Tuesday, 22 November 2016

In Resistance to Trump, “Community” Should Be a Verb, by Norman Solomon

Against a Trump regime that is totally unacceptable, we’ll need resistance that’s sustainable.

Like a healthy forest, the resistance will depend on great diversity to thrive -- a wide range of people engaging in a vast array of activities.

And our resistance will need community.

I’m not talking about the facile gloss of the word “community” that often follows an adjective denoting race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

The kinds of community that will make ongoing resistance possible have little to do with demographic categories.

The most powerful, most vital bonding will be transcendently human.

Facing a Trump presidency, we’ll have an imperative opportunity to go deeper as individuals and groups of people working together -- nurturing and growing the social, cultural and political strength that can overcome the Trump regime.

Our resistance has got to be broadly inclusive, offering and inspiring a great variety of nonviolent tactics and approaches, whether they emerge with a few people around a kitchen table or with many thousands of people at a public protest.

The strength of the united front that we need will depend on the extent of truly cooperative efforts.

Trump and his allies have already injected huge quantities of toxins into the body politic, with much more on the way. The antidote is democratic engagement from the grassroots.

Right now, as the new regime rolls out its top henchmen, early steps include doing all we can to block Trump’s horrendous Cabinet picks.

To challenge the enemies of democracy who have gained power, we’re just getting started.

What’s at stake for U.S. society includes basic social decency, human rights, economic justice, civil liberties, rule of law -- in short, democracy. Also at stake: climate change, nuclear weapons, the fate of the earth.

Trump has clearly shown his intention to destroy many decades of progress for the rights of women, people of color, Muslims, undocumented immigrants and many other people, while tightening the knot of the corporate state and the warfare state.

From Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue to the Pentagon, the purveyors of mega-corporate technocracy, oligarchy and militarism have given “power” a bad name. 

And yet the solution to anti-democratic power is power -- truly democratic power -- from the grassroots, from the bottom up -- really our only hope. 

From protests and electoral work to public education and lobbying and legal interventions and so many other forms of organizing and activism, countless essential tasks await us. 

During the presidency of Popular-Vote Loser Trump -- maybe more profoundly than at any other time in our lifetimes -- we’ll need each other to make resistance personally sustainable, socially viable and political effective.

This is all about energizing ourselves and each other, now and for the long haul.

That’s why community should be a verb.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

For The Trump Era: Fight Not Flight, by Norman Solomon

A lot of U.S citizens are now talking about leaving the country. Canada, Europe and New Zealand are popular scenarios.

Moving abroad might be an individual solution. But the social solution is to stay and put up a fight.

The most right-wing U.S. government in our lifetimes will soon have its executive and legislative branches under reactionary control, with major ripple effects on the judiciary.

All the fixings for a dystopian future will be on the table. In a realistic light, the outlook is awfully grim. 

No wonder a huge number of people in the United States are struggling with mixtures of grief, anger, frustration, fear. 

If Donald Trump and major forces backing him get their way, the conditions described by Frederick Douglass -- still all too prevalent now -- will worsen in the years ahead:

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

As James Baldwin wrote, “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”

Those quotes from Douglass and Baldwin are in a book of paintings by Robert Shetterly, Americans Who Tell the Truth

Another portrait in the collection appears under these words from Helen Keller:

“When one comes to think of it, there are no such things as divine, immutable, or inalienable rights. Rights are things we get when we are strong enough to make good our claim on them.” 

That statement from Keller aptly describes our current predicament and possibilities. 

The impending Trump presidency is a direct threat to basic human rights. 

To make good our claim on those rights will require that we become “strong enough,” individually and collectively. 

Gaining such strength will require that we provide much more support for independent progressive institutions -- the array of organizations that can serve as collective bulwarks against the momentum of systemic greed, bigotry, massive violence, economic exploitation and environmental destruction. 

We’re now being flung into a new era that will intensify many of the oppressive aspects of the U.S. governmental apparatus and political economy. 

An ongoing imperative will be to mitigate serious-to-catastrophic damage in many realms. 

We need a united front -- against the very real threat of severe repression that could morph into some form of fascism. 

At this highly precarious time, progressives certainly don’t need the tempests of factional disputes and ideological battles. 

And we certainly don’t need the kind of reflexive capitulation that so often comes from the upper reaches of the Democratic Party.

We’re at the start of a protracted crisis that could become cataclysmic.

We need progressive unity and unrelenting determination.

Only with eyes wide open do we have a real chance to understand clearly and organize effectively against the Trump regime.

Failure to put up a fight should be unthinkable.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Dear Democrats, by Matthew Cooper

Dear Democrats,

I know you’re feeling pretty bummed today. Well, I don’t blame you. You just lost the House, the Senate and the White House – all three in the same night. 

But you’re not alone: I feel the same way. And I bet the last thing you’ll want to hear right now is an angry lefty blogger telling you ‘I told you so’. 

But if you don’t want this to happen again, please, please hear me out.

I’m a ‘white’ (see below), male, Christian millennial, and an economically left-of-center Wisconsin native on the very bottom rung of the middle class. 

For clarification, I live in an apartment, have no credit score, and spent the last year and a half functionally unemployed and separated from my family. 

I am exactly the sort of voter you couldn’t afford to lose, and you not only lost me, but you actively chased me away for genuinely believing in the important things that Obama represented when he came to office in 2008: a realist foreign policy, a rejection of needless austerity measures and voodoo economics, universal health care, a fair and stable economy that works for everyone rather than just the privileged few. 

As such, I went third-party.

But at certain points I was tempted, and could very easily have, gone over to the bloviating orange-faced grifter in anger and frustration, as many in my respective demographics did.

For a little bit of personal context, I write this as, last night, I got a letter back from my DFL senator Amy Klobuchar, who – when I wrote expressing my concerns that either this administration or the next would get us into a potentially disastrous war with Russia, and asking her what she planned to do about it – sent me back a form letter that says absolutely nothing pertinent about my question, but talked about the need for ‘targeted strikes’ against Daesh and the need to welcome Syrian refugees into Minnesota. 

As a result, I went to sleep thinking the Democrats deserved to lose all the way across the board in this election. And boy oh boy, last night did you ever get it. 

And you know what? I’m nowhere near close to happy about that fact.

Why am I not happy? Well, where to begin?

Trump has no intention of doing a damn thing to protect the interests of people like me, let alone the folks worse off than me: the white working stiffs who gave him their votes, and who would be well-served by things Trump has no interest in – like a reformed money system that doesn’t take us back to the dark ages, and decent, publicly-managed infrastructure and services.

For another thing, I belong to the (((wrong kind))) of white people. For yet another thing, I’m married to a Chinese immigrant who came here legally. 

I know the rhetoric is that Trump only cares about getting rid of illegal immigrants, but for some reason I doubt either he or his supporters are willing to countenance such minutiae in practice.

For still another thing, I happen to have a deep affection for Iran, her civilization, her art and her people, whereas Trump sees them all as terrorists and wants to go to war with them over ‘rude gestures’. 

So here’s a bit of real talk from a realist. 

If you don’t want another election result like this one (and I know I don’t), perhaps you’ll listen to me. 

But I’m going to break it down point-by-point. 

1.) Cut the ‘narrative’ bullshit. 

Give us the policies. I don’t want to hear, and I honestly couldn’t care less, about how hard Clinton had it coming up through the Walmart executive ranks, or about how women ‘identify’ with her.  

But that’s a huge portion of what I heard from the Salon, Vox, Jezebel and New York Times crowd in this election cycle – how she’s always faced a double standard in her career, how she should be given a break because she’s a woman, and how I personally am a sexist for disagreeing with her policies.  

Well, you know what? I give women way more credit than that. I think most adult women can handle a few tough questions about policy, no?

Which leads me to my next few points:

2.) Stop supporting the damn bankers.  

Let’s get back to basics. Stop taking their donations and their endorsements. They’re clearly not doing you any good.

Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, CitiGroup and the rest of them clearly don’t give a damn about us in flyover country.

So how does it look to us when our representatives and senators do everything they can to bail them out, and don’t lift a finger to help us out with our credit problems? And believe me, we still have credit problems. 

Don’t tell us that Bernie’s plans for reforming the banks and providing public postal savings banking are somehow pie-in-the-sky, or aren’t feasible, or aren’t realistic.

I’ve lived in China – I did research on the PSBC for Positive Planet China, for crying out loud.

I know for a fact how well they work for rural people, especially when they are compared side-by-side with the big privately-owned banks. 

What’s lacking isn’t know-how.

What’s lacking is political will, and the big bankers stole that from you a long time ago with the temptations of lucre.

3.) Take a better stand on providing decent public goods. 

 You know, like health insurance

Practically every other nation with an advanced economy – and even several others without – have universal health care policies that work just fine and that most people are happy with.

Hillary Clinton’s new-public-management muddling, triangulation and incrementalism are precisely the wrong kind of signal that needs to be sent in a campaign season when ordinary folks are worried about their premiums going up, and not being able to afford the privatized health insurance plans that you made them buy.

4.) Support domestic manufacturing. And actually listen to the unions while you’re at it. 

Boy, you really screwed the pooch on this one, and you let Trump outflank you from the left.  

If you want to win us back in the slippery Midland states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, well, this is how you do it. 

Again, it’s not a matter of ‘can’t be done’ – we have plenty of need for actual things in this country that people want to buy. Including high-tech things.

We don’t need to outsource manufacturing to make those things for ourselves at an affordable cost.

We just need the manufacturers to accept slightly-lower profit margins instead of chasing down the cheapest possible Southeast Asian near-slave labor.

We could create a domestic manufacturing boom tomorrow by shunting some of our misbegotten military budget into, say, NASA and space exploration, and give guarantees to laid-off contract workers that they can take their union benefits straight into those space jobs.

And no, I’m afraid extraction-based boondoggles that ship overseasdon’t count as supporting domestic manufacturing.

Or, better yet:

5.) Write a job-guarantee policy.

Set out a plan to actually implement Humphrey-Hawkins Act which is already on the books – a solid piece of Democratic legislative craft which deserves to have a far more distinguished legacy than it does.

Putting Humphrey-Hawkins into practice will involve some necessary changes to monetary policy, though, be forewarned – and in the short run those changes may be fairly painful.

But the long-term benefits will be very, very much appreciated by the people whose votes you ought to be trying to win.

6.) Stop getting us into all these hare-brained wars. 

Stop rattling the saber with Russia over a former piece of the Ukraine that isn’t going back anytime soon. 

Stop funding and arming the Saudis – they’ll just sell the weapons to crazy people. 

Stop bombing the Houthis, the Pakistanis and the Afghans. 

Stop supporting color revolutions and ‘soft coups’.

Stop saying ‘Assad must go’ when clearly he isn’t going anywhere.

Stop creating needless refugee crises that we then have to ‘fix’ by (selectively) opening our borders.

Stop making Trump – a man who, may I remind you, wants to go to war with Iran over ‘rude gestures’ – look like a voice of reason on foreign affairs!

7.) Allow room in your party for pro-lifers.

You don’t ever need to lose another election if you stop worshipping at the altar of Moloch. I’m completely serious about this.

Every single one of those Western European social democracies you profess to admire so much has far more stringent legal restrictions on abortion, particularly late-term ones, than we do – and they provide first-class health care and welfare services for new mothers.

The future working-class demographic shouldn’t be artificially and brutally pruned with eugenic family-planning policies designed by the upper class, and we’re not monstrous misogynists or the enemies of women for saying so.

8.) Stop hating on gun owners. 

I’m all for common-sense restrictions and gun licenses that keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the same way and for the same reason we keep cars out of the hands of drunks.

But guns are a tool, just like cars are. The fact of owning a gun doesn’t make one a child murderer or a brute or a troglodyte.

But generally:

9.) Stop telling people you disagree with to FOAD. 

Dismissing people as ‘racists’ for failing to conform to the latest highfalutin academic missives on white privilege might make you feel good and virtuous, but for obvious reasons, it’s not good politics in any sort of representative system of government.

Same with calling people ‘sexists’ or ‘bros’ for daring to oppose a woman with bad policies, on the grounds that her policies suck

Same with telling millennials that they’re being spoiled brats for supporting a politician with actual values. 

Same with ganging up on people on Twitter to shout them down for tacky fashion choices

Same with trying to get people fired from their jobs for disagreeing with you. 

Cut that classist bullshit right out.

Well, there it is. 

If you don’t want this to happen again, then may I humbly suggest you get back to the values that you once stood for. 

Bernie Sanders, who would have wiped the floor with Trump in the states you needed to win, left you a signpost, even if he didn’t take that road all the way.

It’s up to you to follow it now.



Thursday, 3 November 2016

Dangerous Myths About Trump That Some Progressives Cling To, by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon

Even now, in the last days of this horrendous campaign, we’re amazed by fervent assertions coming from some progressives about Donald Trump. Here are three key myths:

Myth #1: “Trump can’t win.”

The popularity of this illusion has waned, but still remains remarkably stubborn.

This week the polling has moved in Trump’s direction. Several battleground states that were close now seem to be trending toward Trump, including Ohio.

A couple weeks ago, the respected forecasters at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website gave Trump a 12 or 13 percent chance of becoming president. Now it’s a 1 in 3 chance.

Myth #2: “If Trump becomes president, he’ll be blocked from implementing the policies he’s been advocating.” 

Some progressives have apparently convinced themselves of this comforting thought. 

One longtime Green Party activist claimed in an email a few days ago: “Trump would not be allowed by the ruling class or by us to actually implement his retrograde domestic social policies.” 

Such claims from self-described radicals involve a notable faith in the ruling class that we don’t share. 

And let’s not have an inflated view of our own power to block the policies of a President Trump.

Myth #3: “Trump couldn’t do much damage as president.” (Variation on Myth #3: “Trump is no more dangerous in the White House than Hillary Clinton.”) 

If progressives watched Fox News a bit more, they’d understand that Trump plans to appoint to the most powerful policy positions of the U.S. government individuals who are as whacked out as he is: Rudy Giuliani, Dr. Ben Carson, war fanatic John Bolton, to name just a few.

And hundreds like them to other top posts. (Clinton surrounds herself with corporatists and hawks, but overall they’re a less virulent strain.) 

A Trump presidency -- made possible by his demagogic appeals to racism, misogyny, immigrant-bashing and Islamophobia -- would empower the worst elements of U.S. society. 

That’s why an official Ku Klux Klan newspaper, the Crusader, devoted its latest front page entirely to supporting Trump. 

These forces are already in motion, as Politico on Wednesday with this headline:

“White nationalists plot Election Day show of force; KKK, neo-Nazis and militias plan to monitor urban polling places and suppress the black vote.” 

We have no illusions about Hillary Clinton. 

Neither one of us live in a swing state (we’re residents of New York and California where Clinton leads in each state by 20 percent); in our “safe states,” we’re voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party. 

But if we lived in a swing state, we would vote for Clinton as the only way to prevent a Trump presidency

Because it’s the state-by-state electoral votes, not the popular votes, that determine who will inhabit the White House. 

As Noam Chomsky said in May:

“If Clinton is nominated and it comes to a choice between Clinton and Trump, in a swing state, a state where it’s going to matter which way you vote, I would vote against Trump, and by elementary arithmetic, that means you hold your nose and you vote Democrat. 

“I don’t think there’s any other rational choice. Abstaining from voting or, say, voting for, say, a candidate you prefer, a minority candidate, just amounts to a vote for Donald Trump, which I think is a devastating prospect.”

Which are the crucial swing states? 

The latest assessment from FiveThirtyEight points toward these dozen states as potentially decisive: Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Other pollsters include Arizona, Georgia and Iowa as battleground states.

We need clarity and not mythology about the threat of a Trump presidency.

Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon are the co-founders of RootsAction.org.