin.
I have to begin with a caveat. Having already spent far too many hours digging out various sorts of information, without any support, I leave it up to the political pros to match the demographics with the approaches that I develop here. I would bet every penny that I own (which is not that many pfennigs, unfortunately) that most of the ideas here would have legs in this race. All of these methods might work, but some of them surely would have an impact if precisely fined-tuned, in terms of message, and then joined to the correct implementation--door-to-door conversation, phone-banks, invited appearances, mediated advertising of various sorts, and so on.
So saying, the general plan for victory in three short weeks needs to have three well-developed prongs. The first, churning out a turn-out that will make all past run-offs in Georgia pale in comparison, is not the focus of this missive. I have ideas and input in that regard, but Obama's minions will, in all likelihood, do fine without me here.The second issue, fund-raising, has ever been my personal bane. Any advice that I offered would almost certainly be not just wrong, but hideously self-destructive and stupid. I don't even want to imagine what I might come up with in this area.
The third salient, however, given what I have seen and heard and read about Jim Martin's campaign, is one which the inner circle so far appears incapable of developing pugnaciously, and hence this 'free advice.' The big picture is that Chambliss objectively crucifies the interests of many of his White supporters, thereby making him vulnerable to having votes stripped away from his column a few weeks hence. The following paragraphs develop this point, both by expressing the socio-political elements of Chambliss' incongruousness and by suggesting how to develop these incongruities in the field. All seven of these 'power points' intertwine to an extent: corruption blends with class bias, and both of these mix with crushing the poor, and so on. Still, as individual messages, each of these aspects of Chambliss might contribute to his defeat.
EVEN REDNECKS HATE CORRUPTION FOR THE MOST PART
The record here, both of behind-the-scenes sculduggery and on the floor of the Senate, provide rich fodder for attack. When, in 2003, he sought an ambassadorship for a money-bags contributor from Senator Frist, Chambliss may or may not have broken the law. But he clearly proved that his primary constituency is cash. This should be number-one-with-a-bullet at every level of presentation.
As to nepotism, everyone sympathizes. But packaged properly, the fact that Chambliss' son, a registered lobbyist for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and otherwise comprising 100% conflict of interest, appears before daddy's agriculture committee becomes a bludgeon with which to beat the bully. Any Democrat who had such temerity would smell his own flesh frying before the end of the day.
Additionally, but not in any sense comprehensively, Chambliss has served up every tidbit that his big donors have requested. Whether in terms of breaks for the power companies or all of the labor and environmental priorities of agribusiness, Saxby rates at or near 100% on the haute-bourgeois score cards. He is the man of the hour for the rich and connected, and his votes, along with his coffers, are available to the highest bidder--as just one of dozens of example of this, one need only examine his travel arrangements: Saxby merited more free travel funding than any other member of Congress, and he was in fourth place out of five hundred thirty five in terms of the numbers of junkets that he and his staffers took, exclusively at the behest of fortune five hundred firms or their servants.
Multiple process pointers are plausible. One might suffice. In Cobb County, utility robbery has recently run rampant; in Dalton, carpet execs are taking payoffs for relocating jobs; 'investor gurus' around the state have of late absconded with uncounted millions of nest eggs. The leadership millieu of a Saxby Chambliss cannot help but contribute to such vicous shenanigans.
IF SOCIALISM IS SO BAD, WHY DO THE RICH GET TO HAVE IT?
Again and again, Chambliss has stood strong for public handouts to the wealthiest individuals and the most powerful combinations in our society. He added his vote against limiting government handouts to the wealthiest farmers and corporate landlords; he nixed even holding hearings about military contractor corruption; his voting record, his appointments, his various 'interest group' scorecards, and his personal involvement with such industries as sugar and electrical power generation provide further fodder. This, in relation to Martin's weakly resonant message that 'I would not have voted for the bailout,' could have an explosive impact on Saxby's supporter's. It places the entire situation in a comprehensible context.
The process of expression in this regard concerns not voting stupidly. Mr. Chambliss is charismatic, yes; he has a winning smile and charming ways, no doubt. But for all but the wealthiest Georgian citizens, a vote for Saxby Chambliss is a ballot for taking money from already lightened wallets to deposit on the bloated balance sheets and in the tax-free offshore accounts of the country-clubbers to whose company Saxby has always aspired.
'WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?'
Going to church and increasing one's net worth from less-than-zero in 2002(99th in the Senate)to approximately half a million today(87th in the Senate)is not how the man from Nazareth would keep score. Similarly, letting the money lenders take over the temple and the treasury is not a 'render unto Caesar' methodology.
Furthermore, Chambliss' attacks on Martin's 'liberal' record vis a vis reproductive rights ought to be easy to counter with an allusion to the 'mote in Saxby's own eye' in this regard. Our Senator eviscerated support for children in half a dozen different ways, from opposing extension of the children's health(CHIP)initiatives to avoiding attempts to specify how to make school lunches healthier and thereby less dependent on agribusiness inputs.
Many Christians consider the commandment not to bear false witness as the keystone of the Ten Commandments. That Chambliss abrogated this rule in his 2002 campaign is, at the least, quite likely. Letting the record speak for itself here, in connection with the material below about defense, service, and veterans, could be very appealing to the devout.
The real issue, in terms of one-on-one conversations, pulpit presentations, and so forth, deals with asking ourselves, on balance, "Who would Jesus vote for?" Since we are all imperfect, and in the Christian cosmology, Jesus achieved perfection, none of us can say. But bringing this query to the table rates to be a big boost to the humbler and gentler candidate, who also happens to be our choice.
BULLIES ALWAYS ATTACK WHERE THEY ARE WEAKEST THEMSELVES
Chambliss took Cleland down with a big lie about national security, and he's trying the same thing with Martin in regard to fiscal responsibility and insider favoritism. While these points are extremely well-known, their articulation one-on-one, in working class communities that have felt the 'bullying' effects of George Bush's 'bully-pulpit,' could have a profound impact. This could join with a tit-for-tat effort in the media and on the web. In other words, a mirror of Saxby's takedown commercial against Max Cleland, and similarly mimicking experessions of the Senator's fiscal attacks on Jim Martin ought to be possible to produce for the final week of the campaign.
HOW SAXBY SCREWS HARD-WORKING FOLKS
This ought to be a no-brainer, but Martin's message-making here is, at best, pitifully weak. Even an unsophisticated wage-earner realizes that 'a rising tide lifts all boats,' and that, as a result, increased minimum wages support folks who work for hire. Saxby has voted against every single instance of increasing the minimum wage since 1994, with the exception of a couple of "no votes."
Given the potential for any sort of programmatic help on health care, from the CHIP renewal to prescription supplements for the elderly and the poor, Chambliss has uniformly cast his lot with the naysayers. He has similarly voted down expansion of occupational health and environmental health initiatives at almost every opportunity. He shamelessly portrays himself as the champion of the underdog and the little man while destroying each and every real possibility for such folks to gain traction and equity in their lives.
The messaging of such matters should span the state. Dalton, Rome, Savannah, Augusta, Albany, and more, in addition to various chocolate-and-cream proletarian suburbs of Atlanta have 'cancer-alley' outbreaks. Poor workers in North Georgia depend on CHIP and school lunches. White voters across the state are electing their executioner and just awaiting someone to warn them against continuing the practice.
AN EMPHASIS ON THE NERD TRIUMPHANT
Tons of contractors and skill workers--Georgia Tech engineers and such--are voting for Chambliss, when both in Congress and the Senate Saxby has failed miserably to stick up for what they believe in: planning, accuracy, and technology. Oh, he's voted for what the defense industry wants, what high-tech donors delight in, and what the chemical-and-paper-products manufacturers have instructed him to do. But close attention to his voting record suggests that he has failed to follow through in the way that any honest engineer would insist is necessary. As just one example of hundreds, just six weeks ago, he was one of only 23 Senatros who voted to keep the superior version of the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act off the books of the U.S.
In almost every technical matter involving improved funding for research, any sort of oversight, or trials of new technologies(such as solar and organic agriculture), Chambliss has sought to crush the path that his Fortune 500 backers have sneered at implementing. In a variety of carefully crafted ways, in communities from Warner-Robbins to Marietta, from Carrolton to Augusta, Saxby is vulnerable to having the folks such as my engineer Republican dad taken away from his in-box.
NOBODY LOVES A HYPOCRITE, ESPECIALLY A CRAVEN DOUBLE-DEALER
Perhaps this former football player's pretense of helping veterans represents his true Achilles heel. Here is a man who deferred service during Viet Nam, complaining of 'football knees,' but who strides down the isle at his speaking engagements like a linebacker on the prowl. He had the temerity to question the patriotism of a man who lost three of his four limbs in combat. He votes against body armor for active duty soldiers, he supports that corrupt contracts remain free from investigation, he is one of forty Senators who seek to weaken, VoteVets.org suggests terminally so, Senator Webb's expansion of the G.I. Bill for Iraq and Afghan campaign vets.
When close to half the Sentate, including our own dear Saxby, voted to substiute John McCain's version of the 21st Century G.I. Bill for the stronger version that eventually passed(and that Saxby supported because he was tired of flirting with political suicide), he left an indelible record of his true disposition on such matters. Although similarly potent thrusts are possible about Chambliss in regard to his vaunted support for small business and in his cherished notion of being a Washington outsider--he regularly stops entrepreneurial breaks in his votes and backs President Bush's agenda well over ninety per cent of the time--especially given McCain's promise to come to Georgia, an emphasis on how Senator Chambliss has turned his back on the veterans he professes to love rates to be a powerful tool against him.
GEORGIA'S WHITE VOTERS SHOULD TIRE OF BEING USED DISHRAGS
The better metaphor would probably offend too many voters, despite its aptness. Saxby Chambliss treats White middle class and working class ballots like toilet paper, which he flushes away after he's wiped his ass with them. His entire career, both as an attorney and as a politico, revolves around service to the privileged elites at the expense of the communities from which these wealthy minorities have extracted their fortunes.
In the right words, these contentions can join with the copious facts available in the public record to bring about doubt even among the most committed White supremacist, fundamentalist, and otherwise maladapted working class voter. Spoken steadfastly into the ears of those who might already question Saxby Chambliss' honor and fairmindedness, this kind of figurative assessment could easily cause a changed 'X-marks-the-spot' twenty one days from now.
Clearly, dozens of other messaging methods are possible. Focusing on where Saxby has gotten his donations, emphasizing how different groups, from big business to the League of Women's Voters, have evaluated Chambliss' record, examining his ties to the most reactionary cliques within the G.O.P., these and many other sallies might bring forth fruitful exchanges between supporters and community folks who might otherwise vote themselves a villain. However, in terms of their verifiability and ease of conveyance, the seven points that I develop here seem at the very least useful to consider, 'stat,' at the emergency room nurse might snap.
After this Veteran's Day, I would invoke the spirit of Smedley Butler. Upon retiring as the Marine Corps' commandant, he told the truth as he saw it and as I have come to view it as well. "I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service in the country's most agile military force, the Marines. I served in all ranks from second Lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."
However, I know that such a fantasy is light years still ahead of the popular view, or at least many galaxies removed from what will 'play' on prime time channels. Therefore, I've cast my lot with the gentle fellow who uses his hands like a nervous debater. The flashy trashy cash of Saxby Chambliss' bombast represents a stark contrast to the steady earnest nerdiness of the sober and awkward Jim Martin. Georgia needs a nice nerd now instead of a pushy, cowardly hypocrite.
The original 'odd bird,' my stint as head of High School ROTC included my wearing MFS's black armband just before I turned down an appointment to West Point to go to Harvard. There, majoring in bridge, backgammon, and poker for my middle years as an undergrad, I managed to get a degree in History-and-Philosophy that led me to believe that writing was my calling.
Years and years in the South since then have sent me down all sorts of strange byways of political, environmental, and civil rights activism, during all three decades of which I've squeaked by fiscally doing all sorts of odd jobs, including slinging texts at all sorts of buyers when the market permitted.
Today, I teach--primarily Koreans--about the intricacies of reading and writing English, often as a second language, and imagine a future in which my fiction, commentary, journalism, and criticism finds an audience. Graduate school may beckon in my sixth decade above ground, who knows?
I'm game for collaboration, correspondence, and constructive feedback. "I'm drawn to those who seek the truth, and I flee from those who have found it." Or, as Octavio Paz noted, "He sang, singing not to remember his true life of lies, but to recall his lying life of truth."