Our theme for January picked up on a statement by James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” It seemed to us facing a few big things in 2021 could be the first step toward changing them. We made a “to do” list.
This won’t be easy. There are a lot of powerful forces committed to keeping us from seeing the extent of things we desperately need to change, let alone admitting them. The list starts with everyone who’s promoting the idea that “back to normal” is where we need to go as the pandemic recedes. “Normal” is everything on our list of things to change, and more.
There is cause for optimism, though, with the emergence of new political organizations outside the neoliberal Democratic establishment, the Republican oligarchy and the right-wing vigilantes they tolerate. Candidates calling themselves “progressives” and “socialists” are starting to reach for some of the levers of power, as you can see from the solutions on our “to do” list.
- End systemic racism. In the summer of1968, cities across the US experienced a terrible wave of social unrest. About 43 people were killed, 3500 injured and 27,000 arrested. Alarmed leaders formed a Commission headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois to look deep into the racist roots of the riots. The report got it right—poverty and institutional racism were driving inner-city violence. Their recommendations were blunt—and ignored:
“Ending racism will require a commitment to national action—compassionate, massive and sustained, backed by the resources of the most powerful and the richest nation on this earth. From every American it will require new attitudes, new understanding, and, above all, new will. The vital needs of the nation must be met; hard choices must be made and if necessary, new taxes enacted.”
Every few years we had more demonstrations and violence. And each time leaders called for more police with “crackdowns on crime.” If we can finally face the fact of institutional racism, we can begin to end it.
- New president. Replacing Trump bought us time, but we have to face the fact that denial of the way our system robs working people of power helped to bring us Trump. We have to confront that denial and put power in the hands of working people or Trumpism will continue. Make it easier to form unions; support worker co-ops, raise the minimum wage beyond even the measly $15/hour—too little before it’s even adopted.
- Finding common ground. This means facing the fact that a lot of people who supported/voted for Trump did so because the system and the Democrats have failed them. Once we face that fact, we’ll very likely be able to talk to one another again. And we can’t tackle problems if we can’t talk about them.
- Universal healthcare. We pretend that we have “the greatest healthcare system” in the world. The pandemic should have showed us otherwise—and allowed us to face the fact that healthcare is a public good, where we all benefit when there is sufficient quality care for everyone. Can we make our leaders understand that? Yes to Medicare for All, community clinics offering preventive care within easy reach and designed to meet health needs instead of marketing to create needs, that encompasses public health as well as treatment of diseases.
- Convert yard to food garden. Doing this is a sign we’re ready to face a lot of things: the perverseness of our corporate food infrastructure, the need to transition away from fossil fuels and their derivatives. To demand a national commitment to a Green New Deal with jobs, renewable resources, conversion of our aged and inefficient infrastructure.
- Get kids to move out. If we faced the fact that all jobs should pay a living wage; that affordable housing is nothing but a slogan, and aging grandparents are not the solution to working parents, we could get started on decent pay, housing as a right, and free quality childcare. The kids would be happy to move out on their own!
And that’s just for 2021!
One more thing to do
To their surprise Democrat incumbents lost 8 House seats in the 2020 election, when they had expected to pick up seats. The party leadership is blaming their young candidates for backing “socialist” ideas that turned voters off and sent them to the voting booth to cast their ballots for Republicans.
Writing in Medium, Lauren Martinchek tells a different story:
“Not a single co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, in a swing seat or safe blue seat, lost their re-election. Not a single co-sponsor of Medicare for All, in a swing seat or safe blue seat, lost their re-election. Not a single Justice Democrat lost their re-election. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,
Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman all won. Katie Porter—an incredible, authentic progressive representing a swing district—won her re-election comfortably.
Every single seat Democrats lost in the house was lost by a center-right democrat fundamentally incapable of giving their constituents any meaningful reason to vote for them. Leave it to these inept, vapid politicians to find fault in anyone but themselves. If anything, Joe Biden has Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota to thank for his victory in their respective states, and their tireless efforts to turn out the vote not just in their districts, but across the nation.
If the narrative becomes Democrats lost because their proposals were “too far left,” the party powers will demand candidates who move right. Back to the comfort zone where their corporate supporters live and rely on them to deflect progressive demands like a Green New Deal and phasing out fossil fuels; cutting the military budget; significant reforms to prison and policing; nationwide paid family leave, expanding social security and medicare, etc. Back to the “normal” Democrat Party politics that slowly but surely, helped produce Donald Trump.
We can’t let that happen.
February: Time. The time you spend at work, commuting, in front of a screen. The time of climate change, kids waiting for school. Free time? Other? Deadline: Jan 15
March: Things revealed by the pandemic. Deadline: Feb 15
April: Work vs jobs vs pay. Deadline: March 14