Category Archives: Strategy

On Rebuilding the Democratic Party

People’s Climate March, Washington DC, April 2017

For progressives interested in taking back this country and making it a sane and functional place that works for everyone, Theda Skocpol’s article back in January is required reading. It explains how the democrats need to organize and prioritize in order to become competitive again nation-wide, an argument that  both Tom Perez and Keith Ellison, among many others, appear to be in alignment with.  But, her insistence on the democratic party as being the single organizational locus for resistance may be too limited given the proliferation of progressive organizations that have emerged in the past several months.

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“How to Get Shit Done” – Review of Blueprint for Revolution

In Blueprint for Revolution, Srdja Popovic surveys non-violent movements that have brought about revolutionary change. In his words:

“It’s a book about the revolutions launched by ordinary peole who believe that if they get together and think creatively, they can topple dictators and correct injustices.”

If you are someone who wants to learn more about effecting political change, Blueprint is a good book to pick up. But be aware  that this book is more about social movements working outside of formal political institutions than it is about directly influencing legislation, electing progressive candidates to office, and related topics. If your primary interest is in this kind of politics, this book will not offer many direct insights, but it will still provide some interesting and useful ideas about how change can be brought about. And it’s a good read.

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Building Protest Campaigns: Structure and Movement in “Outside-Inside” Strategies

SNCC members at lunch counter sit-in, 1960. U.S. Dept. of State archive

This is my first review post of This Is an Uprising, an important book by Mark and Paul Engler published in 2016 by Nation Books. Important because it offers insights from many countries that social justice, environmental, and other movements can learn from and apply to their struggles.

In a chapter called “Structure and Movement” early in the book the authors talk about two models for promoting political change and the actions that correspond to each.

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Taking on Authoritarians with Humor and Ridicule

[Note, this post was written before the latest bombshell revelations about Trump’s statements to the Russian diplomats in the Oval Office and former FBI Director Comey’s notes about his meeting with the president in Feburary]

With the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the continuing slide of the United States towards authoritarian government, there has been much discussion and hand wringing about how to confront the president and his allies in Congress, who continue to support and enable him for the most part. The problem is that there appear to be few pressure points or ways to significantly weaken some of the administration’s pillars of support.

One way to look at this struggle is in the sphere of public opinion. Although Trump’s approval ratings are dismal in comparison with all other recent presidents, he is still strong among republicans and his other supporters. In a Washington Post article May 12, Phillip Bump presents data showing conclusively that republicans think Trump was correct to fire Comey, have little concern about the accusations of Russian meddling in the US elections, and approve of the overall job Trump is doing.

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On Strategy and Tactics

As a concept, strategy has an exalted lineage, starting from Sun Tzu, through Machiavell to Clausewitz, to name the three most-widely recognized names. While those writers offered some useful insights, I start my exploration here with Gene Sharp, a contemporary theorist and practitioner, who thought very systematically about strategy and tactics in non-violent movements. I’ll be talking a lot about Sharp on this blog, as has written extensively on these topics, but for now, I want to sketch out some broad definitions that will inform a lot of what is to come.

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