Political descendant of racist hangmen

What energizes Trump’s base? In Trump’s mind and by his words, the answer is clear. It’s racism. Whenever he’s in trouble, and he’s in big trouble now, racist tropes come out of his mouth, fast and furious, to rally his die hard supporters around him. Yesterday he did it again when he said he was the victim of a “lynching” by Congressional Democrats who are doing no more than exercising their constitutional duty as a check and balance on presidential misbehavior and lawlessness.

Here we have the appropriation of a word and act that has a particular meaning and long and shameful history and its redeployment in the service of — of all things — an out of control white supremacist president. This isn’t so much an irony of history as a butchering, emptying, and refashionig of history by a political descendant of racist hangmen and redeemers of the 19th and 20th centuries in the South and elsewhere. Impeach now, and if necessary, defeat next fall.

Nothing positive

I don’t find anything positive in Trump’s ostensible foreign policy of isolationism and America First. We need a new foreign policy for sure, but not one that disengages from the rest of the world. What Trump is doing now makes the world more, not less dangerous. His withdrawal of troops from Syria not only gave a green light to Turkish aggression against the Kurdish people, but also could easily give way tomorrow to some crazy U.S. military adventure.

The left yesterday and today

In thinking about today’s left, albeit broadly defined, it strikes me that it is different from its counterpart in the sixties in important ways. Here are a few that come to mind. First of all, most people in any expansive rendering of the left aren’t organizationally attached to one or another socialist organization. They aren’t footloose by any means, but their thinking and actions don’t stem from a single organizational source.

They also proceed less on the basis of an articulated and systematic worldview and more on the ground of their deeply felt opposition to injustice and inequality at the level of values, policy, and experience.

Moreover, the contemporary left, unlike a considerable section of the sixties’s left, is more willing to engage in electoral politics, including within the Democratic Party, and in presidential politics. Such participation isn’t considered, as it was in the sixties and after, a fool’s errand and the burial ground of its radicalism. Few people on the left, for example, are sitting out next year’s election or lending their energy to any chimerical and diversionary third party presidential candidates or only in the game if their favored candidate wins the nomination.

The 21st century left’s understanding of the shape shifting role of race, gender, and sexuality in politics, culture, and society is on a deeper level too, even if the transforming power of 2nd wave feminism still goes unappreciated.

Today’s left isn’t wedded to the notion of a single revolutionary subject either, as we were in the sixties. It’s agent of change rests more on a host of social constituencies, with no one constituency assigned the vanguard role before the battle is joined.

Finally, this broadly constructed left embraces a socialism that draws more from social democracy and a commitment to deep going democratization and equality than one or another model of 20th or 21st century socialism.

Broad democratic unity

The unity of the broad democratic movement opposing Trump in next year’s election should be the overarching task of progressive and left people. This isn’t some minor tactical matter for a few, but a strategic necessity that should be embraced by all who dream of a more just, equal, and livable world.

A broad and fluid belt

The political center isn’t constituted by a handful of Democratic Party politicians, nor is it frozen in time or in its views. Instead, It is a broad and fluid belt in the Democratic Party as well as a significant force in many mass organizations, including labor. And in recent years, its politics have shifted in a liberal/progressive direction in the face of persistent social problems, failed policies, new popular movements, and existential challenges.

Any notion that the center isn’t a major and necessary player in the effort to decisively defeat Trump and his Republican acolytes next year and move the country onto a progressive trajectory in the years ahead is wrongheaded and worse.

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