By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
WOLF ON DEAN
We just finished reading “Out of Left Field” by Jamie Wolf [August 29–September 4], an excellent analysis of the Howard Dean presidential campaign, far superior to anything that has appeared in the national press, including The New York Times and The Economist. Thank you for publishing a comprehensive piece on this important candidate. We’re looking forward to the follow-up.
Jamie Wolf puzzles over a certain phrase, whose source eluded her, that came to mind on witnessing what I would call Howard Dean’s “best self,” revealed when he pitches his appeal to the electorate’s own collective best self. This has become rare in a political and commercial culture in which we have grown accustomed to being addressed as (resentful) taxpayers and (heedless) consumers, and rarely, if ever, as (responsible) citizens. The phrase — “the Beloved Community” — has a magnificent pedigree. It was the nutshell term used by the architects of the civil rights movement for their vision of the realization, in social and political practice, of the simple, basic truth that we are all in this together. To formulate and devise ways to fulfill our ongoing responsibilities is the central, imperative task of our political institutions, working in concert with the various formations of civil society.
The right has attempted to hijack and distort this concept to its own purposes, serving up disingenuous pabulum about volunteerism as the solution to all social ills — a thousand points of light, compassionate conservatism and all that — but this is just eyewash meant to obscure their actual aim of destroying the public sector. In fact, a robust and effective public sector and a thoughtfully regulated private sphere together are necessary to allow civil society to function, by stepping in where the market fails (secure health care, anyone? reliable power grid? workplace safety? pollution controls?) and also by saving capitalism from its inevitable tendency to bite itself in the rump (capital accumulation leading to monopolies, thereby stifling competition; corporate policies pumping up quarterly profits at the expense of long-term planning and investment; wages driven so low that no one can afford the products; etc.). The Beloved Community — gorgeously described in U.S. Representative John Lewis’ 1998 memoir Walking With the Wind — is pretty close to what the late philosopher John Rawls called “the infrastructure of justice,” and it is the prescription for the survival of neighborhoods, cities, states, countries and the planet. We must, after all, as Auden wrote, love one another or die.
As Harold Meyerson’s piece in the same issue [“Ladders of Hope,” Powerlines] reports, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) has crafted a bold politics of the Beloved Community and, moreover, has shown an ability, startling in these benighted times, to see it implemented. I hope someone will slip a member of Howard Dean’s inner circle of advisers a copy of the LAANE playbook.
COOPER ON THE RECALL
Just when I fear the Weekly is completely blinded by Democratic partisanship, an amazing and courageous article comes along — this time from race cardsharp Marc Cooper, in “Courts, Coups and Clinton Too” [Dissonance, September 19–25]. The only thing I think he missed is why it would not be contradictory for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of the recallers when they ruled against the recounters in Florida. The reason is simple. California has a standard for counting punch-card ballots: Three of four corners must be dislodged. Florida did not have a standard, hence different counties used different methods to evaluate those ballots — from the slightest indentation to the now-infamous dangling chad. Regardless of what the Democrats, ACLU, labor leaders or the activist judges of the 9th Circuit say, it is not the same situation at all. If punch cards all counted the same way were good enough to get Davis into office, they ought to be good enough to throw him back out again if that’s what the voters decide to do.
—Tony Blass Winnetka
BRADLEY ON POLLSTERS
Regarding the wildly different results of the L.A. Times vs. Field polls cited in Bill Bradley’s “Eraser” [September 19–25], I have decided to develop a new polling service based on an advanced, scientific methodology. I call it the “I Just Pulled This Out of My Ass” poll. It will initially be focused on the recall election, but we expect to offer our services (by exclusive subscription service only, of course) in future state and national issues.
As a way to raise awareness of our new and exciting service, we challenge the L.A. Timesand Field polls to a three-way polling smackdown to see whose numbers are actually reflected in the final results on Election Day. Winner takes all, and the loser shuts his trap forever and ever and ever.
Thank you for your support.
—Bruce Bridges Los Angeles
POWERS ON WARM SPIT
John Powers writes that John Nance Garner said that being vice president was as useful as a “bucket of warm spit” [“Devil’s Island,” On, September 26–October 2]. Aaaarrgghhh! That ‰ is the bowdlerized version. Think about it — it makes no sense. What Garner said was “warm bucket of piss,” but the papers of the 1930s changed it so they wouldn’t harm the delicate sensibilities of their readers.