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The Forgotten War on Drugs and Election ‘08
Posted on Jun 20, 2007
Duster: Excitement around a particular kind of set of issues and a base, I mean, the Christian theology and theocracy, it gets people excited. Bush was able to mobilize that—Karl Rove. The thing that is interesting about Obama is that he’s exciting people who are more or less interested in progressive change and even if he’s not. If his base is mobilized, they can keep him honest. I think the hope here is if he keeps this up and he mobilizes a sufficient number of people around a set of issues they’ll keep him honest in the same way that the Christian right has kept Bush honest in those terms.
Scheer: Certainly, the Christian right at the end when David Kuo wrote his book, and others were backing away. ... I think you are right, when you stop being honest, they stop supporting you. You followed Obama obviously more closely than I have, James. ...
Duster: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Scheer: When I look at the liberal base, and the candidates who are running, I see Gravel, and [Rep. Dennis] Kucinich, and maybe people call [John] Edwards a liberal, and certainly not Hillary. But that’s what I was saying with Obama. You never know what you see with him: Is he a liberal, is he a centrist?
Duster: That’s a difficult category, because I would say Kucinich, you clearly have a progressive base there, but I don’t think Obama has mobilized the progressives in the same way, or anywhere close, as Kucinich. But the progressive base is a very small one in this country; we don’t have much. Getting back to the 1960s when we had a movement, but there’s no movement now. It’s kind of hard to talk about a progressive base; it can happen. ...
Harris: Who is the progressive base now a days? Is it Kucinich, or is it Obama? Some would say Hillary is progressive.
Harris: Who are the progressives, and perhaps that is part of the problem. There’s no one guy. You look at the black community. There’s no one guy. I would never call Al Sharpton my guy. You look at the Latino community. There is no [Cesar] Chavez.
Duster: I think it’s important to try to clarify what we mean by progressive. And in my view, it would be a candidate who’s committed to new understanding of the role of the public sector. That you can’t go back to 1820, you can’t go back even to 1950. You have to look at what has happened in the last 30 to 40 years and then talk about what it would mean to have an engaged public sector in all of these public policy issues that we’ve described. And I think here Edwards comes off relatively good in the last couple of years. So he’s been talking about poverty, and how to alleviate it. He’s got a healthcare plan. And as Paul Krugman said, he’s the only one who has come forward with a healthcare plan. Now it’s a flawed plan, unless you are asking for complete coverage and single payer, it’s kind of hard to get totally behind it. But at least Edwards has come forward with an interesting public sector issue around healthcare. I’d like to see a lot more on education from the candidates that would be much more progressive. But that would be where I would start. I’m not going to call someone progressive because I like their rhetoric. I’m interested in what their rhetoric is about the public sector and the best investment.
Scheer: I was going to say about healthcare that I trust Paul Krugman, and, in full disclosure, that I know Kucinich. He and [Rep. John] Conyers, they introduced a universal healthcare bill this last Congress and the Congress before, even though I don’t always defend him. ...
Duster: My guess is—I haven’t seen that bill—my guess is what I know about Kucinich is that it’s probably a more progressive version of healthcare.
Scheer: Definitely [more] than Edwards.
Harris: Much more progressive. Here is a final thought. Here at Truthdig, Bob Scheer believes, I certainly believe, Josh is a doubter, that maybe if we make some headway in repairing some of the issues that are in Oakland. And if you don’t know, 148 homicides this last year, a dying public education sector ... if you fix some of those problems, Oakland is an extremely diverse city: 30 percent black, 20 percent white ... so Mayor [Ron] Dellums is trying to build this model city. I ask you, Dr. Duster, professor at NYU, probably one of the finest institutions in the country, how do you fix Oakland? If you fix Oakland, do you think you can fix Chicago?
Duster: Well, you’ve got to start somewhere, and this is the beauty of democracy. You don’t overnight turn things around, so you start in certain pockets a little insurgency here, a little group here, that’s doing something that’s progressive. And if it’s successful, it can actually take a hold, so I go back to an old idea for us, Saul Alinsky from the ‘50s and the ‘60s, if you get the potholes fixed in the streets, you get the lights turned back on that had been broken, you do certain kinds of things, and you start to give people some hope. And once you get hope going, the capacity for people to mobilize is extraordinary. I think all we need, it sounds like, you can often believe in small incremental measures, and what I’d like to see is the educational system, rather than this massive notion that we’re going to get people to all of a sudden increase scores, let’s go into the schools and have four to five examples, clear examples in Oakland, where you can mobilize teachers. Give them increased resources, turn the schools around, and then say, two or three years, you can have a model program for the country.
Harris: We just spoke with Dr. Troy Duster, professor, department of sociology at New York University. Give him a Google. For Josh Scheer, for Dr. Duster, this is James Harris and this has been Truthdig.
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