1. What should the left — the social justice movement — be doing these days? The answer seems simple enough to me anyway: volunteering for House and Senate campaigns across the country. In so doing, we can talk to lots of people on their doorsteps, meet many like minded activists (especially women of all ages) who are energizing these campaigns, bring our insights, albeit in abbreviated form, into the mix, and, above all, get out the vote.
Is there anything else that can take some of the wind out of the utterly reactionary nationalist, misogynist, nativist. racist, and authoritarian sails of Trump and the Republican Party more than a good drubbing at the ballot box in less than three weeks? I don’t think so. To wit: If you aren’t practically involved, that can easily be changed.
2. The furor around the gruesome and state sponsored murder of a Saudi journalist who was living here and employed by Washington Post isn’t a story with a short shelf life.
Trump’s attempt to give the Crown Prince a free pass on the grounds of plausible deniability is already encountering strong headwinds, including from some of the same Republicans who fell in behind his nomination of Kavanaugh to the court. Much could be said about Trump’s motivation — family financial connections, Iran and geopolitics, embrace of autocrats, arms sales — and the many ramifications of this brutal murder, but for the moment I would mention only two things.
First, Trump’s defense of the extra judicial killing of a respected journalist and mild critic of the Crown Prince sends a signal to other autocrats that they can do the same without fearing any negative reaction from the Trump administration.
Second, Trump’s collapsing defense of the Crown prince is causing problems for Republican Party candidates in the final weeks of the campaign. They no longer control their campaign message and whatever momentum they had achieved in recent weeks could well dissipate as this story gains public attention. If this were not enough to make Republican candidates lose sleep at night, Trump’s misogynist comment earlier this week about Stormy Daniels, coming only two weeks ago when he mocked Christine Blasey Ford at a public rally and reports of an exploding federal deficit can only add to their problems.
3. If my experience is representative, it is newly energized activists, women in particular, and not so much the traditional left, that are on the ground floor and doing the heaviest lifting in Congressional campaigns across the country.
4. Just read an article that says “fascism is knocking at the door.” Do we live in a dangerous moment? For sure. Authoritarian politics menace our country, and things could get worse before they get better. And yet he space for democratic action is still considerable. In fact, in less than a month millions can go to the polls and deliver a major blow to Trump and authoritarian rule.
Moreover, in the next three weeks we can scour without hindrance neighborhoods to make the case for such an election outcome. And if we aren’t successful, well, the post election terrain will, no doubt. be more dangerous. But fascist, I don’t think so.
This may seem like an exercise in splitting hairs, but it isn’t. How one assesses a political moment has a considerable impact on what we do and how we do it. To say that fascism has arrived or nearly so, as some argue, can result in a politics of retreat, of ceding democratic space to the Trunpists when there is no need, of turning popular resistance into the exclusive property of the most militant.
5. Bravo to Taylor Swift. She demonstrated real courage in opposing the Republican woman running for the Senate in Tennessee.
6. In canvassing and other casual conversations, I have come to realize that many people don’t necessarily attach the same political importance to the coming elections as I do. In other words, not every voter sees them as an opportunity to erect a badly needed firewall against Trump and the growing danger of authoritarian rule. Their concerns are more immediate and a wise campaign strategy can’t ignore them. To their credit, Democrats aren’t.
7. An oped by Jefferson Cowie makes a persuasive case for a progressive-left nationalism. It is far more thoughtful than a similar column by John Judis that appeared in earlier this week in the NYT. Cowie is right in my opinion when he writes that the left can’t ignore the struggle over the nuts and bolts of national vision, feeling, and tradition. The right won’t. In fact, over the past half century, it has seized that terrain of national debate and infused it with a reactionary content. And, of course, it’s a fundamental cornerstone of Trump’s politics and demagogy.
As Cowie mentions, neither King nor Obama ceded this turf to their right wing opponents. Frederick Douglass didn’t either. The contemporary left should follow their example.
One issue I have with his column is his favorable reference to Richard Rorty, Years ago, Cowie tells us, Rorty wrote that he feared that indulging in cultural politics rather than emphasizing the material interests of American working people and articulating a national vision would lead to catastrophe.
This advice is wrongheaded, and to the degree that Cowie embraces it, it takes away from the kernel of truth in his oped. Any progressive national vision that ignores “cultural issues” will have neither a leg to stand on nor any hope of inspiring e movement of a diverse and democratic minded majority, capable of moving from the politics of protest to the politics of full blooded democracy, equality, national renewal, and power.