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Not "Obama's Challenger" but our challenges

Quoting from Bruce Dixon's response in mail to my "Jesse Jackson 2012" concept:

Nader and Gravel are too damn old, though I really love Ralph. I voted for him in 2000, 2004 I think, and 2008. Having been in a rollover accident in 2004 I credit the man with literally saving my life. If it had not been for the seat belt I would not be alive today.

... Jesse is old and tired, he made his choice to subordinate movement-building to joining the Democratic party establishment a long, long time ago.

For me, the talk about primarying Obama is empty noise. How many of the folks talking that crap can primary their state representative? This is the kind of dead-end "community" the internet fools people into imagining exists. The practice of electoral politics is both art and science, and the lazy thinking that says somebody will ride in running for president and that some presidential campaign will organize the people in your city or suburb or town is bullshit.

Running XY* for president is no substitute for talking to your neighbors and making local issues out of job creation and privatization and the carceral, warfare and national security states.

What political campaign season is, for organizers, is a time when people are expecting the conversation about all these issues to be brought to them, and when they really WANT opportunities to discuss the issues. Our media and political system does not, of course, afford them said opportunities.

Screw the presidential. I am looking for candidates for state rep and state senator and county commissioner and stuff here in Georgia. That's where you have to start. It's a step you cannot skip,

What I'd say is that Ian is right: It's necessary for the left -- "as we understand" the left, which includes people like Hayden, Hamsher, Sanders, etc. -- to take Obama down, and TO BE SEEN TO. It's existential; if the left can't or won't do that, then there is no left to be seen.

At the same time, I agree with Bruce (and with DCBlogger, who's been saying the same thing) that "primarying your state rep" is a heck of a lot harder and a lot more important.

Here at Corrente, we've already been able to give a platform to at least one candidate and several activists. I hope we can keep sharing "experience, strength, and hope", but what I hope even more (and don't know how to do) is that we end up with 2, 20, 2000 Correntes all doing their bit in parallel; a structure a lot more resilient and much less susceptible to capture than the "one big site" model that brought us The Obama 527 Formerly Known As Daily Kos.

NOTE * Or even XX.

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Submitted by Hugh on

There's the story of the French revolutionary who heard a mob out in the street and sent someone to find what they were protesting because he said, "How else can I lead them?" The liberal orgs and elite blogs are much like that French politician. They want to exploit political action for their own benefit but they don't want to create and organize it. They really are followers pretending to be leaders.

These groups have had two years to organize opposition to the Republicans and Democrats and to organize an alternate political movement. They have done zilch. They will do zilch. If a political figure or movement shows up, they may try to attach themselves to it, but they will never create one.

Bruce Dixon is wrong. Perot showed up out of nowhere and upset the electoral applecart. If he had been just a little savvier politically, he could easily have won. That was not quite 20 years ago. More recently we have seen the Tea Party mess with the ossified Republican Establishment. True, it is a reactionary movement and it has astro-turfed roots but it already has had electoral successes.

Compare this to the left. We have a much better, saleable message. We have great tools for organizing, but, and it's a big but, we aren't organizing. Why? Because those groups that can organize are creatures of the Democratic party. To organize in a politically wider sense, we on the left need to realize that we must first emancipate ourselves from our own organizations and to move into opposition against them. If we are to take down Obama and the Democrats, then we must first take down the Moulitsas, the Hamshers, the MoveOns, the unions. The "mob" is already out there and it is us. What we need to do is kick our sellout would be "leaders" to the curb. They are like that French politician. Real leadership can only come from within our ranks, you know the mob.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

We need new organizations. All of the current ones sold out to the oligarchy when they abandoned Medicare for All, and signed on to the PO trick sparkle pony. During that process they cultivated habits of compliance with Dem Party politicians who didn't want them to talk out of the bounds of the debate the Administration wanted to manipulate and they even actively suppressed advocacy of Medicare for All.

These organizations and blogs have lost their legitimacy. They have to give way to new structures with new leaders who will follow a bottom-up approach to organization.

Submitted by brucedixon on

Perot's showing had nothing to do with left or movement or any kind of grassroots oppositional institution-building. He was a billionaire close enough to the establishment consensus for corporate media gatekeepers not to feel too uncomfortable selling him hundreds of millions (in today's money) worth of air time to put his message out there. So he has nothing to do with this discussion.

I am saying that presidential campaigns, first because they are electoral campaigns, and secondly because they happen, relative to grassroots, in the stratosphere. Presidential candidates and their campaigns rarely bother to ask what they can do for long-term local organizing efforts, first because electoral campaigns are by nature short-term efforts anyway, and secondly because the US tradition of candidate-centered politics discourages anybody on any level from thinking about such things.

Hence, while it is theoretically possible for an electoral campaign to be a plus for long-term organizing and movement building, it often works quite the other way around. Electoral campaigns are frequently where organizing efforts and movement building go to die.

Hugh is correct in saying that we need brand new organizations, new roadmaps and new objectives, and wholly new political parties. The Democratic party is reform proof and people-proof. I am one of many who spent a quarter century running and volunteering and consulting for independent Dem candidates, primarying the Daley Machines of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. We won some battles, and learned lots of lessons, but we lost the war. It's over. We lost that one. It's their party now, and has been for a long time now. We need to get over it.

Those new visions, new organizations, new rodamaps will not be provided to us by a presidential candidate. We've got to get out here on the ground in our own neighborhoods, and get our neighbors talking to each other about the things that really matter. If you cannot elect an alderman or a school board member or two whose time are you wasting talking up a challenge to a sitting president?

Maybe the answer is mine, since I'm talking to you. You know who you are.:-)

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

I agree 95% with Bruce here. The trajectory of building upwards from local to national office should guide the development of third parties.

The 5% where I disagree involves recognizing that the strategy hasn't worked so far, which is to say that those of us who are actually working along these lines are in a very small minority: very few leftists are running for local office themselves or working to develop the local infrastructure necessary to make others running for office a viable prospect for others.

Why this is the case has a lot to do with negative attitudes with respect to third party organizing promulgated by respected national left intellectuals, journalists and think tanks. These attitudes (or, more accurately, prejudices) trickle down to the left rank and file with the result that when push comes to shove it is becomes very difficult to develop the kind of commitment which is required to build a viable third party infrastructure.

Insofar as engaging in this debate with a "left establishment" constitutes politics "in the stratosphere" I'd argue that it's something we have to do. And if a third party presidential run forces the left establishment to show their true colors as DP hacks, that's also an argument in its favor.

So while I main agree that the focus needs to be on developing a network of viable local organizations, they do need to be tied together by some kind of vision.

It's hard to see how leftists would make the commitment to dealing with the minutia of local government without it.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

What I'd say is that Ian is right: It's necessary for the left -- "as we understand" the left, which includes people like Hayden, Hamsher, Sanders, etc. -- to take Obama down, and TO BE SEEN TO. It's existential; if the left can't or won't do that, then there is no left to be seen.

Depends on how quickly a new left willing to primary him can emerge, raise enough money, begin organizing people, and preparing the way for a run the way he did in 2007. I'd say we need to see the new organizations by March of 2011, See them go viral by June 2011. See them raise a fortune for the organizing work by September 2011, and send out workers to places like Iowa by then too.

As the new left gets press coverage, goes viral, and begins raising money, some of the old left will switch sides and begin to attack Obama for fear of losing their own adherents to the new organizations and blogs. Jane Hamsher, in particular, will have her radar out, looking for new left fund raising success. If and when success looks likely, FDL will get bolder in its own activities, and Jane will cautiously begin talking about "the base moving left" during her MSM appearance. That will begin to crack the monolithic MSM facade. At that point there will be a lot of backchannel talking about getting a candidate for the movement. People will have to be very careful at this point that a new oligarchy person doesn't penetrate the process and become the choice.

All this assumes that present trends continue, and Obama doesn't change direction. The foreclosure fraud mess may cause a real crisis in the Administration and force them to take down some of the really big banks. The double-dip will follow on that. At that point, either Obama starts following FDR really furiously, or the new left gets wings, or both.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Haven't we given a platform to two candidates: Warren Mosler, and Julia Williams? And didn't Jonathan Tasini get some boosting here as well.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

organize locally. If you cannot elect a sherrif who refuses to carry out foreclosures based on fraudulent paperwork, if you cannot elect a mayor who refuses to do business with Goldman Sachs, how are you going to elect a President? Just this evening a relative told me that they would vote for a 3rd party candidate in a minute if they had a chance of winning.


we need to to win one of these things. Corrente is too small to be a decisive factor, but we can help.

Submitted by lambert on

... and I don't think that's a bad thing, since it avoids the "tall poppy" syndrome.

But I think we should go forward with confidence that there are others like us that we will ultimately encounter, and for good.