Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On the day after Easter, Laramie County Dems go to a revival meeting

It was standing room only at the Plains Hotel's Little Cottonwood Room as Democrats gathered the day after Easter to listen to a local preacher.

Not a revival – but it did have some of the trappings. The crowd (me included) seemed in desperate need of reviving. We had been wandering in Wyoming’s Red-State Desert for so long. Verily, we had been lifted up by HOPE in the 2008 elections but dashed against the rocks by the 2010 debacle. And then came the descent into Dante’s Inferno – the 2011 Wyoming Legislature, wherein there was much wailing and lamentation and gusts of hate from the Republican majority.

Meanwhile, the Tower of Babel, in the form of the 24-hour news cycle, continues to babble on, scrambling our brains, making it almost impossible to concentrate on the problems at hand, which are legion.

The preacher, Rev. Rodger McDaniel of Cheyenne, offered us little succor.

Instead, he urged us to work harder for our beliefs and to care more about our neighbors.

“It’s not about the Party,” he said, “it’s about the people.”

Preachers say stuff like that all the time. Love thy neighbor. Give alms to the poor. Practice what you preach. Etc
Most of these exhortations go out the window when our spiritual leaders step down from the pulpit. Witness the many Fundamentalist Christian leaders who preach the Gospel on Sunday and, on Monday, lobby their senators to kill Medicare for poor people, or cheer on the invasion of a foreign country, or engage in an illicit love tryst.

Said Rev. McDaniel: “Buddhas teach by example, not by quoting scripture.”

That’s a quote from a book by Lander native Matteo Pistono, author of “In the Shadow of the Buddha.” He will be speaking at Rodger’s church, Highlands Presbyterian, in May and will also be a featured speaker at the Cheyenne International Film Festival.

Rev. McDaniel sees no division between the spiritual and the political. He says that our involvement in politics should grow naturally out of our spirituality as we ponder “something bigger than what we are.”

His spiritual and political involvement didn’t begin yesterday. His father left mining and became a union Teamster and both of his parents were diehard Democrats.

“Conversations in our home were about Franklin D. Roosevelt,” he said. “My parents thought that FDR  cared how they lived, that Democrats cared about the little guy – a term my father liked to use."

“To my friends today, that’s not so clear.”

Growing up, he admired the Kennedys. As a seventh-grader in Cheyenne, he surreptitiously nailed JFK posters to walls and telephone poles. He admired Bobby Kennedy and said that “when he died, a lot of hope died.”

McDaniel’s first political job was as chair of the Wyoming Young Democrats in 1969-1970, calling for the impeachment of Richard Nixon over the Cambodian invasion and the Kent State shootings.  He served in the Wyoming State Legislature and chaired several Wyoming campaigns for Democratic presidential nominees.  He left his law practice to move to Nicaragua for a year where he directed Habitat for Humanity operations. He served in state government and retired in November as head of the Mental Health Division of the Wyoming Department of Health.

“Now I’m free to be a good ol’ Lefty,” he quipped.

He’s bemused by his Republican friends and colleagues who seem to be shocked by his Liberal views. "Some of my conservative friends think it is so great to have the Religious Right involved in politics,” he said. "They’re not so happy to have the Christian Left involved.”

He’s disturbed why so many good people in Wyoming seem to act and vote against their own best interests.
“Why do middle-class Americans side with the Republicans on killing Medicare?”

This is especially sad when you consider that Wyoming’s lone representative, Cynthia Lummis, is a fervent backer of the Republican’s radical budget that passed the House.

“Two-thirds of the U.S. House members are millionaires, and Cynthia Lummis is the seventh-wealthiest member of Congress,” he said. “”I don’t criticize success, but the Bible says that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Her net worth should skyrocket under the so-called “Ryan Budget” that includes further tax cuts for the richest Americans.

The Good Reverend quoted Reagan’s economic adviser, David Frum, on the four things that the House budget would do:
1.       Large cuts immediately in Medicare for the poor
2.       Elimination of Medicaid
3.       Large cuts in domestic spending
4.       More tax cuts for the wealthy

So, by cutting services to the least of us, the most among us stand to get more and more and more and more…

“It’s a great time to be rich,” announced Rev. McDaniel.

What was that parable about a camel and the eye of a needle?

Republicans are easy targets these days. But Democrats share the blame.

“It’s been two weeks since the House budget vote, and I’ve yet to hear the state Democratic Party say anything about it,” noted McDaniel.

He believes that the message should be loud and clear: “Lummis’s vote was wrong” and “if Enzi and Barrasso vote the same way in the Senate, they will pay a price.”

He also stressed that it is important to stand up and be counted. He gave the example of the late Democratic Sen. Tino Roncalio from Rock Springs. In 1958, Tino became the Democratic State Chairman and he traveled all over hammering the Republicans.

“Sen. Al Simpson says that Tino was never happier than when he was taking a hatchet to my dad’s head,” said McDaniel. Al Simpson’s dad was Governor Milward Simpson.

We need that hatchet now. We should be taking it (metaphorically) to the head of every Republican legislator in the state.

“Who can be surprised by those votes in the Legislature,” asked the Rev. McDaniel. Those votes were against gays, immigrants and the Affordable Care Act. One thing they didn’t vote on is accepting millions in federal aid for the long-term unemployed.

The 14 Democrats in the Legislature did what they could against the Know Nothing tide. And there were some on the Republican side with moderate views. But overall, it was one of the worst sessions in memory.
But many of those legislators ran unopposed or faced weak, underfunded candidates. There were no Democrats running in two of the five state elected offices. Democrats failed to show up at the polls.

“If the Party is dead, it wasn’t a homicide but a suicide,” said McDaniel.

But there is hope – maybe even “Hope.”

“I believe in the power to raise life from the grave,” he said. “We celebrated that yesterday."

1 comment:

caheidelberger said...

Good "sermon" from the pastor! Tell your people to keep the faith... and rouse up a little righteous Tea-style anger of their own for 2012! Your gal Lummis sounds just like our gal Noem. We can beat 'em both next year!