Center left unity

Biden can and should claim an election mandate. By the time every vote was counted close to 83 million people had voted for him in what turned into an impressive victory over Trump. While the Republicans will contest this claim, most House and Senate Democrats, not to mention most Biden voters, believe that Biden earned a mandate to govern. Much of the broader democratic coalition will be of like mind and disposed to support his agenda, which includes addressing the health and economic crises stemming from the coronavirus and support for popular measures such as a $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave, a public option for health insurance, criminal justice reform, and a massive investment in green infrastructure.

The left, if it is smart, won’t be dismissive of Biden’s mandate and act as if it won the election, and thus in the driver’s seat going forward. But my fear is that some will and as the election becomes yesterday’s news, its support of Biden-Harris and their agenda will turn into righteous opposition. In other words, if the accent in the run up to the election run-up was on cooperation and unity in these circles, the accent in its aftermath will be on conflict and intra-party struggle, thinking that the imperative of unity – and left center unity in particular – no longer holds. But there is little evidence at present or in the historical record in the 20th century to sustain such a view.

In the 1930s, the Communist Party pushed the needle to the left on one issue after another, but it also came to understand as the decade wore on that the enactment of meaningful reforms in the midst of a deep depression wasn’t the handiwork of the left alone. To the contrary, it was the result of the accumulated actions of political and social constituencies, organizations, and parties of varying political orientations. At the head of this coalition at that time wasn’t Earl Browder and the Communist Party, but FDR and New Deal Democrats.

The party, in short, came to learn (and this is to its credit) that only an expansive coalition of diverse forces, albeit with a special emphasis on the industrial working class, Black-white unity, and flexible tactics stood a chance of making the transformative changes that were necessary at the time. Did it always get it right? No. But it got more right than wrong strategically and tactically and as a consequence, the party emerged as a significant force in U.S. politics at the time.

Not since then has the left had such an outsized role in shaping the country’s direction. That could change in current circumstances, but only if the left is able to combine the dialectics of unity and struggle, only it lifts up the necessity of left center unity.

 

 

Dangerous, but not without perils

Not just Trump, but the Republican Party seems bent on embracing authoritarian, one party rule. This obviously constitutes an existential danger to our democracy and country. But it also isn’t without perils or dangers for the GOP. It’s making a big bet, which if it loses could (should) endanger its future.

Of course, if the GOP continues to pursue this course of action, don’t expect it to self implode. It will need a push from the broad, diverse, loose democratic coalition that assisted in Biden’s election. As I like to say, it extends from the Lincoln Project on one end to Angela Davis on the other.

Note to a friend

Note to a friend of mine: The struggle against what appears to be the GOP’s deep dive into white nationalist authoritarianism should include positive initiatives and actions to deepen and extend democracy and democratic rights, especially voting rights. It can’t be only resistance to their authoritarian turn. Such initiatives from our side can force this nasty, anti-democratic juggernaut into a defensive posture.

Any retreat into small circle thinking should be resisted. Perhaps you think that such a warning is unnecessary, given what occurred during the election and since election day. I hope you’re right, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.

Strength in diversity and unity

One lesson we can learn from our history is that expansive coalitions of diverse social constituencies and movements are the midwife of transformative changes of a democratic and progressive nature. Militant minorities, to use the term of some of my friends on the left, have a crucial place and function, but they can’t substitute for the movement and organization of the “immense majority,” to use a term from the Communist Manifesto. Indeed, militant minorities will grow and gain in stature and size to the degree that they assist in the expansion, congealing, and, above all, uniting of the “immense majority.”

The key link

When I first joined the Communist Party decades ago, I was told that the “key link” at that time to social progress, to moving the chain of struggle forward on a whole range of issues and struggles, was to end U.S. war making in Vietnam. Over the years I have found that term useful time and time again. In today’s circumstances, the key link in the political chain is to secure the results of the election against the sustained anti-democratic actions of Trump and his Republican supporters who in broad daylight are attempting to undo the will of tens of millions who cast their ballot for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Upon a successful resolution of that task (which I am confident will be favorably resolved) the Inauguration of Biden will happen as planned and momentum will gather to address interlocking crises generated by a out of control pandemic.

 

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