By Ruth Conniff on May 19, 2010

The primary upsets in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Kentucky will be billed as signs of voter discontent with the Obama Administration and Congressional incumbents, as well as a dark forecast for the future of the Democratic Party. The Tea Party also scored a major hit with Rand Paul--whatever that means.

For all the excitement about Tea Party power, Rand Paul's Kentucky campaign is a wild card race carried by a movement filled with mixed and contradictory messages--some rather progressive (Paul's anti-imperialism) and some downright racist (We're all Arizonans!)

Look for a lot of uncomfortable mainstream Republicans, who stood by Mitch McConnell and Dick Cheney, and now have to show up at the unity rally on Saturday to make nice with the Tea Partiers they consider total wackos.

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If Rand Paul won on sheer anti-establishment fever, Arlen Specter, the 80-year-old political switch-hitter, lost partly because he was too downright flexible--and too pragmatic-- for either party's base.

But most interestingly, in Arkansas, an insurgent campaign by the comparatively progressive Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter against middle-of-the-road Senator Blanche Lincoln seems to have prompted Lincoln to move left. Chamber of Commerce darling Lincoln recently introduced the toughest bank reform legislation Congress has seen since the Great Market Meltdown. By forcing banks to spin off their derivatives desks, the amendment to Chris Dodd's bank reform bill would leave the derivative-trading operations ineligible for a government bailout.

The Lincoln amendment undermines her opponent's efforts to tie her to Wall Street and the big banks. But while they are trying to sink the amendment, the banks are still betting on Lincoln. Securities and investment firms came in third among her top contributors, with $371,250 in contributions last cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Whatever the reason for it, the amendment is a progressive breakthrough.

"In one fell swoop, Lincoln's measure will effectively protect taxpayers, downsize the behemoth banks, and end the federal guarantees behind big bank gambling. It's the strongest structural reform measure in the bill," writes Mary Bottari on BanksterUSA.

Bankster is urging people across the country to call their Senators' offices and urge them to vote for the Lincoln amendment.

That's important because, win, lose or go to a June 8 runoff after today's primary, Lincoln may find that her crusade is cut short by a very well organized opposition including lobbyists for Goldman Sachs and other derivatives daredevils and their favorite members of Congress, along with Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, and a host of other Wall Street friends in the Obama Administration.

Lincoln herself might not even expect it to pass.

But what the bank battle shows is that there can be some progressive pressure on conservative Democrats--even someone like Lincoln, who tied up health care reform and voted for the TARP before her conversion to populist crusader against Wall Street.

That's one way progressives can win in this primary season--no matter what the outcome.

Ruth Conniff is the political editor of The Progressive magazine.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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