[Marxism] A Black / Brown Coalition: How to End the Tea Party (and Scare Obama at the Same Time)
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Wed Jul 28 03:23:11 MDT 2010
A Black / Brown Coalition
How to End the Tea Party (and Scare Obama at the Same Time)
By SAM SMITH
One of the reasons the left doesn’t do better is because it tends to
view the right's transgressions as a moral issue rather than as a
pragmatic problem as, for example, a baseball coach would do if the
Tea Party were the other team.
In fact, calling someone a racist is not a particularly useful
political move whereas figuring out why they’re getting to first base
all the time, and you’re not, is.
Here, for example, are three ways the right's political strategy
varies from the left’s:
- The right keeps it simple. It speaks United States, not bland
abstractions devised by some third rate branding coach. There is
hardly anyone in the country who doesn’t know the right opposes gay
marriage, abortion and illegal immigration. Now try describing three
primary goals of liberals or the left and you see the problem. This
not only works on the voters, it works with the media, which finds its
difficult to deal with more than three concepts at a time.
- The right keeps its eye on issues rather than icons. Liberals
just become indentured servants of an Obama or Clinton and let the
wars and the Wall Street bailouts go on unimpeded. The GOP doesn’t
even have a leading candidate for 2012, but it’s already controlling
- The right knows how to scare the shit out of liberals and
politicians like Obama, whereas the right doesn't even get scared at
the thought of destroying the planet.
The right has become so powerful for the same reason that Bernie
Madoff was so wealthy: by conning people. But we didn't send people to
prison for being fooled by Madoff and we shouldn't send voters to
purgatory for being fooled by the GOP. Instead, we need to rethink the
whole game, including figuring out how to turn the rightwing's victims
into a progressive constituency.
So here are three good places to start changing the left's own
politics: speak United States, deal with issues and let the
politicians fend for themselves, and start scaring the shit out of the
powers that be.
And here's one way it could happen.
The Tea Party, according to recent polling, is supported by about 18%
of the American public. On the other hand, there is a potential
constituency of 28% of the American public that could have a huge
impact on our politics, but doesn't, in no small part because
political mythology has it that its components parts can't get on well
This is a familiar story in American politics: after all southern
racism was built in no small part on elite whites convincing less
wealthy whites that their real enemies were poor blacks. Similarly
today, the media and political establishment tell us that the 28% of
the country comprised of blacks and latinos just can't come together
enough to make an effective coalition.
Yes, there are conflicts such as immigration. But consider that the
whole illegal immigration matter involves only about 5% of the
workforce, that the illegal immigrant and black workforces tend to be
geographically separated, that no illegal immigrant is known to have
outsourced any meaningful number of jobs or slashed public employment,
and the mythological aspect of the black-latino conflict over
immigration becomes clear. It is mainly useful as a tool to keep the
two ethnic groups apart.
Now it's true that a group of black, latino, labor and other
progressive groups are planning a joint demonstration in October, as
the Washington Post has described:
In an effort to replicate the tea party's success, 170 liberal and
civil rights groups are forming a coalition that they hope will match
the movement's political energy and influence. They promise to
"counter the tea party narrative" and help the progressive movement
find its voice again after 18 months of floundering.
The large-scale attempt at liberal unity, dubbed "One Nation,"
will try to revive themes that energized the progressive grassroots
two years ago. In a repurposing of Barack Obama's old campaign slogan,
organizers are demanding "all the change" they voted for -- a poke at
the White House.
But the liberal groups have long had a kind of sibling rivalry,
jostling over competing agendas and seeking to influence some of the
same lawmakers. In forming the coalition, the groups struggled to
settle on a name. Even now, two of the major players disagree about
who came up with the idea of holding a march this fall. . .
The groups involved represent the core of the first-time voters
who backed President Obama -- including the National Council of La
Raza, NAACP, AFL-CIO, SEIU and the United States Student Association.
Their aha moment happened after the health-care overhaul passed
this spring. Liberal groups, who focused their collective strength to
push the bill against heavy resistance, felt relevant and effective
for the first time in a long while. That health-care coalition --
composed of civil rights groups, student activists and labor leaders
-- liked the winning feeling.
Unfortunately the initial noise from the effort has very much the
traditional sound of much liberal organizing: mushy, middle of the
road and tied to winning some seats in Congress rather than really
changing the politics of those who win. And the thought of the lousy
healthcare bill being considered an aha moment is not reassuring.
We've already been through this fantasy once with the supposed black
Jesus, Obama. Putting our faith in one more congressional election may
just be the Democrat's Last Supper.
But here is what could really change American politics:
- Top black and latino groups come together to find out what they
agree on. Anything they disagree about is put in the later file.
- The list, no more than ten issues, should primarily deal with
matters that affect not only blacks and latinos but broad segments of
white America. The one way that minorities truly do well politically
in this country is when they lead the majority. If they do, then their
more ethnic concerns benefit as well. That should be the goal in this
- The list should be specific with no abstractions.
- The coalition should announce it will not endorse any candidates
(that would be up to the member organizations of the group) but will
be publishing a score card on all candidates based on these issues.
The consensus issues should be heavily centered on economics such as
Social Security, foreclosures, and credit care usury. Ending the war
in Afghanistan and single payer would be other examples. In each case,
a position stated in no longer than one line or a tweet.
If you have any doubts of the power of these issues, consider the
following from a recent Time poll:
86% oppose reducing spending on Social Security
82% oppose reducing spending on Medicare.
55% would reduce spending on the war in Afghanistan
63% would not reduce spending on unemployment compensation
68% would not reduce spending on healthare.
After the black and latino groups have drafted their policy, they
could invite others - such as labor and student groups - to join them,
but the key point would remain: American politics will never be the
same because blacks and latinos have come together and another
political myth has been shattered.
Sam Smith is the editor of the Progressive Review, where this column
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