Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 20, 2014

John Kane: Republican-Democrats, Liberal-Conservatives: What's the Difference?

Republican-Democrats, Liberal-Conservatives … What's the Difference? 

John Kane
By John Karhiio Kane, Mohawk

Although I cannot embrace the rape of the planet and obscene support for the rich lords of capitalism that seems bound to Republican DNA, there is no question that some of the worst actions and most aggressive policies our people have seen toward our trade and commerce has come from a Democrat as Governor of New York State and a Democrat as President of the United States.
Racism and the arrogant ignorance behind it seem to know no bounds. Neither race nor political party affiliation affects the moral compass or the conscience of elected officials in the American system.

It was under David Paterson, Democrat and New York State's first black governor that the State pushed through enough of its legal hurdles to shut off its State-licensed wholesalers from selling tobacco products to Native retailers. This plan was put into motion by Governor Mario Cuomo almost 20 years earlier and seemed to be held up by his successor, Republican Governor George Pataki.
Now don't get me wrong, we also clashed with Pataki. But this guy changed his stance on attacking our commerce and got elected two more times in spite of it. In other words, caving in to those his predecessor planned to attack militarily under "Operation Gallant Piper" cost him nothing in political capital.
But after 10 years of relative peace and even a huge growth of Native tobacco retail due to remote sales (Internet and mail order), back came the socially responsible Democrats. Democrat Eliot Spitzer got elected as the tough "Sheriff of Wall Street" with every intention of shutting us down but resigned in disgrace after a prostitution scandal. So that's how New York ends up with its first black (un-elected) governor at the same time the U.S. gets its first black president.
Now, one would think that Democrats with even some personal insight on racial discrimination would be "sensitive" to Native issues. Not a chance. Obama killed that retail growth of which I spoke by signing into law the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act), outlawing our remote sales and killing 3,000 jobs in the process. No one said a word about the job losses. No one said a word about killing the revenue flow into Western New York or the wiping out of the Master Settlement Act payments that the State was getting from our sales. The PACT Act was pushed through as an anti-terrorism bill and that sealed the deal.
Paterson tried to choke off supply by pushing through the dormant work of Mario Cuomo and then handed it off to the next his successor, Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo "The Younger" came into office with more than just the normal dismissive attitude toward Native issues. He came in with a chip on his shoulder. He proved that the only thing worse than two Democrats named Obama and Paterson were Democrats named Obama and Cuomo.
While, nationally, many Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) recognized tribal leaders were falling at the feet of the first President "of color" every chance they got and a fair number made sweetheart deals with New York State's "Prince Andrew" over gaming dollars and land claims, record numbers of armed raids by federal agents and seizures by state authorities piled up under this Democrat rule. Law suits, indictments, tax assessments and even a multi-million dollar federal sting operation over tobacco; not guns, not drugs, not funding terrorism but tobacco, has been the hallmark the Obama/Cuomo era.
As I said from the start, I am certainly no fan of the Republican right. I'll never understand how middle class (and below) white Americans can support these guys under the ridiculous belief that they stand for freedom. Freedom to subject an entire nation of people to the prison of consumerism that destroys the planet and only makes the rich richer is not freedom. But the Democrats are right there in defense of American capitalism, too.
I have come to the conclusion that American political party affiliation is all just window dressing. So whether the Republicans want to play the arrogant, know-it-all, abusive dad under the cloak of conservatism or the Democrats want dress up as the whining, let-me-take-care-of-you, incompetent mom in her liberal house coat, we aren't playing. We aren't your children, your wards or your subjects.
As more and more Americans and Canadians see the mess of things their government officials have made and continue to make, the colonial powers may be in for trouble with their own people. The "Great Experiment" in democracy is failing as is the free market and the global economy. While many patriotic Canadians and Americans talk about resisting government abuse, we have been doing it for 500 years. Politicians come and go, as do empires and wealth. We have lived here for tens of thousands of years. You should never start a fight you can't finish.
– John Karhiio Kane, Mohawk, a national expert commentator on Native American issues, hosts two weekly radio programs — “Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane,” ESPN Sports Radio WWKB-AM 1520 in Buffalo, N.Y., Sundays,9-11 p.m. EST and “First Voices Indigenous Radio,” WBAI-FM 99.5 in New York City, Thursdays, 9-10 a.m. EST. John is a frequent guest on WGRZ-TV’s (NBC/Buffalo) “2 Sides” and “The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter” in Albany. John’s “Native Pride” blog can be found at He also has a very active "Let's Talk Native...with John Kane" group page on Facebook.

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