Not alone, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the upcoming 2020 election and the necessity of defeating and replacing Donald Trump, holding and expanding the Democratic House majority, and maybe even squeaking through a Democratic Senate majority.
I am persuaded that the failure to defeat Trump in 2020 would open the door to a very different path for the United States – and for the world – that would subsequently be very difficult to reverse. Our country functions with an admittedly flawed legal and constitutional system that is far easier to break than it is to reconstruct. On every count, from gerrymandering to voter suppression to packing the courts, to flaunting the legal system, the ultra – right section of the corporate elite together with the Trump Administration are consciously working to undermine the democratic institutions and processes of the United States, working to create institutional obstacles to future progressive change. That’s on one side.
On the other, the (d)emocratic majority that is required to defeat Trump includes an assemblage of people and social forces that ranges across class, racial, gender, and generational boundaries.
Politically this includes Centrist and Progressive Democrats, new and established organizations and movements (trade union, racial justice, environmental, women, etc.) and joined with the new upheaval among millennials, such as emergence of Black Lives Matter, #metoo, the Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal, and the Democratic Socialists of America. With more than 60,000 members nationally, DSA is by far the largest organization on the left in the United States.
All of these younger movements for racial and gender justice have been gathering strength and political sophistication over the past years. Emerging from the environmental movement, the new Sunrise Movement has projected the Green New Deal as galvanizing grand strategy for environmental, economic and social renewal. The movements for both racial and gender justice have become powerful forces for social justice. And, sparked by Bernie Sander’s Presidential Campaign in 2016, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has become transformed from being a dormant remnant of the efforts to regroup the New Left some decades ago into a very large, primarily young, very militant organization having an agenda of economic and social reform that mirrors the Sanders program and characterizes its goal as Democratic Socialism.
The original impetus for me writing this note was a desire to engage the dialog involving “social democracy / democratic socialism” in relation to the upcoming 2020 elections, but as soon as I started to write something down, I found myself going back to:
- the growth and power of the ultra-right and their programs for undermining of democratic institutions and eliminating the social safety net
- the cumulative failures of neo – liberalism to address the consequences of the “electronic / information / transportation revolution”, the New Industrial Revolution, on the working class, on African Americans, on women, on all racial minorities, on both urban and rural areas, and, in fact, on just about every aspect of American life.
I don’t think that I would know how to think about the new “socialist” movements without locating them in that process.
This essay is my effort to identify the historical trajectory that got us to this insanely crucial turning point in the history of our country, so as to gain some perspective on how to think about the next 18 months. I will circle back to “socialism” at the end.
My starting point is the struggle over the role of government in the economic and social life of the United States. Should government, acting for society as a whole, have the responsibility of providing institutions, including a basic safety net, that supports the basic economic and social needs of the nations and its people? Or should government simply support the structures of capital and wealth accumulation and require and that individuals make do for themselves.
At times of structural changes and industrial revolutions, these issues come to the fore. The United States and the world have been in the middle of a new industrial revolution since the late 1960s.
I think that this revolution puts a whole lot of contemporary politics in sharp relief. Of course, it doesn’t explain everything.
The Post Civil War Industrial Revolution, (based upon Steel, Railroad, Banking, urbanization, etc.) gave rise to deep crises, mass upheaval (Populism, labor revolts, urban crises), and the social need for government to regulate capitalism for the greater good of society. The legislation and institutions, including the Graduated Income Tax, created in the Progressive Era (1890’s – 1920’s) responded to this need in, of course, a collection of initial and partial ways. Most importantly, the Progressive Movement advanced the idea of the responsibility of government to become a counterbalance to free – market, unregulated capitalism.
The resistance to this role of government in the economy and society can be thought of as a fundamental framing of the politics of this country from that time. Major figures and institutions of industrial and finance capital organized and fueled this resistance and, during the 1920’s were successful in rolling back the role of government in the regulation of the economy, leading, of course, to the great Depression of the 1930’s, the New Deal, and the substantial increase of the role of government in the economy and society. Not the least of these advances was the legal right of workers to organize into unions and bargain collectively. But the New Deal also gave us Social Security and Banking Reform in the form of the Glass–Stegall Act. Just as in the period of the Progressive Era, social disintegration gave rise to mass resistance, leading to social reform.
The flip side was the bitter and relentless hatred of the New Deal by a collection of particularly reactionary capitalists – to whom the emergence of the ultra – right in the 1960’s can be clearly traced. The core of this ultra-right was a collection of financiers and industrialists for whom any challenge to their absolute power was unacceptable.
Organizers of this ultra – right recognized very early that their politics and view of government would not, in itself, be attractive to sufficiently large numbers of people so they very consciously organized and attached themselves to racist, anti-communist, nativist, misogynist, anti-democratic, and reactionary religious movements in order to expand their base in order to accomplish their fundamental purpose – rolling back “big government”.
Without engaging the complexities of the Cold War and the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, I will observe that racist resistance to the Civil Rights Movement and the War On Poverty as well as progressive opposition to the Vietnam War combined to cut short a trajectory that also gave us the Voting Rights Act and Medicare. A large part of what we’re now fighting for is the preservation and extension of these two great victories. Yes, life is complex.
At that very juncture of history, the United States entered into 24 years of Republican Presidents (including the 4-year Carter hiccup) and the beginning of a New Industrial Revolution, this one based on electronics, communication, automation, transportation, and globalization – the furious export of capital and manufacturing.
The entire previous economy was progressively destroyed and rebuilt, but with the increasing marginalization and progressive impoverishment of the traditional working class and its trade unions. And this was the period in which the Ultra – Right, fueled by corporate money, carefully expanded its organizational and intellectual base, alliances, and its electoral strategy within the Republican Party and, in the end, took over the GOP.
Their economic and political literature funded by the corporate ultra-right states their goals very directly. In economics, they proposed dismantling not only the social reforms of the Great Society and the New Deal, but also those of the Progressive Era. They envisioned unfettered free-market capitalism. Politically, they envisioned structural limitations on democracy with a view of undermining the checks and balances of the government and establishing unchecked Presidential power. Stacking the courts figured into this as well. They developed a theory of governance, the “unitary presidency” that was specifically designed to elevate the Executive Branch to the detriment of the system of checks and balances. This imbalance is an extension of what Eisenhower specifically warned against in relation to the development of the military – industrial complex. And it’s all written down in books and articles. A program for executive dictatorship.
At the same time, the New Industrial Revolution split the Democrats. The New Democrats saw the future as those who were destined to be part of the New Economy and they embraced the social progressivism that was associated with that trajectory. And they put the working – class, African – American, and immigrant base of the Democratic Party to the side.
I think that a good reference point is Bill Clinton pushing through NAFTA over the objections of the AFL-CIO and half the Democratic Members of the House and Senate. In a parallel action, Clinton signed the repeal of Glass–Stegall, deregulating Wall Street finance. His health care program stalled because, in my view, it was framed by efforts to adjust to the private market rather than to the expansion of Medicare. Even as manufacturing jobs were declining, as a consequence of both automation and export of capital, there was no effort to address the already declining national infrastructure. He triumphantly announced that the “era of Big Government” was over and he began the trajectory of privatizing public resources. He also spared little effort in accommodating himself to the racism of the day in relation to the drug wars. And, of course, there was no effort by the Democratic Party to build grassroots organization. Instead, Democratic politics was becoming increasingly professionalized. Only the Republicans were building at the grassroots.
Clinton began his Presidency in 1992 with majorities (57-43) in the Senate and (258-176) in the House. Many of these were in the neo-liberal Democratic Leadership Caucus. With losses in the DLC predominating, the Democrats lost both majorities in 1994 and, as a consequence, the Democratic progressives found themselves further marginalized as the Clinton administration moved further to the right on both domestic and foreign policy issues. The lasting consequences of these are still with us: encouraging the export of jobs to China and rolling NATO up to the Russian border. I’m particularly upset about Clinton signing Helms – Burton, tightening the blockade of Cuba and the economic sanctions that killed 500,000 Iraqi children. But Madeline Albright, who oversaw those sanctions and who has just written a book about the danger of fascism, at the time said that those deaths were worth it.
The same pattern took place in the two Obama Administrations:
Obama allowed Rahm Emanuel (whom I despise with a passion) to dismantle the 50 – state strategy that Howard Dean, as Chair of the DNC, had built. On the other hand, the Republican Right had been building and organizing for decades and, in 2010, used the opportunity of the Democratic political and organizational disarray to not only capture the House, but to take a large number of Governorships and State Legislatures. Using these positions in a census year, they gerrymandered every state that they won to the Republican advantage and engaged in a coordinated campaign to limit the right to vote, especially and foremost among African Americans as well as Latinos in the Southwest. Obama began with the most overwhelming House and Senate majorities since Johnson in 1964. But Obama, (and I do love him), basically tied to Wall Street, was dealing with many more conservative Democrats and pursued cautious policies on medical care and the financial collapse. By limiting the response to the 2008 financial crisis to a bank bailout, the Obama Administration allowed workers, homeowners, and small businesses to fend for themselves. As always, African American families felt the sharpest losses. Except, by personal example on issues of race, Obama rarely broke out of the neo-liberal framework of those class forces that propelled him into office. He embraced privatization of public education, shrank back from declaring the Flint lead crisis a national emergency, and couldn’t really figure out an ongoing infrastructure program. It is his intellect, his personal dignity, his wit, his grace, his unreserved self – identification as African – American that makes me deeply miss him.
The first response to this Republican takeover were the February 2011 mass protests in Wisconsin against newly elected Governor Scott Walker move to end collective bargaining rights for public employees. On the heels of those protests was Occupy Wall Street in September 2011. In their wake came Black Lives Matter, the accumulating impact of student debt, the growing realization of the growing impact of climate change, the assertion of gender equity in the workplace and society, and so much more.
The final blow to the Obama Presidency was the loss of the Senate in 2014, which compounded with the loss of the House in 2010, rendered Obama unable to accomplish anything meaningful in his last two years.
This leads us up to the fateful 2016 election in which Sanders challenged Hilary Clinton from the left and evoked and organized a monumental insurgency that crystallized many – although far from all – of the protest movements that had emerged since the fateful year of 2010. Although Sanders left – progressive economic program caught fire, he was not able to find a useful voice in addressing issues of race and gender and develop relationships with communities of color.
But, to the surprise of many – including me, Sander’s self -description as a Democratic Socialist generated a lot of positive response.
Crucially, the Democratic Party infrastructure made no friends among these newly energized voters. Instead, the Party organization committed itself to Clinton and attempted to freeze out the Sanders campaign. I attribute this to the monumental arrogance and narrow vision of the Democratic Party apparatchiks. In my personal experience, those characteristics are common among bureaucrats and staff in all kinds of political parties and organizations. And these attitudes of exclusion will hinder the development of the unity that will be necessary to defeat Trump in 2020.
The Sanders campaign also crystallized the extraordinary re-emergence of Democratic Socialists of America as a now 60,000 strong, primarily millennials, organization committed to a social democratic / socialist platform. DSA has committed itself to building grassroots movements, in cooperation with and in support of economic and social struggles of workers and oppressed peoples. DSA has been particularly active in support of Medicare for All, the $15 minimum wage, and the like. I will subsequently return to DSA.
Then, of course, Trump won the Presidency and the Republicans maintained their control of the House and Senate. And this completely changed the political game in the United States.
My view is that this loss of the Presidency, even though Clinton received a respectable majority of the popular vote, was not some freakish event that needs to be explained by conspiracy theories of one sort or another. The loss can be focused on six states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Florida which Obama had won inn 2008 and which Clinton lost. That loss has to be put on her campaign, her politics, and the priorities of her organization. As an example, consider the results in Michigan:
so between 2008 and 2016, the Dems lost 600,000 votes and the Repubs gained a bit more than 200,000. I read this as primarily Democratic abstention rather than primarily as Democratic switch to Republican.
It also represents a continuing phenomenon from the Bill Clinton Presidency through to the Obama Presidency. The Democrat’s neo-liberal agenda under two Presidents started with great hope and then gave us failure. Neo-liberalism, in both the economy and in society, has simply failed to address the economic and social needs of the majority of the American people, although it has been adept at absorbing and reflecting the social progressivism of “identity politics”. The failures of Clinton gave us Bush and Iraq; the failure of Obama has given us Trump.
Certainly, there were numbers, even substantial numbers, of white working-class voters who responded to Trump’s racist and nativist appeals, but, in my view, it was the reduced turnout of African American voters that made the difference. Racism, nativism, and misogyny, always present, is the fallback position of those who don’t see anything positive in ordinary politics. This has proved to be the case in Europe as well as the United States. And it does not appear, even at this date, that the Democratic Establishment has really absorbed that reality. But neither has Bernie Sanders.
I think that it also needs to made clear that even if Clinton had managed that few hundred thousand additional votes in enough of those six states to win the Presidency, the Democrats would still have remained a minority in the House and Senate. Certainly, better than Trump, but stasis is not a path to a better future.
End of Part 1
There are many views of why the Democrats declined in the Midwest after the initial triumphs of the Obama campaign. Here are some of mine:
- they walked away from building grassroots organization, including and especially voter registration of African -Americans in the Midwest and the South.
- they failed to put together an economic program that spoke to people in the states that had lost traditional manufacturing
- they failed to put together a long – term infrastructure program
- they encouraged the development of charter schools, high stakes testing, and the undermining of public education
- they allowed the cost of higher education and student debt to balloon.
- they allowed the ultra-right to take the political initiative
- they didn’t do any rethinking of military spending
- they didn’t acknowledge the particular impact of the “new industrial revolution” on the Midwest.
- President Obama stood down from declaring the water crisis in Flint as a national emergency.
And Hilary Clinton continued in that vein, decisively winning the Presidential vote in “culturally progressive” areas and losing in areas where a vigorous economic program and efforts at voter turnout would have made a difference, at least in the Presidential Election.
And then we had Trump and Republican control of the House and Senate. A complete nightmare. A government is in power made up of fossil fuel extractors, the right-wing financial elite, union busters, racists, Ayn Rand acolytes, homophobes, privatizers, Islamaphobes, anti-feminists, anti-Semites, and generally crazy people who want to start wars all over the place. And, of course, all of these want to deprive Black people of the right to vote. It is opening the Pandora’s box of fascism.
It took just a little while to recognize that some 40 Congressional Districts (7 in California) that had voted for Clinton had also returned Republican members of the House. And the political forces around Obama and Clinton mobilized in very dramatic and effective ways. Within just a few months, Indivisible, Swing Left, Sister District, and a constellation of others arose and began collaboration to rebuild Democratic in state and local government in swing states, fighting gerrymandering, and, above all, reclaiming the House and, possibly, the Senate.
In the end, it was these forces that were responsible for flipping 42 House seats from Red to Blue in 2018 in the most dramatic popular upsurge that this country has seen in a long time. Along the way, there were some very dramatic moments that involved African – American voters in the South:
- the victory of Doug Jones over Roy Moore for the Alabama US Senate seat;
- Stacy Abrams very narrow loss in Georgia, a clear consequence of voter suppression
- narrow losses in the Florida Governor and Senate races, with a lot of questions about voter suppression.
I think that it needs to be asserted that without these victories, the Trump / Republican axis would have been unchallengeable and the doors to fascism in this country would have been thrown wide open. It also needs to be recognized that many of those new Democratic Representatives are politically more to the center than they are to the left. And they come from places that couldn’t have elected “progressives” but could and did elect Democrats who ran against the Republican Right. Consider, for example:
At the same time, the results of the 2016 election gave birth to new left – progressive movements: DSA emerging from the Sanders campaign, Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, that organized campaigns to have progressives replace more centrist Democrats. Those efforts gave us Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. It is these forces that have forced the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a host of other ground-breaking economic and social issues onto the front burner of national and Democratic Party politics.
Added to that are the financial and structural proposals that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders bring to the table.
But framing it all is the CLIMATE CRISIS and the call for a Green New Deal.
I would characterize the sum of these proposals as the beginning of a Social Democratic Agenda appropriate for this moment in American history. Consider that in addition to the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, there are proposals for taxing the rich, raising the minimum wage, restructuring the financial “industry”, subsidized child care, relieving the student debt, tuition free higher education, among others, the restrictions on or breaking up of certain monopolies. And, of course, making it easier to vote and protecting the rights of women are high on this list. The Republicans have chosen both voting rights and abortion rights as their cutting-edge issues for 2020.
A rethinking of the military budget and American foreign policy is not yet on the table. And I fear for the success of this progressive agenda in the absence of engaging those issues. In the absence of engaging military spending and foreign policy, the Democrats leave their economic and social agenda vulnerable.
At the current moment, the House Democratic majority, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, is daily struggling with this complexity: how to fight back against Trump, advance a more progressive agenda, deal with the reality that the Senate is Republican, and that the Democratic House majority encompasses a wide political spectrum.
And the fighting can be bitter: https://dcccblacklist.com with the head of the DCCC threatening Democratic campaign consultants who work for progressive candidates trying to replace more conservative Democratic incumbents.
As the rollout to the 2020 election proceeds apace, the complexity of the Democratic Presidential Primaries, the struggle for unity in support of the Democratic candidate, the efforts to squeak through a Democratic Senate majority, as well as maintaining the Democratic House majority will likely make the “Perils of Pauline” look tame.
So there, in sometimes sharp relief, you have the complex and contradictory character of the political forces in the Democratic Party that stand against Trump and the Republicans. Will the Democratic Candidates and Party be able to overcome this next set of obstacles and turn Trump out of the White House? Invoking Yogi Berra: “Never try to predict anything, especially the future”.
If nothing else, this political juncture reveals both the necessity and difficulty of what has been historically called “The United / Popular Front Against Fascism”. Specifically, what kind of program and candidates will it take to:
- dramatically increase the number of young voters, particularly young voters of color, and bring them to the polls – along with their parents, all over the country, but particularly in the key states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida
- continue the effort to make inroads into the South
- maintain, even increase, the Democratic majority in the House
- squeak through enough Senate seats – typically in more conservative states – so that the whole Trump operation is derailed after 2020.
- win enough Governor and State Legislature races to have the 2020 census result in fairly drawn legislative districts, and
- WIN THE PRESIDENCY FOR WHICHEVER DEMOCRAT THAT HAPPENS TO GET THE NOMINATION.
All of this will require putting the smaller – although very important – differences to the side in favor of closing the door to fascism and opening the door to something else.
The something else means making change.
The United States has a capitalist system, a more or less representative electoral system, and is a law governed society. Even direct confrontations between labor and capital are governed by law. The Wagner Act of the 1930’s allowed for legal collective bargaining; the Janus Decision undermined agency shop. The Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion; state legislatures are now busy trying to make it illegal. The $15 minimum wage, expansion of Medicare, elements of the Green New Deal, the military budget, all become law because the House and Senate passes the legislation and the President signs it. And this is the case in virtually every area of social and political struggle, whether it be in localities, states, or nationally. I need not belabor this issue.
Our collective experience has demonstrated that in order for dramatic change to be made (ending segregation and establishing voting rights, legalizing collective bargaining, institutionalizing women’s rights) there needs to be a mass movement that relentlessly advocates for change. That’s baseline.
And it’s made a whole lot easier if there are elected officials who will carry the mass movement into the legislative arena. That, of course, means working to elect them, having ongoing relations with them, engaging them in a process, and sometimes working to replace them. Hardly anything that is important actually happens unless it ultimately finds its way into law.
Those who want fundamental social change need to deal with the reality of an imperfect democratic process embedded in a capitalist system. If the objective is to transform that system, then it is necessary to engage the system from a position of increasing power and build coalitions in order to achieve a majority on a broad program.
In this moment of needing to defeat Trump in 2020, life has made itself both harder and easier for the left. The reality is that the neo – liberal agenda that had come to dominate the Democratic Party will not defeat Trump. It won’t be enough to simply oppose Trump, even for all of the right reasons. The Democratic candidate and platform will have to embrace significant sections of the Green New Deal, progressive tax reform, etc., in order to generate the energy, register and turn out the voters, maintain the majority in the House, and win back the Senate.
But it is necessary to defeat Trump in order to maintain and extend the democratic structures that allow for this process. In this vein, going back to and negating Bill Clinton, it is necessary to restore government that serves society as a whole, defends and improves the standard of living for the people, and relies primarily on diplomacy, rather than on force, and is the protector of civil and democratic rights.
Finally, I want to recognize that Sanders 2016 campaign, the subsequent re-emergence of DSA, and Sanders current 2020 Presidential campaign has placed the concepts of “democratic socialism” and “socialism” into the public arena for the first time in a very long time. So now I’d like to circle back and say some more things about Social Democracy and then, maybe a word or two about “Socialism”. I will allow, however, that describing oneself and one’s politics as “socialist” or “democratic socialist” is much more compelling, challenging, and dramatic than the self-description of “social democratic”.
In the first place, a Social Democratic program seeks to establish, within a fundamentally capitalist economy, a collection of baseline benefits available to the entire population. These may include medical care, child care, housing, education, retirement security, baseline income, etc. which are paid for by higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. These government programs may extend into public ownership of transportation, communications, banking, etc.
History has demonstrated that such programs can be hard to win and easy to lose. Their maintenance and development require ongoing political and social organization and struggle as well as mass organizations, particularly trade unions, to provide the core of those struggles. And we have learned that revolutions and transformations in the means of production, such as the ongoing electronics/communication/automation/transportation/biotech revolution, disrupt the very organizational forms that are required for their continued existence and development.
But through the democratic process, it is possible to limit the economic and political power of capital. Let’s look at a few:
- guaranteeing the right to vote and insuring that everyone exercises that right
- removing the ability of corporations to finance political campaigns
- steeply progressive taxation that addresses and reverses the extremes of economic inequality
- breaking up industrial, commercial, and financial monopolies
- strict enforcement of environmental regulations
- enabling the formation of cooperatively owned enterprises
- and all sorts of other things
A Social Democratic agenda does not need to be static. In fact, if it is static, then it will be undermined by changes in the means of production. It is a continuing work in progress. And it requires the continuing process of building a democratic majority.
Socialism as a system is a very different matter.
All social and economic systems evolve; they do not emerge onto the historical stage full blown. In the early years of the United States, corporations were rare, having charters that were given by states for a limited purpose and duration. It took more than 100 years before the Supreme Court sneakily made corporations into “artificial persons” that never died.
Health care is now predominantly run by private corporations. What will health care look like if Medicare is extended as a baseline for the entire population? Energy production based upon fossil fuels is currently monopolized by giant corporations. What will a distributed renewable energy production system look like? How will continued automation and new technologies such as 3D printing affect manufacturing? What will the transportations systems of the future or the methods of food production be like under the pressure of addressing climate change?
If our collective understanding of these processes has any merit at all, the future cannot be predicted, and it certainly will not be static. Both means and relations of production will be shaped by social and natural forces. Consequently, I will not speculate about either.
If proclaiming oneself a “socialist” means a commitment to an ongoing struggle for a more just, egalitarian, and democratic arrangement of society, I’m all for it.
Finally, I’m very excited about DSA, an organization of 60,000 people, primarily young, who identify themselves as socialists. They are a very young organization, whose members are trying to feel their way. DSA recently endorsed Bernie Sanders for President in 2020. Their internal dialog in reaching that position is very useful and interesting to read:
It is a useful addition to their electoral strategy:
DSA appears to be focused on building independent power that can be exerted in mass struggles. Their electoral strategy appears to be that of electing candidates who are “socialists” to local offices They have stood back from an engaged relationship with the Democratic Party although they have supported selected candidates running for office as Democrats, including AOC.
Although how DSA operates in the reliable states that Clinton won in 2016 will likely not make a difference in the 2020 Presidential Election, DSA can be instrumental in helping to change the balance in local and state government. But how DSA operates in the swing states that the Democrats lost to Trump could very well turn the tide. I’m looking forward to their energy.
Finally, I’d like to engage the problem for the left of the “slippery slope” which I understand as the effective capitulation of the left to the center in the unfolding of a center – left political process. In truth, I don’t have some kind of formula that addresses this very real problem.
I do have a political viewpoint. Trump and the Republicans will not be defeated by a centrist political movement or platform. A centrist platform and campaign will not generate the energy required to do the deed. A progressive platform and campaign can generate that energy. That’s what I’m hoping can unite us.
Two References on the rise of the Ultra Right:
- Mayer, Jane; Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Doubleday, 2016
- MacLean, Nancy; Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, Penguin, 2017
With thanks to Michael Eisenscher, Matthew Hallinan, Craig Merilees, and Ken Paff who all made extended comments and critiques that sharpened, but didn’t necessarily change, my thinking.
This essay was prompted by a discussion with Barbara Epstein.
[My political involvement began in New York in the late 1950’s when I participated in organizing Student SANE (Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy). In Berkeley in the 60’s, I participated in the Civil Rights Movement, the Free Speech Movement, and the anti-Vietnam War Movement. Subsequently, in San Jose where I was teaching, I was actively engaged in the effort to free Angela Davis and the Soledad Brothers. I was an officer, sometimes President, of the faculty union at San Jose State pretty much until I retired and represented the union on the Santa Clara County Labor Council for many years. On the occasion of the coup in Chile, I worked with others to persuade the Labor Council to challenge the AFL-CIO relationship to the CIA. That actually caused a bit of a stir. I helped to organize two Marxist Scholars Conferences in Berkeley. For many years I was a member of the Communist Party.
Since retirement, and back in Berkeley, I’ve been involved with the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, an activist organization that works to operate as a bridge between social movements, elected officials, and the Democratic Party in Alameda County.]