1. My Take — the shutdown could have been easily avoided had it not been for Trump and the extreme right of the Republican right in Congress and the White House.
Democrats were ready to make a compromise that would keep the federal government open, while at the same time protecting Dreamers, health care for children, and others living on the edge. Bernie Sanders made the point yesterday that DACA was essential, but Democrats were also committed to funding other essential programs — not later but now.
The challenge for the larger movement now is twofold. First, counter the Trump-right wing narrative that Schumer and the Democrats are responsible the shutdown. And, second, express support for Congressional Democrats as well as remind them once again that the defense of Dreamers and other people in vulnerable situations shouldn’t be bargained away.
Today’s actions in cities — large and small — across the country can only help in this effort. I will be there as will my whole family, including my young granddaughter. Her first big march.
2. Small (d) democratic movements which capture and energize millions can’t be rolled out smoothly, with no missteps, no wrong turns, no excesses, no tensions, no competing priorities or centers, etc. That’s not the nature of movements that possess a mass and (to no small degree) spontaneous character.
To think that it is possible to choreograph every step is a fool’s errand. The main thing, it seems to me, is twofold. First, resist the movement’s opponents who do everything to depreciate its just demands and divide its participants. And, second, lend energy and a unifying (and principled) spirit to these mass, popular, long overdue democratic surges.
3. Any compelling economic narrative on the part of Democrats and the rest of the resistance movement has to give special attention to raising living standards in general and among the lowest paid workers in particular. And the ways to do that are many, although it should be unequivocally said that such a narrative shouldn”t be counterposed to so called “identity” issues. The class struggle will quickly hit a dead end if it isn’t organically connected to the struggle for equality, democratic rights, and democracy in general.
4. Marxism understands class as a wide brimmed, variegated, inclusive, and fluid phenomenon. But it has become evident that sections of white workers don’t abide by this understanding. In voting for Trump the candidate and supporting Trump the president, they set aside, if they ever embraced, this understanding of class.
In its place, they substituted a notion of class that is sectional, racialized, gendered, nativist, exclusivist, and zero sum. Whiteness, masculinity, and americanness became the main markers for their social identity and political outlook.
This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. First, the default position of the U.S. working class historically hasn’t been that of a tightly knit and politically progressive social grouping. If anything, that has been as much the exception than the rule. Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Wallace’s presidential bid. Reagan’s election strategy, and the rise of the right over the past 40 years — each was able to draw a section of white workers into their camp. Seen from this angle, Trump’s support among white workers isn’t an aberration.
It also reminds us that full blown class understanding-consciouness doesn’t simply and inexorably issue from a worker’s position in a system of social production. It is, instead, historically and politically constituted in the the course of a protracted struggle.