This post was originally going to be some incredulous snark about The Senile Josey Wales and his rambling, pointless 12 minutes with an empty chair in GOP primetime...
But then something much more important happened... The Democrats got up to bat.
Michelle Obama was tremendous and authentic, The Big Dog was... well... The Big Dog; even Old Uncle Joe managed to not step on his own taint in public... and a number of others managed to articulate a vision of America that was respectful, progressive, patriotic and attainable but for the political will to make-it-so...
And of course, Barak Obama... his speech -- which I think is greatly under rated right now -- will later be looked upon as a masterpiece of modern political oration.
But as Charles Pierce rightly picked out last week, the line from the President's speech: "the hard and frustrating and necessary work of self-government..." is the take away line from that address; hell, from the entire convention...
But for those who tuned in late on Thursday, or perhaps were too busy listening to chatting heads and other self-important jag-offs vent their various gaseous opinions and analysis into the aether, you may have missed one of the most important bits of political speech in the last 40 years.
I say the most important not because of the actual text or the delivery, but the context of the speech given the current state of American politics.
Rep. John Lewis of Georgia got up to the podium and had a few words to say about voter disenfranchisement... and he's a guy who should know; he was nearly beat to death by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for daring to insist he was every bit the citizen that white people were in the south on an early March afternoon in 1965.
So when he gets up to talk about the modern Republican party's betrayal of Abraham Lincoln through modern voter supression, folks should maybe listen to what he has to say:
My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful, nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union. Not too long ago, people stood in unmovable lines. They had to pass a so-called literacy test, pay a poll tax. On one occasion, a man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. On another occasion, one was asked to count the jelly beans in a jar—all to keep them from casting their ballots.
Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting. They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state’s new voter ID law is “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state.” That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not just.
And similar efforts have been made in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. I’ve seen this before. I’ve lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.
So when the President talks about the "the hard and frustrating and necessary work of self-government..." this is a large part of what he's talking about; pushing back against ginned-up bullshit "voter fraud" and intimidation accusations in places where the only election fraud and intimidation in the last 100 years has been the work of rich white men trying to keep minorities, women and the poor from the polls.
This is the political fight of this generation: not abortion or gay rights, not prayer in the schools, not national security or welfare or other entitlement programs, or their funding. As critical as those issues are -- and they are critical -- without the right of meaningful political participation in our government through the franchise it all means nothing; we're all just shouting at the wind without a legitimate vote.
The most basic struggle we still face is the right to exercise political power at the polls, and to defeat the herculean efforts of a few entrenched interests in this country to ensure that only a select group can exercise that right.
Saw a picture recently that reminded me of this: a woman in early 20th century garb -- a sufferage reenactor you might say -- was holding a placard that said "I can't believe it's 2012 and I still have to protest this shit!" This is what I think when I hear about efforts in Florida to toss minorities off the voting rolls or Pennsylvania's efforts to enact ridiculous and needless "voter ID" rules...
For guys like Rep. Lewis, watching this has to be a horrific form of deja vu! The Repblican Party machinery in several of the states where they control the machinery is openly working to keep minorities and the poor from voting this November.
Why? Simple. Numbers; we have more...
Instead of articulating a vision of leadership that will be better for this country's working poor, struggling middle class and minorities (who, I might add, are increasingly all part of the same group) they decided it would be easier just to disenfranchise them.
This in itself is significant. It should tell us something about the reality of the current GOP and the Movement Conservatives. They are interested in America made up of only of their ideas and people they deem fit.
They won't be bothered with creating a vision of an American Democracy or Repbulic that respets diverse opinions or pluralistic society. No, much easier just to make sure that those voices, such as they are, can not participate in any meaningful way.
Sound a bit turgid? Yeah...but look at the difference between the two parties. For decades the Democrats have been chided, ridiculed and parodied as the party of circular firing squads and undisciplined, unruly politics.
Why is that? Because we respect and tolerate a diversity of opinion and ideas within the party. We may fight like cats and dogs and at times some get off the reservation and try to make the party into something it's not (DLC, Rahm Emanuel, I'm looking at you...).
However, it is a political party that will have a permanent majority in this country so long as: 1. We continue to realize that the Democratic Party is the party of inclusiveness and plurality and 2. the GOP remains committed to pathological idelogical purity that owes nothing to the Enlightenment values that inform the ideals enshrined in our founding documents.
Moreover, the GOP knows this. It is this fear of finding themselves out in the political cold as a fringe political movement with little to offer the American people as a whole that has them scrambling to make sure that a majority of the American people are no longer eligible to participate in their country.
But because the small group of would-be oligarchs and plutocrats driving this are also in control of much our national material and monetary wealth, they have something of an advantage. They have the abilty to gin up fake populist movements like the Tea Party and convince some folks -- most often those least capable of defending themselves from such -- that the golden halls they are promised are really just shearing pens with red velvet ropes for corrals.
This is the "the hard and frustrating and necessary work of self-government." The work of ensuring self-government and defending it from interests who want nothing more than to dismantle the 230-some-years of democratic machinery we have put in place to work towards a "more perfect union."
So when John Lewis gets up and sounds the alarm about the encroachment of anti-democratic forces we thought had been largely relegated to the history books or backwaters where people weren't looking carefully, then we'd best pay attention, because it means we are also falling down on the job.
If they are succesful in cheating us out of our franchise and our rightful place in the Republic's body politic, then we will have to shoulder part of that blame, because it will be partly because we we're not strong enough, smart enough, or paying enough attention at the right time to stop them.