We wanted to share a round-up of reflections that a range of left thinkers and organizers put out in the aftermath of the mid-term elections. We don’t endorse the opinions of these pieces, but we believe that they are all significant positions to understand. Please feel free to suggest other relevant pieces using the comments section below. We plan to feature more pieces written by progressive and left organizers on the implications of these elections in the coming months.
Laura Flanders talks with Gihan Perera and Claire Tran of Right to the City Alliance about left accountability in electoral politics.
By Tim Wise
“I know, you think you’ve taken “your country back” with this election — and of course you have always thought it was yours for the taking, cuz that’s what we white folks are bred to believe, that it’s ours, and how dare anyone else say otherwise — but you are wrong…You have won a small battle in a larger war the meaning of which you do not remotely understand….You’re on the endangered list. And unlike, say, the bald eagle or some exotic species of muskrat, you are not worth saving. In forty years or so….there won’t be any more white folks around who think the 1950s were the good old days, because there won’t be any more white folks around who actually remember them, and so therefore, we’ll be able to teach about them accurately and honestly, without hurting your precious feelings, or those of the so-called “greatest generation” — a bunch whose white contingent was top-heavy with ethical miscreants who helped save the world from fascism only to return home and oppose the ending of it here, by doing nothing to lift a finger on behalf of the civil rights struggle…Because in about forty years, half the country will be black or brown. And there is nothing you can do about it…Do you hear it? The sound of your empire dying? Your nation, as you knew it, ending, permanently? Because I do, and the sound of its demise is beautiful. So know this. If you thought this election was payback for 2008, remember…Payback, thy name is…Temporary.”
By Marshall Ganz (Harvard lecturer, former UFW and labor organizer) in the L.A. Times
“This dramatic reversal is not the result of bad policy as such; the president made some real policy gains. It is not a consequence of a president who is too liberal, too conservative or too centrist. And it is not the doing of an administration ignorant of Washington’s ways. Nor can we honestly blame the system, the media or the public — the ground on which presidential politics is always played. It is the result, ironically, of poor leadership choices. Abandoning the “transformational” model of his presidential campaign, Obama has tried to govern as a “transactional” leader. These terms were coined by political scientist James MacGregor Burns 30 years ago. “Transformational” leadership engages followers in the risky and often exhilarating work of changing the world, work that often changes the activists themselves. Its sources are shared values that become wellsprings of the courage, creativity and hope needed to open new pathways to success. “Transactional” leadership, on the other hand, is about horse-trading, operating within the routine, and it is practiced to maintain, rather than change, the status quo. The nation was ready for transformation, but the president gave us transaction. And, as is the case with leadership failures, much of the public’s anger, disappointment and frustration has been turned on a leader who failed to lead.”
Produced by Fault Lines / Al-Jazeera, featuring: Avi Lewis; Andrew Langer, a Tea Party activist and the president of the Institute for Liberty, a libertarian think tank and advocacy group in DC; Brad Blakeman, a Republican strategist who was a deputy assistant to George W Bush; Neera Tanden, the chief operating officer at the Center for American Progress, who worked on policy for Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign; and Bill Fletcher, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and on the board of BlackCommentator.com.
By B. on B is for Blog
“Last night was demoralizing. Watching election results was crushing. For those who hadn’t totally come off the hopium of 2008, this was quite a crash….It’s times like these that call us to fight stronger and harder than ever before. But if we do it from a place of despair, a place of hopelessness, the work will only become another form of punishment that the world is already too ready to mete out to us… Their claiming seats of power should not also lay claim to our spirits. Because to be honest, there is a lot to make us optimistic. Change is coming from the Global South and within the US, poor people and people of color led movements are getting stronger and tighter and more ready to greet it…The DREAM Act students, the movement in Arizona, and those Taking Back the Land have shown all of us that bold action is not only possible but sparks a movement when taken. The linkage between indigenous people within North America and the global South and the call for the rights of mother earth demonstrate that in the face of corporate globalization, we can internationalize our communities and our struggles at the grassroots.”
by John Sirota on Open Left
“While I don’t buy the idea that President Obama will face a primary challenge (despite polls showing a near majority of Democratic voters supporting one), I do think Fund is right that there will be – and should be – increasing post-election progressive pressure on Obama to deliver on his campaign promises. We will, of course, hear a lot of “wait until after the next election” nonsense that is the typical excuse for inaction – and we will hear that nonsense at a greater decibel level than ever because it will precede what is expected to be a closely fought 2012 election campaign.”
by Julianne Hing on Colorlines
“While last night’s election was dismal for the Democratic Party across the country, things looked quite different in California, Colorado and Nevada, where Democrats won key races that many expected them to lose. Political analysts have long been hailing the growing power of the Latino vote, but the numbers from these western races seem to make it clear now: Latinos brought it home for the Democrats and saved what would have otherwise been much closer races for both Jerry Brown and Harry Reid.”
by Jamilah King on Colorlines
“Today, as Democrats are solemnly tallying up their losses, there’s one inescapable fact about what the midterm electorate looked like: it was overwhelmingly whiter and older than 2008. The questions for President Obama now are what happened to the energetic base of young voters of color who thrusted him to power in 2008? And what will it take to bring them back into his party’s fold before 2012?…’We need a bold leadership that inspires young people from both sides of the aisle to fight for our interests,’ [said Rob “Biko” Baker, executive director of the League of Young Voters]. ‘Without that, we’re gonna lose a whole generation of young people we just activated in 2008.'”