The atrophy of political imagination shows up in approaches to strategy as well. In the absence of goals that require long-term organizing — e.g., single-payer health care, universally free public higher education and public transportation, federal guarantees of housing and income security — the election cycle has come to exhaust the time horizon of political action. Objectives that cannot be met within one or two election cycles seem fanciful, as do any that do not comport with the Democratic agenda. Even those who consider themselves to the Democrats’ left are infected with electoralitis. Each election now becomes a moment of life-or-death urgency that precludes dissent or even reflection. For liberals, there is only one option in an election year, and that is to elect, at whatever cost, whichever Democrat is running. This modus operandi has tethered what remains of the left to a Democratic Party that has long since renounced its commitment to any sort of redistributive vision and imposes a willed amnesia on political debate. True, the last Democrat was really unsatisfying, but this one is better; true, the last Republican didn’t bring destruction on the universe, but this one certainly will. And, of course, each of the “pivotal” Supreme Court justices is four years older than he or she was the last time.
Vote in Democratic primaries
Volunteer for Democratic races, including low-level ones like school boards
Vote for Democratic candidates, including low-level ones like school boards
Repeat for a couple decades
Gar Alperovitz likes to say: "You want to play this game? The chips are two to three decades of your life. This is what it’s about–don’t start if you’re not serious." I don't like that any more than anyone else. I'd like to just pursue my own happiness making my own little mud pies. But it's the truth.
that's why you take over a party from the bottom up.
You got to have fun while you're fightin' for freedom, 'cause you don't always win. . . . So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.
I took pains to subordinate what put me off about [liberals] to the larger objective of unity against the rightwing onslaught, I decided to overlook their capacity for high-minded fervor for the emptiest and sappiest platitudes; their tendencies to make a fetish of procedure over substance and to look for technical fixes to political problems; their ability to screen out the mounting carnage in the cities they inhabit as they seek pleasant venues for ingesting good coffee and scones; their propensity for aestheticizing other people's oppression and calling that activism; their reflex to wring their hands and look constipated in the face of conflict; and, most of all, their spinelessness and undependability in crises.
A transcript of the SWP's annual conference in January, leaked to the Socialist Unity blog, revealed that senior officials pleaded with hundreds of activists to trust in the committee's verdict and reminded lay members that the party had "no faith in the bourgeois court system to deliver justice".
It is one thing to have a respectful and sharp-eyed Marxist caution about identity politics. It is quite another to ossify a body of theory. Tactically it is bankrupt to leave members ill-equipped to engage with advances in radical social theory, particularly now. Theoretically it is arrogant and stultifying not to be open to the idea that we might not only debate with but learn from different theoretical traditions
The British Conservative Party – the twentieth century’s most electorally successful political party in the world – hasn’t won a parliamentary majority for more than twenty years.
The American Republican Party that won most of presidential elections in the cold war period hasn’t won more than 50% of the vote in five of the last six contests for the White House.
In looking to understand transatlantic conservatism’s political weakness it would be foolish to blame individual policies or personalities. Something deeper has gone wrong. Conservatism is suffering something of an identity crisis. It’s not just ordinary voters who can’t agree what conservatism is. Most people on the centre right of politics are deeply confused about what conservatism is.
I didn’t expect to agree with the bottom line, but having seen several smart people recommend the new Harper’s piece by the genuinely brilliant Adolph Reed Jr….I was expecting it to be better. ... I think what he says that’s true isn’t actually controversial and what is controversial isn’t true.
I find the idea that the Democratic Party has moved right since 1980 frankly bizarre. A party whose leadership consisted of O’Neill, Byrd and Carter is more progressive than Pelosi/Reid/Obama? On what planet? The former Democratic Party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for 4 years — where’s their progressive achievement comparable to the ACA or the repeal of DADT?
Reed asserts that short-term thinking has prevented the left from pursuing goals like single payer. My question — how many people on the American left, not just radicals but left-liberals, don’t support single-payer (or a similar European health care model?)
In addition to minimizing the large and increasing gaps between the Democratic and Republican parties — we’ve been through this enough — Reed says that “[m]ost telling, though, is the reinvention of the Clinton Administration as a halcyon time of progressive success.” He does not cite anyone who has believes this, I would assume because for all intents and purposes they don’t exist.
Calling Obama a “neoliberal Democrat” suggests that the term has ceased to have much meaning beyond “a politician I don’t like.” Obama is certainly not a person of the Left, a point Reed establishes in great detail (although, again, it’s not clear to me what non-Republican ever believed that he was.) But the ARRA or the ACA simply aren’t Reagan/Thatcher or even Clinton private-centered neoliberalism — name me some neoliberals who were big fans of expanding the single-payer program for the poor.
No, I'm not shocked. But I'm also not so cynical as to ignore the nihilism at the heart of today's GOP. They are the reason we have gridlock; they are the reason we cannot reach some obvious fiscal compromise that could raise some taxes and trim some entitlements; they are the reason we cannot even have a debate about how to tackle climate change; they are the reason we cannot enact even minor gun control measures backed by huge majorities; they are the reason we cannot offer some relief to countless undocumented immigrants while reforming immigration to allow for more skilled workers. I won't even begin on foreign policy, where, again, they are all opposition and no coherent policy (or divided by Rand Paul non-interventionism and Cheney-style neoconservatism).
"In theory, I'm against it, because people should have the freedom to contract at whatever wage they'd like to have. But in practice, I think the alternative to higher minimum wage is that people simply end up going on welfare.
"And so, given how low the minimum wage is -- and how generous the welfare benefits are -- you have a marginal tax rate that's on the order of 100 percent, and people are actually trapped in this sort of welfare state.
"So I actually think that it's a very out of the box idea -- but it's something one should consider seriously, given all the other distorted incentives that exist."
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