Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jim Crow lives

Once again the searing commentary on state and county political machinations, along with the biting wit, of Open Source Dem:


Election officials at early voting in Harris County are being told by the GOP County Clerk to ration convention tickets -- or caucus slips, as they are known -- as well as to stamp voter registration certificates with party affiliation only optionally. The hapless Democratic primary director has to settle for assurances that the Republican Clerk will get the Hart InterCivic company to print some more slips ... eventually. ;-)

Note: These dinky slips and stamps are all there is in the way of party credentials. They are quite deliberately shabby and insecure so the party establishment can discriminate in admitting or ejecting Democrats from the conventions, but look the other way at police informants and agents provocateur planted in the Democratic conventions by the GOP. Texas law provides for “closed primaries” but bi-partisan coalitions in Austin and Houston – the establishments of both parties, lawyers mostly – make sure not to enforce or administer that part of the law. This is legalism: clerical democracy – an oxymoron – not republican democracy.

This will frustrate the CLINTON campaign in Harris County (if there actually is one) but thwart the OBAMA campaign even more. The deception, confusion, and time-wasting in primary elections and three levels of caucus/convention are no accident.

The Democratic Party state and county chairs assiduously avoid controversy with GOP county and state officials by deferring to them abjectly and by relying exclusively on the closely held, now GOP-controlled Hart firm to micromanage Texas election law, logistics, and technology since the heyday of segregation. In Harris County, the Democratic Party does not contract with the county to conduct the Democratic primary.

There is no fund, no contract. The Republican County Clerk runs the Democratic primary and counts on the Democratic county chairman to keep quiet about it.

“The Way We’ve Always Done It!”

And, of course, neither the voter registration card (still in the form of a poll tax receipt) nor the caucus slip gives a Democratic voter the least clue when and where precinct conventions will be held.

This would be a small matter were it not just one of myriad impediments to republican democracy within the Texas Democratic Party that the establishment has created and carefully maintained for over a century. Most recently, the cringing party leaders gifted the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature with custody of the Jim Crow-vintage Texas Election Code and punted lawyer-mediated “civil rights” gestures to the GOP-controlled Department of Justice.

Basically we have a competition here in Harris County within the Democratic Party between a low turnout, self-perpetuating party establishment which routinely collaborates with the GOP in county and state government to tend the government concessions that yield large campaign donations and to protect incumbent “CRADDICK Democrats”, and now to support the DLC/CLINTON candidacy ...

... versus the "high-information" OBAMA campaign, which could be sabotaged and is already clearly bewildered by the state party establishment and its perversely complex “prima-caucus” system -- a kludge, actually.

This is a “class war” (the party aristocracy and their mercenary pimp-consultants within the Democratic Party versus bourgeois volunteer “envelope stuffers”, and now the “net-roots”) as described here and here by Chris BOWERS at Open Left:

Superdelegate endorsements (aristocratic) Caucus support (bourgeois):

Clinton: 240 (60%) Obama: 278 delegates (65%)
Obama: 162.5 (40%) Clinton: 151 delegates (35%)

Contributions from large donors Contributions from small donors
(as of 12/31, aristocratic): (as of 12/31, bourgeois):

Clinton: $49.4M Obama: $31.9M
Obama: $33.2M Clinton: $13.8M

This is not “class war” as a Marxist would use the term. It is the old Federalist-Whig versus Republican-Democrat division in American politics since 1800, and as manifested by a Jim Crow coalition in Washington and Austin between “Moderate Republicans” and “Conservative Democrats” since 1874.

“Jes’ He’p Ever’body!”

Without regard to the personal merits of either Hillary CLINTON or Barack OBAMA, the challenge to Texas Democrats -- other than about 200 of the party’s ruling elite -- is to overthow the party establishment in convention and to repeal the last vestiges of Jim Crow starting with the absurd party rules! This is in the interest of both candidates. Remember, the party elite would rather lose the election in November than lose control of the state or county party, and they have done exactly that again and again, consistently:

Texas is a battleground state with a latent Democratic majority and has been since at least 2000. Harris County is damn nearly the 25th largest blue state in its own right. And we will or will not elect the next President of the United States depending on the state and county political mobilization -- aka Get Out The Vote. Only the Democratic Party in Texas does not have a Get Out the Vote capability or interest. The party is optimized for (a) protecting corrupt incumbents and (b) sharing power in Austin and other large cities with the GOP. That is the Jim Crow coalition today. It used to be notorious for overt racism. Now it just deals in racial patronage. But Jim Crow was always about economic discrimination and privilege, especially within the Democratic Party.

So the main difference between Texas and Ohio is our cornpone party establishment: straight out of the latest Grisham novel set in Mississippi, or “Texas with bad roads”, as Molly IVINS might quip. But that will shortly be the responsibility of Democratic state convention delegates.

Those delegates in convention are the highest authority in this party, not the party elite.

Delegates will be deceived, confused, and have their time wasted by the party elite through their control of the county and state party apparatus. But the bourgeois can and should defeat the clerical aristocracy of this party. The Texas Democratic elites will claim that they are only advocates for the "poor, pitiful (fill in the blank)" and try to shame or intimidate the delegates who pay their own way to the convention and do not bill by the hour or collect contingent fees like lawyers.

But, in convention, all Democrats -- for two days -- are equal.

Note: The convention convenes the afternoon of Thursday, 4 June 2008. But, the state party tells delegates to show up the next afternoon after various tricks and traps to protect the incumbent party officials are in place.

The party aristocracy controls the microphones, the walkie-talkies, and the mumbo-jumbo. But, 6,000 delegates ought to be able to defeat about 200 aristocrats, a few dozen mercenary pimp-consultants, and maybe 600 sycophantic hangers-on in convention before they can sabotage both campaigns, squander our money, and lose yet another general election.

There will be a “Coalition for Change” challenging the party elite in convention.

Both CLINTON and OBAMA supporters should get behind it. From March to June, this populist coalition will make the difference between real conventions and a mock beauty pageant. From June to November, it will make the difference between a real party and keeping Texas a red state run by a Jim Crow coalition.

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