Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why not Obama?

A problem with any argument that we have to back Obama to stop the Republicans, that he's moving our way finally, that we need to vote strategically, etc., is that the working people have had it with him and most cannot be brought back. If the alternative presented is between Corporate Democrats or Fascist Republicans, sooner or later - probably sooner - enough will be sufficiently disappointed or angry enough with their phony champions to join in punishing them not just by staying home but even by voting for the Republican.

The other side of the coin is that we have a huge historic opportunity and challenge in front of us, one which most activists somehow seem to have missed.

The working people are in a very different mood and at a much higher level of consciousness than I have ever seen in my lifetime, but deeply cynical about the possibility of change through the ballot box. Exhibit A for most of them: Obama, who has disappointed them terribly. We need a voice and a leader who will use the election to put forward a new vision that we can rally around. Nothing, by the way, will do more to get folks out to vote for progressive Congressional candidates. Failure to grab the initiative now could have disastrous consequences. Our biggest obstacle is the failure of progressives to grasp this reality.

The labor/populist candidate for the Dem nomination for governor in Mass in 2010, Grace Ross, running in the primary against Deval Patrick, a Black corporatist incumbent, reached 27% in a Rasmussen poll of likely voters in a matchup with the Republican and Independent candidates - even though only 51% reported knowing enough about her to express an opinion. Signatures were easy to collect; Ross failed to get enough to get on the ballot because activists didn't see her as having a chance and wouldn't turn out to collect them!

The best line I found for getting a signature for Ross: "She can't deliver on these things for us by herself. You should know that if we put her on the ballot we're picking a fight and choosing her to lead us in that fight." If they looked like a working person, black brown or white, Yankee or immigrant, young or old, big city or small town, that usually got their signature!

Five or ten years ago folks would have run the other way from that line, because that was exactly what they were afraid of! Now apparently they're ready. If we fail to rise to the occasion by offering an authentic populist leader to challenge Obama it will be at our mortal peril

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mayor O'Brien steps down for personal reasons

Joe O'Brien has been a good mayor, a friend to many parts of our community, an open door and a breath of fresh air. On the issue I am most involved with - stopping the foreclosures and keeping people in their homes - he has been a friend and supporter. I agree with Clive that "... his decision not to seek re-election as mayor is a blow to the city." I fear that my own being too busy with other struggles and issues - such as making a living - to help with his reelection campaign may in some small way have contributed to his decision.

Clive also writes "Despite his advocacy for those 'living at the margin,' Mr. O’Brien also understood that helping them should not come at the expense of other residents." Joe's own experience with trying to juggle the mayor's seven-days 60-hour-a-week job and a challenging experience with fatherhood on $35k illustrates a deeper truth: lots of us are struggling to get by, struggling with issues of survival and holding our families together. This is not just a problem that is "over there" in Great Brook Valley, not just an immigrant problem or a "minority" problem.

A politics that deals with this, that supports us all, has to include reaching out to all those on the margins of our city. Our struggles are theirs too, and a politics that includes them is one that makes us more powerful, not less.

Joe's genius is that he understands this. Putting him in the Mayor's office was a win for all the regular people of Worcester. His personal decision to step down, discarding the gains of our past efforts, was a defeat for us all, whether he intended that or not. But we should not let our disappointment blind us to our need to keep his voice on the City Council.

That one person's decision to step down could so impact the work and interests of so many highlights the need for a different kind of politics, one that is not about candidates and personalities.