I support all those who toil.
The words you see above were one of the slogans of the Knights of Labor, the most successful American union of the 19th century. I’m using the phrase for this campaign because the Knights were an open union. They welcomed both skilled and unskilled workers, men and women, as well as whites, African Americans, immigrants, and other people of color. They stood together as working people to fight against the oligarchs and plutocrats of their day. They carried out many successful strikes and gained numerous benefits for their members before the oligarchs were finally able to break them, while the government simply looked on with indifference or sided with the reactionary owners. Their brief success, however, provides us with an example that cannot be ignored. If working people can put aside their differences and stand together, we can bring political and economic justice to this nation.
My name is Larry Smith, and I’m running for the House of Representatives for the Tennessee First Congressional District as a Democrat. I am not a professional politician. I am a historian and an educator. I am a progressive who supports working Americans--including small-business owners. I am also a husband and a father.
I live a pretty good life. I have a family and a job I love, and a nice house, and a couple of cars. I have no material reason to want to change any of that to go to Congress. As a historian, I understand what the United States is supposed to be and what it is. I chose to be an academic about 30 years age— I am an analyst, a commentator. I take that responsibility seriously; and I believed once that this decision precluded me to some degree from being an activist, or an advocate or political change. I would just sit back, figure out what it all meant, and perhaps even write about it one day. That time, however, has passed. Our nation is at a crossroad, and it’s time for everyone, including commentators, to move to action to insure that we choose the right direction.
For the past forty plus years the working people of the United States have been pummeled by disastrous economic policies. Beginning in the mid-1970s, those with wealth and power systematically destroyed the labor movement and the middle class in the United States, while also guaranteeing that wages for those at the bottom stagnated and even decreased over time when considering inflation. Our trade policies including NAFTA further enriched multinational corporations yet failed to provide relief for workers or consumers, while insuring that thousands of good-paying jobs left the country.
Our foreign policy shifted from the Cold War to the wars on drugs and terror, continuing to fuel the military industrial complex in order to enrich corporations such as Boeing, Raytheon, and Halliburton; and to exploit the natural resources of Latin America and the Middle East—all with the pretext of nation building and the spreading of democracy. This has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of brave American soldiers as well as hundreds of thousands of "enemy combatants" and civilians around the world while costing the American taxpayers trillions of dollars. Yet the map of our planet today looks much as it did in 1990. I do not blame our soldiers, even the commanding generals. They did the job that were commanded to do. Our political leaders have greedily used our soldiers to expand their economic and strategic interests, while failing to adequately care for our physically and emotionally injured veterans. As our military and military budgets continue to expand, we are all asked to maintain the status quo when it comes to health care and other vital social services. “How will you pay for it?” rings out from the centers of both political parties.
As you might have guessed from this history lesson on the past forty years, I blame the leadership of both political parties for our problems today. The elites in both parties have maintained common trade practices and foreign policies. Both have been hostile to organized labor. Neither have listened to the calls from the people for national healthcare. Plans that might have led to that were killed in the 1930s, the 1990s, and most recently after 2008.
Donald Trump promised to fix all of those things in 2016. He spoke as a fiery populist who felt the pain of Americans in distress. He said he would replace the Affordable Care Act with good insurance for everyone. He said he would make better trade deals. He said he would stop the interventionist wars. He would also provide tax relief for the middle class. As of today, he has done none of those things. Our healthcare system is in crisis, multinational corporations have further benefited from revised trade deals, and over 80% of the tax relief he promised to the middle class will eventually end up in the hands of the top one percent. And he has intervened in Syria, tried to foment a coup in Venezuela, brought us to the brink of war with Iran, and failed miserably and embarrassingly to try to bring North Korea into the community of nations.
He has also exacerbated the rifts that already divided us, blaming our problems on immigrants, people of color, and whoever happens to point out his deficiencies on any particular day. Donald Trump, however, is not the primary cause of the problems mentioned above. He is a symptom of the failed policies of the past forty years.
Many people in East Tennessee voted for Trump in 2016. I’m sure that many of those same voters will do so again. Donald Trump is a demagogue and a con artist. But he is a good con artist. He pretends to rail against the establishment, to feel the pain of ordinary Americans, to end our interventionism, and to stand up for our traditional values. Ask yourself honestly is Trump really against the elites and the establishment? If so, what is the evidence? Does he care about working people? If so, what has he done for you or your family? What has he even promised to do recently? Will he stop the interventionist wars, or contrarily start a few more? And, do you really see this president as a practitioner of our traditional values?
My campaign (as outlined on this website) will address the problems of modern America with reason and common sense. I cannot promise that I can deliver on everything I discuss. I can promise, however, that I will always tell you the truth and, if elected, I will fight every day against the oligarchs and plutocrats, and for the working and small business people of East Tennessee and the United States. Republicans do not have any answers for these problems. They tell us to do nothing--to maintain the status quo. Competition and free markets will eventually save us. How long are we supposed to wait? The Tennessee First ranks near the bottom of our 435 congressional districts in almost meaningful category related to quality of life. They have controlled East Tennessee since the 1880s. It's time for a change.
Enacting the policies that are suggested on this site will not only help everyday Americans, they will also serve to stimulate the economy. The greatest economic boom in world history occurred between 1945 and 1960 in the United States. We had a thriving middle class, a minimum wage that was higher by far than that of any other country at the time, and businesses that thrived at record levels. All of that was accomplished under progressive tax and wealth codes that helped to build the modern infrastructure of the United States. Under the "Platform" tab above, you will see specific proposals that relate to the general ideas outlined in this opening essay. I became a candidate on August 14, 2019. Evidence, links, and visual presentations will become more complex as the campaign gets into full swing.