Thoughts on National Elections… and Gloucester

“…over the course of the last quarter century, I have seen first hand the strength, commitment, and activism of a whole lot of progressive and liberal Cape Anners and their ability to have a real positive impact on the community’s direction – even when some among the ‘powers that be’ dismissed them as quixotic, resistant to change, or just plain stupid.”
I not only see that strength, commitment, and activism as  being able to temper the impact of gentrification, and the negative socio-economic, cultural, and political changes it have on communities like Gloucester, I see it, if people are willing to organize, as having an impact far beyond Cape Ann as next year’s presidential campaign begins to heat up in earnest in the fall.”  
Mike Cook
Hotel1

Luxury hotel now under construction on Pavilion Beach in the Fort neighborhood of Gloucester

As what is a temporary, summer absence from Gloucester moves forward, I find myself telling friends and customers I wait on here in Provincetown about the uniqueness of “Fish City” and Cape Ann. I find myself extoling the virtues of  their physical beauty and the spirit of genuine community that still exists there and, sadly, has largely disappeared here – as the cost of housing has increasingly made Provincetown and other communities on the Outer Cape places where only the well to do can afford to live with any sense of security and dignity.At a recent dinner party at the home of an elderly lesbian friend on a very fixed income, who has to sell the house she has loved and owned in Provincetown for forty years because of  skyrocketing property values, and the sky rocketing property taxes that come with them, I shared my concerns about the fishing industry being in decline in Gloucester, and the gentrification pressures that have so fundamentally changed Provincetown bearing down on “Fish City”.
The consensus at the table was community activists in Gloucester, be they gay or straight, should look carefully at what has happened to places like Provincetown and Nantucket, I added Newburyport and Portsmouth, NH, to the list, so that the negative aspects of gentrification run amok do not damage and change Gloucester in the ways they have  in the coastal communities named above.That prompted a  spirited discussion about the housing situation here and the fact many tourism industry related businesses can find no summer help because the wages in those businesses do not even come close to covering the cost of housing, especially seasonal housing, here on the Outer Cape.Provincetown long timers like my elderly  friend take a kind of ironic pleasure in seeing the very people who so fundamentally changed the nature of this community over the last twenty years with their gentrification run amok now petulantly whining about the lack of “good help” available to them.But in that ironic pleasure taking lies a deep sadness because they know it means the very things and people that once made this little fishing village at “Land’s End” so special, whether it was the hard scrabble Portuguese and Irish fishermen, the artists and writers, like Edward Hopper and Eugene O’Neill, and the  bohemian gay community, who have all called this place home; or the art galleries, funky shops, and eclectic restaurants that made this town so unique, are rapidly being replaced by a high end retail and real estate market that feels more like some kind of master planned community and open air mall designed to cater primarily to well heeled tourists and the fortunate few who can afford to live here – a kind of “Chestnut Hill Comes to the Cape” phenomenon.People laughed when I quipped,  yet again, “Hey, let’s face it, Provincetown now celebrates ‘tolerance and diversity’ so long as it is rich, gay, and overwhelmingly white”. But it was laughter tinged with both great irony and lament.But back to Gloucester.I don’t think the fate that has befallen the communities named above is inevitable for “Fish Town”.I say that because, over the course of the last quarter century, I have seen first hand the strength, commitment, and activism of a whole lot of progressive and liberal Cape Anners and their ability to have a real positive impact on the community’s direction – even when some among the “powers that be” dismissed them as quixotic, resistant to change, or just plain stupid.

I not only see that strength, commitment, and activism as  being able to temper the impact of gentrification, and the negative socio-economic, cultural, and political changes it have on communities like Gloucester, I see it, if people are willing to organize, as having an impact far beyond Cape Ann as next year’s presidential campaign begins to heat up in earnest in the fall.

With Elizabeth Warren having taken herself out of contention for the Democratic nomination, the party establishment seems more confident than ever that Hillary Clinton’s nomination, dare I say coronation, is all but inevitable.

I, as a liberal Democrat, find the idea of Hillary being “inevitable” disturbing for several reasons.

The first is because the idea of “inevitability”, and the Democratic party’s establishment pushing it as the only option liberal Democrats, or liberals and progressives not formally registered as Democrats, have  is not only arrogant and offensive, it is patently “un-small d democratic”.

I know many liberal and progressive people on Cape Ann, some of them no doubt readers of “Enduring Gloucester”, who share that view.

I would like to share my reasons why I believe liberal and progressive Cape Anners have an obligation not to simply accept the Democratic party establishment’s meme, whether it is at the city, state, or national level, that Hillary Clinton’s nomination and ascension to the presidency is inevitable.

I am deeply skeptical that Hillary Clinton’s recent so called move to the “left” is genuine. I am deeply skeptical that Hillary’s new found concerns about wealth and income inequality and the “mass incarceration” of young men of color are sincere.
I, sadly, believe they are little more than cynically calculated political moves to try and placate the more liberal base of the Democratic party in the primaries so that she can secure the nomination. Once the nomination is hers, she will then move back to the center where will she will, overall, do the bidding of the big money interests who have been so important to her and  her husband’s political careers, not to mention their rapid accumulation of great wealth in the years following the Clintons’ tenure in the White House.
If Mrs. Clinton is genuinely concerned and appalled by the “mass incarceration” of young men of color, as she claimed in a speech at Columbia University in the wake of the Baltimore riots, why is he not criticizing the crime bill her husband and Newt Gingrich co-authored and signed into law that put the policy of “mass incarceration” into practice?
If Mrs. Clinton is so concerned about wealth and income inequality, why is she not questioning the wisdom of her husband and his treasury secretary, Robert Rubin’s decisions to loosen and do away with many of the financial regulations Franklin Delano Roosevelt put in place after the Great Depression? Perhaps it is because they did so at the request of the same big money and banking interests that played no small role in bringing the recent “Great Recession” down around our heads in exchange for hefty campaign contributions and lucrative speaking engagement fees – for both former President and Mrs. Clinton.
But for me, the biggest reason why Hillary Clinton should not be considered “inevitable” as the Democratic nominee remains her vote to allow GW Bush, and the neo-cons who dominated his administration to launch their invasion of Iraq in the wake of 9-11.  I say that because there was ample evidence available to anyone paying attention that the intelligence they were using to rationalize the rush to war was questionable at best, and patently dishonest at worst.
That evidence prompted Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, and Russ Feingold, then Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, and Congressmen Bernie Sanders and Barney Frank, to name just a few, to vote “no” on the question of invading Iraq.
But not Hillary.
She was one of those politicians who behaved more like a  profile in political expediency than a  profile in political courage.
As economist Paul Krugman wrote in a recent NY Times op-ed piece, “There was a definite climate of fear among politicians and pundits in 2002 and 2003, one in which criticizing the push for war looked very much like a career killer”.
Given Hillary’s long standing  presidential aspirations, it is now abundantly clear she decided to put those aspirations ahead of the lives and well being of hundreds of thousands of brave American men and women in uniform, and the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians who were killed or displaced in a war that never should have been waged in the first place.
What else can explain her unwillingness to stand with Ted, Robert, Lincoln, Barney, and Bernie?
Yes sir. I believe the strong liberal and progressive community in Gloucester can not only stem the rising tide of greed driven gentrification that has transformed communities like Provincetown, Newburyport, and Nantucket into little more than potential locales for an updated remake of “The Stepford Wives”. I believe it can send the Democratic party a message that, given her record, Hillary Clinton has no business, no business at all, being considered “inevitable” as the Democratic nominee.
One way for the liberal and progressive community on Cape Ann to do that is to support Bernie Sanders in his bid for the nomination – no matter how “quixotic” or “just plain stupid” the Democratic “powers that be”, be they at the city, state, or national level tell us doing so may be.
Mike Cook, Truro and Gloucester
Mike CookMike Cook  is a long time liberal and gay rights activist who saw the uniqueness of Gloucester from the first moment he drove over the bridge during his move from Cambridge to Cape Ann in 1991 to run NUVA’s AIDS education and services programs.

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