King, Oprah, and last week’s loose ends

1. Martin Luther KIng — moral and political visionary, radical democrat, brilliant strategist and tactician, and mover of millions. No one stood taller in the 20th century. He still has much to teach us — at this moment and at every turn along the road to full and indivisible freedom.

2. Oprah’s speech at the Globes was superb. In interjecting her powerful voice to this righteous cause, she captured the moment and inspired tens of millions of women, and men as well. I have to wonder if my grandchildren and great grandchildren will read or hear about this galvanizing moment in their high school history class. And, who knows, maybe, just maybe, it will be presented as Oprah’s unofficial entry into what became her successful presidential run.

3. From the sublime to the ugly: it’s no wonder that Trump’s comments, as repugnant and beyond the pale as they are, aren’t surprising. In fact, they are true to form. Trump is unhinged and out of control, no doubt about that. But we shouldn’t forget that there is also method to his madness. He is well aware that racism plays well with a considerable section of his base.

It is fair to note that sections of white people are moving in an anti-racist direction, but it is also imperative to acknowledge that a substantial number of white people, including white workers, viscerally embrace racist politics, symbols, and talking points.

4. James Fallows in the Atlantic writes,

“With the 49 Democratic and independent senators, these two would make 51 votes, which in turn would be enough to authorize real investigations. They could pass a formal resolution of censure. They could call for tax returns and financial disclosure. They could begin hearings, on the model of the nationally televised Watergate hearings of 45 years ago.”

Is this doable? I don’t know, but why not lean on some likely Republican Senators and give it a try?

5. Bannon, the alt right, neoliberal democrats, global elites, and economic instability and slowdown — each had a hand in the creation of Trump and Trumpism. But if you’re looking for the main architect — and principal enabler since his election — look no further than right wing extremism.

Any analysis — no matter how radical sounding — that blurs, or worse yet, makes invisible the power and powerful role of this political-ideological-organizational juggernaut is doing no favors to the coalition of people, organizations and institutions that are resisting Trump or to our understanding of the Trump phenomenon.

Its rise from the margins to a position of dominance in U.S. politics over four decades was facilitated by its near bottomless pit of financial resources, its penetration of the mass media, its construction of an infrastructure that trained cadre, manufactured talking points, and elaborated strategy, its co-optation of christian evangelicalism, and, not least, its systematic employment of racism to expand and congeal a popular (white) coalition.

To this though we have to add its takeover of the Republican Party. In doing so, it secured what was indispensable to its political project — an instrument to lay hold of the levers of state power and impose its policies.

Which brings me to the midterm elections this fall. We have a unique opportunity to deliver a body blow, if not a knockout punch, to Trump and this whole concentration of nasty anti-democratic power that makes common cause and conspires with him. Nothing is more important.

But will only happen if the entire coalition resisting Trump and Trumpism over the past year gives undivided attention to this terrain of struggle. It doesn’t mean pulling the plug on everything else, but it does mean that winning in November should find its way into every nook and cranny of social activism.

6. An authoritarian mentality, expressed by contempt for democratic and social norms and institutions, has taken hold not only of Trump, but also a section of (white) voters. While it has many features, racism lies at its core.

7. Not a word yet from many Republicans to Trump’s racist remarks. Some even deny he said it. But then again that’s not surprising. After all, most are committed ideologically and practically to a White Nation. In other words, there’s more to their silence than crass political opportunism.

8. Each of us should find ways to speak out against Trump’s racist comments. Most of us don’t have a big platform to speak from, but we do interact with people in the course of our everyday lives and should find ways to express our outrage to them.

What is more, next week we have at least two opportunities to join with others to protest Trump’s outrageous statements. On Monday MLK celebrations will take place across the country and on the weekend marches are planned in most major cities on the anniversary of the Women’s March a year ago.

9. The great Bill Walton, basketball Hall of Famer and college basketball commentator, was freely quoting Martin Luther King at this weekend’s game between Arizona and Oregon. His remarks not only anticipated the King Holiday today, but also were pointedly aimed at Trump and his supporters last week.

One of which was, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” You Go Big Man!

10. And if you have gotten this far and still want to read more, here’s something I wrote in October of 2016 that still retains some relevance.

Trump and the politics of hate

 

 

 

 

Oprah and the Globes

Some on the left damned Oprah with slight praise or no praise at after her magnificent speech at the Globes on Sunday night. A few even upbraided her for one thing or another unrelated to the speech. And, not least, an old picture of her with Harvey Weinstein made the rounds.

Such reactions are incredibly insensitive, to put it nicely, to a very famous and accomplished African American woman who had just captured before an audience of tens of millions this shape shifting moment better than anyone else has up to now  — not to mention reveal a tin (or should I say callous) ear to the desires of women to work and live in workplace and country in which they aren’t the objects of sexual harassment and violence.

After reading these critiques, I asked myself — is it any wonder that the left has been on the margins of U.S. politics for more than a half century, notwithstanding a few upticks over the decades? Millions of women loved Oprah’s speech. And I hope millions of men did too. We can do better.

Some loose ends for a new year

1. Some on the left damned Oprah with slight praise or no praise at after her magnificent speech at the Globes on Sunday night. A few even upbraided her for one thing or another unrelated to the speech. And, not least, an old picture of her with Harvey Weinstein made the rounds.

Such reactions are incredibly insensitive, to put it nicely, to a very famous and accomplished African American woman who had just captured before an audience of tens of millions this shape shifting moment better than anyone else has up to now  — not to mention reveal a tin (or should I say callous) ear to the desires of women to work and live in workplace and country in which they aren’t the objects of sexual harassment and violence.

After reading these screeds, I asked myself — is it any wonder that the left has been on the margins of U.S. politics for more than a half century, notwithstanding a few upticks over the decades? Millions of women loved Oprah’s speech. And I hope millions of men did too. We can do better.

2. While at the YMCA last week, I watched Ari Fleischer express puzzlement at Trump’s low standing in public opinion polls. After all, he said, employment is up, wages are growing(?), and the stock market is hitting record levels. Hence, there is no good reason, he continued, for Trump’s unpopularity other than fake news.

But what this reactionary old Bush hand fails to understand is that for the majority of Americans, democracy and democratic norms matter. So do decency, civility, and presidential fitness. So do peace, diplomacy, and nuclear restraint. So do relations of equality and respect for people of color, women, and immigrants. So does a habitable planet. And on these matters and more, most Americans on one level or another realize that Trump is a existential disaster — a reckless, narcissistic, authoritarian wrecking ball.

It’s no mystery, therefore, to any objective observer (which the well-paid FOX crony Fleischer isn’t), why Trump is so disliked and detested by tens of millions.

3. Earlier this week, I wrote on Facebook that Trump is in a big pickle, which he is. But I should have added that the danger of authoritarianism orchestrated by Trump increases at the same time. His daily assault on democratic norms, the independent press, immigrants, and much else shows no sign of abating. So another danger is that this assault is such a part of our daily political diet that it can easily become normalized, and won’t trigger the same degree of public outrage as it did earlier.

4. Unlike some, I include in the “Resistance” the Democratic Party, much of the major media, most mainstream social organizations, some judges and courts, and sections of big business. A narrow framing of the opposition to Trump doesn’t serve any good purpose. In fact, it can encourage a sectarian politics on the left at a moment when such politics should have no place. This is especially the case as regards the mid-term elections, which offer the only opportunity to strike a strategic blow against Trump and the rightwing Republican-controlled Congress.

5. Some on the left say: 1. Many progressive minded people, including many Democrats, think that Russian election meddling is the only reason Hilary lost in 2016, and 2. That those same people believe that simply repeating Hillary’s campaign strategy of two years ago will bring us victoriously across the finish line this November of this year. To appropriate the slang of football commentators when a player does or says something on the field that is sketchy, “C’mon Man!”

6. Leakers and whistle blowers as well as an independent media perform a crucial public service and should be defended by all of us — especially now when authoritarianism dangers are unmistakable and growing.

7. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman offers a powerful analysis of the political dynamics within the Republican Party in his latest oped. He argues, among other things, that in betting the house on Trump, the Republican Party are imperiling the country as well as run the risk of setting itself up for a historic defeat at the polls this fall from which it will be hard to recover.

8. On a different note, this being the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it is no surprise that much has been said and written about that world-shaking event. It left behind a wealth of experience from which socialist activists and organizations can learn, but only if they absorb it critically and reflectively.

But from my reading, this spirit seems too often absent. The accent instead is on celebrating the revolutionary creativity, flexibility, and bravado of Lenin and the Bolsheviks and the mass upheaval that ushered in the first socialist revolution. It is undeniable that that is one piece of the experience that deserves serious study. But there were also negative features on many levels that can’t be ignored nor decoupled from what was to follow in the following decades. I know from my own experience nothing good will come from a one sided, undialectical approach. In the communist movement, where I hung my hat for a long time, Lenin was an icon and the Russian Revolution the apogee of revolutionary practice. Indeed, we took this tendency to an extreme and paid a severe price for it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that has changed much.

Merry Merry … and pass the whiskey

Happy Holidays!

Joni and the joy of Christmas?

A beautiful song by the great singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. It captures her feeling of being out of joint with the prevailing holiday mood. In doing so, I’m sure, she gives voice to the sentiments of many others who hear from all sides that they should be joyful and merry at this time of year. But try as they might, they can’t quite conjure up those feelings, which only makes them feel like more of an outsider.

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