Seize the time

Between now and the convening of the next Congress in January, the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats should use this time to pass critical legislation that won’t have a “snowballs chance of passing” next year. If they chose such a course of action, all of us should find a way to demonstrably express our wholehearted support.

Never lacking in courage

Bravo to Nancy Pelosi – champion of democracy, architect of people’s unity, and warrior against Trump and the MAGA crowd.

She was never lacking in courage. Still fresh in my memory is Nancy standing and lecturing Trump in the Oval office and her steely determination to finish the business of Congress on January 6, even though the Capital Building was under fascist like assault.

I have always been on the left, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t prevent me from admiring her tenacity and leadership during these difficult times.

(From her speech yesterday in the House announcing her decision to step down as leader of the Democratic Caucus.)

“Indeed, American Democracy is majestic – but it is fragile.

Many of us here have witnessed its fragility firsthand – tragically, in this Chamber.

And so, Democracy must be forever defended from forces that wish it harm.

Last week, the American people spoke.  And their voices were raised in defense of liberty, of the rule of law and of Democracy itself.

With these elections, the people stood in the breach and repelled the assault on Democracy.  They resoundingly rejected violence and insurrection.  And in doing so, ‘gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.’”

A few election takeaways

1. It is hard to exaggerate how significant the outcome of Tuesday’s election was. Among other things, the red wave turned into a red fizzle. Trump, though he wasn’t on the ballot, was the biggest loser. Right behind him were the election deniers. Democrats, while likely to narrowly lose the House, retained control of the Senate and registered gains at the state level, including in three critical states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona. Unfortunately, not Georgia where Stacy Abrams lost.

Moreover, state referendums in four states protected the right to abortion. To this, we should add the popular mood shifted for the better, lifting people’s spirits and confidence that we can prevail over the MAGA movement.

2. The anti-MAGA, anti-Trump coalition – organized and spontaneous – reassembled, mobilized, and carried Democratic candidates over the top in race after race. How to extend and deepen this coaliton going forward is the overarching strategic challenge for left and progressive people in and around the Democratic Party. It isn’t to stiffen spines, gain hegemony, or strengthen the left pole.

3. The election results in Michigan were a thunderbolt, lighting up the sky for democracy, abortion rights, good governance, and decency, while emphatically striking down the MAGA movement. The outcome demonstrates that the decisive defeat of the Republican Party and MAGA movement on a national level, notwithstanding the political polarization and calcification of today’s electorate, is doable. Such a shift – and it can’t come to soon – is the only ground on which the structural problems and existential challenges that bedevil our country can be fully addressed.

If anything took a bit of the glow off Michigan’s triumph, it was the fact that Detroit will be without an African American representative for the first time since 1954.

4. Young people under 30 and African American voters can claim major creds for the election results. Motivated by climate change, student debt, gun violence, solidarity with transgender people, and, not least, anti racism, they turned out and voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. If this isn’t reason enough to plow resources into the hands of young political activists and rheir organizations, I don’t know what is.

5. The legislative achievements of the Biden administration proved to be a factor that gave Democrats a leg up campaigning. Nothing is quite so persuasive to voters as making a tangible difference in their lives. While President Biden may not poll well, the same can’t be said, it appears, about his legislative achievements. One has to wonder what might have been the outcome of the elections had the anti-MAGA coalition been less a spectator and more an active protagonist for the Build Back Better bill early on in its full throated form.

6. It is notable that the elections seemed for all practical purposes “normal,” nothing like 2020. They came and went without too much drama and little uproar. Candidates on both sides, save perhaps Kari Lake (how sweet was her defeat), accepted the verdict of voters. I don’t know if we as a country have turned the corner in this regard, but it was a welcome relief for much of the electorate.

7. Dobbs sure was an election issue. To paraphrase the Dead (and Buddy Holly), it refused to, thanks to millions of women, young and old, “Not Fade Away.” Indeed, it provoked the anger of Independent as well as Democratic women who ended up supporting Democrats once again.

8. Was anybody a bigger LOSER Tuesday night than Trump? He wasn’t on the ballot, but his annointed candidates were and most of them lost. Even some of his most loyal supporters and sycophants agree that he took a beating election night. Not good news for Donald. Check out the headline of none other than Murdoch’s New York Post, a right wing tabloid the day after the election.

9. If Democrats overperformed, save New York Democrats, guess who underperformed? What saved the GOP from a much bigger wipeout was gerrymandering. Had congressional districts been somewhat fairly drawn at the state level, the Democrats would have registered far better results.

10. What we are seeing – and the election results bear it out – is a reenergized and progressive trending Democratic Party at the grassroots and leadership levels as well as affiliated organizations. It’s uneven as these sort of things are and, obviously, requires further extension and consolidation, politically and organizationally. But it strikes me as undeniable. This development should be welcomed by the many strands of the anti-MAGA coalition, including the left.

11. The impressive victory of Florida governor Ron DeSantis presents a new threat to the progressive and democratic development of the country. At the same time, his win will put him in the crosshairs of the MAGA movement and Trump. We should expect to see a vicious intra party struggle between the two.

12. President Barack Obama, no surprise, turned out to be the best messager for Democrats and the larger democratic coalition. No one on the political stage is a better mass communicator. No one makes a better closing argument.

Recasting

We tend to see mass upsurges and rebellions from below as occurring outside the framework of elections. At the point of production, in the workplace, in the streets. But isn’t that too restrictive and limited?

I would make a case that what we saw on Election Day was a mass popular upsurge – organized and spontaneous – of remarkable breath and depth against the MAGA movement. The marching of tens of millions to cast their vote for democracy, democratic governance, and democratic rights was every bit as authentic as street and strike actions, took place on a scale that makes it unique, and possesses positive consequences in the near and longer term that few other actions can claim.

My point here isn’t to diminish the latter – street and strike actions -, but only to recast how we see the struggle in the electoral arena in our political imagination and practice.

Tortured

There was a time when I thought my radical – communist – politics required that I make a long “tortured” explanation for voting for Democratic candidates when the answer was simple and obvious. Thankfully those days are in my rear view mirror.

Share This