• Blog
  • September 19th, 2012

Speaking for the 47 Percent

By Joel M. Vance

                I’ve been invited to speak to a gathering of Democrats.  Since my first vote in 1956 I’ve prided myself on being an independent.  I’ve voted for Republicans, thinking in those cases they were the best for the country, but in recent years I’ve gone exclusively Democrat.  This is what I’ll say to the Democrats and the first paragraph says it all—I’m 78 and if anyone doesn’t like it, screw ‘em:

Tomorrow is my 78th birthday.  I don’t say that to promote congratulations or expensive gifts—after all you’re all Democrats so expensive gifts are out of the question.

                No—I say it to make a point.  My first election was in 1956 and I cheerfully and enthusiastically voted for Dwight Eisenhower, although I had some reservations about his running mate.  Eisenhower was a Republican but today saying that is like saying an elephant is a brontosaurus.  Different times, different philosophies.

                Today’s Republican….and again I’m speaking from the experience of years….is one mean S.O.B.  And yes I know it’s unfair to categorize all Republicans as mean spirited, bigoted, ignorant fools, but on the other hand they do seem to go out of their way to prove themselves mean-spirited, bigoted and ignorant.

                Here’s an example.  Some of you here tonight are farmers and some may be Farm Bureau members.  The Farm Bureau has endorsed Todd Akin, that knuckle-dragging Neanderthal who is running for the Senate against Claire McCaskill.

                Akin is opposed to the Farm Bill.  How can the Farm Bureau, which claims to represent Farmers, endorse a man who opposes the Farm Bill?  For that matter how can any woman endorse or vote for a moron who claims that a woman can’t be impregnated by way of rape because her body will reject the invading sperm.  Akin probably thinks babies are delivered by a stork.

                Mitt Romney, that pitiful excuse for a candidate dismisses half the citizenry as freeloading whiners who won’t take responsibility for their lives and who expect the government to provide for them.  How about the thousands of veterans maimed in two Republican wars who CAN’T work, who are in wheelchairs or beds.  Are they irresponsible? 

                How about the abject poor who don’t make enough to pay taxes or the out-of-work who can’t find a job.  How about me and Marty who paid into Social Security for many years and who paid taxes every one of those years.  Are we irresponsible for living long enough to qualify for government benefits?

                Mitt Romney is a cold, calculating, phony billionaire who doesn’t give two hoots in hell about you or me unless we’re in a position to donate big money to help him satisfy his fantasy of running the country. Yeah, he would run the country….right into the ground.

                This is your extreme Republican today, not even in the same world as those of my early years.

                From 1956 through 1959 I worked in Montgomery, Alabama, for the Alabama Journal.  This was a tense time in the South.  Martin Luther King still was the pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and had just led a successful bus boycott that won black people the right to sit anywhere they wanted on a Montgomery bus.

                It was a time of racial unrest and simmering hatred.  I covered a Ku Klux Klan rally with a reporter from the paper who happened to be Catholic.  That night the head Klux or whatever he was focused on Catholics instead of blacks and as we stood there mutually disgusted, a little boy right in  front of us projectile vomited and my reporter friend said, “That’s about right.” 

                My much admired co-worker Archie Mckay had been a rural school principal and when the Supreme Court mandated equal schooling for black and white in 1954, the local school board asked Archie what he would do and he said, “Follow the law.”

                They fired him.

                That the dominant party in the South at the time was the Democrats is an indication of how things have changed.  Now it is the Republicans who embrace bigotry and I don’t like it any better now than I did then.  While opposition to Barack Obama has many forms, I’m convinced that much of it is racial.  They call it by other names and they disguise it as policy disagreement or use code words, but to the extreme right wing the unspoken bottom line is that our President is an uppity black guy.

                That’s just one facet of the mean spiritedness that has infected the country.  Sure, the economy sucks.  It has cost Marty and me much of our retirement income and has eliminated many of the small luxuries we enjoyed during the Clinton years.

                 But hard times have not turned us into Tea Party morons, nor will they.  We’ve been down this road before, knowing lean years and economic downturns, and we’re smart enough to realize that this economy is almost wholly the fault of Reaganomics and eight disastrous  and expensive warmaking years by Little Georgie Bush.  You elect a president who subscribes to “trickle down” economics and then let one of his inept successors start two disastrous wars and you’re going to have a huge debt and an almost impossible problem for a successor to turn around.  In this case Barack Obama.

                Couple that with a Congress infected with Tea Party head lice, and a Supreme Court that has some of the most radical jurists in history and you set up a wall of opposition that Sir Edmund Hillary couldn’t have climbed. 

                Here we have Mitch McConnell, that weak-chinned Mr. Peepers from Kentucky vowing that his party has only one objective, to defeat Barack Obama and forget the good of the country.  You might as well play Taps over bipartisan cooperation.   Is that why we elect public officials?  To get one up on the other guys, never mind that the country goes to hell.  This is why I am so disgusted with the state of the nation.  I’m 78 and I’ve never seen it so bad.

                How the Supreme Court could have ruled that a corporation is a person defies the understanding of anyone with even half a brain.  The decision did what it inevitably had to do—open up the floodgates for the rich to buy elections.  I just saw that the so-called superpacs of the Republicans have raised nearly $400 million through August and that money largely will go to attack ads against Obama.  Policy and issues and the good of the country, all take a back seat to portraying the President as a Communist, an illegal alien, a Socialist, a you-name-it—as long as it’s bad.  You may recall that it was a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, who warned the country against the military-industrial complex.  Just look around you.  They’re in control now and it’s a frightening thing to see.

                I grew up a Republican and I suspect my folks also were Republicans, although they never tried to influence me.  It took Joe McCarthy and a banjo to swing me left and I’ve been trending farther left ever since.  McCarthy was the Tea Party darling of his day, a truly awful excuse for a human being.  Fortunately his own lying excess and too much booze caught up with him but not before he became an historic example of what happens when extremists try to take over.

                In the 1960s I lived through the cruelties of the civil rights crusade, watching white cops beat black marchers, use dogs and fire hoses on them, threaten school kids with bayonets and it didn’t take much to realize that no one should be treated like that.  I was in the National Guard and most of our training was in how to put down civil unrest.  I was a battery commander when Ohio National Guardsmen shot several Kent State students to death and I realized there was no way I could order any of my men to kill kids….just as I hoped there was no way they would have obeyed me.  Fortunately I never had to give such an order or to order them to fix bayonets to keep black kids out of school, the way Orville Faubus did with the Arkansas Guard at Little Rock’s Central High.

                Along came Pete Seeger whose banjo playing I admired.  He was and is a hero to me.  He represents all that is good in American life, a real environmentalist and a defender of the downtrodden.  He told a Congressional committee to get stuffed when they asked him about his personal life and served a year in prison for contempt—something they richly deserved.  He has been married to the same woman for about 70 years and never has compromised his principles.  He’s so much more American than the phony patriots like that despicable Rush Limbaugh that the contrast would be laughable if it weren’t so discouraging.

                Between my admiration for Seeger, my disgust at McCarthy, my admiration for civil rights workers, my revulsion for those who opposed and in some cases killed them—all this and more swung me away from the party of the rich and mean and toward the party you all cherish.  It hasn’t been a flawless love affair.

                I think Democrats too often are passive.  You let yourselves get pushed around.  I think Obama should have started fighting back earlier.  I think he should have been more aggressive with jobs programs.  I think he missed an opportunity recently when Hurricane Izaak hit.  He could have acted quicker and overwhelmingly with help.  He should have been on the scene before the wind quit blowing but he waited three days and let Romney slip in ahead of him.  That’s the kind of political mistake that could cost him his re-election.

                A Romney/Ryan victory would, in my opinion, mean the likely death of the ideal of democracy.  It would take decades to recover if, indeed, it ever happened.  We would become a plutocracy like that of the Gilded Age—and that was nearly 150 years ago when the robber barons called the shots and we had only very rich and very poor. 

                It could happen.  The right wing will mobilize everyone.  They sense a chance to take over and turn this country into something too horrifying to think about.  The only hope is that everyone who is eligible will vote and that the many attempts to suppress the vote will fail.  Anyone who can vote and doesn’t has no room to complain come the day after election.

                There are so many things wrong with the system that it seems almost beyond fixing.  But you have to try.

                What needs to be done?  Here are some things that should happen in an ideal world:

1.Reverse the stupid Supreme Court ruling on corporate donations and establish strict limits on campaign contributions.  Let’s let people return to electing our government, not British Petroleum or their like.   It wouldn’t hurt to replace Justices Scalia and Thomas either.

2. Retain Obama’s health care plan and fix the few things that are wrong with it.  The right wingers who hate it so much generally have no idea what’s in it.  Their god-on-earth Mitt Romney told them it’s bad, no matter that he championed an identical plan as governor and like mindless sheep they believe every lying word he says.    How anyone can vote against a plan that will cover 30 million uninsured folks, add years to coverage for young family members, close the donut hole in Medicaid and mandate coverage for pre-existing conditions.  That is beyond me—but hard core Republicans believe what their lying leaders tell them and will vote to cripple their own health care.  Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

3. Do a complete overall of the tax code and eliminate the zillion and one tax loopholes by which Romney and his corporate raider littermates pay a tax rate close to zero while everyone in this audience pays a higher rate and in some cases more in total.

4. Eliminate the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy.  Take the rates back to the Reagan years, which the right wing doesn’t talk about because they were higher than they are now.

Establish—and this is something I think Obama should have done long ago—a works program similar to the Depression WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Create jobs while we’re fixing the broken infrastructure of the country.  Those were bipartisan programs, supported by both parties and only ended because World War Two claimed the manpower pool.

5. End the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq and curb military spending to maintain programs that are necessary.  That the Republicans endorsed two wars that have killed thousands of young people and maimed many more is a sin for which those responsible should rot in Hell—starting with Dick Cheney and working down.  Do a careful butcher job on pork projects. Instead put unneeded military spending into public works projects.

6. As unpopular as it may be, consider reinstating a draft or at least a mandatory public service enlistment.  If not the military, then a term in the revived WPA or CCC program or even local works projects or the Peace Corps.  More than 20 countries have such a program.    They have mandatory service in Israel and the country is lauded and praised by Romney/Ryan as our great ally.  Other countries with mandatory public service for young people include Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, South Korea, no to mention Russia and China who Romney thinks are our greatest enemies. 

7. Get government out of the debate over abortion.  Women are half the population and in my opinion far and away the superior half, yet a bunch of fat white guys or shrill Tea Party hags have managed to determine how a woman’s body should be treated.  It’s verging on slavery and that was a terrible sin 150 years ago and it still is.  Our own legislature just overrode Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that allows employers to refuse compensation for birth control pills and one legislator was quoted as equating the pill with abortion.  The inmates have taken over the asylum.

8. Sic the Justice Department on the various state attempts to purge voter rolls of registered, legitimate voters whose only mistake is that they tend to vote Democratic.  The officials involved should be purged from office for malfeasance….since flogging and the use of tar and chicken feathers is currently frowned upon.

These are just a few ideas.  But the bottom line is that if anyone in this room doesn’t vote, it amounts to endorsing the radical ideas that the Republicans are married to.  If every single eligible voter does so and we lose, we have no right to complain—but if we let them buy, cheat and steal the election, we’re just as guilty as they are….and we’ll suffer for a long, long time.

Thank you for letting me blow off steam.  Marty can tell you that I do a lot of it and while it makes me feel better, it usually doesn’t change things for the better.  Only all of us working together can do that.


Read More

1 Comment

  1. Carrie Jo

    September 21st, 2012 at 9:00 pm


    OOOOOO, D! You got it, Man!!

Leave a Reply


By Joel M. Vance   I can testify from first-hand observation that George Washington does not have nose hair or nose boogers. There may be some granite dust and stray pebbles but I didn’t see them. I can’t speak for Donald Trump’s nose condition since I haven’t been present when allegedly the White House doctors […]

Read More
View the Blog »


By Joel M. Vance   There is a photograph in the Vance archives of a man, his back to the camera, standing ...


By Joel M. Vance   It is 1958 and a popular movie on the screens of drive-in movies all over America is ...