With the Supreme Court on a holy war to protect guns, fetuses, and big polluting corporations, among others, there’s a real and growing sense of panic among progressives, women, environmentalists and liberal and left-leaning Americans about the future. The Court has also agreed to put on the docket for next term a case about election law that would give the states virtually total power to conduct elections any way they want–meaning that GOP-led legislatures could give electoral votes to their candidate even if he/she lost the election in that state. It’s a scary time.
And what’s the response been? Nancy Pelosi was campaigning for anti-abortion and pro-gun Democrat Henry Cuellar in south Texas on the day the Dobbs decision came down. With her help and lots of DCCC money Cuellar squeaked past his pro-choice opponent. Joe Biden responded to the Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade by making an empty speech and then cutting a deal with Mitch McConnell to appoint, wait for it, an anti-abortion judge to a federal seat (a plan since scotched not because Biden listened to progressives but because of the opposition from Kentucky’s other Republican Senator, Rand Paul). Liberal groups, many of whom promised to be in the streets and shut down the country if abortions were outlawed, mostly complained on social media and used the decision to raise money.
It was nothing like the summer of 2020.
The 2020 uprisings forced the ruling class to take the protests seriously because upwards of 20 million people of all races, ages, etc. mostly spontaneously went to the streets aggressively and militantly. They didn’t rely on “vote Blue no matter who” or petitions or donations to the DNC. They created instability and the ruling class blinked, albeit temporarily, but it blinked. Before the Democrats and media were able to jump into the fray and coopt the messages coming from the streets, majorities of Americans saw the police as a malignant force, believed in defunding, and even supported, with 54 percent, burning a police precinct building in Minneapolis. Corporations rushed in and took symbolic action–BLM flags on their businesses–but also made certain that Trump wasn’t re-elected because the immense instability he had created, including property destruction in major cities from coast-to-coast, wasn’t good for the economy, see https://afflictthecomfortable.org/2021/01/31/the-limits-of-power-donald-j-trump/.
As it stands now, many corporations have taken a stand against the Supreme Court’s abortion decision and will pay for women to travel out of state if they want or need that procedure. They’re not radical allies but they understand how important women are to capitalist stability and how the court’s rulings are creating even more social division and disharmony. The GOP derides them as “woke capitalists” and that’s what they are, and there’s been “woke capitalism” since liberalism emerged. In the short term, anything the ruling class does to stave off the courts is fine, but it’s not a long-term strategy. Sadly, in the absence of a sentient Democratic Party or street resistance, these corporate and financial oligarchs represent the forces of progress right now. That’s not what you want . . .
Now we’re back into panic mode with people freaking out about “fascism” and stolen elections and the Supreme Court, reminiscent of the early bleatings of the WaPo-made celebrity Timothy Snyder or the preposterous Paul Street of the once-reputable Counterpunch. Things are very bad–that can’t be denied. But hysteria is never a good strategy. The response we’re getting, which has been prevalent since election day November 2016, is that you have to donate to the Democrats or liberal NGOs and of course you have to vote.
How’s that worked out so far? Clinton won, Obama won, Biden won–and abortion rights were never defended or protected. And if the GOP is planning on stealing elections from now on, then you’re not going use your vote to stop them. Social media freak-outs about how bad the GOP is or Trump’s putative “fascism” or McConnell’s evil might be a good way to vent, but they do less than zero to help organize and build a movement.
Liberals love to talk about the Civil Rights Movement and the 60s–the antiwar movement, draft resistance, women’s liberation, environmentalists, Stonewall…..
But back then, people went into the streets, blockaded traffic, sat-in at offices and businesses, conducted major boycotts, did civil disobedience, practiced militant resistance, confronted the forces of authority, targeted businesses associated with the adversary, every day, all the time. Unions, church groups, community activists, students, and so many others participated militantly in movements of all types. They made it clear that “business as usual” would have an escalating price. They became ungovernable.
Not a lot like that is happening today, which is why the summer uprisings of 2020 were so important. The Democrats won’t save us. MoveOn and ActBlue won’t save us. Social media anguish won’t save us. A unilateral focus on voting won’t save us (in fact, 1 million voters have shifted their registration from Democrat to Republican in the past year). Those old responses need to be put away and people need to organize, organize, organize.
It’s time to be as radical as reality itself.