Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

The Women Are Saving Our Country — So Be Thankful

For the last Thanksgiving or two, Americans could be excused for wondering why exactly they ought to be giving thanks, as they watched a cruel and ignorant man abuse the highest office to degrade our country. Since November 2016, Donald Trump has imperiled all of the great gifts that we inherited as a nation, and inflamed the most disturbing suspicions about his loyalty. Thankful is not what most of us feel when we ponder his presidency, today or any other day.

But this November, the smashing result of the midterm elections refreshed our hopes and renewed our democracy. So on Thanksgiving, I feel deeply obliged to express my gratitude to those who drove that victory.

The women.

From the very first day, women have led the political and cultural resistance to Trump’s presidency, seeing its nascent authoritarianism as a threat to their autonomy and freedom. Still furious over the undemocratic defeat of Hillary Clinton, they rose up in unprecedented millions to organize and lead the Women’s March on January 22, 2017, dwarfing the celebration of his inauguration and putting him and his regime on notice.

Echoed by massive demonstrations in cities and towns around the United States and the world, all the way to Antarctica, the march famously became the largest single day of protest in American history. And yet a jaded note could be heard in much of the response, in the mainstream media at least, as observers wondered aloud whether the marchers could sustain that day’s commitments in political action.

The answer to that question arrived, loudly and decisively, on November 6, 2018.

During the months between the march and the midterm, American women mounted an unprecedented political mobilization in their neighborhoods, under various organizational names and rubrics. Women with years of experience in politics and women who had never done politics at all; women of every ethnic and religious background; women who had supported Hillary and women who had supported Bernie; women who had done every sort of work and women who had lived and loved in every sort of family; in short, women of every kind stepped forward to defend essential values.

Hints of what that upsurge might eventually achieve could be glimpsed in a series of special elections that were electrified by the work of women activists and an outpouring of women voters — including the Georgia Congressional race in a deep red district that Jon Ossoff lost narrowly, and the Alabama Senate race that Doug Jones stunningly won.

But the most promising portent came when the women began to declare themselves as candidates for nearly every legislative and administrative office, in numbers never seen before in any cycle. As Think Progress noted:

A record 272 women ran as general election nominees for U.S. Congress or governor this year, with 124 elected thus far. An equally historic 219 people of color were nominated, with at least 115 elected. For the first time, Native American women and Muslim women will serve in Congress. Massachusetts and Connecticut elected their first Black women to Congress, and Texas its first Latinas. Women will represent Arizona and Tennessee in the Senate and serve as governors of Maine and South Dakota for the first time, as well.

Indeed, female candidates overall and women of color in particular outperformed the average. Their candidacies were critical in returning control of the House to the Democrats and staving off a much worse loss for their party in the Senate.

New stars were born in this election, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York to Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan to Katie Porter in California, and many more. It is important to recognize not just the victorious but also the defeated whose brave efforts contributed so greatly to the blue wave. Their ranks include Stacy Abrams, the extraordinary Georgia gubernatorial nominee who displayed such grit and dignity in the face of an election rigged by her opponent, and Heidi Heitkamp, who cast a principled vote against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at great cost to her own electability. In a nationalized election, every viable candidate matters.

And then there is Nancy Pelosi, the once and future Speaker, who fought Trump and the Republicans on every issue, then led the Democrats back into the majority. Pragmatic and compassionate, sensitive and tough, she is a masterful tactician whose leadership is more valuable now than ever.

Yes, I’m thankful for the women who have stood up and defied expectations. They gave us the best day of the Trump presidency so far. And they may yet save our country.

IMAGE: Hundreds of thousands march down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women’s March, January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Danziger: #HeToo

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

How To Participate In The ‘Day Without A Woman’ Strike

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The Women’s March and demonstrations of its type are all about showing up. Participants aim to make their presence heard. As L.A. Kauffman, the author of Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalis told Vogue, they “create situations that shine a spotlight on injustice and force a crisis that authorities need to address.”

Many who attended the D.C. march couldn’t hear the speeches or were caught in human traffic jams so crowded they couldn’t complete the official route. All of which didn’t matter, of course, because the point was to be present. But what if there was one day where women didn’t show up? A day women made their value known by their absence?

For their next big project, International Women’s Strike organizers, including the activists behind the Women’s March, are calling for an event of the opposite kind. The March 8 general strike for women aims to showcase women’s importance by revealing what happens on a day without women.

Taking the day off from paid work is only the beginning. Planned to coincide with International Women’s Day, the organizers request that participants engage in one or all of the following actions on March 8, as listed on their website:

  • Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
  • Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small businesses and businesses owned by women and minorities)
  • Wear red in solidarity with A Day Without a Woman

Exactly how to use this time is up to each individual participant, but across the country, women and allies of the strike are staging rallies, marches, benefit concerts, and other gatherings to show support and solidarity. In New York City, they will assemble in Washington Square Park for a tour of sites critical to progressive history, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where young immigrant women died in a horrific fire in 1911, the deadliest industrial disaster in history at the time, which led to substantial labor reforms. In Philadelphia, strikers will stand in solidarity with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, who have been without a contract for 1,200 days.

Some critics, including Maureen Shaw, writing in Quartz, and Meghan Daum in the LA Times, argue that this strike will mostly amount to a day without privileged women—women who can afford to take the day off without fear of lost wages or other repercussions from employers. Shaw notes that, “As empowering as strikes may feel, they tend to be most effective when they are centered on achieving a particular policy goal,” and compares this strike to those of labor unions fighting for higher wages, better working hours, or specific additions to their working conditions.

But the women’s strike is only one step in fighting for a platform that includes all of these asks and more: environmental justice, reproductive rights, and fair wages. The point is to show how many unseen, uncompensated, and unvalued tasks women perform, and how much society depends on them.

It’s supposed to be inconvenient, but Daum and Shaw’s responses also assume that organizers haven’t considered the economic barriers to striking (in fact, they take pains to explain that there is more than one way to participate). You can attend a rally before or after work, wear red, decline to shop, or decline to perform unpaid labor if taking the day off from paid labor is not an option.

For more information, including a letter to inform your employer of strike participation, visit A Day Without a Woman. The International Women’s Strike website has a complete list of events around the country.

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.

IMAGE: People take part during an event organized by American expats and Canandian nationals, in solidarity with the Washington’s Women’s March, in Ajijic, Mexico January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

How To Build A Sustainable Trump Resistance

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Resistance is breaking out all over: the women’s marches, the immigration airport protests and Sally Yates, the State Department mass dissents,and  the battle for the Supreme Court with much more to come.

But where are we going?  Are we simply calling for a return to the pre-Trump status quo of runaway inequality, the largest prison population in the world, inadequate and costly health care, unjust immigration policies, and accelerating climate change? Or do we have a new vision for America? If so, what is it and how do we fight for it?

Resist Trump is a protest by spontaneous combustion trigged by tweets and Facebook posts. Too often, however, such uprisings lack staying power. Occupy Wall Street grew to 900 encampments around the world and changed the conversation in America from austerity to inequality. But it evaporated within six months. The spirited Arab Spring in Egypt took down the government, but paved the way for the highly organized Muslim Brotherhood and then a military dictatorship. We should know by now that without organizational infrastructure such wondrous uprisings are fragile at best. They require leadership, dues paying members, legislative agendas, and ways for participants to engage in decision making. Such constructions require very hard work that social media can assist but not replace.

Where’s the glue?

Some hope that the Democratic Party will provide the infrastructure for an alternative vision and movement.  Not likely. Too many party leaders are still deeply committed to Wall Street. Too many Democratic officials refuse to interfere with corporations that shift jobs abroad simply to secure lower paid labor and weaker environmental regulations. And, far too party leaders have an eye towards securing lucrative positions among America’s financial elites.

Could labor unions form the organizational core? In the 1930s the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) played this role by organizing unskilled workers and pushing for an aggressive worker agenda that helped to secure Social Security, a minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, and much more. But today labor is torn. The Building Trades are applauding Trump for restarting the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. Manufacturing unions are taking a wait and see attitude given Trump’s interventions to stop the off-shoring of jobs, his withdrawal from the anti-worker trade agreement (TPP), and his upcoming plans for massive infrastructure investments. Meanwhile, the public and service sector unions, who after going all in for Hillary against Bernie, have yet to  respond vociferously to Trump.

Can the remnants of the Sanders campaign fill this vacuum?  The jury is out.  U.S. presidential campaigns tend to unravel unless the candidate decides to run again.  Campaign operatives go back to their day jobs or school. Our Revolution, the political extension of the Sanders campaign, has possibilities but so far it has not attracted a mass following.  But all those young Bernie supporters are still interested in the broad social democratic agenda he so effectively popularized. How do they express their support?

A new formation?

There are many significant institutions with dues-paying members that could play a vital role. For starters there are the unions that supported Sanders, including the National Nurses United, the Communications Workers of America, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and American Postal Workers Unions. With a combined membership in the millions, they have enough funds and troops to launch a new national organization.

Ideally, they could be joined by the more progressive service sector unions like the Service Employees International Union as well as church, community and environmental organizations that represent millions of immigrants, lower income residents and environmentalists. Together they could form a new national political organization that we all could join.

The goal would be to popularize a Sanders-like agenda, organize protests to resist Trump while also building an alternative agenda for the next round of elections.

Another key goal would be to bring back the working class Trump voters who previously voted for Obama and Sanders. There are millions of them. Unions that represent workers in manufacturing have found that up to 50 percent of their members who voted, voted for Trump, largely because of Clinton’s record on anti-worker trade deals like NAFTA and TPP. The goal of any new formation should be to recruit those working class Sanders’ supporters.

An Impossible Dream?

Of course, it’s a long shot. After all, the unions involved do not have a stellar history of working together. The community groups also have their own issue silos and funding imperatives that lead them to travel down separate paths. Environmentalists and manufacturing unions are likely to clash over jobs. Also, the questions of race, class, and identity politics are certain to create tensions within any progressive formation.

But Trump could do wonders to help us overcome these difficulties. While we were in our silos, squabbling amongst ourselves, the hard right took control of the country — not just ideologically, but over the real levers of power. Since 2009, when Obama took office, the Democrats have lost 919 state legislative seats. The Republicans now control 68% of all state legislative chambers and have control of state chambers and the governorship in 24 states while the Democrats have such tri-partite control in only 6 states.

We can’t blame this on Comey or Putin, or Stein or Bernie. No, we also have to look in the mirror and face up to the fact that as a progressive movement, we’ve been losing overall even as we’ve made some significant gains on human rights for the LBGT communities. The rise of the hard right to some degree is the result of our lack-luster movement building efforts over the past three decades — our failure to get out of our silos and link together. Our current organization models and theories are failing against the challenges from the hard right.

The American Populist Movement

We could learn a great deal about organizing from the American Populist movement of the late 19th century. That movement, the first to challenge the power of Wall Street, called for the public ownership of railroads, public banks, a progressive income tax, and grain/livestock cooperatives. The Populists put 6,000 educators into the field to spread the word and build local chapters mostly among black and white small farmers in the Midwest and South. Although they were eventually defeated, the Populists set the agenda for American progressivism, the New Deal and even the Sanders campaign. (For chapter and verse see The Populist Moment by Lawrence Goodwyn).

Before we can make sense of such organizational structures, however, we need an attitude adjustment. We need to broaden our identities to see ourselves as movement builders — as activists who strive to put all the pieces together no matter which silo we may inhabit. I may be a climate change activist but I also need to be a movement builder who is challenging the power of Wall Street. I may be fighting for criminal justice reform but I also need to be a movement builder uniting with others for Medicare for All and a $15 per hour minimum wage. It’s all one fight. We are tied together by runaway inequality — a system designed to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

Will resist turn  into something more?

Due to Trump’s divisive politics, the protests will continue. At some point, one would hope that those involved will begin building real structures to sustain these efforts and initiate more. Sooner or later, we should go beyond resistance and advocate a vision for the future — a common agenda that includes a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street, free higher education, Medicare for All, an end to outsourcing, fair trade, and a guaranteed job at a living wage for all those willing and able.

Perhaps a little more time spent with the craziness of Trump will wake us up from our organizational stupor.

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute, is currently working with unions and community organizations to build the educational infrastructure for a new anti-Wall Street movement.

IMAGE: Protesters hold signs in opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on immigration and travel outside Terminal 4 at JFK airport in Queens, New York City, New York, U.S. January 29, 2017.  REUTERS/Joe Penney