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Our Conscience: John Lewis Dies

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/further/2020/07/18/our-conscience-john-lewis-dies


John Lewis, a truly great American hero, for then, for now, for all time.


RIP Congressman Lewis. You will be sorely missed.


I was once lucky enough to attend a private audience with His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, at his residence in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. During the Q&A, he was asked if, considering the violence, injustices, and hatred that are perpetrated in its name, religion hadn’t been a failure.

His Holiness said, yes, it was clearly a failure.

Sadly, I feel that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr would give the same answer if someone could ask him about the civil rights movement. And sadly, despite showing courage early on, John Lewis morphed from firebrand to run-of-the-mill Democrat – displaying both a lack of imagination and a prominent role in the lowering of expectations, especially amongst black voters.

And saddest of all is this:
If not us, then Joe “lock em’ up” Biden.
If not now, then in another couple of election cycles.

Here’s the glimmer of hope:
A continuation of the largest protest movement in US history, the BLM, “refund, reallocate, and de-escalate the police” demonstrations. But the undercover arrests being carried out currently by the Trump Administration are partly a result of John Lewis’s time in Congress – he voted for the 2011 NDAA that allows for people to be rounded up without charge or trial.


No matter what happened to him, Joh Lewis kept fighting—for everyone! How many politicians today would do that? Very few ,very few, maybe 1 or 2.


Fighting for the 1% more like.


Hi phatkhat:
Hmmm maybe you should read up on his life. : )

Well said. I was watching a morning News show on Lewis. They characterized him as a ‘radical’
in the sixties and told a anecdotal story that during his speech on Washington when he was twenty three years old MLK staff was waiting to cut the feed had he stepped outside of the boundaries of the propriety of what was acceptable. I wondered what happened to the man circa 2019 when he saved Biden’s campaign by endorsing him thus sinking Bernie in the eyes of blacks. Biden owes his campaign to Lewis in a way that no other politician might have done. That said, Bernie offered blacks much more than Biden is offering and in fact, Biden’s anti black frames early in his career were not worthy of Lewis endorsement. Sadly, Lewis the firebrand (rightly characterized in his early years) morphed into a status quo Democratic Party apparatchik in his later years. This is a truthful legacy of the man.


John Lewis’ life should be celebrated for his efforts on behalf of civil rights and voting rights - he fought for those things his entire life and was just as “radical” (progressive) about them in the end as he was in his youth as far as I can see.

While others bemoan the fact that he was not progressive on other issues - I don’t see that as some kind of betrayal - but merely as where he stood on stuff. For example, when he was chair of SNCC they never took a position on the Vietnam War. However, they came out steadfastly against it and took a strong anti-imperialist position after he stepped down as chair (and was replaced by Kwame Ture (then known as Stokely Carmichael).

In todays politics I see Stacey Abrams as being the natural successor to Lewis. She is a fighter for the same issues he cared about and a main-line Democrat on other issues. Progressive allies on some things, opponents on others. Voting rights is an important issue. Kudos to people who fight for them. John Lewis will be missed.


What some people refuse to acknowledge is that there is a huge
movement underfoot in the Democratic Party between what is identified
as ‘progressive’ change (i.e., returning to FDR principles), or conversely,
remaining in the status quo pro Wall Street hegemony model. The pro
Wall Street Democrats are not ‘liberal’ regardless of how they characterize
themselves but advancing Neo liberal policies that ultimately undercut
and diminish large blocks of people. The idea that Stacy Abrams is
some type of exemplar is non sense. A recent article which appeared
on this forum about Abrams accurately documents her policies and
ideology. Since the software does not allow links I suggest that anyone
who follows progressive views google Is Stacy Abrams Progressive+ Common Dreams.


Agreed - like Lewis, she is progressive on the issue of voting rights and not on other issues as I said above.

The link is ~https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/05/26/stacey-abrams-progressive

Progressives will fail at building coalitions to change policy when they refuse to work with allies who are opponents on other issues. I think this is a natural occurrence since the progressive movement seeks systematic change that gets at the root of multiple problems.

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I think most true progressives on the left are on this page. Kyle Kulinski makes this point all the time. You ally with anyone on an issue where they match you - the Koch’s on prison reform, libertarians on drug legalization and anti war stances, and so on.

I don’t know much about John Lewis so I was disappointed to read about his lack of any conviction about the Vietnam war which in my opinion is the greatest moral litmus test in the last 60 years and he failed miserably. With MLK taking such a bold stance as the example of the right move I just don’t get it.

The only thing I know about John Lewis was his deliberate take down of Sanders in 2015/2016 saying he never saw him at any civil rights events (he obviously didn’t see Hillary at any of these events either). I didn’t know he had a significant role in this cycle with Biden too.

Thankfully it looks like we won’t have Stacey Abrams thrown at us this time. I’ve read more about Michelle Lujan Grisham lately and though there are very few good options listed (like @SkepticTank, I like Bass but I don’t think she will be picked), she seems better than Abrams or Harris so far. I guess we’ll know pretty soon who we’ll be stuck with.


Biden does not support progressive issues: he is adamant against Universal Health Care (Single Payer) instead advocating for For Profit Health monstrosity. Biden is a life long advocate for downsizing Social Security: there is plenty of documentary evidence of his early career in the Senate on youtube. Biden is a endless advocate of MIC, endless war, who supported Bush and Cheney advance into Iraq on bogus claims of WMD. Even though now his campaign is in reframing mode to make the man’s career into something it has never been. Biden destroyed Anti Hill disallowing her witness’ and is largely responsible for the most regressive Neo conservative judge to sit on the SC in Clarence Thomas. Biden had credible sex assault charges raised against him and instead of giving his accuser a fair hearing she was attacked by the Biden machine to discredit her. Early in his career Biden advanced anti black legislation. He authored the Bill that watered down and made it more difficult for people to seek relief under bankruptcy law; he was a prime sheepdog on behalf of the repeal of Glass/Stegal legislation that keeps abusive Banks and Wall Street in check for forty years. There is much more I could cite, but the aforementioned is the most egregious. When you talk about “coalitions” as a political strategy you are spreading disinformation. Biden is not in the same ‘universe’ as the progressive wing of the party and dishonestly suggesting that Biden is going to support our causes simply because we vote for him is delusional juxtaposed his ideological history and career. If he is elected, Joe Biden will revert from framing campaign mode into the man he has always been. No amount of rosy scenarios. concerning coalitions is going to change any of it. We have heard various memes and framing over the last fifty years to include “hold his feet to the fire” and other slogans that produce absolutely no political change. In fact, their sense of entitlement is further entrenched in more Wall Street endless war hegemony. That is the reality.


I have never said anything like this so I presume you must have me confused with another poster. I have never advocated for compromising on a progressive agenda. I do advocate working with people like John Lewis (when he was alive) and Stacey Abrams on voting rights - even if I would have nothing to do with them on Foreign affairs. I do advocate for working with Catholic church groups on abolishing the death penalty - even if I would have nothing to do with them on women’s reproductive rights. I do advocate for working with those business owner groups who favor expanded Medicare for All - even if I would have nothing to do with them on regulatory issues or minimum wage legislation.

I support forming coalitions based on a progressive agenda - not based on someone else’s potential compromises. I agree with you that the latter is a long time failed strategy. Not recognizing the importance of the former is equally flawed.


My presuppositions concerning your use of the word ‘coalitions’ included the
idea (in the broadest sense) that they influence values within the epicenter
of the Democratic Party. I regret if I mischaracterized your views. Nevertheless,
there is a large group of people who believe the non sense that coalitions
influence change. They do not. I work in my own bioregion for change. That is
the only place authentic change is happening in my view. I will continue to support
progressive in the Democratic Party but when it comes to the ‘Old Guard’ of Biden, Pelosi,
Shumar, et al, they can all rot in hell!


That was Jim Clyburn, not John Lewis saving Biden’s ass.


No way that I can let that comment go unchallenged.

Of course it’s imperative to build coalitions.
That’s why Brand D and Brand R are in agreement on 70% of the issues.

And Stacey Abrams accomplished jack squat as far as voting in Georgia, where a debacle of epic proportions recently occurred. Stacey Abrams will align with Republicans more than lefties like me.

Finally, John Lewis was my rep for seven years. I talked to both him and his staff many tims as I do with all of my reps at every level. He was a member of Glenn Ford’s Black Misleadership class to the hilt. Party above policy every damn time. I certainly embrace my status as a political outsider but I’m not going to sugarcoat who he became in Atlanta:



Well if you disagree with the thrust of my comment, then I suggest you take it up with this guy who also pushed the idea of working with people who might help you on specific issues, even if you don’t support their politics overall.

I think that’s an unfair comment when she was never in power in Georgia. As minority leader in the Georgia house she sponsored legislation to make ballot access easier for third parties. That didn’t pass - but I say that’s a good thing as are her positions on voting rights generally. The fact that I agree with you that she is basically a main stream Democrat who “will align with Republicans more than lefties” doesn’t change my opinion that she is good on this issue and someone people should be working with on it.

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Your quote of me in no way conflicts with my earlier post.
I work with the hand I’m dealt. That’s been Conyers, Lewis, Dingell over the last 30 years.
All three considered to be liberals in theory, all three run-of-the-mill Democrats in practice.
Out of the three, Conyers was most amenable. Also, a sexual predator.

And just because I’m a friend doesn’t mean I vote for you, your party, or support your positions.

Debbie Dingell is a member of the House Progressive Caucus AND the Problem-Solvers Caucus.
When I talked to her last week, I asked if she could triangulate any better.
She actually hung up on me. Good for her. She was wasting her time with a primary upcoming.


And my post in no way conflicts with your comment either. Conyers introduced single payer legislation back in 2003 - so he was pretty damn good on that issue. Working with him in a coalition of folks pushing for single payer health care was the right thing for progressive people to do regardless of what other positions you would not want to work with him on. That was what I said above in multiple posts.

So what exactly were you objecting to that could not “go unchallenged”?

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