Counterproductive and sterile

When millions recognize that the existential challenge of this moment is to defend democracy, the debate over whether Trump represents a right wing, white nationalist authoritarian danger or a fascist danger can easily turn counterproductive and sterile. The accent, it seems to me, should be on doing everything we can — big and small — to defeat Trump and his motley coalition in next year’s elections.

Symbolic representation

I don’t think that many of Trump’s supporters care if he tells the truth or not. Their support for him turns on what he represents symbolically, not on what he says. Neither though is pretty,

Re-reading the Communist Manifesto

I was re-reading the Communist Manifesto and I couldn’t help but think that in its visionary sweep it swept away too much in its path that might impede nascent capitalism’s march and socialism’s inevitability. Too much melts into air, the complexities of economic, social, and political life are sidelined, and the working class supposedly by the force of its inner logic of development scales the political heights of capitalism in short order and then digs capitalism’s grave. This deterministic vision, not surprisingly, found its way into the communist the 20th century. It didn’t take up all the space, but its presence was (and still is) undeniable.

Too much pessimism

I understand that much can happen between now and next November, especially with Trump in the White House. But I think there is good reason to be confident about the elections next year. And yet I come across a lot of pessimism, which I don’t believe is well grounded. I often hear as an argument that we didn’t think Trump would win in 2016. That’s true, but much has changed in a few years and his victory back then was underwhelming to say the least and contingent on some factors that aren’t easily repeatable.

Questionable claims and characterizations

I welcome the author’s insistence that the left become a full participant in the larger effort to defeat Trump, even in the event that Bernie loses the presidential primary. That wasn’t the case in 2016. And there is much else to welcome in the analysis. But for now, I want to mention a few things that bother me.

Its tone, to begin with, is self righteousness and not worthy of a mature left. Some modesty and generosity of spirit would be appropriate.

It also includes some questionable claims, such as: “While some are stumping for Warren – the only other candidate in the race who regularly articulates a conflict with the ultra-rich – most of the left appears to be fighting for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic primary.” This claim, I would argue, turns on a very narrow definition of the left. I don’t have any data at hand to back this up, but, I suspect, that once the left is defined more broadly, a different picture would emerge with a large swath, maybe a majority, of the left supporting Warren.

The author in his analysis introduces an interesting category into political discourse: nausea. It is what the “left, ” he writes, will feel if someone other than Bernie, and perhaps Elizabeth Warren, win the nomination. I would hope this isn’t the case, that the left has more political depth and maturity than this because nausea is seldom a good motivator for people either in politics or any field of endeavor.

There are sweeping and gratuitous characterizations in the article as well, such as “(Hillary) Clinton was a neoliberal hack.” While such a characterization may titillate some on the left and remind some readers of the author’s revolutionary credentials in case they doubted them, it serves absolutely no purpose if the intent is to speak to a broader audience. And should’t that be what the left attempts to do?

Then there is this jewel: “And it goes without saying … that presidential elections are far from our only tool to fight against fascism and for a democratic economy and society. Movements, direct action, and strikes are in many ways the root of our power.” Even abstractly I don’t like this piece of political wisdom; it’s the Howard Zinn “bottom up” framing of the process of social change that squeezes out complexity, novelty, irony, and impurity from the historical and political process. But more to the point, and even though the writer makes up for it elsewhere, it misses an opportunity to make the case again that the upcoming presidential elections is the singular tool that millions — not just the left — must unhesitatingly grasp and energetically utilize to defeat Trump and his right wing cohort in Congress and elsewhere at the ballot box. No other form of struggle at this moment comes close to giving tens of millions the political leverage to upend Trump and right wing, white supremacist authoritarian rule as do the elections next year.

One more thing: it is notable that the author is silent on the left’s role as a unifying force in the broad democratic, anti-Trump coalition or the Democratic Party. I suspect that isn’t an oversight, but is likely reflective of the author’s (and some others on left as well) truncated politics.

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