1. Trump, it appears, will declare a national emergency and order the building of a wall along the southwestern border. This is dangerous, undemocratic, and authoritarian on its face. It rests on pure invention. There is no border crisis. If there is a crisis, it is a crisis of a crumbling presidency, increasingly besieged on all sides. And herein lies the other danger of his declaration of emergency powers. It could easily become a precedent that Trump would unhesitatingly employ as other walls close in on him. It goes without saying that this declaration should be vigorously contested from every side — Congress, the streets, the courts, the media.
2. A sober minded radicalism and a reality grounded marxism would give Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues their rightful due for their role in the Trump engineered government shutdown. There were other players in this drama for sure, including government workers and working people generally. And they had a significant hand in bringing an end to this sorry episode, which should also be said. Still the role of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats was crucial every step of the way. To accord them no role or damn them with faint praise is analytically wrong and politically counterproductive. It feeds the notion that both parties are to blame for our present predicament, not to mention takes any complexity and novelty out of the process of social change in favor of a simplified “from the bottom up” scheme. In doing so, it fits facts to ideological predispositions. Never a good idea, and at this moment it stinks.
3. Of the candidates likely to run only a few fit into the New Democrat mold, if we judge them by their present political positions, which we largely should. A mature and engaged movement not only allows people to change without a lot of bellyaching, but also understands that changing circumstances change the minds of politicians and people generally. Lincoln, Roosevelt and Johnson are examples of this dialectic..
I doubt if any Democrat aspiring for the nomination will run as a Bill Clinton Democrat. Why would they? The party (and millions across the country), after all, are tacking in a progressive direction. Democracy, equality, economic fairness, humane immigration reform, planetary sustainability, and thumping Trump next year will frame the conversation of Democrats, not austerity, unregulated markets, and triangulation.
The New Democratic wing of the Democratic Party hasn’t entirely disappeared for sure. But its ideological and practical dominance of the party is over for now. It was badly weakened by its inability to adequately respond to powerful political, economic, and ideological currents and counter currents of the last decade — some of which it had a hand in creating — in the U.S. and globally.
4. One question that can’t be definitively answered at this point is: is the Republican Party by its stubborn support of Trump, if not sounding its immediate death knell, relegating itself to a minority status in the longer term? Sure, it can utilize undemocratic means to prevent such an outcome, as it has, but it will be more difficult if Democrats score big in next year’s election. Such an outcome would position tens of millions of engaged people, an array of social movements, and the Democratic Party to democratize the laws, rules, and some of the structures of the existing political system. This would make a GOP comeback a much steeper climb.
5. The criticism of Kamala Harris coming fast and furious in the wake of her announcement to run for president once again reminds me that, among other things, some on the left dislike nothing more than liberals. This is wrongheaded at any time, but it is sure not smart in this moment when Trump sits in the White House and a crucial election is around the corner.
The ascendancy of Trump has imposed strategic and tactical coherence on the left, but it remains partial, incomplete, and reversible. And I’m afraid that may become more evident as we get deeper into the Democratic presidential primary. Political maximalism, ideological purity, and the politics of “class” could weaken, if not dissolve, the imperative for unity against right wing authoritarianism.
6. I learned years ago that an answer to the question “what is to be done?” depends in large measure on the balance of power in and across society at any given moment. In other words, the prospects of change in a progressive or retrogressive direction turns on the distribution of power among competing class and social constituencies on the macro level of politics.
The balance of power, however, shouldn’t be understood statically. It changes over time and sometimes abruptly in one direction or another. Still ascertaining the balance of power at any given moment is crucial if we hope to figure out what is to be done — strategically, tactically, and politically.
Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution and unappreciated these days, said time and time again that a strictly sober, objective, and concrete appraisal of the balance of power among all the contending classes and groups in society should be the starting point of left politics. Strikes me as timely advice.
7. I have no problem acknowledging the importance of the shift of a section of white workers who voted for Trump two years ago to the Democratic Party column in the recent elections. But it shouldn’t obscure or in any way minimize the unprecedented political role of women in resisting and organizing the resistance to Trump and Trumpism — in cities as well as suburbs, in the working class and other democratic movements, in the Democratic Party, and in the many other coalitions that sprung up in reaction to Trump’s election. From Inauguration Day to the Blue Wave last November — a wave that badly weakened Trump who up to now had no or little institutional opposition to his policies and authoritarian power grabs — it was women in their diversity who were the engine and glue of this resistance.
And while we are at it, let’s set aside any notion this extraordinary intervention of women in politics doesn’t have a class dimension.