A frenzy and power grab

As the NYT article suggests, Trump and his GOP supporters are in a frenzy as the Mueller investigation unearths more information of serious wrongdoing. That they are comes as no surprise. Power, not democratic norms, institutions, and traditions, is what animates them. If that means running roughshod over democracy, as they are now doing, in order to protect the former they don’t have any hesitation.

Thia reckless power grab makes me ask myself: what to do other than express exasperation and outrage to the increasingly brazen and reckless assault on our democracy, truth, and decency? What to do in the face of this unprecedented shit storm that gathers steam and threatens to engulf the country? One obvious answer is volunteer for one or another task that requires doing in the lead up to the fall elections. But as necessary as that is, it also seems like that isn’t enough in these perilous times in which we find ourselves. Any suggestions?.

A book to read

Just finished reading, “Feminism Unfinished: A Short, Surprising History of the American Women’s Movement,” written by Linda Gordon, Dorothy Sue Cobble, and Astrid Henry. I strongly recommend it. It connects the long (not smooth) arc of struggles for gender equality over the past century, In doing so it give background and context for today’s struggles for equality, including the ME TOO movement. The history also gives the reader a deeper appreciation of the rise, surge, decline, and rise again of social movements generally.

Heated rhetoric and Gene Dennis

In the early 1970s, when I was young, a leader in the Communist Party warned me of the dangers of sectarian practices, wishful thinking, and overheated rhetoric when it comes to practical politics. Indeed, skipping stages, revolutionary sloganeering, conflating the outlook of millions with that of the left, disdain for center and social democratic forces, an allergy to compromise and mainstream electoral politics, cherry picking, even inventing, reality to fit one’s radical disposition and desires, and much more were defining features of sections of the left and to a lesser degree the party at the time, and that remains the case today.

Apropos, in an unappreciated, and largely ignored speech, Gene Dennis, the party’s top leader upon leaving prison in the late 1950s, argued that the main problems — based on his concrete look at the party’s activity over the preceding decade — in the party were “sectarianism and dogmatism.” He called for the formation of a mass party of socialism. Unfortunately, the leadership at that time, while rejecting William Z. Foster’s leftist politics and dogmatic theorizing, didn’t fully sign on to Gene’s analysis and advice. In retrospect, I believe that was a mistake of great consequence in untold ways.

Immigration and the elections

Looks like Trump and GOP may well attempt to make “illegal immigration and porous borders” the overarching issue framing the coming elections. They figure it plays well in those CDs where they have to protect GOP House incumbents, while at the same time making it difficult for a number of Democratic Senators to defend their seats in red states, such as Missouri.

I don’t take too seriously Trump’s mention of a path to citizenship for Dreamers yesterday. If anything, he’s perhaps thinking that some form of a path to citizenship for Dreamers could be the chip to entice Democrats into signing an immigration bill that would be draconian and catastrophic for immigrants and their families.

The shutdown and the fallout

1. “Cave In” would fit if Democrats had power to leverage to begin with. But that wasn’t the case. The other party controls government in toto at least until November. On the positive side, CHIP is now funded, the Democrats and the rest of us can fight another day, and a rift among Senate Republicans might give Democrats some room to maneuve

2. Not persuaded at all that an extended shutdown of the government would play out in the favor of the Dreamers, the Democrats, or the larger movement. In fact, a prolonged closure could easily dissipate public support for the Dreamers and our side generally. In effect, we could end up losing ground in the immediate battle as well as the larger war in November. Sometimes tactical retreats are necessary, and I believe that is the case here.

3. Leveraging a government shutdown to secure political demands, no matter how just and righteous they are, is difficult in any conditions, but that is especially so when optics — if not reality — suggest that Democrats initiated the closure and when the other side not only holds a tight grip on the main branches of government, but is determined to give the Democrats and democratic movement no legislative achievements to tout in the fall elections unless the weight of public opinion gives them no other alternative. And it may well be the case with regard to the Dreamers now that the legislative fight is disconnected from a shutdown government.

4. From the shutdown debate, it is clear that the strategy of Trump and the right wing extremists is to cast, with a cascade of lies, demagogy, and disinformation, the Democrats as the “party of porous borders and Illegal immigration.” In their cynical calculus, they believe that such fear mongering will play well in those states and congressional districts that they figure they must retain this fall when voters go to the polls.

Their tactic that rests on the murky, but time tested ground of racism and nativism should be resisted by Democrats and the rest of the resistance movement. But not by giving up even an inch in their defense of immigrants in general and Dreamers in particular; in fact, they should embrace with new vigor these civil rights issues of the 21st century.

At the same time, they shouldn’t allow themselves to boxed in by the Trump/Republican sound bite-tweet machine, as the elections draw close. Indeed, they should speak — and I’m sure they will — to the whole range of issues that are weighing heavily on the entire electorate, while articulating an overarching narrative or story of a country that is generous of spirit, welcoming, inclusive, and rises when all rise, beginning with people who dally encounter discrimination, oppression, and violence.

5. And not least, nearly 100 years ago, someone named Lenin wrote:”In Russia, however, lengthy, painful and sanguinary experience has taught us the truth that revolutionary tactics cannot be built on a revolutionary mood alone. Tactics must be based on a sober and strictly objective appraisal of all the class forces in a particular state (and of the states that surround it, and of all states the world over) as well as of the experience of revolutionary movements. It is very easy to show one’s “revolutionary” temper merely by hurling abuse at parliamentary opportunism, or merely by repudiating participation in parliaments; its very ease, however, cannot turn this into a solution of a difficult, a very difficult, problem.”

Not sure we have fully metabolized his advice.

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