AOC & Joey B. (with apologies to Dudley Randall)

The present rift between establishment Democrats represented by Joe Biden on the one hand and progressive insurgents led by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (A.O.C.) on the other, focuses on the Green New Deal. The debate seems to reprise a similar divide in the Black community between W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington. Their issue at the turn of the 20th century was education and whether African Americans were better served by a vocational curriculum or by the liberal arts. Dubois favored the latter approach, Washington, the former. In 1969 Dudley Randall wrote a famous poem encapsulating the controversy between cautious conservatives and more revolutionary leaders. It was entitled “W.E.B. and Booker T.” Here, I borrow heavily from Mr. Randall to similarly encapsulate the current debate between the Biden and AOC forces.

 “It seems to me,” said Joey B.
“It shows a mighty lot of cheek
“For someone young like you to speak                          
“Of Green New Deals and rising wage
“When all big donors shout with rage
“At Marxist thoughts of equal share
“Of voting rights and Medicare.
“That’s not the way to win the vote
“We’re better served to go by rote.
“And simply do what we’ve done before.”
“I don’t agree,” said A.O.C.
“We need new vision, words and plan
“Remember our loss when Hillary ran
“Saying words like yours so ‘tried and true.’
“She lost to Donald and so would you.
“And besides, Mother Earth has raised her voice
“To tell us all we have no choice.
“Time’s running short the experts say.
“My Green New Deal will save the day.”
“It seems to me,” said Joey B.
“That folks like you have missed the point
“Who tell us ‘Times are out of joint’
“And spend vain days and sleepless
“In uproar over workers’ rights
“Let’s keep mouths shut, and do not grouse,
“Be content to know you’ve won the House.”
“I don’t agree,” said A.O.C.
“For what can winning votes avail
“If all earth’s systems drown and fail?
“Unless we join to change our way,
“Your grandkids and mine will surely pay
“For the near-sight vision of pols like you.
“But as for me I’ll choose the New.
“I’ll take my chances that people know
“The Green New Deal’s is the way to go
“It seems to me,” said Joey B. –
“I don’t agree,” said AOC.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

3 thoughts on “AOC & Joey B. (with apologies to Dudley Randall)”

  1. Fifty year ago, compromise (think: EPA) was how things got done.

    It was a time of lessened economic inequality (although boomers entering the job market and automation were about to change that) and therefore (as the multi-generational research shows) a time of greater tolerance.

    Combine lessened tolerance with speedier communications (50 years ago, newspapers still had morning and evening editions, although that too was about to change) and the chance for emotions to die down so that compromise can be reached approaches nil.

    As you have pointed out with regard to Williamson, to make the case for changes that help those most vulnerable, that help those being left behind, we need to talk in terms that reflect love. I would add that we need to concretize those loving statements in terms of human needs being meet: conceptual thinking does not win elections, because as Piaget pointed out long ago, about 20% of the population will be capable of fully conceptual thinking. One can quibble about delineations of conceptual ability and measurement, and the general thrust of his estimate fits what we know about abilities in general.

    So we need to talk in terms not of programs, but of human needs existing and being met. And the discussion of human needs has to come from the heart, not the intellect. That latter point is where most politicians fail. Most of them are good at getting angry. Most of them are good at having plans. Some of them can recite examples of people’s needs. Few if any can project their experience of a heart connection with people’s needs.




    1. Good, thoughtful, insightful, and helpful comment as always, Hank. Thanks. Williamson, I think, does get quite specific. Her book, “The Politics of Love” is worth reading, as is “Healing the Soul of America.” And compromise is an admirable approach. However, the Republicans are not at all interested in it. And when Biden and Pelosi use the term, they end up talking about moving towards the immoveable Republican position. That’s what Obama did. Compromise with the GOP does not work. They must be removed from office. Chomsky was right: they’ve become a criminal organization — and (given their position of climate chaos) perhaps the worst that has ever existed.


    2. The more I listen to Marianne, the more I’m convinced that she’s speaking a language ordinary people can hear and respond to. The Republicans, I think, latched onto that language long ago, while their “more sophisticated” opponents ridiculed them just as they do Marianne. Marianne, however, turns Republican understandings of God and life’s purpose on their heads.


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