In 2008, President Obama and his team made a huge mistake by demobilizing the movement-like swell of volunteers who had animated his campaign. He shouldn’t make the same mistake twice:
President Obama was indeed a transformational candidate. He now has a second chance at being a transformational political leader, one who runs toward and embraces the messy possibilities of populism and year-round grass-roots engagement or simply continues to try and push away and repress such demanding forms of democracy.
Read the full essay here.
In my latest column for Salon, I remind us progressives that while we certainly don’t want Republicans to gain power in this election, it’s not exactly like Democrats are universally standing up for progressive ideas and values. An excerpt:
The reality is that, whether it’s because we’re chronically pessimistic or used to being marginalized or uncomfortable losing in the short term to win down the road, the Democratic rank-and-file continue to let our party stray toward the center. While the Tea Party has exacted revenge even against any Republican who dares work in a bipartisan fashion on mainstream legislation, Democrats can barely get their candidates to stop bashing their own party in public let alone vote in support of a liberal agenda.
Read the rest here.
Marking the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, I write in the American Prospect:
In spite of the odds that stood against it, Occupy Wall Street did not repel America, but attracted it, crystallizing and dramatizing the inequality that has become the central political struggle of our time. In the wake of an economic collapse that devastated every community in America and with a progressive movement that had been unable to respond to small crises—let alone major ones—with any unity of purpose or voice, Occupy stepped into the void. With threadbare blankets, it somehow wove together the disparate agendas of the left. Like the countless tent poles at protests across the country, Occupy gave the too-often cowering American left a spine.
Read the entire essay here, and please share your reflections on the lasting legacy of Occupy.
In my latest column for the American Prospect, I explore the relationship between so-called “social movement non-profit organizations” and the on-the-ground social movements they seek to spark and/or support. Here’s an excerpt:
The problem with social-movement organizations is that they can ossify, moving away from their original dynamic energy and settling into a routine that can be risk averse and stagnant. Sadly, many organizations that once grew out of and served movements become little more than mausoleums to those movements, the very existence of the institution a symbolic triumph to the victories of the past rather than an active participant in fights for the future.
What is needed is dynamic, adaptive growth. Doctors tell us that embryonic stem cells are especially valuable because they can morph into other varieties of cells. Put them next to a lung, they become lung cells. Put them next to skin, they become skin cells. They’re classically opportunistic, but not in a bad way—a political consultant might call them “strategic.” And keen strategy is just what is needed at this crucial time for social-movement organizations.
Read the whole essay here — and especially if you are in this mix of organizations and movements, tell me what you think.
In my latest piece for the American Prospect, I write about the coming “American Spring” — the next phase of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In a nutshell, I make three predictions:
1. The main focus will be Occupy Our Homes, helping families avoid foreclosure or reclaim homes from bank takeovers.
2. The anarchist wing of the movement will largely fracture off and stay focused on encampments in public space and edgy, mass demonstrations.
3. Grassroots organizations will become more central to Occupy by launching actions that reinforce Occupy Our Homes, including a major focus on protesting at corporate shareholder meetings.
At the end of the piece, I write:
I was recently trying to explain hibernation to my three-year-old. I told her that animals like bears store food in the fall, dig in and gather strength in the winter and then come out ready for spring. The 99 percent movement gathered tremendous public will and political momentum in the fall of 2011. Now, the movement is quietly planning and gathering strategic strength. In the spring, populist activism will bloom across America with a density and diversity unheard of for decades. It’s going to be a very hot spring indeed.
You can read the full piece here.
Think what you will about the protests. Maybe they weren’t your cup of tea. But do know that our forefathers who destroyed private property by dumping crates of tea into the Boston Harbor were not initially praised as heroes but attacked as criminals. But we look back with deep gratitude that they stood up to the fundamental inequity and injustice of the British monarchy and its stranglehold over the colonies. Without their bold action, we would not be a nation.
Such protests often look prettier with the distance of history. Standing up to the status quo is, by definition, counter-cultural in the moment — even if those doing the standing up have the support of the majority of Americans.
Read the rest here http://fxn.ws/sEV3Ji
“It’s clear that the movement to make our economy and political system work for the 99% has barely completed the first 1% of its long and vital journey. You can evict protesters, but you can never evict a growing idea.”
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