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Saturday, August 05, 2017


Un-stirring the pot

by Tom Sullivan

It is hard enough for Democrats to get anything accomplished without having to respond to pot-stirring by people who enjoy watching the churn. (We already have a pot-stirrer in the White House.) Ryan Cooper's piece at The Week spotlighting lefties giving side-eye to Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick added to the churn whether or not that was the point of it.

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville objects to Cooper cleaving the Democratic baby into two, mutually exclusive halves: "big money elites on one side and Sanders Democrats on the other."

Talk from Sanders supporters last year of overthrowing the establishment was unpersuasive "to lots of marginalized people in places across the country," she writes, "where Democrats are often the only ones standing between Republican state majorities and the complete annihilation of marginalized people's basic rights." (Tar Heels can relate.)

McEwan goes on:

This is an idea with roots in Black anti-poverty activism, whose activists have detailed that, for many people living on the precipice, the idea of revolution can be nothing short of terrifying. People struggling to find money to keep themselves fed may be justifiably wary of the consequences of economic tumult for those already in financially precarious circumstances. People whose communities are under constant assault from police, corporations, and gentrifiers may be justifiably anxious about the prospect of further civil turmoil.
"Revolution is not always kind to the vulnerable people," she writes. Futhermore:
Many marginalized people in red states depend on the Democratic Party in ways that privileged people in true blue states don't need to. We don't have the luxury of being contemptuous of the Democratic Party for not being as progressive as we might like them to be, because our basic rights are constantly under assault.
As others have pointed out, Hullabaloo alum David Atkins observes this morning that critiques originating with "predominantly white and male" writers and aimed at black and/or female Democrats is not a good look. Even if there are facts supporting the criticisms, they give oxygen to the intra-party gossip "that Sanders-aligned economic progressives have racist motivations–or at least that they are tone-deaf and poor allies on matters of identity and social justice."

Atkins continues:
On the other hand, there is a substantial faction of establishment players who, rather than seeking to repair and mitigate the causes the conflict in the Sanders-Clinton primary, are eagerly hoping to perpetuate it. They see the young, insurgent, aggressively anti-Wall Street wing as illegitimate interlopers, easily propagandized dupes, and overprivileged “alt left” bigots. The large number of women and people of color who are part of the Sanders coalition are erased and dismissed in often ugly ways. The influential partisans in center-left think tanks and media organizations who take this position seem to believe that democratic socialists will simply disappear into the woodwork if they are aggressively dragged and marginalized, allowing them to resume conducting business as usual within the party. This would be a mistake: like the Dean and Obama waves before them, Sanders Democrats have been sweeping into leadership positions in state and local Democratic organizations all across the country, and have no intention of going away quietly.
As Atkins knows, there are party players from the county level up who oppose giving room for new activists. And yes, they will rumor-monger and stonewall hoping to get the noobs frustrated enough to take their balls and go home so they can get back to professional politics.

Atkins suggests the way to heal the divisions is mutual solidarity and respect. "Making an example of the top three African-American hopefuls in the 2020 field is a terrible mistake regardless of intent. Instead, seek "to educate and persuade candidates who have crossed red lines in the past, rather than dismiss them as impure and unacceptable out of hand."

The focus on disagreements rather than on common goals has done enough damage, yet refuses to die. The Amazing Randi and members of the Skeptics Society have observed how even scientists are sometimes taken in by psychic hoaxers for two reasons. First, they are totally unprepared for experimental subjects actively trying to fool them. Second, they think they are too smart to be fooled. Many smart lefties (and friends) got well and truly ratfcked last year by a disinformation campaign aimed right at them with the purpose of inflaming intra-party divisions. Some of this ongoing churn is fallout left over from that attack to which, being as smart as we are, we won't admit falling victim.

But what is lost in the squabbling over ideological disagreements is focus on the meaning and purpose of the work. We are engaged here in the biennial search for judges and poll workers to help administer elections. It takes an army division worth of workers to put on an Election Day in this state alone. They (Democrats anyway) don't do it to win ideological supremacy in the party. They do it out of a sense of civic duty to ensure their neighbors' rights are defended, as McEwan said.

Atkins is right that mutual solidarity and respect are needed, but greater focus on mutual organizing would help put ideological differences into perspective and iron them out at the same time. It's harder to argue over ideology when you're working together painting walls or handing out literature. We still remember how distrustful "legacy Democrats" here were of "those progressives" until they saw progressives standing in the snow, greeting voters at polling places and trying to help get elected not just the progressive rock star at the top of the ticket, but the more traditional county commissioner Democrats further down-ticket. I think that's when the opposition collapsed. They moved on and we moved up.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.