Ben Boyce


Social movement or political realignment?

Posted on May 4, 2017 by Ben Boyce

The swift and massive civic response to the Trump election is a social movement, galvanized by widespread revulsion against the white nationalist element in the Republican base. The Democratic Party political leaders have lagged behind the populist upsurge. They have still not found their bearings yet, but the Resistance movement is clear about their rejection of the racially charged Republican nativist faction and of Mr. Trump’s degenerate personal character.

The real question at this stage is whether the Resistance will forge an enduring progressive political realignment that grows out of the spontaneously generated anti-Trump social movement.

This could be a golden opportunity for a deeply fractured center-left coalition. Unfortunately, this rare chance could be squandered by the on-going civil war within the Democratic Party. A deeply embittered progressive wing is challenging the centrist establishment wing of the Democrats. The Bernie Sanders base is incensed at the DNC shenanigans in the primary. Sadly, the American Left has been out of power for so long that the default position is to implicitly assume defeat by the Right and then direct their fire on the spectrum of the Left immediately to their right.

This internecine conflict must be resolved before the shocked social reaction to Trump can gel into a coherent political force. The ‘corrupt duopoly’ meme, which is an article of faith for the alt-left, is past its sell-by date. It is politically illiterate to deny that there is qualitative difference between standard neo-liberal political regimes and a reckless pirate band of oligarchic privatizers and asset-strippers that are working systematically to “deconstruct the administrative state.” That’s a useful distinction to make. Both sides are not the same.

We need to face the facts: the Electoral College, baked right into the Constitution, predetermines a two party system. Like it or not, we are not a European parliamentary democracy. That means that we need to get that the Democratic Party is a coalition of cultural liberals, public sector unions, and democratic socialists.

We can’t beat back the right-wing nihilists and their project to dismantle the entire progressive legacy of the last hundred years with the magic unicorn party. It does not exist. We’ll have to find a way to cooperate with each other, or preside over the decline of a free and open society. Nobody holds all the cards in this political game, so no one is in a position to dictate terms to the other faction. We have to grow up and find a modus vivendi amongst ourselves or get used to living in a corrupt second world country run by fundamentalist zealots, flat earth/flat taxers, and police state authoritarians.

Fantasy politics won’t save us, either. Real politics is about power and the subsequent distribution of resources. After this catastrophic election, which has placed the Constitution, the last hundred years of progressive legislative achievements, and even the survival of the species at risk, I have run out of patience with this peculiar variety of alt-left purity trolls who believe that the ‘collapse of the system’ will somehow magically bring about a glorious people’s revolution.

They are not practicing politics; they’re doing public psychotherapy. As a lifelong democratic socialist, I believe in a material metric for authentic political action. I reject the privileged cultural leftist Newspeak that says that ‘the worse things get the better they are.’ We can’t take someone like that seriously. It’s a form of ideological status signaling.

Despite the many internal conflicts within the Resistance movement, really good work to defend the rights of undocumented immigrants is being done by Indivisible and related groups that have sprung up all across the country.

Local nonprofits like La Luz are offering legal seminars to help residents with unresolved immigration paperwork and ‘know your rights’ police encounters tutorials. A number of local officials have stepped up to pass resolutions defending immigrant human rights.

The city of Santa Rosa joined over 400 other cities in U.S. that have adopted resolutions to clearly separate local police forces from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in the interest of public safety. “Santa Rosa unanimously declared itself an ‘indivisible city’ Tuesday in an effort to express its support for undocumented immigrants without using the controversial term ‘sanctuary,’ which some council members worried might give residents a greater sense of protection than the city could offer. Mayor Chris Coursey said: ‘We all know people who are in jeopardy because of the intent of the new administration in Washington. It’s our intent to protect those people and that’s the bottom line here.’”

Here in the city of Sonoma, local activist and writer Will Shonbrun has taken the editorial lead in standing up to the draconian immigration dragnet promoted by Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Working class heroes Claudia Robbins, Dave Ransom, and Mario Castillo have organized community events to lobby the Sonoma City Council to adopt a sanctuary city designation. I commend their principled commitment to a society based on solidarity, and their rejection of the politics of fear and alienation. We can and must do better.


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