07.05.08 Welcome to Left-Hand View

Welcome to the first post of Left-Hand View, a blog project of Keith Berner.  I am a proud resident of Takoma Park, Maryland, which Utne Reader once called “the leftiest ‘burb anywhere.” We’ee sometimes called the “Berkley of the East” but that has it backwards: Berkley is actually the Takoma Park of the West.

I have been a political activist my whole life.  In 1963, my parents moved to the only purposely integrating community in the country (the Ludlow community in Shaker Heights, Ohio) and promptly dived into the Civil Rights Movement.  At age 8 (1968), I was going door-to-door raising money for the “Chicago 7” (victims of Mayor Daley’s police riots at the Democratic convention that year).  My first trips to Washington, DC came the following two years, as the whole family protested the Vietnam War.  I had my picture in Time as a 12-year-old campaigner for George McGovern in 1972.

It was only after I moved to Takoma Park in 2000 that I became active in local politics.  In the years since, I have worked on issues specific to my community, as well as the political campaigns of local, county, and state candidates.  I also served for four years as precinct chair for the Democratic Party, quitting in disgust in 2006.

During this time, I have become increasingly cynical about politics and politicians.  What I have seen up close is that even the politicos who tend to vote the right way in their respective legislatures are almost all driven principally by self-aggrandizement.  They often (usually?) put political calculus above principle.

As for the Democratic Party, I have concluded its national cohort is spineless and inarticulate, unable to communicate purpose, and consistently adopting the rhetoric and policies of the right, out of fear, narrow (and short-term) self-interest, or shear idiocy.

On the state and county level, the party is all and only about the pursuit and maintenance of power.  The party has utter contempt for (small-d) democratic principles in its governance and no sign of any principles when it comes to policy.  The people who make it up are mostly petty autocrats and cowardly automatons, the latter blindly carrying out orders and adding nothing to the political debate.

(Note: I’m speaking here of party officials, not the rank and file.  The rank and file consists overwhelmingly of people who are doing their best to change the world one voter at a time.  Hats off to them!)

There are only five politicians left I can think of who are sufficiently driven by idealistic purpose to merit my financial and shoe-leather support. More on them in another post.

I will continue to vote for Democratic candidates the overwhelming majority of the time (and will never, ever, ever vote for a Republican).  But I no longer support the party and am a great deal less likely than I used to be to advocate publicly for candidates who pander to the right or otherwise lack integrity.


The name I have chosen for this blog is obvious. I plan to present a progressive view of the world.I’m likely to focus heavily on politics, though, not exclusively.And, yes: I’m left handed. (Apologies to those of you who aren’t local: though I hope to write a lot about national issues and personages, it is also likely that many of my posts will have local themes that will mean nothing to you.)

I would love to hear from readers (being optimistic that I’ll have some!).  Tell me if you want me to update you every time I post something new.  Tell me if you agree with me.  Tell me if you don’t (and let me know why!).

Warning to the politicians I know: though you may well be able to count on my vote, you cannot count on my gentleness in this blog.  One of the great advantages of not being an aspiring or actual elected official is that I can tell it like it is.  And that is what I plan to do.

I don’t have any illusions that the dialogue I hope to engender here will change the world.  But maybe it will make those of us who engage in it feel a little better.

Feel free to contact me directly: lefthandview@kberner.us.

©2008 Keith Berner

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7 Comments on “07.05.08 Welcome to Left-Hand View”

  1. Kathy P Says:

    Congratulations on creating this forum, my left-handed new friend! I look forward to your views of the world!


  2. Robert Lanza Says:

    Keith: You wrote: “I will continue to vote for Democratic candidates the overwhelming majority of the time (and will never, ever, ever vote for a Republican). ” Guaranteeing your vote for Democratic candidates is a certain method of convincing Democratic politicians to pay little or no attention to you. The reason that our politicians are spineless when it comes to the substantive issues is that they know that party-line voters will still vote for them no matter how (or even whether) they vote. So my view is that there is one certain method of initiating much-needed spine transplants for our politicians, and that is to directly associate their votes with our votes. So I would suggest that you amend your blog to state that you will vote for the candidates that are overall closest to your views, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, and that you will also encourage others to do the same. This is particularly important if your blog is also reaching voters in other states, and this would likely elicit more attention from our spineless politicians.

    While you are on the subject of spineless politicians you might want to inform your new readers that the Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday of this week to subvert the U.S. Constitution by granting the President the authority to spy on American citizens without warrant and by granting retroactive immunity from prosecution for both the President and the telecoms that previously authorized and conducted warrantless surveillance. The House voted for this subversion of the Constitution last month; Congresssman Steny Hoyer of Maryland even sponsored it [note to file: it isn’t “pandering” if the Democrats actually sponsor the bill.] Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for President have indicated that they will vote for this, a majority vote granting one or the other of them the power of warrantless surveillance.

    Spread the word…


    Robert Lanza
    Takoma Park, Maryland


  3. kbtkpk Says:

    Reply to Robert Lanza: Thanks for your feedback, Robert. What changed for me since 2004 is precisely that I no longer “guarantee” my vote to Democrats. But there is little doubt that I will continue to vote for them most of the time.

    I will write more about Obama in another post very soon, but for now let me say that he has lost me with his rightward lurch these past few weeks. (I know that lefties and cynics will say, “What were you expecting?!”) I definitely want McCain to lose – no doubt about that. If I were in a swing state, I would hold my nose and vote for Obama. But, you heard it here first: this November, in Maryland, I will vote for a 3rd party candidate for president. (Not sure yet which one, but it WON”T be Nader.)


  4. Dennis in Portland (OR!) Says:

    Dang Keith! I spent a whole week organizing a Hungry for Change bake sale. We raised $450. Now you tell me. Should I have kept the money?


  5. Kathy P Says:

    Senator Obama might not see things the way I do on all issues, but he should damn well keep the promises he made to get my vote! His reversal on FISA is particularly alarming because he has gone over to the dark side on a matter of consitituional rights and holding corporations accountable for illegal activities.

    I respected Barack Obama because I thought he was strong and principled and progressive; now he seems to be turning into another spineless M.O.R. Democrat playing “politics as usual.” Over the past two weeks Obama issued a steady drumbeat of statements as he tried to grab some independents and peal off a few Republican voters with scary comments that concerned church and state, gun control, the death penalty, the defense budget, and troops withdrawal.

    Rather than remolding himself as a conservative to lure people who are never going to vote for him, I’d suggest he concentrate on making sure Hillary’s 18 million voters are solidly with him and keeping his own base motivated, volunteering, and donating. We should be a movement in common cause right now; instead there are over 12,000 FISA protesters on mybarackobama.com. (And more power to us!) The “new Obama’s” attitude says, “To Hell with the Democratic base; what are they gonna do – vote for McCain?”

    I feel personally betrayed by Barack Obama. I hadn’t been so excited by a candidate in decades. I believed in him and I felt part of a movement. And I really was hoping for change. Now I think he manipulated me and others like me with his stirring speeches. I don’t know what kind of hope he really offers or what sort of change he has in mind.

    For right now I’m not thinking about who I will vote for in November or whether I’ll cast a third party vote in protest; I’m just thinking about how to hold Obama accountable and how to make him live up to his word.


  6. Leon Morse Says:

    Hi Keith,

    I like how the Google adbot included at the bottom of your post a link to Human Events’ expose on Obama, a lefty scourge!!

    Kathy P makes a good point about thinking beyond the election to how to have Obama accomplish what we want him to accomplish as president.

    What about giving Obama a landslide, both in terms of electoral and popular vote? With a clear mandate, perhaps the Obama administration would be able to just ignore some of the apparent backsliding now. I don’t claim this will absolutely work, but I think it better than having him win by a slim margin: when looking toward 2012 he’d have to consider how to maintain the presidency with the vote differential he got before.

    Think about Bush the candidate, who said the US should not engage in nation building and that he was a uniter. Well, he won and went on his merry way of intentional divisiveness and the worst kind of experimental nation building. He pissed off conservatives, but who were they going to vote for in 2004, Kerry? He did this despite getting into the White House, twice, through slim margins!

    There’s absolutely a difference between candidates and sitting presidents. Obama (and Hillary) made me roll my eyes on the talk of ending NAFTA, for example. And there is importance behind what candidates talk about in elections: pushing certain issues in the spotlight of elections helps move them forward in public perception.

    However, I think that in the end it is what someone does as president that makes the difference. I think that Obama is pretty much who he was in the earlier days of the primary. I liked that person, and want him to be president. Will he let me down in some ways? No doubt, yes. But staying involved seems a better path to getting an administration with priorities that match mine than does shunning. And handing him a mandate seems to me an even better bet.

    So even if you live in a doubtlessly blue state, your vote does matter in this kind of equation, it seems to me.


  7. Keith Berner Says:

    Response to Lean Morse: Thanks for your comments, Leon. (I can’t see that adbot you mention, so I’ll have to take your word for it.)

    You make some very good points, no doubt. Once he is elected (and he will be), Obama will have plenty of opportunity to impress those of us who have been disappointed in him since he clinched the nomination. And, yes, having him win by a landslide would — at the margins — help him claim a mandate for governing.

    But, you point out yourself that W didn’t need a mandate to pursue one of the most extreme sets of policies in American history. All he needed was the courage of his own (blind) convictions and an absolutely complacent/complicit Congress.

    Maybe Obama *does* need a greater popular mandate, though, since (a) as a Democrat, he is unlikely to have full courage of his convictions and (b) though Democrats will make large gains in Congress this fall, see (a): they will likely be as spineless, inarticulate, and weak as Democrats have been as long as I can remember.

    As you can tell, I have little faith in Obama or his legislative colleagues to make difficult decisions and stand up to right-wing parodies. In fact, it is — as least to some extent — Obama’s behavior right now that reinforces my lack of faith.

    In any case, I will certain be pondering your advice these coming months and may well end up being captivated by it. Stay tuned!


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