Dan Cook: Red state blues
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a Dec. 7 contribution, my friend Jim Lees broached the Gazette's recent editorial question as to why so many registered Democrats here in West Virginia vote against their own interests and those of their families but for candidates of the other party who say one thing, then, once elected, do their damndest to embed their footprints upon little folks' backs and backsides?
Rascally Republicans who, as we have seen, consistently worship what has proven to be "gush upward" economics, while swearing to us with straight faces that it is, "trickling down."
I agree with the essence of Jim's comments -- that Democrats cannot be all things to all people. Indeed, we cannot, as some of our statewide candidates have recently done, try to out-Republican the Republican extremists and passively-aggressively abdicate ex-officio responsibilities to the party organization and people who nominated them. We must do a better job of uniting to tell everyone who we Democrats are and what we stand for.
But who are we and what do we stand for?
Jim suggests that perhaps the "wide tent" Democrats have opened to all, needs to be reassessed. I wonder? Jews, Christians, Muslims and many other religious faiths have internally splintered into sects that range from mildly divisive to hatefully and even murderously militant. In the 1960s and 70s we saw extremists in our own party rear their ugly, violent heads, just as unreasonable people in the other party have, in recent years, ridden a vitriol-driven pendulum. Like water, air and earth under the pull of gravity, the grand scheme of things is dragging America back toward what, historically, has always been a brief equilibrium driven by truth, reason and sensibility. Such periods are now remembered fondly as "the good times."
How can we help West Virginians kick their "red state" addiction?
I could fill the rest of this newspaper with timeless quotations about the truth willing out and liars fooling some of the people some of the time. The point is that, in the 2012 election cycle, Democrats nationally stumbled upon the eternal key to eventual, consistent electoral success -- forcefully telling the truth. Person after person responding to exit polls cited Mitt Romney's repeated, proven inconsistencies and deceptions as the reason they didn't vote for him.
In the face of so many real problems, Americans everywhere are sick of motor-mouth liars shouting down the competent and sincerely concerned with off-subject emotional talking points about God, gays, guns, evolution, stem cells, fetuses, flags, commandments and prayer in government venues -- all of which have been ruled upon by the Supreme Court and over which no candidate for any office, once elected, has any real control. They are angry at politicians who forsake their oath and obligation to America by signing moronic, unbending pledges written by toads whose greedy masters demand, and, through loopholes get, representation without taxation. They are enraged at those who put America's future well-being second to scoring political points with the rabid knee-jerkers in their party.
It won't happen overnight, and the billionaire TV time-buyers from out-of-state are hard to overcome, but with constant hearing of the truth, West Virginians will eventually remove the bridles, blinders and bits put in their mouths by clever ad-writers for fake "Friends" groups who are fronts for those villains depicted in these timeless lines from the song "Paradise" sung by John Denver . . . "Oh daddy, won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County, (a real place in Kentucky) down by the Green River where Paradise lay? -- Well I'm sorry my child, but you're too late in askin' . . . Mr. Peabody's coal train done hauled it away!"
Much of West Virginia has been hauled away or bulldozed into the hollows. The coal seams in which a miner could stand upright -- or even hip high -- are good as gone. Thousands died in the process, instantly in explosions and slate falls or in slow, hacking misery as did my father and brother, before their time, of silicosis and black lung. Those "Friends of Coal" didn't even send a sympathy card. Those are some truths.
You may hate our president because he is of mixed race, or from Chicago, or his father was a "foreigner," all of which are stupid things to do. But even more stupid is to ignore the truth. He didn't haul the best coal away. He didn't drill the gas wells that are driving Appalachian steam coal off the market. As a keeper of the democratic faith, he has defended every program that has been of assistance to seniors, miners, the sick and needy. Programs that make West Virginians and the merchants who sell to them much better off than they would be if the Republicans who repeatedly vote against all those things have their way.
My experience has been that we West Virginians are stubborn. You try to tell us something, we bull up. But you can ask us anything, such as . . . Why is it that the Republican next door and those on the campaign trail seem so everyday warm, nice and friendly, but once elected to a legislative office, consistently vote without concern, conscience or compassion for anything but more money for the richest? Their records don't lie.
We need to keep asking that question over and over and over until we're blue in the face, and West Virginia is blue on the map again.
Cook is an author, artist and inventor who lives in Hurricane.