Friday, May 20, 2016

The progressive and pragmatic senses of "unify"

Yeterday (5/19) CommonDreams.org published a "Today's Views" piece "Should Progressives Unify with the Democratic Party Establishment? Hell No!" by Jeff Cohen.

In answer to the question of the first part: I never thought we would. But for that to make sense we need to define "unify." There are two senses of that word in today's political environment. One is the ideological sense. The second is the pragmatic electoral sense. The two are not mutually exclusive.

You can be a fire-breathing progressive, despairing of, even despising , the Democratic establishment. I'm not quite there but I have noted with much displeasure that income inequality has grown steadily worse in regardless of which party is in office. Chipping around the edges is out. It's time for bold ideas a la FDR.

But at the same time you can recognize the immense danger of a Trump presidency. You can be a progressive and still do what is practically necessary to insure that Trump, or any other conservative, does not become our next president.

I was going to offer up a couple of snippets of Cohen's essay but I thought his presentation was so good that i've printed the whole final part here. Read on.

The Bernie campaign has been a boon to progressive organizations, including one I co-founded: the online activist group RootsAction.org. We need to maintain and grow our organizations independent of the Democratic establishment and be ready to protest against Democratic Party policies when necessary, including perhaps at the Democratic convention and definitely beginning next year if Clinton is elected president.

Having said all this about independence, I’m not one of those progressives who pretends that Donald Trump is no worse than Hillary Clinton or that he’s somehow a peacenik or "fair trade" advocate. Trump is a climate-change-denier and xenophobe with fascist tendencies who is far more dangerous than Clinton in terms of race-baiting, immigrant-bashing, abortion and court appointments, even foreign relations (and I know how hawkish Clinton has been). I’ve never forgotten Trump’s candid comment against raising the minimum wage in one of the first debates, when he said U.S. wages were "too high, we’re not gonna be able to compete against the world."

Let’s be clear: Trump is the anti-Bernie.

While remaining independent of the Democratic establishment, progressives must take the Trump threat seriously and make sure he’s defeated in November. If it’s a contest between Trump and Clinton, I support a "safe-state voting" tactic, where you can cast a protest vote or a Green Party vote in most of the country, but you vote against Trump by voting for Clinton in the dozen “swing states” where polls show a close race.

As Noam Chomsky said on Democracy Now! this week: "If Clinton is nominated and it comes to a choice between Clinton and Trump, in a swing state – a state where it’s going to matter which way you vote – I would vote against Trump, and by elementary arithmetic, that means you hold your nose and you vote Democrat. I don’t think there’s any other rational choice."

One can "hold your nose and vote Democrat" – tactically – without becoming a Democratic Party hack or a Clinton apologist. Defeating Trump does not mean we exaggerate any positives about the Democratic establishment. More important than how we vote is how we build independent progressive organizations and movements (and media) in the coming months and years.

The thing is, though, if the vote goes against you then translating the movement into effective action becomes much more difficult.

Good news about the Bernie campaign is that the whole world – including even mainstream media – now knows that there is a loud and proud left in our country. They know exactly where we stand on domestic issues and that our positions are widely popular.

And they know that young activists are key to our growing movement.

Millions of young people have had a crash course in recent months in Democratic Party corruption, as well as corporate media bias – not to mention their own power to shake up the system.

A "political revolution" rarely happens in a year. The #NotMeUs movement is far more than about Bernie. Whatever happens at the Philadelphia nominating convention, the movement has much to be proud of and will continue.

I love Cohen's closing.

The best-case scenario, of course, is that Bernie becomes the next president.

But here’s another decent scenario: The divisive Trump-led Republicans suffer a massive defeat. The centrists take power . . . but with a mobilized and independent left breathing down their necks.

Such a scenario hasn’t occurred in our country since about 1932.

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