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Progressives should take over the Democratic Party

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Thom, I’m seeing two completely different dialogues, as if I’m on two different planets. You have a camp of people, maybe, perhaps, small, perhaps not, from a Kucinich to a Ron Paul talking about fundamental change. Paul wants to bring all of American troops back to the United States. Kucinich wants a fundamentally different foreign policy. And they’ve been quite marginalized in the media. They’re low down in the polls. But when I’m out there, people really seem to want answers to such fundamental questions, but they’re completely off this other planet, which is mainstream media and the horse race. What do your listeners want?

THOM HARTMANN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think "mainstream media"’s a misnomer ’cause it doesn’t reflect the mainstream. It’s corporate media, and it’s multinational and transnational corporate media, by and large. And war is, frankly, very, very profitable. And, I mean, at least one of the large news organizations is making a lot of money on this war. And arguably all of them are, because war makes for more eyeballs on TV, and, you know, you can jack up the cost of advertising as your ratings go up. And wars drive ratings. For a long time in the United States, from the Telecommunications Act until basically Reagan stopped enforcing the fairness doctrine and Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act in ’96, as I recall, as well, those two events of ’87 and ’96. Up until then, media had to actually give us news. It was a requirement to keep your license. You know, it had to be real news. Back in the 1970s I spent seven years in news, and in Lansing, Michigan, I worked for a local radio station. It was the number one station [inaudible] country and western station. We had five guys in our newsroom. They lost money on their news operation, because they had to provide news to keep their licenses. And what we’re looking at here, I think, is a structural problem in the media which reflects—it’s kind of micro to macro—it reflects a larger structural problem with these monopolistic practices right across the board in retailing, in medicine, in transportation. I mean, fill in the blank, pick the industry. You go to a shopping mall and you no longer see locally-owned businesses. You know, it’s the American dream of starting your own. It’s all gone. And so I think this push back that you’re talking about, that you’re identifying, is people saying, hey, wait a minute—what happened to America? It’s been hijacked. It’s been hijacked by the people that Franklin Roosevelt referred to as the "economic royalists." And you’ve got Ron Paul pushing back against them. You’ve got John Edwards pushing back against them. You’ve got Dennis Kucinich pushing back against them. And not much else. And those three candidates in particular are experiencing what I would describe as a media blackout. And I think that the reason why is that they get it. You know, I mean, the president of the Chamber of Commerce today came out and said that they’re dedicating over $60 million to take down any candidate with an anti-corporate message. He said, when we bite you in the butt, it’s going to bleed. That was the phrase he used.

JAY: Now, Edwards is getting lumped in with Obama and Clinton, and there’s a kind of a feeling there’s not that much difference amongst the three of them. But you think there is.

HARTMANN: I think there’s a huge difference. There’s a huge difference between the three of them. John Edwards is not taking corporate money. John Edwards has spent his entire life fighting big corporations. I see a profound difference. But I also see that the media, the corporate media in America has a very, very powerful interest in blurring that distinction. I think the most important thing for us all to remember is that what’s more important than the candidates is us, people. I mean, look at the major reformers in American history. Abraham Lincoln was not elected on a platform of ending slavery. Teddy Roosevelt was the vice president of McKinley. When McKinley and Roosevelt were elected, it was the rich white guy—I mean, literally the rich white guy platform of the gilded age, and he was the trust-buster. He was one of the most progressive presidents in the history of this country. Franklin Roosevelt—you know, I just recently reread The Saturday Evening Post from the week before the election, and Franklin Roosevelt’s vice presidential candidate put a long article about why vote for Roosevelt. The reason why you should vote for Franklin Roosevelt? Because he was going to reduce the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs by a half a percent. I mean, it was such a modest—it made Hillary Clinton look like a radical.

JAY: So you’re asking us to have a leap of faith, that if the campaign’s a little in the middle, we might expect more afterwards. But didn’t we think that about Bill Clinton?

HARTMANN: Yeah, and we got bamboozled. Bill Clinton ran as a progressive and governed as a Republican lite. And I can’t explain that. But I do know that the opposite happens more often. Lyndon Johnson—here’s a guy who rose to power as a right-wing racist cracker from the south, and was that all the way up until he became president, for all practical purposes. And what he got as president, what he figured out, was the will of the people. It’s what Franklin Roosevelt got. It’s what Lyndon Johnson got. It’s what Teddy Roosevelt got. It’s what Abraham Lincoln got. If enough of us are energized, if enough of us are active—and apparently we weren’t when Bill Clinton got elected; we just said, "Oh, cool. Now we can go back to sleep." You know, "Let’s have fun. Let’s make some money." We don’t have that luxury anymore. If enough of us are active and enough of us are out there, if enough of us burrow in to the mechanism, into the system, we can take this country back. I am arguing for us to infiltrate—us, we progressives, and frankly I believe are the mainstream North America—to infiltrate and take over the Democratic Party.

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