Time to mourn, organize after loss

From: Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, November 06, 2004
Final Edition, Editorial Section, Page 2

When faced with big losses, we on the left almost reflexively recall the words of Joe Hill as he faced his execution in 1915: "Don't mourn. Organize."

But just as certainly as there is never a time to stop organizing, there are also times when mourning is appropriate. Hill's radical compatriots in the Wobblies may have smiled at his words, but they were heart-broken by his death nonetheless.

Similarly, when tens of thousands make a historic effort for a narrowly lost cause, especially when the stakes are great, a certain sadness is in order.

The stakes in the 2004 election were particularly high if you are of low or modest means, a person of color, a gay man or lesbian woman, a woman of reproductive age, or, in fact, any creature who must make its home in the increasingly fragile habitat of planet Earth.

The threat in the coming years looms large for those who value education, health care, science, a secure retirement and a world based on international law. As tax cuts and increasing military expenditures empty the federal coffers, support for local concerns like housing, public transportation, and schools will be squeezed.

The most worrisome aspect of the Bush victory are the two arms of his winning coalition: those who display no moral compass in their pursuit of ever greater wealth and power, and those who assuage their fears in the arms of a reassuringly self-confident leader. This was the combination that in the 1930s led to the movement known as fascism. But it would not be polite in American society to label Bush and his cronies fascist. A nicer term must be found.

For that we turn to Benito Mussolini who said famously, "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." It is corporatism above all else that empowers and guides the Bush administration.

As we look past the mourning that stems from the 2004 election, the greatest danger will be the voices arguing that the United States should have not one but two neoconservative parties -- that, for the Democrats to be competitive, they must move even further to the right.

This argument overlooks that this was the most energetic Democratic presidential campaign in recent decades. The organizing, the focus, and the grassroots activism all were there. Even John Kerry rose to the occasion, finding his voice and an appropriate combativeness as the campaign wore on.

In 1984, Walter Mondale lost to a Reagan landslide. In response, the conservative Democratic Leadership Council was formed, which led the attack on the party's left as embodied in the Jesse Jackson campaign. The result was the election of Bill Clinton, the ascendancy of Newt Gingrich, and an array of Clinton administration "accomplishments" that amounted to little more than pre-empting the Republicans on conservative legislation like welfare reform.

A better path will be to recognize the broad support available for the progressive ideas of grassroots Democrats and build a winning campaign strategy around them.

Another tempting mistake would be to listen to those who argue that disappointed Kerry supporters should turn their passions to local politics. Now, I would be the last person to downplay the importance of local politics, but there is a distinct difference between despoiling Mason Farm Road and laying waste to entire nations.

To have an impact on national politics, citizens in liberal bastions like Orange County must increase their support of and leadership in national organizations and movements that provide an alternative to Bush-style corporatism. Such activism will also help build a counterforce to the tired, outdated DLC that has given us such lackluster candidates as Kerry, Al Gore and Erskine Bowles.

A progressive strategy will continue to improve its use of the internet and the media while revitalizing the Populist-era emphasis on direct person-to-person outreach. It will adopt an inside-outside approach to the Democratic Party, fostering organizations committed to structural change and pushing party leadership to support their work.

Organizations that directly challenge corporatism are also needed. In our community, for example, Internationalist Books continues to connect locals to a wide range of alternative movements and will celebrate Buy-Nothing Day on Friday, Nov. 26 at its Franklin Street store.

NC WARN's energy organizing directly challenges Bush's corporatist commitment to outdated, polluting technologies. A good way to get over the post-election blues would be to attend their auction and dance party this evening (details at www.ncwarn.org/Actions/2004Auction.htm).

The tasks ahead are straightforward: the Bush "mandate" must be contested, Democrats in office must resist capitulation in the name of an imagined "healing," and broad, long-term structures of progressive activism must be sustained. As the song "Joe Hill" tells us, "Says Joe, what they can never kill went on to organize."



I find it fascinating that conservatives believe John Kerry was "too liberal" for America. At the same time, all Democrats I know personally felt that John Kerry was too moderate or too conservative.

Unless we move to Iowa or NH and get very active there within the party, we're never going to be able to pick our party's nominee. Those early caucuses will pick a moderate every time.

I'm sorry ya'aall are sad---listen to country music, drink O'Douls & eat chips!
Salt & Vinegar chips--------mmmm.




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