What Now? Thoughts on the Politics of 2010

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We are living in a time of starkly contradictory trends. The 2010 November election results clearly represent a set back for the people’s movement for progress and change, but how bad was it really? What were the causes and what does it mean for the coming period? Some thoughts:

It must be said that, by any measure, the achievements of the Obama Administration and the outgoing Congress have been impressive. The health care bill is the most significant piece of social legislation since Medicare. The stimulus package saved the country from a second great depression. The financial reforms should prevent a repeat of the worst Wall Street practices in the future. All this was done in the first two years of a young President’s first term. And yet many who supported Obama in 2008 stayed home in 2010, not seeing the compelling reasons or the hope that they felt two years ago.

On one hand this is totally understandable. Obama supporters saw an Administration that appeared too often ready to compromise from the outset on core issues or too willing to take a hands-off approach while conservatives in the Senate worked from day one to dilute, divert, distort or block pending legislation. Remember the seemingly endless summer of 2009 when Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus negotiated for weeks (or was it months?) with Republicans over the details of an increasingly complex health care bill while the debate raged across the country and the Administration kept hands off. So the feeling persists that opportunities were missed, that the conditions existed to accomplishment more, and that important ground was conceded too early in the process of “negotiating” with conservative forces.

On the other hand, the conservative roadblock, “just say No” strategy was clearly motivated in part by sometimes subtle, sometimes overt racism. This should not have come as a surprise to the President’s 2008 supporters, but the truth is we were not prepared for the intensity of, and the lavish funding accorded, the conservative wave and the rise of the “tea party.”

So what is the way forward in 2010? Think of the over arching issues that brought masses of people into political activity and into the streets during the tumultuous first decade of the 21st Century: the Iraq War, immigration reform, health care. Add public education and Social Security as key issues that drew the attention of masses of people. It was the perception so widely held in the US—and around the world—that the Republican Administration in DC was at best ignoring (as with health care), and at worst moving aggressively in the wrong direction (as in the Iraq War and foreign policy generally) on the burning issues of the day that brought the Bush regime down and motivated so many to throw their energy into the electoral struggle and work for a change. So there are powerful reasons to believe that the constituent pieces of the coalition that elected Barack Obama (and its energy) can yet be forged into an organized mass movement that can withstand the conservative wave and move ahead.

In the first place the labor movement is better organized than it has been in decades and gaining political experience and expertise all the time. Labor and its allies in the Civil Rights, women’s youth, LGBT and other movements cooperated in bringing people to DC on October 2 in a way that we have not seen in years, if ever.

The key is for us to reclaim the narrative. The true narrative of our nation’s history belongs to the working class and its allies. The right wing Republicans have no compelling narrative of their own. (They have an agenda, but they do not have one that appeals to masses of people.)  They have to steal from us.

What other reason was there for the Bush Administration to hijack the name of the “No Child Left Behind”(NCLB) Law from Marion Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund. What other reason for Glenn Beck to hold a national demonstration on the anniversary of the first great Washington march in 1963?

If the “Momma Grizzlies” in the Tea Party seriously want to “take back the country” and stop “death panels” and save “granny”, then we have some ideas for them. Let them come on over to the struggle for real solutions to real world problems: national health care, equal pay for equal work, Employee Free Choice, reproductive rights, affirmative action, and a world based on peace and justice.

Photo by ProgressOhio

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  • We could not agree more on peace,jobs,unity and justice as remedies for the problems of 2010,to be applied in 2011,and beyond.
    That is precisely why we must above all,be peace advocates like no other.
    We must fashion and use the encapsulated narrative,but we must also point up the "true narrative".
    Let's use a real life example. Amy Dean visited the great City of St. Louis(great because of its working class history)promoting her book,A New,New Deal. The history of communist St. Louisans William Sentner and Hershel Walker in UE,unknown to Dean,(UE left activism also the subject of your recent book,Generations of Resistance)she eagerly sought knowledge and information on Rose Feurer's book,Radical Unionism in the Midwest. This book documents "Civic Unionism" a broad,democratic,community nexus between trade unionism and social/political struggle for progress,peace,jobs and justice with protagonists like Walker and Sentner. This book by Feurer,was on hand at Amy Dean's talk during her visit.
    So,not only is there a need for jobs,jobs,jobs with workers supplying input for these in coalitions from workers' think tanks,including many groups,small businesses,unionists and individuals,including the homeless,hungry and unemployed,Black and white,but there is historical precedence in UE's Civic Unionism,told by Feurer,and resistance to anti-communism and right wing ideology,told by Sears.
    We can,in honoring these approaches and facts of struggle,win thousands and even millions to the progress of peace,unity,democracy and socialism,bettering the conditions of the working people in the St. Louis Metropolitan area,and the United States of America.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 12/13/2010 1:05pm (10 years ago)

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