Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hillary Needs to Tread Carefully to Win in 2016

by special guest blogger Organizing Teacher

A Clinton presidency will put the Left on good footing for organizing after the election. A Trump presidency will put us all on the defensive and will kill the strides made in the national conversation about income inequality.

I supported Bernie with a vote and a small donation. I think a Bernie presidency would have put us on the road to another New Deal era. This would include some social democratic reforms that would improve the lives of the working class, but would also stave off the possibility of real structural change. The New Deal was effective at thwarting the specter of revolution in the U.S. This led to years of prosperity as the right wing worked tirelessly to upend any gains because the system itself was still dependent on capitalism.

So, this is where we’re at now. Sanders will not be president, but his campaign did accomplish some important things on his journey.

1. It organized and activated people new to the political process
2. It heightened the contradictions in the Democratic Party
3. It made people talk explicitly about the failures of capitalism

So now we have scores of new activists, not afraid of words like “socialism” and “revolution” who are willing to knock on doors, organize marches and protests, and do whatever it takes to get us out from the mess we’re in.

These are people on the political left who don’t understand the need for realpolitik around universal healthcare or free higher education. They know what they want and don’t care if it’s not politically expedient. They don’t want another war. They are willing to go toe-to-toe with the establishment.

We need to organize these people. They will be the ones forcing the Democratic Party to do what’s right. They will fight the right wing zealots in the streets, instead of adopting their language to “seem serious” and win votes.

I'm thinking back to the anti-globalization movement that organized in the late 90s, largely in response to NAFTA and Bill’s other awful policies. It was a growing movement that was starting to be seen as a real threat to capital. In its last days, it had labor and other more established groups, like environment groups, on board.

This was the movement that made the race between Gore and W. far closer than it should have been, which made it easy for the GOP to outright steal it. Had the establishment Dems taken note from this movement, they could have won easily. The Dems lost the Left and could only regain large segments of it with a boogeyman like Bush.

Under W, the anti-globalization movement folded into the anti-war movement, which was a Left/liberal coalition. The tent got really big and with it, critiques of capital went to the wayside. It wasn't globalization that was bad, it was specific companies like Haliburton. Bush and the GOP were clearly the enemies of anyone left of center and he became the target, not so much his policies, but his personality and his party.

He made great fodder for the Daily Show, but the Daily show speaks in an echo chamber and didn’t move people who were unmoved by John Kerry’s run.

Kerry lost because merely not being Bush wasn't enough. Bush, for all his faults, had an agenda that was clear. Kerry had cobbled together positions that polled as inoffensive to “the middle” and OK by those left of middle, but did not inspire people to fight for him to win.

Obama won because he had a big tent behind him. The far Left was never for him, but progressives and activist groups were all for him. He skated through easily by not just being not a Republican, but because he was marketed to liberals and left-of-liberals. He had artists and activists and public intellectuals singing his praises to their diverse audiences.

After Obama won, the anti-War movement shrank to almost nothing because the liberal caucus of the anti-war movement did not want to harm Obama’s approval rating. We could end up with another Bush, they said.

A Trump presidency will force another big tent that will organize around getting rid of Trump. It'll be a coalition to get him to lose in 2020 and demand nothing more. I think this will only empower him because the Dems/establishment Left will take the reigns of this coalition and be completely uninspiring. He'll be re-elected. Bernie will be painted as the boogeyman (like Nader) who hurt Hillary. Many of his supporters will give up on politics or join the establishment.

In a Trump presidency, things will not get “worse before they get better,” things will get worse before they revert back to the status quo.

This is the reason why I want Hillary to win and why it’s painful for me to see the missteps her campaign is making trying to appeal to the center. This isn’t 1994. I see Kerry and Gore all over again.
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