Approaching an existential moment

It feels like we are approaching an existential moment where the clash of two diametrically different political blocs, representing the grievances and hopes of tens of millions, will decide the fate of the country for years to come. On one side of this divide is a white nationalist, plutocratic authoritarian political juggernaut, perhaps not fascist, as we have come to think of it, but clearly sharing some of its features. And if allowed to regain its momentum and consolidate its power in the next year’s election and then again two years later, it will act as a ruthless vanguard ushering in an era of political and social retrogression, the likes of which we haven’t seen, let alone experienced on a national level.

On the other side is a political bloc of a diametrically different type, which, if it were able to appreciably increase its majorities in these same elections and win again the presidency, could accelerate the building of a society – not socialist – but notably different from the capitalist neoliberal regime that framed and shaped politics, economics, and culture for roughly 4 decades. More to the point, it could expand and deepen democracy, equality, and economic opportunity, celebrate decency and difference, and give sustained and accelerate momentum toward planetary sustainability and peaceful cooperation.

The stakes are high – indeed only the lead up to the Civil War and the War itself – offer a close approximation – and at the ballot box much will be decided.

Christian Nationalism

The aim of the theocratic/Christian nationalist movement – and it is more a movement than a loose coalition – isn’t always fully appreciated. It isn’t only about addressing one or another issue, such as criminalizing abortion. In fact, its overarching aim is to seize political power and ruthlessly impose a theocratic, anti-democratic, racialized, hierarchical authoritarian state on a resistant majority.

If you don’t believe me, read Katherine Stewart’s, “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.” It’s a magnificent book that is both revealing and chilling, well worth the time reading (and it’s a fast read to boot).

No soft landing

No one should feel comfortable or complacent for this is a moment when the balance of power could easily move in an unfavorable direction, landing us in the morass of white nationalist, plutocratic authoritarian rule, maybe not fascism as we have come to think of it, but clearly sharing some of its features. It would only take Democrats coming up short next year in the elections and then again two years later to throw the country on such a trajectory. Whether we escape the latter and ascend to higher ground will rest in large measure on the success of the Biden administration in practically addressing the main crises – covid, climate, racial inequality, and economic fairness – facing the country.

But with a razor-thread advantage in both legislative chambers, a handful of vacillating Democrats in the House and Senate, and a Republican Party and much wider right wing extremist authoritarian bloc determined to crush Biden and his legislative agenda, it won’t be easy. Much will depend on the readiness of the diverse coalition that elected Biden to shift into a higher gear and engage – beginning now – in these immediate legislative battles.

Neither Biden nor the Democratic Party can go back to voters next year and expect to win their votes unless tens of millions of people can say that Biden and Congressional Democrats made a material difference in their lives. It won’t be promises for the future that will convince people across the country to vote Democratic, but practical political and legislative results in the present moment that will.

Pelosi on Supreme decision

(House Speaker Pelosi, announced last week that the House of Representatives will vote later this month on a bill that would protect the right to abortion across the country. Below is her statement on the Supreme Court’s decision.)

The Supreme Court’s cowardly, dark-of-night decision to uphold a flagrantly unconstitutional assault on women’s rights and health is staggering. That this radically partisan Court chose to do so without a full briefing, oral arguments or providing a full, signed opinion is shameful.

SB8 delivers catastrophe to women in Texas, particularly women of color and women from low-income communities. Every woman, everywhere has the constitutional right to basic health care. SB8 is the most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century, and its purpose is to destroy Roe v. Wade, and even refuses to make exceptions for cases of rape and incest. This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade.

Upon our return, the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America.

SB8 unleashes one of the most disturbing, unprecedented and far-reaching assaults on health care providers – and on anyone who helps a woman, in any way, access an abortion – by creating a vigilante bounty system that will have a chilling effect on the provision of any reproductive health care services. This provision is a cynical, backdoor attempt by partisan lawmakers to evade the Constitution and the law to destroy not only a woman’s right to health care but potentially any right or protection that partisan lawmakers target.

When the Supreme Court takes up its reproductive rights case this year, we urge it to uphold, as Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, ‘its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.’

Street Heat

The diverse coalition that was instrumental in electing Biden would serve its own interests to actively support the many positive measures – legislative and otherwise – of his administration. So far this coalition, with a few exceptions, has done too little to acquaint and even less to activate tens of millions in support of these measures.  Hopefully, this will change this fall as Biden, Pelosi, and Congressional Democrats attempt to strike a legislative blow against 30 years of neoliberalism and secure legislation – a new New Deal – that will make a difference in the lives of tens of millions.

While I can’t explain why the main organizations and leaders stretching from the center to the progressive to the left haven’t activated their constituencies, standing still shouldn’t any longer be an option. Too much is at stake – jobs, health and child care, climate mitigation, infrastructure renewal, voting rights, and the likely winners and losers in next year’s midterm elections.

On the left, we love to talk about “street heat,” sometimes to the exclusion of other forms of struggle. But at this moment, “street heat” in support of the many progressive and novel features in the $3.5 trillion budget moving through the Congressional reconciliation process is exactly what is missing and urgently needed.

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