The Manatees and the Sharks

As I listened to Congressman Lloyd Doggett speak at the Kerr Community Center in Bastrop today, I studied the aged, concerned faces of the congregation. They were old Democrats – they cross their legs, and put an arm around their wife, and dab at sweat from their foreheads. They wear hopeful t-shirts ("Together We Can," the battlecry of the Bastrop County Democratic Party) and drink iced tea. A woman pushed pens with fake flowers glued to the top, collecting names for her sign-in sheet. We are, I thought, like manatees.

Pushing at the front door were the sharks. Angry, vociferous and often literally snarling, they brought signs which the police quickly told them they couldn’t bring in—it was a private building and the owner's rules. Posterboard screaming "OBAMACARE: EUTHANIZE OLD PEOPLE" was shoved through the doorway before the cop quickly threw it out. If it was a message for our President or a judgment on his policy, I couldn't quite tell. The sharks were allowed in, as long as they didn't bring signs. The door slammed shut.

Doggett had already endured being run off from a South Austin community meeting earlier today. He looked relieved that the crowd was now under control, with his fingers interlaced and hands crossed over the microphone at times, as if he was saying a prayer that the teabaggers would stay quiet.

None of them did. One laughed—violently—whenever Doggett attempted a joke. It was one that bordered on disturbed, forced to the point of painful, and meant only to disrupt. That same man interrupted Doggett so many times that the Congressman addressed him tersely: "If you want to be treated respectably, act respectably, sir!"

Another woman who had brought her family of four stood in front of me wearing a t-shirt that read this on the back:
"Gun Control: The theory that a woman found dead in an alley, raped and strangled with her own pantyhose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound."
Doggett answered questions from the audience on a variety of topics, but most of the conversation was dominated by the healthcare debate. His talking points typically ended in a downturn, with Doggett conceding that the reform measures could have been better. Doggett seems to want to fight for progressive ideals but he appears too quick to compromise for the sake of bipartisanship. The Texas Congressman appeared much of the time as a caricature of his own sound byte—"progressives demand a third of a loaf and end up with a heel." He even distributed a photocopy of his recent commentary in the Austin American Statesman entitled "How an imperfect bill helps you,” a bulleted attempt to rationalize for the bill being “no panacea.”

Doggett ended his forum with a reminder of a local Bastrop man who, after Doggett last spoke in Bastrop, passed out fliers about "The Austin Strangler." He told the audience that despite the man's anger, “he's a hard worker,” and that progressives should start mobilizing for their cause as well. When a Democrat shouted, "We're angry, too," everyone laughed.

Are we angry? We seem all too happy to gnaw on the heel of our bread and read fluffy editorials on how an "imperfect bill" is reform. We trade talk radio for Obama rhetoric, and forgive our anointed politicians for bending to industry giants. We gape at the opposition party's demands, rather than forming our own. We are often like manatees, unwilling or unable to defend ourselves. We stare at the sharks and think “That will never work,” and only later wonder why we were wrong. Maybe progressives are in fact angry. What’s unclear is when we’ll start doing something about it.

4 Response to "The Manatees and the Sharks"

  • Scott in South Austin Says:

    I Guess I am Suspect,

    I suspect I am a lazy Democrat with some mind set that that we are supposedly in charge of our communities. I was hoping things would be happier in South Texas. What I have forgotten is that for the past 20 years of Reagan, Bush, Chaney, and Perry reign is that Lloyd Doggett has been skimming the pond. I’ve never considered him a storm trooper – I guess that’s part of my Texas genre’ – you can get more flies with honey than vinegar training my family raised me on. My honey bee (Lloyd) is milking the cow tit (sorry kids, this is old South Texas talk).

    With Rachel’s and Mcblogger’s blogs as my argument I am now learning that Lloyd is acting as a typical Washington DC prognosticator. He’s starting to sound like someone with a full Federal Pension, including its medical and dental benefits. Lloyd, I am independent consulting engineer – I build stuff that makes things. I pay 3 figures every month for my own health care. I pay over $9K annually in Federal Taxes and another $4K in Travis County, City of Austin, Travis County Health Care District, and Austin Community College district taxes. Can you, as my elected legislator figure out a way that kids in Texas don’t die because my governor is worried about webcams on the border? More important to me is the fact that as a nation we neglect families – not AIG or Citbank. Currently, our economy is about as stable as Amy Winehouse on crack (Note to Lloyd – this is an Austin Music thing). With that said, where’s my health care benefits given I pay $1K/month for my safety net and pay over $12K annually for the fruits on my labor as an engineer that makes thing safe (i.e., chemical plants and water treatment plants). Sorry Mr. Doggett, I make things to help improve life and make drinking water safer. Thank you for more wasted DHS money protecting water treatment and water treatment chemical plants from predisposed threats that don’t exist and unfortunately – the terrorists are smarter than that. I just want a reasonably safe level of health care that does not hemorrhage my bank account.

    Lloyd has served his useful life. He can hang out with J.J. Pickle at the old retired South Austin Democrats Country Club. He doesn’t care about me. I want a 30 year old Gonzalo Barrientos who stirs shit, tells big pharmacy the big F-U and informs guys like Coryn that he’s a man with little conviction while giving little concern towards the Democratic party and more about the safety of his constituents.

    In the interim, I have failed as a Democrat. I was hoping Obama was a savior. Blogging is not the answer. It’s about getting out and resuscitating our Party.

    I have one wish. Valinda Bolton – you can have Lloyd’s job. Just be an aggressive, hard headed aggressor of DC politics – just remember your base is in South Texas. And please, piss off some people, especially the lobbyists.

    Tired tax payer. Scott in South Austin.

  • retire05 Says:

    If you are going to comment on what happened at the Kerr Community Center, a little honesty, and less snark, would be in order. Sharks is how you refer to people who have legitimate concerns how Lloyd Doggett, their elected representative, is representing them? Yeah, I can see how you would reach that conclusion with one, 0-N-E, sign that said "Obamacare:Euthanize Old People"

    Now, since you are obviously not a Bastrop County resident, and I am, I will take this opportunity to educate you; people in Bastrop County take their politics very seriously and when they have a congressman that continually lies to them (he will vote against cap and trade only to vote for it 1/2 hour later), they don't like being lied to.

    And perhaps you should also learn what a "progressive" is and where the term originated. But to save you the time to research, I will tell you that "progessive" is the term adopted by members of the Communist Party of America in the 1930's. If that description fits you, then wear it with pride in its historical context.

    As Texans, we are an independent lot. We don't expect something for nothing and carry our own load, expecting others to do the same. Doggett has become the typical "go along to git along" Democrat in D.C. who no longer represents those who elected him, but his own self interest in being a party player.

    The "sharks" at Kerr yesterday were wearing blue t-shirts with Bastrop County Democratic Party on them as one of them tried to convinnce the Bastrop PD to force the protesters to leave so all the good, dutiful Democrats could worship at the feet of Lloyd Doggett. Others were there to get honest answers, but they came away disappointed as all they got was Washington, D.C. wordsmithing.

  • George Says:

    I wonder if retire05 was there when Teddy Roosevelt founded the Progressive Party in 1912 to tell him not to use the name, because the Communist Party of America had already used it back in the 1930's...

    oh, wait.

    Not that I'd want to insult the most powerful person in Bastrop by pointing out his/her blatantly false, emotionally charged inventions of facts. After all, if they are the ones that can unilaterally speak not only for all of Bastrop, but all of Texas, while telling everyone else that they can't do the same, they must be a very powerful person indeed!

  • Capitol Annex Says:

    retire05 noted:

    "And perhaps you should also learn what a "progressive" is and where the term originated. But to save you the time to research, "Progessive" is the term adopted by members of the Communist Party of America in the 1930's. If that description fits you, then wear it with pride in its historical context."

    I think retire05 needs a bit of an education himself. The term "progressive" and the "progressive" movement far predated and, in fact, have nothing to do with what he discusses.

    The commonplace use of the term "progressive" in political circles goes back to the 1890s and the beginning of the "Progressive Era." Democratic President Woodrow Wilson and Republican President Theodore Roosevelt are both considered "progressives," who served at the zenith of the Progressive Era. The term has continued in common use ever sense, though its can mean slightly different things in different political contexts.

    Vince Leibowitz
    Chair, Texas Progressive Alliance
    Editor & Publisher