Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hubert Horatio Humphrey - The Future Lies Behind Us

I've written several posts since the election, about the election and about the future of the Democratic Party. I've read many, many articles and columns that weigh in on the ongoing debate over what happened -- how did Hillary Clinton lose to Donald Trump and what should be done now. In my last post I broadened the focus and made my standard arguments about the need to organize outside the political system and about the likelihood that change will occur sooner or later, based on the fact of countless historic examples of revolution and uprising, which are in our nature as human beings.

On that last post, the Minnesota teacher, coach, sportsman and good Democrat whose internet handle is Troutbirder and whose blog I link to in the right hand column, left this comment:

Karl Marx must be smiling somewhere. That is if Trumps ascendance fosters The Revolution. Still, I wonder what the man, and my hero, H.H.H. who began the break with the Southern racists for the Democrats, would say now about it all. I'd listen very carefully....:) 

OK, so let's listen. This is Humphrey accepting the Democratic presidential nomination at the fabled 1968 convention in Chicago, where Chicago police famously beat anti Vietnam war protesters on live television outside the convention hall in what a subsequent investigation termed a police riot. In the previous year Martin Luther King had been assassinated and there had been riots across the nation. There was widespread worry, there was backlash, and massive, ongoing protests against the war. Republican Richard Nixon would run on a law and order, dog whistle qausi racist platform, the spiritual and factual template for how Donald Trump ran. Sitting president Lyndon Johnson had decided not to run for re-election and two people who opposed Johnson on the war, Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, were running in the Democratic primaries. When Kennedy seemed to be on the verge of winning he was assassinated and Vice President Humphrey entered the primaries late, and was propelled to the nomination by the machinations of party insiders who backed him in all the caucus states. So at the convention the party was deeply divided, on the war, the nomination itself, and significantly, on the race issue, over which southern Democrats had already begun bolting the party. 

This is the situation Humphrey faced when he made this acceptance speech. He had to try to unite the party and appeal to the widest possible voting public while putting forth the principled stands he was known for. Sitting in the audience was Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, whose police were ruthlessly beating demonstrators outside the convention but whose support Humphrey needed to win. Trying to address these myriad conflicting streams takes up the first part of Humphrey's speech.

But at about 29 minutes into the speech Humphrey starts showing the real HHH and laying out his vision for America, which, as I say was, like the party, in turmoil and deeply divided on the war, race and on what to do.

Humphrey says emphatically that every public official has the responsibility to guarantee basic rights like racial equality. "There can be no compromise," he says, on the right to a good education, the right to decent housing, the  right to a job "It is to these rights that I pledge my life and whatever capacity and ability I have."

Think of today's Democrats. Is there one who even comes close to this? The right to an education, to housing? To anything? The right to a job? Are you kidding? Today's Democrats don't believe anyone has a right to a job. You've never heard those words from the vast majority of today's Democrats. They believe in the right of the already filthy rich to get even richer and that's about it.

With the exception, maybe, of a few, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both of whom at the moment, along with President Obama, instead of pledging to fight Donald Trump with every fiber of their being are groveling before Trump and pledging to work with him and ensure he's successful.

And New Mexico's Democrats? Not one word. Not a word of encouragement, no leadership, no ideas about what to do next, on how we might get to a better future. They are in their usual places at times like these, cowering under their desks in their offices, quivering in fear, hoping everything blows over and that this doesn't impinge on their fancy job and big salary and gold plated benefits, or their status, or on their lucrative future prospects.

Far, far from the ideal of a public official put forth by Hubert H Humphrey as guarantor of rights and a better life, far from the principled stands he took that probably cost him the presidency, New Mexico Democrats put themselves before their constituents, before the people of New Mexico and before their country.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Bubba. Both sad and fond memories for me in that speech. The worst was the knowledge that as Hubert was closing the gap nearing the end of the campaign, the South Vietnamese walked out of the Paris peace talks. That was due to the secret and traitorous machinations of R.M.N. through Mrs. Chang Kai-Shek. :(