Sunday, June 06, 2010

BP spill could move Southern whites left, but will Dems be there?

I was a conservative & evangelical in 1989, seemingly the unshakable base of the GOP, but I went to work as a commercial fisherman in Alaska that summer and ended up cleaning oil off rocks and picking up dead animals instead.

More disturbing to me than the actual spill though, was the relationship between the Coast Guard and Exxon, the corporation that caused the damage.

A helicopter landed on a beach we were cleaning, and a Coast Guard captain and a greasy, frat boy Exxon exec got out. I expected the captain to be leading this guy around by the scruff of his neck and rubbing his nose in the oil patties. Instead, the Exxon exec was barking out orders and the Coast Guard captain was all "Yes, sir! No, sir! Right away, Sir!"

I grew up with a great respect for the military, was in a cadet program all through high school, served briefly in the military myself, and was shocked to see a high ranking officer grovel before a corporate criminal.

It was clear that Exxon was above the law, we needed politicians who would change that, and Republicans refused to do so, so I became a New Deal Democrat on the spot.

I suspect the same will happen to many Southern whites as they try to get help by appealing to their Republican elected officials and get nothing. They will migrate to politicians and the party more likely to restore and protect the waters that give them their livelihood.

Sadly, over twenty years later I saw the same scene re-enacted with a BP exec in the Gulf of Mexico even though we have a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic House of Representatives. So even as Southern whites may be driven left, they will find no major party there to receive them, just more bowing and scraping to corporate money and power.

An unequivocally progressive Democratic Party could capitalize on this moment and re-establish a New Deal-like consensus that would last decades.

Instead, under the leadership of Rahm Emanuel, and unfortunately even President Obama, they are striving to replace the GOP as corporate water boy, and looking to line their pockets with corporate donations now and when they leave elected office, with fat salaries as corporate lobbyists, CEO's, and board members.

The newly lefter bubbas will find they have nowhere to go.