Hanging chads and the inspirational Meryl Streep

1. The elaboration of an appropriate strategy and tactics isn’t about one’s political desires and hopes. It informed by a vision, but grounded as well in material realities of the moment. To slow down and then defeat what is coming down the track will take a super-sized coalition of disparate people, organizations, and political formations. Thinking big, not smsll and reflexively, strikes me as the thing to do in present circumstances.

2. I’m no expert on cyber warfare or the inner workings and conflicts in the country’s security apparatus, but in regard to the charge of Russian interference in our elections, I have two observations. One is that the dismissive attitude of some on the left strikes me as predictable, reflexive, and premature. The other is that it’s a problem when our talking points are not that different than Trump’s.

3. We will soon see many retrospectives on the Obama Presidency. A problem I anticipate is that too many will take place in a vacuum. That is, all the contending forces and circumstances won’t frame and inform them. And I have in mind here not only the scorched earth and racist outlook and policies of the right wing, but also the political and organizational weaknesses of the broader democratic coalition and the left.

4. And far more importantly than anything I say above: Watch and listen to the inspirational Meryl Streep.



No better way to begin a difficult journey

Trump will soon be in the White House, Republicans as of last week control Congress, and the Supreme Court by the spring will be back in possession of right wing extremists. A similar situation is found in a majority of states. And the power and reach of the right doesn’t end here.

Our side, on the other hand, has a well spring of political, cultural, media, and people resources and experience as well as the majority of voters who cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton in the election (and many more who didn’t vote at all) to prosecute our struggles. But our political and organizational capacities don’t match our adversaries at this moment.

We have our hands on some levers of power that we should utilize (witness the actions of Governor Cuomo of New York and Governor Brown of California in recent weeks), but far, far fewer than the other side. This can and will change. And hopefully sooner than any of us think, as each of us in our own way contributes to assembling a broad and diverse small “d” democratic coalition that includes the Democratic Party exercising a major influence in any realistic casting of this far fling and loose coalition.

The main terrain of struggle will pivot around the defense of democracy and democratic rights. And, where possible their expansion.

It is against this, but not only this, background that the women’s march in DC and cities around the country takes on such importance in less than two weeks. I can’t think of a better way to begin a difficult journey.


Every season has a purpose

Just read an article in the Nation – part of the special issue on President Obama – authored by the historian Greg Grandin. He ends his article with the famous observation of Rosa Luxemburg, “Socialism or Barbarism.” And then he adds, maybe on second thought, “or Social Democracy.” On one one level of analysis, this has undeniable merit and urgency, although I do think that socialism, if it is going to resonate with tens of millions, has to be accompanied by qualifying adjectives such as democratic, participatory, peoples, etc.

But I’m getting distracted here. My main point is that Grandin’s invocation of Luxemburg fails miserably as a strategic guide at this moment when in a few short weeks Trump and his right wing party will control the main levers of federal power and much more. In these circumstances, the strategic-political imperatives are twofold. One is a many sided, many leveled defense, and where possible an expansion, of broadly defined democracy and democratic rights. The other is the assembling of a broad, diverse, multi-class, multi-racial people’s coalition that possesses the moral authority, reach, and power to successfully prosecute such struggles. Socialism should be part of the conversation, but it isn’t an immediate strategic task or realistic possibility, given the balance of class and social forces at this moment. Every season has a purpose.

Defensive struggles and expansive concepts of unity

Once in office Trump will have his hands’ full negotiating the tension between his populist image and his anti-populist policies. And it will only get worse over time. Of course, the democratic, multi-class, people’s coalition that opposes his policies will have its hands’ full too. For the foreseeable future, it will be on the defensive by and large. In other words, our side won’t be setting the agenda for the most part at the national level; at the state and city level a different situation obtains in many cases. We will be reacting to what will likely be a broad scale, deeply reactionary, and anti-democratic political-legislative offensive in the early months of Trump’s presidency. Only expansive concepts of struggle and unity that have an eye to activating the nearly 70 million Clinton voters first of all will have any success in this unprecedented situation.

None of this suggests in the least that we should mothball an alternative vision for our country as we engage on the immediate terrain of struggle. It is needed now more than ever.

Happy New Year

Hope, in the words of Tom Waite, “everything is alright with you and your dreams come true,” as we say goodbye this evening to the old year and look ahead, albeit with a mix of trepidation and resolve, to the new one.

Happy New Year!

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