This blog is an extended contemplation on progressive strategy and movement building. How can we progressives defend against the Trump administration and the reactionaries in Congress? How can we push a more humane and effective alternative? How do we use the immense energy that has been generated in just the first weeks of the Trump administration? I hope you’ll explore these topics with me as we work to build a society and economy that work for the 99 percent.
Here’s our problem. It’s a great problem to have, but it is still a problem. With Trump’s election and his inauguration January 20, progressives and liberals reacted in shock but also with energy. After decades of low-energy, triangulating politics, all while the center of American society and politics slid further and further to the right, it finally became clear that it was time to wake up and fight back. I am talking about people like me who had not been very active politically. Voting? Yes, we did that. The occasional letter to the editor or to one’s Senator or Representative? Yes, we did that too. Staying informed about current events? Yes, we did a good job of that as well and we also contributed to our favorite organizations.
But not many of us took the next step of volunteering our time with those organizations or of making politics something that we did on a regular basis. And for most of us, politics was electoral politics. We voted for the “good guys” and when we won, we expected that a progressive agenda would be carried out. It didn’t work out that way.
So, we got the wake-up. And we responded by joining getting involved more directly, participating in the many women’s marches, contributing to organizations like the ACLU, and getting involved in many other activities. Some of us rushed out to airports to confront and ultimately derail the Muslim band. Many of us, a huge number, besieged Congress with an unprecedented number of phone calls. Social media is exploding as if US politics has become everyone’s primary concern; which in fact it has. I could go on, but you know what I’m talking about.
What I worry about, is that it is unclear that all of this activity is being channeled into actions that have the potential to bring about change. Perhaps a lot of what we are seeing is activity rather than effective activism. And, as the trauma goes on for months and months without an apparent end in site, people’s energy levels and commitment are almost certainly going to wane, especially if they are unconnected to others and do not have an idea of what to do on a sustained basis. Given these challenges, I will be asking how change occurs, how citizens can organize to effect change, and what people have done in the past that works or does not work.
At the same time, the need for sustained action is greater than it has been in decades. At least. How can we keep going and what should we be doing? And–given the authoritarian tendencies of the Trump White House and the administration’s desire to sweep away clean air and water protections, rights to healthcare, and US commitments to reducing fossil fuel consumption in order to get global climate change under control–do we need to be doing things out of the ordinary, that go beyond everyday election-based politics in a democratic society to include direct actions to upset “normal” government functioning?
How do we know what to do? A lot of people have offered answers to these questions. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and there’s a lot of useful info about strategy, tactics, case studies, etc. But it’s a lot of material for people who may already be trying to balance their new commitment to activism with their already busy lives.
This is where I come in. My commitment to the cause is to provide insights into the important work that others have done to help you and your fellow activists build strong, sustainable, and effective movements. My aim is to write short pieces–readable in five minutes or less–that bring the lessons of progressive movements and writings to you on a regular basis.
What do I mean by “progressive strategy?” I’m taking a broad approach, talking mainly about the how (strategy and tactics) and case studies that help explain what might or might not work. I’ll also introduce some big picture ideas about what kind of society progressives might want to build.
My approach is to explore questions, not answer them definitively. And I welcome contributions from others, either as commentary on what I have written or as original pieces.
Shoot me an email and we can work something out. I want this to be a community, not a personal megaphone.