At LONG last, I am retired from the City of Philadelphia. Thanks to the efforts of trade unionists who came before me, I can retire in relative comfort, and work on projects I enjoy doing. However, I WON’T retire from the movement.
Later this month I will receive an award from the Philadelphia chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), named after America’s leading African-American trade unionist, who in the 1920s and 30s worked to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in the face to the counterattack by the Pullman company, and attained their contract. Please check the web site, apri.org.
What a political season we’re in now! We have two presidential candidates who are not popular with the public, but we’re stuck with them. Actually, the “lesser of two evils” idea is all too true now; I will have to vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States-in spite of her support for the unwarranted and unnecessary war in Iraq in 2003, in spite of her trying to use Republican rhetoric in the issues of welfare and crime.
I’m voting for Hillary because I DO NOT WANT Donald J. Trump-plutocrat, racist, sexist, fanboy of dictators like Putin, briber of public officials-anywhere near command of the armed forces of this country, or access to the nuclear codes to launch the missiles when he feels like it. Trump is not an anomaly-he represents the class of people who run our economy and control our politicians, like the Clintons-you’ve seen the pictures of Trump and his wife (either one of them) having fun with Bill and Hillary. It’s the same little club they’re all in, the same people knowing each other, going to the same schools, clubs, and restaurants; we the working people can’t seem to find a way into that.
Or can we?
After beating Trump, and after a well-deserved breather, we go back into opposition mode against the person we voted for. That is how screwed up our politics is, a perfectly fine candidate with the people’s interests at heart-thank you Bernie Sanders!-can’t get through the party machine, and the candidate of the machine, so couldn’t fill a hall in her rallies and for whom no one cares about, get the prize. But this is the situation we have.
I agree with Bernie’s idea, he urged his supporters to go with Hillary, sure, but he also urged them to run for offices lower down the ballot, from Senator and Representative down to state legislator, county commissioner, municipal council, and township supervisor. These offices have a more immediate impact on the public, and they will HOPEFULLY put pressure on Hillary to do the right thing for working people. Progressives have used this strategy on the Democratic Party-how effective has it been? Have progressives tended to be co-opted by the party bosses? That’s always a worry among progressive activists. And this leads to “let’s form a third progressive party,” and that brings up “That’ll split the Democrats and the Republicans will win.”
There is NO easy answer, except to continue to work with what we have, to continue to meet to plan strategy-the realities of the political situation always changes, and is never constant; it was not so long ago in our history-a mere fifty years ago that LGBT people were a despised minority, hoping for some way to assert their civil and human rights in the face of violence, both physical and social; at this time, after decades of organizing, after referendum losses and electoral successes, after ceaseless organizing and educating in the face of religiously-excused hatred, the LGBT civil rights movement racks up victories.
The same hold true for the African-American Civil Rights movement-there was the constant and courageous work of activists, and there were the differing approaches: integrate into the larger community, or organize a separate state? Advance through capitalism or communism? Work through the business community, or through organized labor? These discussions went on throughout the movement.
Also there was the feminist movement- Once “women’s lib” was a punchline for a joke, and we have the prospect of a female President, following decades of organizing and educating though whatever institutions or tactics were on hand. There is no magic bullet, no quick and easy way to victory for progressives; merely continuing the fight, knowing that others will carry it on.
Do our opponents think they can reverse things to some idyllic era of some unknown past, and puts the above groups into their former state of inferiority? I believe it’s more of a passive-aggressive rear guard action; they know these groups won’t concede anything of their rights and achievements, but they snipe at them, attack them, by other means: since African-Americans are advancing in some areas, the reactionary forces attack them with myths of welfare and urban crime, and the commercial media, the “left-liberal slated media,” pick up on this idea. The reactionaries can’t stop the advancement of women and LGBT people, so they attack them with restrictions on abortion and lack of funding for HIV/AIDS and for intelligent sex education based on science and not superstition.
The Republican Party is the home now for the haters-the racists, religious fundamentalists, hard-core capitalists who hate the government because it won’t do their bidding. The party brought them together since the Civil rights movement; instead of accepting the Civil Rights cause as legitimate, instead of seriously taking on the malignant strain of racism in this country and seeking to cast it off, the party, starting with the Goldwater campaign in 1964, appealed to white working class fears of “those people taking our jobs,” and with scares of lazy shiftless welfare recipients, and the Republicans allowed these white voters to create the image of a BLACK lazy welfare recipient, even though statistics prove that whites are in greater numbers in the welfare systems o this country.
This carried on through Nixon’s “southern strategy” in 1968 and 1972, and the news media complied with it, never mentioning what the call to “limit the role of the federal government” meant in practice, or which programs would be cut out. This continued through Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign, when, at the location of the murders of three Civil Rights activists, he proclaimed, “I believe in States’ Rights”: that was the slogan of the pre-Civil War South, the right to oppress another race of people.
That has been the Republican tactic for fifty years; it’s one thing to spout toned-down racist slogans on the stump, and it’s another to run a government and implement policy and affects all the citizens. Now, the Republican Party has as its standard bearer Donald Trump, a billionaire racist and misogynist, a man who thinks he connects with the working people of American with racism and threats of violence, and has fun doing it. THIS is how the Republican Party is destroying itself, folks, so don’t cry over its demise.
I DARE to have a more positive vision of America and its working class than this-that Americans of all races join together to work for the common good, to overcome those two-bit politicians who want to divide us instead of govern us, and to celebrate our diversity. I KNOW we can do this.