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Values Held in Common ,. A Case for Liberal Interdependence in Texas AUSTIN More than a year has passed since the Johnson forces demoralized the liberal and labor coalition at the May convention. Liberals since then have been disconcerted and listless, and the once militant liberal political community in Texas, which when it came together in convention as Democrats of Texas included a thousand sturdy yeomen, has fallen into confusion and lassitude. After Johnson successfully isolated Mrs. R. D. Randolph outside the convention hall in May, she reverted, mainly, to the Harris County precinct work and moral leadership by which she helped turn Houston, for a while, into an almost liberal city. Jerry Holleman and John McCully of labor and Creekmore Fath of D.O.T. have been drawn into the administration. Fred Schmidt is now having to fight for re-election as AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer as though his long and loyal service in the liberal leadership counts for naught. The leadership is diverted; the troops are scattered. On the two major political questions since last fall’s season, liberalism has, naturally, suffered calamitous reversals. A Goldwater Republican, John Tower, has been elected senator, and the legislature is trying out different labels on the general sales tax. Entering into the Senate fiasco was the tangle of communications between Henry Gonzalez and Maury Maverick, but this proceeded, in part, from the snarl in the central reel. Most important in the failure of liberalism in the legislature this year have been two difficulties apparently occurring in their own contexts, the weakening of the labor lobby’s efficacy in the legislature by labor’s involvement in the Senate race and the leaders’ engrossing concern with their own futures, and, inside the House of Representatives, the failure of any liberal to come forward as a clear-voiced, sensitive, but also commanding leader. Even these difficulties, however, have some of their twisted sources in the demoralizations emanating from the May convention. Labor’s prestige would not have been so precariously involved in the Maverick campaign but for the enervating confusion between Maverick and Gonzalez and within the whole liberal community. Had House liberals been able to base their fight for progressive tax solutions in a reassuring belief that out in the boondocks there still existed a liberal political network which would whip up support for them and seek to uphold them later at the polls, the context for leadership might have been more congenial ; the defeatism which has infected like an air-borne plague every liberal strategy session against a general sales tax might have seemed, instead, the fragrance of vindication ahead. ENOUGH TIME has passed now for a new beginning. It was an expensive rest ; if Texas liberals’ service to their ideals is to be resumed before the losses become confirmed penury, there must be a pulling together again. This was the reason two hundred or so liberals and labor people met for lunch and an afternoon of gab and gander a week or so ago. They needed to talk to each other again, to look at each other’s faces and remember the common values that held them together so long before the thunderous Johnson bandwagon scattered most of them like quail and THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 5 July 22, 1961 then and therefore crushed the others. We are not through, yet, with the consequences; indeed, the world broad and teeming beyond may never be; but we go on living where we are and till the day this is no longer true must do our work. They talked, the two hundred liberals, all afternoon. Otto Mullinax, the thinking, honest, creative labor lawyer from Dallas, presided. The meeting was closed to the press, but I gather there were two notions running. One, advocated first by the Observer in its April 11 issue, then by Mark Adams of Austin and receiving support from Hank Brown of labor and others, is a “liberal forum.” This means a group of liberals who will meet and talk ideas and reach a concensus informally. To the extent they would proceed. from their coffee Cups to action, they would proceed in their own contexts. One gathers the thought here is that since the laborliberal coalition turned out to have been an illusion when sore pressed, labor making its decisions as labor and then block-voting in the actually subordinate. coalition, the community of liberals and labor should be conceived as an open space where people talk to each other, then returning to the organisms of action, labor and local, in which they daily participate. The other notion had to do with the creation of an amorphous, informal, unbinding state organization, a place for the weighing of intelligence reports and the co-ordination of different working groups. WHATEVER THE FORM of the new liberal concensus, the experience last May ought to convince BOERNE Suddenly some papers I needed snapped in the wind and I saw them whip past my shoulder through the car window into the outside night. As I cussed and braked goggle lights closed in on me from behind, so I shouldered the car, let them pass, and wheeled around and across the road : another set of lights lurched toward me and somebody cussed me as they passed. In the dark I could not find the papers. This was how I came, the next morning, to be padding through two miles of the Johnson grass, weeds, wildflowers, and other aspects of Texas roadside. I cut myself a sycamore snake-stick and might have tried to identify some of the flowers but for the other aspects. Driving along the shoulder, even slowly, you do not see the indescribable debris ; from a car it looks like any other roadside, and doubtless is. Dis-car, however, and you find yourself picking through an elongated country dump, a split-laned junk discard. They must breast the land, a dense network of trash strippings, endlessly varied. Thousands of years from now, when astrO-archaeologists from outer space excavate for evidences of the culture of the later American Indians who perished in the war of the bombs, they will find them best preserved in the millions of miles of middens beside the highways. I counted, during my two-mile unconstitutional, 1,321 beer bottles before, thirsty, I lost track. I understood, then, the subliminal shrewdness of calling them “throw-away bottles.” Fallen random among the also random flowers \(a harmony of referring to keys or glossaries, beer cans, beer caps, beer cartons, beer cases, one or two milk bottles, whiskey bottle \(some smashed, one still of country and city newspapers, paper sacks, wrapping paper, a bill of sale from Crane Oilwell Drilling Co., blank checks with crayon doodlings, liberal individuals and labor, permanently, that neither can submit their independence to the others’ caucuses in an organization. A principle which has been observed with salutary results in the Harris County Democrats, deference toward any minority within the organization on issues most intimately affecting its interests, might. be helpful. But so also would be another : enough flexibility in the conception of “the organization” that when agreement is impossible, differences and segmenting can occur without bitterness and dissolution. Perhaps maturity in persons and organizations cannot mean generally much more than tolerance. Labor cannot wish to condemn nor even to bind liberal individuals who cannot agree with them on some issues, nor can such individuals resent labor’s acting as a caucus-bound unit with respect to its own affairs only. This is the main reason liberals cannot over-organize ; they must pro. ceed in a way which will let them persist as individuals in whatever ways they wish while also working together when it is plausible. Such working together has now become not merely plausible but also necessary. In 1962, the liberal community should mount, especially in the cities but also in rural areas where there is enough strength, a campaign for the repeal of the general sales tax and its replacement with a progressively graduated tax. The governorship will probably fall, open. If liberals have not convinced moderates of anything else during this dismal interregnum, they conmoderate like Jim Wright is unacceptable to them, and that thiS hurts a rusted carseat spring, a telephone pole cross-spar, a half silted-over 7Up bottle, other pop bottleS, cigarette packages, a carton labeled Bar-B-Que Cold Cups large enough for several thousand of them, sheets from a scientific magazine article, a tent stob, and another item or two best left unidentified. One had to look sharp, especially in canvas and rubber shoes, for the broken glass, the car culture’s gifts to the wildlife. Vance Packard, the itinerant evangelist of American sociology, commented, in appropriately shock-shaken tones, in next month’s Atlantic: “A friend relates that while he was ‘driving through a lovely stretch of forest in Maine recently, he saw the car ahead, full of people, slow down and a half-open cardboard box sail out of its right rear window. Eggshells, beer cans, and scraps of sandwiches and paper were spewed out along the roadside. “Another friend, a minister, became offended by the sight of discarded liquor bottles while he was driving along the otherwise beautiful beach road leading into Edgartown, Massachusetts. He began to pick up the bottles nearest the road. By the time he had reached the edge of town he had piled up so many bottles into the back of his sedan that they rose above the level of the seat . . .” Much as I would enjoy the moral superiority of sharing Grandmother Packard’s indignation, I cannot, for my friends know me, and I cannot, therefore, lie to you. My wife calls me a litterbug, a word from the ubiquitous signs, “Don’t Be a Litterbug,” and the most I can muster in selfdefense is to insist that I am not ; I’m a litterman. I find in my twohour scenic stroll, in fact, a perverse confirmation of my occasional guilty preference for littering the roadside instead of the inside of the car \(with nothing more heinous than a Tootsie Roll wrapper, for of course when we drive we don’t drink, and when we should carry a portable Disposall, actionary Democrat like Bill Blakley is worse, as far as they are concerned, than a reactionary Republican, and that this hurts the Democrats politically. Acting together in 1962 the liberal Democrats can materially affect the complexion of the governor’s office for the next decade. The idea of a ticket has intrigued many ; the existence of a stronger liberal-labor coalition will confirm the foolhardiness of the plan rumored about several months ago of an all-moderate coalition led by Wright. Improving liberalism’s estate in 1962, the liberal community can hope to be better braced for the crisis in 1964, when Vice-President Johnson, his legions, the reactionary Democrats, and the Republicans all will be gunning for Ralph Yarborough. If Yarborough will do his part by letting his staff help him answer his mail, the liberal community in Texas will be able to re-elect him, for his voting record has been well received among Democrats and he will have the advantage of incumbency. Johnson seems to be grooming John Connally to run against him already; it is time, therefore, for the liberals to get ready to uphold Yarborough. Let what ideas will bubble forth from friendly conversations, whether in the forum or just among friends; let the concensus struck by the new series of meetings lead to as much coordinated action as possible. The millionaire Blakleys, the country club Republicans, the power wielding Johnsons, and ‘ the oil-hired Bracewells and Sealys have had their run of things a year and two months too long; it is time for the liberals to join them in battle again. R. D. eologists and I can be reformed at once by anyone’s censure; I dare say most of the littering is committed by men traveling without their wives. I would be glad to pay slightly higher sales taxes \(the only kind, evidently, to hire Vance Packard to fill up the back and the front of his car with beer bottles, but the situation obviously calls for more drastic measures. Even the signs don’t seem to register with The People ; perhaps we have become so accustomed to resisting slogans, so used to thinking of them as lies to get our dough out of our wallets, the public-spirited ones don’t get any mind from us, either. I do have a solution ; being a radical, I can usually come up with something. We can declare a day once a year when all the shops, plants, offices, stores, governments, and schools close down and everybody with a will turns a hand to some public work. I have heard that the mayor of Mexico City gives the bums the choice of working for the city or resting at the city’s expense behind bars. The result is a city full of flowers and grassways. In the United States, however, there are no bums, except beatniks, who have to be left alone because they are intellectuals. We keep hearing plaints from Howard Mumford Jones and Henry Luce and Vance Packard and John F. \(for nedy about our lack of national unity and purpose. Very well, then, let us have a National Purpose and Loyalty Day when the patriots do their stuff ; us ordinary citizens would come along too, picking up trash, raking the beaches, planting flowers and trees on the roadsides and in the parks, cleaning up the lakes and rivers by dynamiting power-driven boats, and otherwise repairing and beautifying our desegrated habitats. I know I would do it, and with pleasure. I feel guilty about the roadsides; and besides, it is easier to do your duty when you are not the only one doing it. R.D. Debris for the Arch