A Beginning

As the broad democratic movement painfully absorbs this major defeat, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Hillary won the popular vote (nearly 60 million), nor the challenge of connecting with these same voters in the weeks and months ahead. Sober and big circle thinking with people of diverse views – not panic, not finger pointing, not despair, not score settling, not turning inward – should be the centerpiece of what we say and do now. There are dangers to be sure – big ones in fact – but there are institutional obstacles, historical traditions, and a potentially broad scale multi-class, multi-racial, people’s coalition in early formation that when taken together could offer substantial resistance to any sweeping swing to the right and authoritarian rule attempted by the Trump administration and his Republican allies.

Moreover, Trump’s mass constituency and coalition is beset with its own contradictions and incoherencies that may not surface and unravel immediately – and that’s a problem – but as things and time go forward.

This may all sound pollyannish to you, but at moments like this when it seems like night has completely overtaken day, it’s one beginning.

Can’t sit on my hands

The home stretch is here. So what does someone do who is in the last innings of their life, but cares about the kind of world they pass on to those who are in the first innings of theirs? The answer seems simple enough to me – canvass and phone bank for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats down the ticket every day over the next four days. And I would say the same thing even if I had the same concerns about Hillary that some others of my generation do.

For me the alternative – a Trump presidency – is so dangerous, so unpredictable, and so threatening to a livable future for younger generations here and elsewhere that I can’t sit on my hands and do nothing.

Nearly a half century ago I shared a vision with many others of my age. At its core was the transformation of our country and society into – to borrow a phrase from the incomparable Martin Luther King – “A Beloved Community.” We were obviously not successful. That I can live with, including all the mistakes we made along the way.

But what I can’t live with is fiddling over the next four days while the country, depending on the election’s outcome, could burn if Trump wins. What I can’t live with is doing nothing when someone who is so outside the norms of democratic governance could become the next president. And what I can’t live with is the thought that my inaction, if multiplied many times over by others, who just couldn’t find time in their busy lives or who are immobilized by the lack of a perfect candidate to get out the vote, might be the reason that younger generations – not least my two granddaughters, ages 4 and 6 – grow up with a thug in the White House who debases them and everything else that is sacred and beautiful in the world.

Time to go canvassing. Hope you’re doing the same.

The Erasure of Hillary Clinton – not smart or radical

I just read an article on a left website in which the author speaks of the overarching importance of defeating Trump and the rest of the right wing Republican candidates at the ballot box next week. But what is largely missing – one reference – is any mention of electing Hillary Clinton, not to mention any positive reason for doing so. At a moment when Trump and the right – with a big assist from the FBI – are viciously, relentlessly, and demagogically attacking her for the purpose of discouraging her supporters, confusing undecideds, and putting Hillary “in her place” and “behind bars,” to erase or damn her with no, or barely faint praise, as more than a few on the left do, is self-defeating, incredibly amateurish, and tone deaf to sexism. It raises a lot of questions, but a discussion of them should wait until after the elections.
At the core of this election struggle is the preservation of human and democratic values and rights. And the only way to preserve them – as well as extend them – is to elect Hillary Clinton the next and first woman president of the United States. And we should do that without apology, as we canvass, phone back, and talk to voters this week.

An appreciation of Tom Hayden from afar

I didn’t know Tom Hayden, but I admired him from afar. He leaves a rich legacy of activism, leadership, and critical and complex thinking to people everywhere who desire to make the world anew. If he did nothing else, the Port Huron statement, of which he was the principal author, is a landmark historical document that will inspire generations to come who hope to create a democratic, egalitarian, and humane world. In its time, it constituted a challenge to bureaucratic, undemocratic, and productivist societies on both sides of a divided world and the thinking and practices that sustained them.

I like to think I appreciated Hayden’s non-dogmatic, non-sectarian political worldview and practice early on, but maybe I’m airbrushing my own political past and ideological commitments. At any rate, his appreciation of the socially transforming role of energized majorities, people of color, and the labor movement framed his approach to politics. His sustained opposition to racism and other forms of oppression and inequality was a constant.  His readiness to employ flexible tactics, engage the two party system, and challenge the conventional wisdom of the left stood stood him apart from many on the left. And, perhaps above all, his unflagging commitment to a peaceful, non-violent world was existential to his political being. More than most of us, Hayden was a reflective political thinker and actor, not reflexively bound to politically prescribed, rigid, and timelessly embedded modes of thinking and acting.

I couldn’t help but notice the portrait of MLK on the wall in the picture of Hayden below that appeared in the New York Times obituary. I don’t know why it was there, but I have to think that in King (and his legacy), Hayden found an exemplar of what a people’s movement with socially transformative aims should aspire to. It’s seems awfully unfair that he won’t experience the joy of what seems more and more likely – the election of Hillary Clinton – the first woman president in our nation’s history – and the drubbing of the extreme right’s apostle of hate, division, and authoritarian rule. If there is any consolation, it is that the rest of us can in his memory.



It’s climate change, everyone!

Climate Change got little attention is this election. Here is a longish article by someone who chronicles that change better than most.


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