The Texas Observer JULY 9, 1965 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c THE LIBERALS OF TEXAS By the Editor Austin What meaning does the word “citizen” have left? Precious little, you may say with a sigh. We are really only ciphers, with no real effect. We are citizens only nominallythe ones whose votes are a necessary formality. We pay our taxes and occasionally pitch in one way or another in an election, but. that’s about it. The state and the country are run from the top, and the world seems made of colliding blind and drunken parts. But Citizen, we have a choice. We are not certain to matter, but we certainly have a choice whether to try to or to give up trying. We are not certain to think wisely or well, but we certainly have a choice whether to think or not to think. We have much to go about doing, earning a living and pursuing our private lives, and we are not sure that if we pay attention and speak out as the early citizens did, we will not be wasting our time, but we are sure that if we do not speak out, we will be responsible for any failures that descend upon our place and our country, and for whatever disasters overtake the world that our country could have stopped. Debates and demonstrations have swept parts of the country in the last few years. Civil rights, medicare, nuclear weapons, Viet Nam, the Dominican Republic . . . people do care in New York and in California, in Cambridge and Jackson and Selma. We in Texas have been concerned with our local troubles, and we have needed to be, for we have had enough of them. Now, however, a Texan is President, and citizenship in Texas is heavier, as a moral duty, than ever it was before. We can go on as we have, doing and thinking and saying as little as we can get by with, or we can do more. IN MY OPINION the liberals in and of Texas should cut loose from all present organizations, including organized labor, and come together in their own names, to have their say in the affairs of men. I should like to see this happen every fall and every spring, all who wish to come, coming as individuals only, each person to have just his own voice, no person a special status, no one representing a group. We know that there does exist a large community of Texas liberals. They read this paper, many of them. They used to meet a thousand or fifteen hundred strong for the open, y’all come meetings of the Democrats of Texas. They should come together again, hut now for citizenship more than for politicsfor speaking truth to power more than for the pursuit of power. Their entire purposes should be expressed in their two statewide conventions, the one in the fall to debate and formulate their opinions on national, international, and state issues, the one in the spring to consider political candidates. I would hope they would give none of their officers authority to speak for them, except as their own conventions speak for them. Democracy rests on the citizens or it is a farce and a lie. Yet where now can the citizen go to speak forward? There are very few real town forums. The newspapers are filled with commercial advertisements, news stories written by certain formulas, and editorials safe but seldom sound. Television is a disgrace to a once proud people. Let us then make our own forum, erect it with our own awareness of each other, and see if this is worthwhile to do. I HAVE WATCHED the Democratic Coalition of Texas long enough to have become convinced that, while it is a worthy organization and has done good work, it is not a democratic organization. Its very zeal for civil rights has trapped it into the structural segregation of Negroes, LatinAmericans, labor, and “independent liberals,” four separate categories. The still deeper truth is that it is a front for organized labor. Who are its members? ‘Somewhere there is a mailing list, one must suppose, but who decides who is invited to its meetings? One knows intuitively that labor does. Why does it have no platform? No program, except registering voters? Why did it not have any impact in, or interest in, the recent legislature? Why has it not had anything to saynot anythingon Viet Nam, the Dominican Republic, 14-B, or the $1.25 minimum wage for the war on poverty? Because it is not a democratic, it is a strategic organization. Let it continue and prosper, but let us have no misunderstanding about its nature. Sadly but with clear minds the Texas liberals must accept and cope with the fact that in the United States now, and particularly in Texas, organized labor is part of the power structure, from which citizens must strive to be independent if they are to be independent citizens. Labor men can be just as free and independent citizens as anyone else, but not as labor men. President Johnson now runs the power structure, and in Texas the President uses Gov. Connally as his spokesman and dispenser of power. Therefore, any Texas bunch that is dependent on labor money for its meaning or its program is part of the power structure which it is the duty of free and thoughtful citizens to evaluate and criticize freely. I am afraid, for this reason, that the still not well organized component of independent liberals within the Democratic Coalition, the Texas Organization of Liberal Democome from the start. WE MUST THINK STRAIGHT. The warhawks are pressuring President Johnson to bomb Hanoi and Haiphong, and then China. Urgently do the Texas liberals need to stand up boldly and contend against these warhawks and help make it likelier that President Johnson will not give in to them. The war on poverty in Texas is in some danger of disintegrating into a mish-mash of local boondoggles and box suppers for the poor. Texas has two great submerged impoverished minorities, the Negroes and the LatinAmericans, and thus embodies in one
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