Saturday, May 8, 2010

621. First, the Wendell Ford Dinner; then later, some plagiarism from Barefoot and Progressive

Last night was the regular renewal of the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party's Annual Wendell Ford Dinner, honoring the former legislator, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, and United States Senator, Wendell H. Ford, the 85 year old godfather of Kentucky politics. The event was held at the Crown Plaza Hotel, the renewed and bejeweled former Executive West, on Phillips Lane at Freedom Way. After a singing of the National Anthem by Lisa Tanner and a prayer by the Reverend Dale Josey - I didn't know he was a reverend until tonight - the evening's ritual of drinking, dining, and speaking began. With no "headline" name on the dais - in fact no dais at all, the night was a series of annual awards given for various achievements followed by a series of speeches by six of the gentlemen whose names will appear on the May 18th Democratic Primary ballot followed by a few more speeches. I attended the dinner with my friend Jessie Phelps and we were seated with current and former staffers of Third District Congressman John Yarmuth.

The first up was Greg Fischer, the man I am supporting to succeed Jerry Abramson as Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro. Greg, 52, is an innovative entrepreneur, a successful businessman, husband to a doctor, and father to four children. Greg gave a variation of his stump speech, focussing on inclusion, intergrity, and innovation. These are the values that have drawn me to his campaign and I am confident we have engaged in the type of positive, upbeat effort that voters appreciate, something which is apparent from the high numbers he has in all the polls, including those of his opponents.

Next to speak was Councilman Jim King, in his late 50s, a banker, CPA, and community activist who has served on the Metro Council since his election in 2004. He, in fact, was elected to a seat which I had considered running for and really wanted to having waited for 24 years on Cyril Allgeier's retirement, but decided against it after a lengthy meeting with Jim in December 2003. Jim outlined his accomplishments on the Council, covering the legislation he has passed, especially that of ethics reform and labor union protections. He also spoke of his role in the Democratic leadership of the Metro Council and said he wore as a badge of courage [I believe he meant honor] the Republican votes cast against him when he ran for president of the Council. In his speech he mentioned his wife Debbie, who is a friend of mine, as well as his media adviser Larry O'Bryan. He also had good words to say for his opponents (including those not present), acknowledging that it will take all of them together as they [likely] face Hal Heiner this November.

The third speaker was David Tandy, about 38, a bulk of a man who formerly played football while in college at Vanderbilt. Tandy is my Louisville Metro councilman; he is a most pleasant fellow. We also serve together on the State Democratic Party Executive Committee, where he serves a second role as State Party Treasurer. An attorney, he is a native of Owensboro (which worked to his advantage last night as Senator Ford is also from there). Tandy is married and has three young children. And it could easily be said, he gave quite a speech. Strong, powerful, and dreamy, it focussed on what Louisville could and should be in the future. He has used the "Why Not?" mantra attributed to Bobby Kennedy throughout most of his campaign, and in fact, that same mantra was invoked by the Rev. Josey in his Invocation earlier in the evening. Josey is a staffer for the Tandy campaign. Tandy's speech was reminescent of the kind Wendell Ford once regularly gave, especially up on the platform on the first Saturday of August down in Fancy Farm. And Tandy more than once in his speech referenced the work he did in Senator Ford's senatorial office. He certainly had everyone's attention in a very good way.

Tandy was followed by Tyler Allen, who I suppose is about 40. Tyler is well known as the leader of the 8664 group (of which I am a longtime member and supporter as demonstrated by the 8664 sticker on my car). This group opposes the construction of a new Spaghetti Junction downtown and advocates for a levelled I-64 through town and a new East End Bridge connecting I-265 in Jefferson County, Kentucky with IN-265 in Clark County, Indiana. My candidate for mayor and I disagree on this matter. Following Tandy's revivalistic sermon did not serve Allen well, who seemed smaller than he actually is. Allen is a successful businessman, married and has two or three young children. Allen approaches the mayor's race from an entirely different perspective in his opinion - that of an outsider looking in. While the polls indicate his support is small, it is of an activist type nature, people not easily swayed from their candidate.

The other four Democratic candidates for mayor were not present.

The next series of speeches were offered by the two candidates seeking to succeed Jim Bunning as the junior senator from Kentucky. Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo spoke first. Dan will be 50 on July 4th. He is married and is a recent father. He talked a lot about his earlier run, in 2004, where he came within a whisker of defeating Bunning, who, thankfully, is retiring. I had spoken to the lieutenant governor earlier when he visited our table, telling him of my familiarity with the property he owns on Louisville Road in Frankfort, property which has become an issue in the campaign. It is located very near the Game Farm , also on Louisville Road and backs up to lands which run off Pea Ridge Road to the north. My grandmother, Vivian "Tommie" Lewis Hockensmith was born and raised back in that area. Much of my family farmed acres of land owned by a long-since gone distant cousin, Taylor Collins. [For the record, I presently have another cousin named Taylor Collins, a student at Wake Forest University, although, to my knowledge, I have never met him]. Yet another distant cousin, Irvine Carroll Moore, once operated the old Whippoorwill Springs Golf Course in this area, although his land is now part of the Capital City Airport. But, I digress.

Governor Mongiardo was followed by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. I am supporting Conway, just as I have in all of his races. Jack will be 40 (I think) on July 5th. He is also recently married and a new father. Jack covered his accomplishments as Attorney General, and hopes to carry those accomplishments as a base for his work as a United States Senator. Although I support Jack, I've been sorely disappointed in his absolute adherance to Kentucky's Death Penalty laws, laws which I believe are inhumane. The night before he was elected into office me and my friend Jessie addressed that matter with him, She, like me, opposes the law as well. She asked me why Jack didn't make it over to our table and I reminded her of our pre-election discussion with him on the matter. Jack's speeches always seem a bit too serious for me to be honest.

Next up was my favortite congressman, my congressman John Yarmuth. John gave one of his typical, broadbased speeches, extolling at length the virtues of the Democratic Party. He covered all the points, all the legislation, all the good and great reasons that many of us, from all parts of the political spectrum, join together under the big tent as Democrats. John left nothing out and he was right on every point. And, at its base, that joining together is a great belief in the WE, as opposed to the ME. We - Democrats - believe we are all in this together, all better off because of each other, all partly responsible not only for ourselves but for each other. It is a fundamental difference with the ME generation fostered by Ronald Reagan, whose extreme nationalism - and at times jingoism - will someday be recorded as the beginning of the end of the Great American Empire. Reagan destroyed some of the collective fabric which joined Americans together as "we the people." But, again, I digress. But I will come back to John's speech later in the "plagiarism" part of this entry.

It was a long night, but the best was saved for last. Congressman Yarmuth had the honor of introducing the Guest of Honor, Wendell Ford. The eighty-five year old statesman quickly and forcefully made his way to the podium. And while many thought David Tandy's speech was a barnburner (and it was), Tandy's only served as the junior associate to that of his very seasoned mentor. Ford gave a strong speech on unity and hope - hope for a Democratic State Senate in Kentucky, hope for a Democratic Senator from Kentucky in Washington this fall, and hope for the demise of the powers of Mitch McConnell. His raised his voiced, waved his arms, and brought everyone to their feet in an ecstasy of support. He went on for several minutes, all to the enjoyment of everyone there. It was vintage and classic Wendell Ford and for those present was a special treat.

I've known Wendell Ford all my life. I remember him coming to Okolona when he was a candidate for governor. He and his running mate, Julian Carroll, who was also present tonight, walked in a parade from the old "B" District Democratic Headquarters, opposite the old Okolona Elementary (where the present Okolona Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library now sits) down to the old Okolona Little League ballpark, now the site of the Home Depot at Preston Highway and Blue Lick Road. I participated in that parade, probably at the behest of my grandmother mentioned earlier in this entry. That was in 1971. I've enjoyed nearly all of the almost forty years of politics since then.

The night closed with the crowd joining in the singing of My Old Kentucky Home, led by Jefferson County PVA Tony Lindauer.

*****

The title of this entry mentions plagiarism. I try not to plagiarise and when I do I always acknoweldge it. Back in March, entry #603 covered, inter alia, a Facebook discussion on the role of a liberal activist government - the type of government I believe in, the type of government I believe was fostered by many of the Founding Fathers. Entry #603 was mostly a back-and-forth between my young friend Preston Bates (with whom I've not spoken in some time) on the right side of the issue (although he claimed libertarian interests) - along with a few supporters of his, and a few of us older and allegedly wiser liberals on the left. It was a great discussion. I'm not sure who won, or if anyone won.

Earlier today I was reading one of my favorite blogs, barefootandprogressive.com, a Lexington-based politically progressive and often irreverent take on central Kentucky. A writer, pseudonominally known to readers as Ronnie Cottonpants, offered a commentary today which mimicked the arguments and beliefs Ken Herndon, Bruce Maples, and I used in our dialogue with Preston, as well as mimicking the speech given by Congressman Yarmuth last night. Mr. Cottonpants' entry is aimed at libertarianism and the Rand Paul campaign, but along the way he states many of the creeds many of us on the left firmly hold.

As I said, their writing is far more irreverent than mine and the commentary below contains language I normally do not commit to writing. But it is commentary worth reading and with which I wholly agree. Thus, below is copied Ronnie Cottonpants entry from Thursday. Any comments will be appreciated.

*****

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Sense

A liberal mind requires faith in humanity combined with a generous portion of self-loathing. A conservative mind requires a love of America and a hatred of Americans. A Tea Partier's mind requires the sort of bitterness and paranoia that can only be cultivated through seven months of in-utero binge drinking. Finally, a libertarian's mind requires an equal amount common sense and insanity.

I say that because I think I really get Libertarians. Honestly. Not in the condescending way that atheists think they "get" Christians, or how insufferable pricks say they "get" jazz. Some of my favorite people in the world are Libertarians. My friends, my cousins, they all tell me that the government has no business in our day to day affairs. While their tone and level of interest often changes, they are united by one common-sense principle: they don't want anyone taking their pot.

And why should they? Our drug laws in this country are insane. I wholeheartedly support a "Get Your Laws Off of My Mellow" policy. The same applies to marriage laws. Gays (some of those Americans Republicans pretend don't make up America) should be allowed to marry whoever they want without government interference. Will gay marriage lead to legalized polygamy? Who gives a shit? I stand with my Libertarian brethren on both drugs and marriage: we have the inalienable right to fuck ourselves and fuck others as we so choose.

But Libertarians are insane as well. Many of them have a philosophy that goes no deeper than Ronald Reagan's famous quote, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" For one, it's decidedly untrue--much scarier nine words, "I am from the government and you have AIDS"--but, worse, it's built on an old and harmful lie. That is the lie of "None of my business."

Does it matter if your neighbor dies broke and alone? On the surface, it's none of your business. But to believe that his success or failure has no bearing on your success or failure requires such a monomaniacal delusion that insanity seems too kind a word for it. Why is it when one store goes broke, other stores around it go broke as well? Is it because when people are out of work, there's less money to spend? Or is it because, Who cares, it's none of my business? When schools go broke, what happens to the students? If you said, private interests will take care of them, then open your eyes and describe your sphincter, because you're head's in your ass. In a community (and like it or not, that's what you live in) you rise and fall with others.

Of course, if the government didn't exist, what would take it's place? Private business, of course, which has to answer to the will of the marketplace. Does it matter if your hospital has a Pepsi sign on it or your policeman give you Wal-Mart coupons along with your speeding ticket? That depends if you believe that private companies have your best interests at heart. When executives refer to their "bottom lines" are they talking about the health and safety of their communities?

Given what the private banks have done, what BP has done, what the Massey Mines have done all in the last few months, no serious person can argue that private companies left to their own devices will work for communities rather than for themselves. I'm familiar with the argument that "A few bad apples don't spoil the bunch," but aren't the stakes too high for that type of thinking? If you eat a bad apple, you throw it away and get a new apple: if your mine collapses on your head because it was too expensive to make it safer then you're dead.

That's my problem with the Libertarian philosophy, but unfortunately, my problem with Libertarians (at least the ones making all the noise in Kentucky) runs a little deeper. I have to ask, what does it say about Libertarians when they're proven right and won't claim victory? They say that the government can't be trusted, that it is mad with power, and that the real goal is to grab you without reason and put you away. Last week, with the passage of the Arizona immigration law, their worst fears were confirmed. What have the Libertarians said about it? Not a peep. Is that because it's none of their business, or is it because it doesn't effect white people?

I'd love to think the Rand Paul voters are sensible and insane, but the longer this silence stretches on, the more they come across as craven and bigoted.


*****

One more comment on the Wendell Ford Dinner. I spoke briefly at the end of the night with former Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Jennifer Moore about her prospects for a statewide candidacy in 2011 and offered my support should she make such a run.

1 comment:

  1. If you've ever taken the Political Compass (at http://www.politicalcompass.org/index), then you know that Dems and Libs share certain values, as the writer points out. Markos on Daily Kos has said he's a "Libertarian Dem." So, not surprising that certain things are held in common.

    Ultimately, though, the Libertarian philosophy taken to its logical extreme results in just what the writer points out: self above all else. Self above community, self about shared sacrifice, self even above government at some point.

    Is there a balance, a tipping point? Sure. America as a whole is a libertarian (small L) nation. But we used to also have a strong sense of community, of common-weal. That has been lessened, damaged, and perhaps destroyed in some cases. The causes are numerous and would take more space than a comment should to outline.

    Even as we watch our sense of community decline, though, I think most Americans instinctively know it is declining AND want it to come back. I find it fascinating that one of Obama's most moving oratorical flourishes is his riff on "we're not blue states or red states ... we're the United State." People almost always began clapping before he even finished the phrase. They WANT us to be connected, to be part of the larger dream; but they don't know how to get there.

    We simply have to do a better job as Dems and as citizens of telling this story, of making this point.

    ReplyDelete

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Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.