A Few Quick Thoughts on the November 4th Election

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

1. There is almost always a low turnout during a midterm election and the party which controls the White House tends to lose.  This is definitely true but should not let us off the hook.

2. The Democratic base largely stayed home except in certain important races, such as in North Carolina.  I think that we have to face the reality that the base that would be expected to vote Democratic was dis-spirited.  It is not just the ads that the Republicans ran.  The Obama administration has not led in a progressive direction.  There are certainly some major accomplishments, but there had been great expectations by many that after the 2012 election he would come out swinging.  I never had such expectations, but many people did.  Instead, the administration continued to be stuck in various crises but also was not articulating a clear direction.  The Republicans were able to make Obama out to be the problem despite certain important facts, e.g., the economy has improved; troops had been pulled out of Iraq.

3. Though the economy has improved, the condition for the average working person has not.  Yes, unemployment is down but we are still dealing with structural unemployment that is weighing on everyone.  The damage from the foreclosure crisis is far from over.  And the rich are the ones who are benefiting from the improved economy.   To turn any of this around, masses of working people need to be organized to fight for a division of the wealth.  Yes, that means building and supporting labor unions.  But when the President does not make that a clarion call–except when speaking with union members–he has no answer to the public that is asking for their share.

4. Race, as always, was a factor.  The Republicans had sufficient codes to make it clear that race was an issue in the election. Discussions about Obama allegedly being prepared to open up the floodgates to immigrants is a case in point.  But there were many other messages.  Once again, the Republicans have positioned themselves as the “non-black party.”  Race arose in some additional and odd ways.  The Ebola crisis, for instance, was tinged with a racial cover.  The fear and panic associated with it and blaming it on Obama!

5. This election was about money…but also not:  This was the most expensive midterm in history.  Yet it was not a guarantee that one would win if there was money on the table.  The Democrats, in various races, sunk in a great deal of money.  So, we cannot put it all on that.  Money, however, plus motivation can make one VERY big difference.

6. The Democrats keep falling back into running technocrats.  While this was certainly not the case in every election, it was striking that there is this default position of channeling Michael Dukakis ’88 and suggesting that one is a good candidate because one can run the trains on time.  Instead of positioning as an advocate for the people, and especially the people who are being squeezed, too many Democrats were running as technocrats and bipartisan healers.  Yet this, in part, relates to money.  If you cannot run a campaign without goo-gobs of money, it is more difficult to run as a progressive populist.

 7. Progressives need to support and create organizations that are fighting for political power at the local and state level.  We need formations (which I have called “neo-Rainbow”) that can identify and train candidates; build bases; take on initiatives and referendums; and run our candidates either in Democratic primaries or as independents, depending on the tactical situation.  

This brings with it a series of major challenges, not the least being accumulating resources. There is no easy answer to the resource question but one thing that is certain is that building the sorts of organizations I am referencing, e.g., Virginia New Majority, Florida New Majority, Progressive Democrats of America, will necessitate around the clock resource accumulation, including but not limited to fundraising.  We will NEVER have the funds of the Koch brothers so we need to get over that and think about the strategies, tactics and organizational forms necessary and appropriate to an asymmetric situation.

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Bill Fletcher Jr is the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of Solidarity Divided; the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions; a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.  Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com.

 


This article previously appeared in the Association for Union Democracy newsletter.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 82 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
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Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
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Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.