Samain Joe and SeoAh Moon
Gary Hart. Remember him? Turns out he lives just up Troublesome Gulch toward Kittredge out of Evergreen. Which means he shops at the King Sooper in Evergreen where a member of Beth Evergreen, Stephen Tick, also shops. In the fruit and vegetable aisle Stephen introduced himself to Gary and asked if he would be willing to speak at the synagogue. Senator Hart said yes.
Last night he spoke. A tall, patrician man, 81 later this month, he’s impressive. Charismatic and thoughtful. Author of 21 books, a degree from Harvard Divinity, law degree from Yale and a doctorate from Oxford, senator for 12 years, 1974 to 1986. And front runner for the Democratic nomination for President in both 1984 and 1988, losing out to Walter Mondale in ’84 and derailed by the first notable sex scandal of our new era in 1987. Here’s more.
Based on what I heard last night he would have made an excellent president. His speech, funny and full of cogent insights, succeeded, I think, in placing our current political mess in a broader context. First, a historical one in reference to the late nineteenth century and the populist push occasioned by the transition from a rural, agrarian society to an urban, manufacturing base. Second, in regard to what he identified as two big revolutions that began in the 1970’s: the globalization of trade and the whole technological shift towards computers and radically different forms of communication.
As a result of the long term impacts of globalization and great technological changes, we have experienced a massive shift in our economic culture. When he ran for President in 1984, he toured shuttered steel mills in Ohio and Pennsylvania. They never opened again. Detroit, too, in the wake of the influx of Japanese and German cars, went into it well known death spiral.
These two combined effects of globalization forced thousands, millions, out of work. Alexandria, Indiana is a microcosm of those effects. A once vibrant small town, through about 1974, it now has dollar stores, plywood on store fronts, meth houses, and fractured families. It’s a Western mining town, an East coast textile town, a town whose economic base disappeared. In my lifetime. The result, in “Hart’s short hand definition of populism, a lot of angry people.”
In the late nineteenth century it was farmers whose livelihood lost its economic heft, forcing many of them to move to cities looking for work. In 1907, for the first time in U.S. history, there were more people living in cities than in the countryside and small towns. The Minnesota D.F.L., the Democratic Farmer Labor party, is a direct outgrowth of that era, with the F.L. expressing the populist sentiments roiling American politics in that time as labor unions tried to cope with the increasing power of the factory and farmers with the drastic diminishment of their way of life.
We’re playing out now the sharp turn from that wrenching, but ultimately successful shift to a manufacturing and consumer based economy, to a new economic order based on global trade and the many stranded effects of technology on our lives and economy. This transition will not be over soon and its impact will be felt far into the future.
He gave me a shot of hope, perhaps the first one in recent months, when he said we went through a populist revolt before and we can do it again. He said, and convinced me, that we have the capacity to weather these times. How we do that, what the necessary ingredients are, I’ll write in a second post.