A few suggestions for reading in preparation for Denver meet-up
First I’ll point to a few books, but note that most people will not be able to obtain these, let alone read them, in the short period of time left. I therefore include a modest number of links to shorter, online material in the second half.
What I recommend for reading is based on my conclusion that the Obama administration, because of its inability to conceive of an alternative policy paradigm to replace economic neo-liberalism, is in the process of discrediting political liberalism for the next two or three presidential election cycles. This places us in a very uncomfortable and demanding position: we must continue our clamorous denunciation of President Obama’s policy failures and compromises, while at the same time defending him and the Democratic Party in general from an increasingly irrational and politically potent wrong-wing.
I deliberately throw in “Democratic Party” here, because there really is no tenable third-party alternative at this point. Indeed, alternative political parties in the United States have only come to power once, and that in a time of national crisis so severe that open civil war followed immediately upon its winning of the White House. The are many, quite disconcerting, similarities between conservative political groups of that time, and those we have to deal with today. I therefore recommend reading the first few chapters of James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. There’s no need to read the entire book – you won’t learn much of political practicality in the bulk of the book that is devoted to the actual war and its military operations. What you want to learn is how the conservatives in that era organized themselves around a mind-boggling mythology of lies and half-truths, and reflect on if there was ever a point where the process could have been stopped in order to avoid the war.
There is another point in American history where a progressive populist movement seized political power, and it did so by targeting both legacy parties at the state level. I am referring to the meteoric rise of the Non-Partisan League in North Dakota in the early 1910s. There is an outstanding history that may not be that easy to find: Political Prairie Fire: The Non-Partisan League, 1915-1922. This was a recommended reading for ACORN organizers, and I would assert that it is invaluable to anyone in our position today. I have about 20 pages of notes and scans of the book, which I can email to anyone interested. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a 1979 film that is a fictional account of an NPL organizer, which I am told is as good as the book. The title is Northern Lights and the makers were John Hansen and Rob Nilsen. If anyone can get their hands on a copy of this film, you are duty-bound to somehow copy it and share it. My local librarian did a search and found one copy – in Australia.
Jon Walker at FireDogLake did a five part series on the book earlier this month. I was not very impressed with it, but it is a useful overview, and is probably as useful as my jumbled notes would be.
My own quick effort to tell the history of the NPL is here.
The central issue thus remains economics (and the Obama administration’s inability to create policies alternative to the reigning economic theories of the past four decades). I therefore continue to highly recommend Jonathon Larson’s 1992 book, Elegant Technology; economic prosperity from an environmental blueprint. It is available entirely on the internet; at the very least, read the chapter on money.
The best treatment I have so far read of the problem of alternative politics in the United States remains Lawrence Goodwyn's 1978 masterpiece, The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America. Goodwyn has made a life’s work of studying popular democratic uprisings and social movements, and his Introduction is decidedly pessimistic on the prospect of popular democratic uprisings in advanced industrial societies. Here, I posted a large excerpt from Goodwyn's Introduction.
I have returned repeatedly to Stirling Newberry’s The Drum Beat of a New Nation since he posted it a year ago this month. Also worth returning to is Newberry’s Three Polar Politics In Post-Petroleum America. Generally, going back and reading anything by Newberry is an excellent way to provoke some thinking.
Finally, two relatively quick reads for those who simply won’t have the time to read anything else. A week ago, Ian Welsh wrote Democrats Face 200 million Republican War Chest Without the Strong Allies They Should Have, which I think is an excellent slap-in-the-face that should wake anybody up. To show that Walsh is not just engaging in hyperbole, there’s a story on Huffington Post today which notes that Karl Rove’s new organization raised $5.1 million last month.
And back in January, a week after the evil and satanic Citizens United Supreme Court decision, Sara Robinson offered an excellent list of suggestions for what we can do. It’s also something of a slap-in-the-face
Notice I used the word “satanic.” The Supreme Court basically turned Christianity upside down with its decision, by elevating corporations to the same level as human beings. Since we are made in the image of the Creator, the decision is accurately described as satanic. I therefore reinforce gqmartinez’s recommendation of the Bible and the Koran. Whether you like it or not, we’re dealing with a society in which religious beliefs are extremely important. To change that society, we must engage in cultural warfare. By, for example, explaining to our fellow citizens how the recent Supreme Court decision is satanic. The decision – and I am not aware of a single conservative figure who has denounced it, or even expressed misgivings about it –usurps the fundamental truth that human beings have certain inalienable rights because they are made in the image of The Creator, and are endowed with reason and rationality. For those who are interested, a full explication of the concept, as it was understood by the Founders, see the 1787 sermon preached in Providence, RI by Congregational minister Nathaniel Emmons, “The Dignity of Man,”) No other entity can be given the same rights as human beings without doing damage to this great truth. The conservative movement, in general, is satanic, as I attempted to explain a few years ago: Conservatism, and Evil as the Absence of Good. Like I wrote before: whether you like it or not, we’re dealing with a society in which religious beliefs are extremely important. To change that society, we must engage in cultural warfare. Of course, I think of it as spiritual warfare, also.