Sunday, July 22, 2012

How Progressives Can Take Back America

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Many 'progressives' who voted for Obama expected a 'savior'. There are none! The best strategy left to disappointed progressives is to take back the party many believe abandoned them. I was among those who believed Clinton should have taken a stronger stand in defense of liberal and/or progressive values. I despised 'triangulation'.

My biggest disappointment was Janet Reno's attack on the Branch-Davidians in Waco, an unlawful attack violating federal and state laws --most egregiously --the presumption of innocence and every due process clause known to exist anywhere at any time to include the 14th Amendment
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.

--U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights.
The best strategy available to progressives now is not to create another party but to take back an existing party apparatus --the Democratic party. It will take years to mount an effective third party whose best hope would consist of 'brokering' a deal with more conservative wings of the only organized opposition to the GOP i.e. the Democratic party.

Progressives' best chance for changing the fascist direction taken by American politics may be found in a book that was, in fact, appropriated if not usurped by the GOP. I have in mind one Saul Alinsky whose 'Rules for Radical', written for a liberal, left leaning movement owing much to FDR and war opponents like Eugene Debs.

Interestingly, it is the GOP which has made more effective use of the strategies and tactics than have liberals or Democrats for whom 'Rules for Radicals' was written. It is cited in GOP campaign manuals, practiced in almost every campaign. I have personal knowledge of that, having acquired a few GOP 'campaign manuals' at a time when Tom DeLay was building a conservative machine while gerrymandering the state of Texas.

Alinsky advises 'activists' to work inside the existing system, to utilize the existing networks and/or infrastructure. Starting from scratch is inefficient, time consuming, wasteful of time and resources. Democrats have an infrastructure in place already. Use it! As ALINSKY himself said:
"There's another reason for working inside the system. Dostoevski said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future."

--Saul Alinsky
If 'liberals/progressives will not heed and benefit from a 'legendary' liberal organizer/activist like Alinsky, I have a slim chance of waking them up! If the 'left' insists upon walking off a cliff there is little anyone can do for them.There is now, however, an opportunity to be seized. Whatever your feelings about the Bush occupation of Iraq, the political fact of the matter is that millions of Americans seemed to have bought into the many lies that the right wing told in order to justify the massive theft of oil resources in the Middle East.

The invasion of Iraq, we were told, was part of the bigger 'war on terror' (more properly, 'terrorism'). Bin Laden was the boogeyman upon which were directed the fears and prejudices of much of the population and especially the right wing which wanted to believe. For Bushco, they were an easy sale!Recent events have turned the Bush strategy on its head! This is a paradigm shift rarely seen in American politics in which a right wing and a left wing had dug their trenches and had begun a long seige. In just a few short days, the news that Bin Laden had been killed --NOT on Bush's watch but by a Democratic U.S. regime --has shaken the GOP to its rotting foundations.

There is really very little the GOP can do but praise the efforts of a Democratic President. It must hurt! My heart bleeds!There are, therefore, opportunities to change the very complexion of U.S. politics but only if progressives work with the existing Democratic infrastructure.

Through a process combining hope and resentment, the organizer tries to create a “mass army” that brings in as many recruits as possible from local organizations, churches, services groups, labor unions, corner gangs, and individuals. Alinsky provides a collection of rules to guide the process. But he emphasizes these rules must be translated into real-life tactics that are fluid and responsive to the situation at hand.
  • Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.
  • Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people. The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
  • Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.
  • Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”
  • Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.
  • Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”
  • Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.
  • Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”
  • Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.
  • Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”
  • Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.
  • --Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals
With the capture of Bin Laden, the GOP found itself without its erstwhile raison d'etre --the war on terrorism!

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