Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Progressive Democrats and a Fine Old Conflict

Joan Walsh describes her momentarily hopeful perspective on the #Ferguson and the threat of a much deeper US intervention in Iraq. And she cautions against Democrats relying too much on the Green Lantern theory of the Presidency. (The Magical President doesn’t exist: What the left must really do to defeat the wingnuts Salon 09/01/2014). She encourages progressives to take a longterm perspective that focuses on democratic participation:

The cause isn’t helped by spineless Democrats who try to blur their differences with Republicans instead of heighten them. Right now Karl Rove is attacking Democratic senators like North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Arkansas’s Mark Pryor for endorsing Obama’s Simpson-Bowles commission report, which recommended cuts to Medicare and Social Security. But nobody could have predicted anyone would use entitlement cuts as weapons, right? Except many of us did. Again and again.

On the other hand, Hagan, Pryor and also-vulnerable Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are doing better than expected, either leading their GOP opponents or tied, at least partly because during this election year, they’ve been feistier and more progressive, particularly when it comes to defending the Affordable Care Act. And Kentucky voters may yet make Mitch McConnell pay for sucking up to the Kochs. He shouldn’t be redecorating the Senate majority leader’s office, at any rate.

And she reminds us that progress in history requires effort, and that it often doesn't happen quickly, much less quickly enough:

Democrats have two months to make sure this election doesn’t turn out like 2010 did. It’s not about the president right now, and we shouldn’t wait until 2016 for a new magical president. The kind of thoroughgoing change we need won’t happen in eight years, or even 80. It’s an eternal battle, the constant effort to expand the realm of human freedom to everyone, against the constant crusade by the wealthy to ensure that the trappings of human dignity – education, leisure, family life, childhood itself – are reserved for those who can afford to pay for them. The Kochs and their allies are trying to repeal the 20th century. Progressives can't just suit up for that battle every four years.
Joan's point about the "eternal battle" reminds me of the 1977 autobiography of Jessica Mitford, one of the famous and fascinating Mitford sisters, A Fine Old Conflict. She tells the story of her longtime activism in the US Communist Party and tells it with a humor often lacking in such stories. The title comes from the workers' movement anthem, "The Internationale", which the Communist Party used in meetings and marches. The version with which she was familiar used this refrain:

Tis the final conflict
Let each stand in his place
The Internationale
Shall be the human race.
She explained that for the longest time, she thought the lyrics said, "Tis a fine old conflict."


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