Please Show Respect For ALL Americans

March 1, 2010

     I have absolute respect for the office of President of the United States. Absolute. I will respectfully disagree with my president on policy matters when I think that is appropriate. Not only do I think that is a right, I believe it to be an obligation of citizenship. Having said that, recently President Obama’s speech writers presented him with a script in which he was using a member of the military to make a point … a complimentary point, by the way. That person was a corpsman (pronounced core-man but spelled c-o-r-p-s-man), and our military’s commander-in-chief called that person a corpse-man …not once but three times. On an active battlefield, if someone sounds off “Marine down”, guess who goes to save him – a Navy Corpsman, no matter what the danger. I held back on the president’s gaffe, thinking, okay Gordon: that’s just a lack of military knowledge, a mistake. Cool it. But then, during his so-called health summit, he threw some very petty remarks at John McCain. So I now say to President Obama: you, sir, are the commander-in-chief and the president of ALL the people, John McCain included. He is an American hero, a former prisoner of war, a duly elected Senator, and almost half of us voted for him to be president. We-the-people have an obligation to respect the office of the president, I accept that. But I also say to Barak Obama, the former Chicago politician: You, sir, have an obligation to treat EVERY American with respect, whether it be a corpsman, or an American hero who you beat in an election. You are now the president of ALL the people, and they all deserve your respect.

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A Populist Uprising? Time Will Tell.

February 23, 2010

          Only time will tell whether or not the Tea Party movement becomes a true “Populist Uprising”, but from way down here in the heartland of America – trying to look at it as an amateur historian – I am betting it will.  If you stand among those at a Tea Party rally, you will see a wide spectrum of America’s modern middle class – small business men and women, farmers, doctors, lawyers, housewives, construction workers, independent truck drivers, self employed, young and old, white, black, Hispanic.

           Local Tea Party Populists first gathered in Gainesville, Georgia, a county seat town just north of Atlanta, a year ago (early 2009). They were united as fiscal conservatives. It is doubtful more than one in 10 of the several-hundred people at that Tea Party rally considered themselves as politically active. A few would say they were Republicans; even fewer Democrats. At this rally they would identify themselves as conservatives, and the Democrat policies they were opposing as liberal … no, ultra-liberal.

            They had heard on the news, and picked up information about the rally on the internet, that somebody, somewhere had taken a leaf from American history, specifically the Boston Tea Party, and were mailing little one-cup tea bags to Washington in hopes someone would hear their protests. They were highly concerned with the way things were going in Congress, and they wanted to be heard. For many, including the small group that organized the event, this was their first political rally.

            Here in Georgia the first clue that a Populist revolt was brewing came in the November, 2008, election when Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss was  forced into a runoff election against an unknown Democrat because Chambliss had voted for George W. Bush’s stimulus plan. Chambliss was re-elected in the runoff, but the whole nation knew about this grass-roots revolt. If Chambliss had lost, the Democrats would have had their 60 vote super-majority in the Senate.

            It seems fair to say Republicans, and especially conservatives, were not energized with McCain as their candidate. Things changed dramatically when Sarah Palin was named as his vice presidential running mate. During the rest of the 2008 presidential campaign, Palin became the poster person for conservatives because she fought the political battles at the local level, became a governor which requires executive skill, and handled herself admirably as a vice presidential candidate … especially when tangling with a hostile press. She is a strong family person, with family problems just like ours, and a person who walked the walk as well as she talked the talk.    

            Her appeal was solidified when a liberal female, speaking on national TV, said Palin could never qualify for president because “she comes from an unimportant state, and  went to a state university.” That in the midst of football season, no less. That comment was not – to my knowledge – ever again mentioned in the mainstream media, but it went viral on the internet. One of my non-political neighbors said: “Every time she opens her mouth, I hear me talking.”  We saw Sarah Palin as “one of us” the same way we saw Ronald Reagan long ago.

            So, early in 2009, with newly elected President Barak Obama demanding Congress pass an unread, 1,000-page, trillion-dollar stimulus bill, an impromptu rally was organized in Gainesville, by normally non-political people, to promote the idea of swamping Washington with tea bags. On short notice it was held in a city park on the city’s main thoroughfare, between a historic old steam engine and a chicken monument, and several hundred people showed up with hand-lettered placards and a let’s-take-back-our-America attitude. This was only one small American town, and most mainstream media was either laughing at, or downplaying, the “tea baggers”. Mostly unnoticed, however, the Tea Party movement had already caught fire on the internet. As the Progressive Democrats, the ultra-liberal wing of that party, pushed cap-and-trade, and single payer medical care, and a dozen other initiatives, while the new President toured the world, somebody, somewhere decided the only way to get Washington’s attention was to have a Tea Party rally on the Mall. In less than three weeks it happened. Only Fox news publicized the Washington Tea Party in advance. Conservatives said one-million people were there; liberals conceded 250,000.

            A number of families (hear that, families) went to Washington from Northeast Georgia, knowing no more about the program than what they learned on the web. And back home, in Cumming, Georgia, an ad hoc group decided to support the Washington march with a local Tea Party rally, and I was asked to emcee it. The meeting was held on the Forsyth County courthouse front steps, and with practically no publicity, the people turned out. A young person in attendance, sending a photo and texting to someone on her cell phone, called it a Facebook event. This was a “crossing over” moment. From the internet activity, the local turnout, and the throng in Washington, Tea Party people in Northeast Georgia knew they were not alone. Across America, conservatives knew this had the makings of a national Populist Uprising.

            Fast forward to November 2009. The “Tea Party People” at the grass roots level all across America latched on to the idea that a “good showing” by a conservative Republican running for the Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts, vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy, Mr. Liberal himself,  would send a strong message to Obama, Pelosi and Reid to back off their “socialist ways.” Four separate people, three who never before had contributed to a political candidate, asked me to help them figure out how to e-mail money to Senate candidate Scott Brown. No gift was more than $100. As one frustrated lady said: “I just HAVE to do something.” That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was happening all over North Georgia. The core group was now being multiplied by four.

            Tea Party Populists realized well before Washington Democrats and the mainstream media that the upcoming Massachusetts election might be more than simply a strong message. It is now known that Scott Brown campaign money flowed in from all over the U. S., and by the time the President came off his campaign to push Obamacare through, and went to Massachusetts to campaign, it was too late. Scott Brown became Republican Senator number 41.

            As this is being written, the Tea Party nation has just completed a meeting in Nashville, Tennessee … the home of country music … while President Obama  is trying to push his day-late-and-a-dollar-short jobs program in a snow-buried nation’s capital.

            So … from the standpoint of an independent historian, is this Tea Party movement a real Populist event; is it the common folk on America’s Main Street rising up against an elite Washington and Wall Street establishment?

Am I reading history wrong when I say Populist events have been a part of America from the beginning, a spontaneous rising up of we-the-people against perceived abuse of power from government.

The American Revolution was a Populist rebellion against the King. Not long after America declared its independence, farmers of Western Massachusetts objected to burdensome taxes and government confiscation of their land, and Shay’s Rebellion of 1786-87 was under way. Under George Washington, Alexander Hamilton instituted taxation of whiskey to pay off the debt from the Revolution, and the 1791-94 Whiskey Rebellion began, involving a loose-knit coalition of common folk with family ‘stills from Pennsylvania to Georgia,

A Populist Party organized in the late 1800’s, led mostly by Midwest farmers who opposed the Gold standard, believing Washington and Wall Street were using it to the detriment of farmers everywhere. That Populist Party merged with the Democrats, and in the 1894 election the great orator William Jennings Bryan campaigned for president using his famed “Cross of Gold” speech. William McKinley won.

Many candidates since 1900 have identified themselves, or been identified by the press, as Populist. Probably the most colorful have been at the state level, people like Huey Long, in Louisiana, and “Ole Gene” Talmadge, in Georgia, attacking “them lyin’ Atlanta newspapers.” These are the people some historians, and journalists, would like us to think of when we use the term Populist,

Ross Perot gained a Populist following, but made the fatal mistake of forming a third party, and Democrat Bill Clinton became president.

Those of us who followed the Nashville Tea Party meeting hourly on the internet, and participated on a cell phone through people there, saw a Populist movement and not a Tea Party Political Party, and from the viewpoint of a conservative that is good.

Sarah Palin rejected leadership of the Tea Bag folks, but made it clear she will help campaign and raise money for local candidates. That is how Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House in 1994, campaigning and raising money for those supporting the Contract With America.  Most of the historic mistakes of the past were averted in Nashville.

To quote Thomas Jefferson, who is more often embraced by liberals than conservatives: “… a little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time … “  He went on to finish the sentence by saying “ … with the blood of Patriots and tyrants,”

            If the Tea Party Populist Uprising continues to become a major factor in American politics, this will likely be its first chapter … this true movement from the ground up. As with most history, only time will tell.           — 30 —

Elite Washington vs. A Tea Party In Opryland

February 7, 2010

     If ever one wanted to see a stark comparison between the political attitude of elite Washington, and we-the-common-people, it was on full, dramatic display last Saturday (February 5, 2010). In Washington, which had been buried in the snow-of-the-century and where most of the common folk were cold and in the dark without power, the snow plows cleared a path between the White House and a posh hotel where the Democrats were meeting in comfort, and where the national TV networks had mysteriously brought their cameras … all so President Obama could read his teleprompters and assure his loyalists his big-government programs are saving America from the mess he inherited more than a year ago. He has found, he says, $3-billion paid back from the $800-or-so-billion taxpayer bailout money for too-big-to-fail banks. He is going to allocate that $3-billion, he said, to small banks so they can save small businesses. And then what did we small business people hear? No matter what has happened on the Hill, I’m going to stick it to you on healthcare. Meanwhile, down in Opryland, the Tea Party commoners were saying to America, through the eyes and ears of cable TV and the internet, if you’ll only get Obama, Pelosi and Reid off our backs, we will give you that shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan envisioned. What a dramatic contrast: elite Democrats hobnobbing in a plush hotel in smowbound Washington, and we-the-people on a Saturday night in Nashville. This is Gordon Sawyer, reminding you that any government which can give you all you want, can also take from you all you’ve got.

A Populist Uprising? Time Will Tell.

February 6, 2010

 

          Only time will tell whether or not the Tea Party movement becomes a true “Populist Uprising”, but from way down here in the heartland of America – trying to look at it as an amateur historian – I am betting it will.  If you stand among those at a Tea Party rally, you will see a wide spectrum of America’s modern middle class – small business men and women, doctors, lawyers, housewives, young and old, white, black, Hispanic.

            It is certainly not the caricature of farmers from the first Populist rebellion of the 1880’s, or rural Georgians in faded bib overalls yelling “You tell ‘em, Gene” to a Talmadge.

            Tea Party Populists first gathered here in Gainesville, Georgia –a county seat town just north of Atlanta – a year ago, united as fiscal conservatives, and taking a cue from Boston’s historic tea caper, only this time sending tea bags to Washington. It made a powerful statement, and it caught on.

            During the presidential campaign of 2008, Sara Palin became the poster person for we conservatives because she is a commoner who got involved in politics at the local level, then became one of only 50 governors, and then as a surprise vice presidential candidate. She was a strong family person, with family problems just like ours, and a person who lived her political beliefs. Her appeal was solidified when a liberal female, speaking on national TV, said Palin could never qualify for president because “she comes from an unimportant state, and  went to a state university.” That in the midst of football season, no less. That comment was not – to my knowledge – ever again mentioned in the mainstream media, but it went viral on the internet. We saw her as “one of us” the same way we saw Ronald Reagan long ago.

            In the November 2008 elections Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss was forced into a runoff election against an unknown Democrat because Chambliss had voted for George W.  Bush’s stimulus plan. He was re-elected in the runoff but a strong message had been sent … this time to Republicans.

            So, early in 2009, with President Obama demanding Congress pass an unread, 1,000-page, trillion-dollar stimulus bill, an impromptu rally was organized in Gainesville, by normally non-political people, to promote the idea of swamping Washington with tea bags. On short notice it was held in a city park on the city’s main thoroughfare, between a historic old steam engine and a chicken monument, and several hundred people showed up with hand-lettered placards and a let’s-take-back-our-America attitude.

            This was only one small American town, and most mainstream media was either laughing at, or downplaying, the “tea baggers”. But, mostly unnoticed, the Tea Party movement had already caught fire on the internet. As the Progressive Democrats pushed cap-and-trade, and single payer medical care, and a dozen other initiatives, while the new President toured the world, somebody, somewhere decided the only way to get Washington’s attention was to have a Tea Party rally on the Mall. In less than three weeks it happened. Conservatives said one-million were there; liberals conceded 250,000.

            A number of families (hear that, families) went to Washington from Northeast Georgia, knowing only what they learned on the web. And back home, in Cumming, Georgia, an ad hoc group decided to support the Washington march with a local Tea Party rally, and I was asked to emcee it. The meeting was held on the Forsyth County courthouse front steps, and with practically no publicity, the people turned out. Two things happened locally at this point. First a petition was signed on a couple of card tables on the Cumming courthouse lawn, so now there was a record of interested  people for local e-mailing. And secondly, from the internet activity, and the meeting in Washington, we knew we were not alone. We knew this was truly a national Populist Uprising.

            Fast forward to November 2009. The “Tea Party People” at the grass roots level all across America latched on to the idea that a “good showing” by a conservative Republican running for the Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts, vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy, would send a strong message to Obama, Pelosi and Reid to back off their “socialist ways.” Four separate people, three who never before had contributed to a political candidate, asked me to help them figure out how to e-mail money to Senate candidate Scott Brown … no gift more than $100. As one frustrated person said: “I just HAVE to do something.”

            Tea Party Populists realized well before Washington Democrats and the mainstream media that the upcoming Massachusetts election might be more than simply a strong message. It is now known that Scott Brown campaign money flowed in from all over the U. s., and by the time the President came off his campaign to push Obamacare through, and went to Massachusetts to campaign, it was too late. Scott Brown became Republican Senator number 41.

            As this is being written, the Tea Party has finished a national gathering in Nashville, and the first hurdle – the eternal urge to create a third party, and thus lose all power – has been averted.

            If the Tea Party Populist Uprising continues to be a major factor in American politics, this will likely be its first chapter. As with most history, only time will tell.

                                                            — 30 —

Can Obama’s “Bully Pulpit” Sway Populists?

January 27, 2010

     Tonight President Obama will give his first state-of-the-union address, reporting on his first year in office and – I am certain – focusing on the future as he and his Progressive Liberal Democrats try to regain the momentum they have lost. They spent 2009 trying to sell his far-left healthcare and cap-and-trade initiatives, and largely ignoring the sputtering economy and unemployment that seems stuck above 10 percent. He has used his office of President as a “bully pulpit” – to use a historic term coined by Teddy Roosevelt – to give more than 200 major speeches last year. He had a cheerleading media that gave him full coverage of every speech, and since he uses a teleprompter, it is obvious he has a full team of very talented speech writers. And, if one could look at the log for Air Force One, it would be obvious it has put on enough miles to go around the world several times. The speculation is that President Obama will attempt to claim he is a Populist – a person of and for the people – rather than a Progressive Liberal  Democrat. This Populist revolt, led by the Tea Party folks and further fueled by independent voters who elected Scott Brown in Massachusetts, does not belong to the elite, left-leaning Democrats. Neither does the tea party belong to the Republicans, although their stated beliefs are very similar. The President again has a “bully pulpit” tonight, and it will be interesting to see if his speech writers are good enough to overcome this Populist revolt lifting up from we-the-people. This is Gordon Sawyer, and may the wind always be at your back.

A Chronicle For The American Populist Uprising

January 25, 2010

     Okay … I have started a new blog.  It is called Populist Chronicles, a spin off of my Common Sense Chronicles which my radio listeners will identify with the sign-off that says “and may the wind always be at your back.” From the standpoint of a local history nut, let me tell you why this is happening. From the end of the War Between The States until about 1930 there were two great political  “reform” movements in America. First, the POPULISTS which probably reached its peak about 1900 and was led by farmers, then the dominant economic engine in the United States. Then, beginning about 1900 and overlapping with, and usually opposed to, the Populists, came the PROGRESSIVES. The Progressives believed in a dominant, centralized government. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, was the first Progressive with any power, followed by Woodrow Wilson, and then the Patron Saint of Progressive Democrats, Franklin D. Roosevelt. LBJ was a Progressive liberal, as was Jimmy Carter. The Obama administration is Progressive liberalism on steroids. On the opposing side, the modern day Populist movement started with Barry Goldwater, got conservative wings with Ronald Reagan, and made some real headway with Newt Gingrich. Populist politics got a new grass roots kick-start with Sara Palin, but it is the Tea Party group, and now the election of Scott Brown, that offers the possibility of a true, national Populist uprising. If you want to keep up with it, the way I see it from down here where we-the-people live and work, tune in, or follow my Populist Chronicle blog.