“That Jim is full of piss and vinegar”

It was encouraging to read about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders visiting Wichita, Kansas, for a massive rally in support of congressional candidate James Thompson. Is the red state ready to turn blue?

For those of you who live outside the Midwest, you should that there’s an anti-Trump sentiment that is strong — and growing, and slowly morphing into activism. It’s slow because, frankly, most of us born in the Midwestern aren’t activists, by nature. I won’t be surprised, though, to watch the Midwest develop their own version of a progressive movement and to watch this movement grow deep roots in the heartland.

No congressional candidate has ever done what Thompson is doing in this era of unrestricted corporate campaign donations: hold a progressive sword at the precise geographic heart of the dark-money beast.

The heart of the dark-money beast is Kansas, home to the Koch brothers, the billionaires who have many in the Republican Party in their pockets, but when asked if this is Trump country, Thompson responds with a definitive “Hell no!”

James Thompson is “full of piss and vinegar,” from a hard background and applying the lessons learned to the art of politics:

A hard story often comes with hard language. During a period of homelessness, Thompson bathed, washed clothes and fished for food in a canal. He fought for emancipation from an abusive parent and attended 16 schools before finishing high school. This is a not a man who, in the face of rising authoritarianism, will be “civil” to please pearl-clutching political leaders on either side of the aisle.

This is precisely his appeal in southern Kansas. Thompson might be a new star for coastal reporters. But his combination of progressive ideas and unapologetically impolite language has been gaining supporters – and even converting some Trump voters – for a year and a half without the national Democratic party lifting a finger.

In contrast to a version of liberal America often criticized as, well, a bunch of wimps, his campaign slogan is “Fight for America”.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Trump Country Hell no
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigning w/ Bernie in Wichita for Democrat candidate James Thompson

And there are many in the Midwest hungry for a political alternative to a liberal establishment based in urban coastal cities and the politics of divisiveness, mastered by Trump and the current crop of crony Republicans:

Thompson told me he was first encouraged to run for office by Republican friends who felt out of sync with a party morphing into an “insanely right caricature”. A pro-choice, gun-owning military veteran who supports legal weed and social security expansion, Thompson can kick dirt with farmers at rural events, walk in Wichita’s recent pride and Juneteenth parades, and post a photo of himself smiling with two guys wearing “bearded deplorable” shirts after a long conversation about the issues…..

If a centrist model is what works [in Kansas] then why has that centrist model not won the past 20 years, and in fact lost by 20-30 points in every election since [1992]?” Thompson asked me. “The idea that we need to be more like Republicans so we can beat Republicans is asinine. We need to have a clear choice. Something to vote for instead of against.”

Bernie puts it this way:

“It is beyond comprehension, the degree to which the Democratic party nationally has essentially abdicated half of the states in this country to rightwing Republicans, including some of the poorest states in America,” Sanders said. “The reason I go to Kansas and many so-called red states is that I will do everything that I can to bring new people into the political process in states which are today conservative. I do not know how you turn those states around unless you go there and get people excited.”

Thompson knows that, while the progress his would-be constituents seek is toward a serene, humane society, the fire in their bellies must now be summoned.

Source: They thought this was Trump country. Hell no | US news | The Guardian

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

8 thoughts on ““That Jim is full of piss and vinegar””

  1. I love it. So for me, a retired, male firefighter who basically swung an axe and pulled hose most of my adult life, I have found it challenging to embrace a Democratic Party concerned with identity politics and Hollywood banter. I have very little in common with Oprah, and I did not go to Yale Law school. But I hate Republicanism, and especially the new Republicanism. I’m white as fuck, I own guns, I don’t care what a woman does with her body, and I support democratic, or libertarian socialism all day long. The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) chose to support/endorse no presidential candidate in 2016. All day long firefighters should be in the left, progressive camp, but because the DP is soft, concerned with identity, it does not appeal to working class, white men. The DSA changes all of that. To know why Millinials are increasingly Socialist, look to their parents where they are hearing this message in the home. My kids here it. Our future is not with Trumpism, it’s with democratic socialism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Solidarity brother. I’ve been pretty excited to see the growing movement. The midterms this fall will be pretty massive, in terms of what happens next, in our country, especially as to whether Trump can be neutralized or not.

      I was curious about something you mentioned, regarding identity politics. You said: “I have found it challenging to embrace a Democratic Party concerned with identity politics and Hollywood banter.”

      Could you talk more about this? I’m certainly no fan of the liberal establishment, as you know, but I’m not sure I fully understand why identity politics has been given such a bad rap, so I’m interested in hearing more of your thoughts and where you’re coming from.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jonathan, here’s my take. I believe Marx was correct in stating that the economic base of a society influences all structures which arise from it. Structures being things like education, legal, law enforcement, public safety, relationships, etc. Therefore, in the USA, our capitalistic economic base greatly influences our relationships and the structures of society. The problems in society do not stem from race and sexual orientation per se, they stem from the underlying economic base- capitalism- which pits one against the other in the mad competition (not cooperation) for resources. Until the underlying base of capitalism is addressed (redressed), there will always be segments of society pitted against each other. What I believe is the Dem Party is noble in addressing the dignity of each person, but fails to understand there’s another layer below that needs to be addressed. The DSA and a more progressive left understands this more clearly, I think, and is working to address it, i.e., Bernie Sanders hitting the 1% headlong, the billionaire class. More succinctly, it’s all class warfare and identity politics is secondary. The libertarian in me says leave people alone, let them be who they are going to be, to each their own, live your life, I will live mine. I like the fight in democratic socialism and libertarian socialism, I don’t like the the softness of the Dem Party as it focuses on identity at the expense of class warfare. Make some sense? Peace.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Lion,

    Yes, that makes sense, and I don’t disagree with most of where you are coming from. And maybe it goes without saying but I’m a card carrying DSA member, myself. (I literally do have a card….though it occurs to me just now that I’m late in paying my dues, which I should have paid last April or May.) In any event, I agree with you that the Democrat Party has failed and is incompetent to address class issues. Everyone has been talking about wealth inequality for a while now (since Occupy put the topic into mainstream conversation) and every Democrat will talk about what a shame it is, blah, blah, but they are literally impotent to do anything about it. Under 8 years of the Obama administration, inequality only kept accelerating.

    So I get that part of the equation, I’m just not sure that we need to jettison identity politics. I’m a white guy, but to me it seems obvious that people are disadvantaged based on gender, race, sexual orientation, physical dis/ability, and other features of their identity.

    Take racism, for example. Racism, obviously, extends back to the Atlantic slave trade, when good capitalists kidnapped or purchased people from Africa and transported them west. They did this primarily for profit, because that’s what motivates an investor. Yet at the same time, can we say this was purely based on class? Is it truthful to say that this was purely economical and had nothing to do with race? Or the color of one’s skin?

    For sake of argument, let’s say there was no racist motivation in the slave trade. Even if there was no racial component to the slave trade, the reality here in the United States is that skin color itself (i.e., race) was politicized and propagandized such that today, in contemporary society, people who are African-American are disadvantaged based solely on their identity. Hence, to me, some form of identity politics is necessary to address this.

    I agree with you that the most straight-forward thing we can do, immediately, is level the playing field, economically, and like you I think that democratic socialists have the best ideas, on this count; but I think some form of identity politics is necessary to address all of the issues of privilege that put folks at a disadvantage.

    I also know that right now “identity politics” itself is evolving and changing and morphing. #Metoo put gender discussions into the mainstream in a whole new way that we haven’t really ever seen. #Blacklivesmatter did the same. But these and other conversations are ongoing, and I’m not sure that there’s any settled definition, right now, as to what constitutes “identity politics.” I think it’s safe to say that it won’t look like it did in the past. In other words, the seriously intelligent folks driving #BLM and #Metoo are talking about the intersection of identity and economics, and I want to listen closely to that evolving conversation.

    That’s where I’m coming from, anyway. I feel like it’s an important time to pay very close attention to what’s in the oven, cause things are cookin’, bro. and it’s an exciting time to be a democratic socialist. =)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Could you imagine if metoo, blm, plo, dsa, dems, lgbtq, etc all got on the same page? i hear your voice and don’t disagree. pergaps the base and identity is a two-pronged approach…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just came across this article. It seems that many middle-of-the-road Democrats, like Kamala Harris, are making the connection between economics and identity politics. It’s quite an interesting article. There was a conference in New Orleans, with Elizabeth Warren giving the keynote address.

      Quote: At the Netroots Nation conference in New Orleans on Friday, leading Democratic presidential hopefuls embraced the concept of intersectionality, viewing any conflict between economic populism and racial and social justice as a false choice.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would love to see us all united. Though I believe economic issues precede identity issues, I am still united with all progressives under our increasingly big tent. I do want to see white working class firefighters bond, tightly, with black lives matter, et al. I believe we have the numbers, for sure, the art is not to fall prey to orchestrated divisiveness.

        Liked by 1 person

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