Thursday, April 20, 2017

Think outside the two party box

Guest: Caroline Fenner, former English teacher, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, and Director of the Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance, talks about grassroots organizing to resist the Trump agenda.

Bernie inspired a wave of social activism, even after he lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton. On election day, polls had him 12 percentage points ahead of Trump, a lead that he had maintained during the previous year. Sad that Democrats had defeated their best hope of winning in the fall. Sad for all of us.

We are still figuring out how Bernie has changed the landscape all across America. There are huge crowds now demanding that Trump not roll back a half century of social progress. Not only are there lots of people active, but they are willing to organize. In one way, Caroline's organization embodies Howard Zinn's principle that movements, not parties create change. Nixon thought he had no choice but to go along with the Clean Water Act. He tried to sabotage its passage on the sly (Tricky Dick), but found the grassroots environmental movement too strong to openly defy.

The question now is how separate various grassroots movements are from the Democratic Party. Organizations like Citizen Action and the Working Families Party have been tied a bit too closely in the past. For example, when Obama won the presidency the peace movement died. Much of it had been bankrolled by the Democratic Party as a way to win the election. After Obama won, his party didn't need peace anymore. 

That would be our worst nightmare, that organizations like Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance end up working for candidates and not for social change. I would think the group would have been right in there pressuring the Democratic Party to elect reformer Keith Ellison as DNC Chair. Another corporate shill, Tom Perez, was elected instead. Perez won't dare question his party's ties to Wall Street and the one percent, the very issues that lost the last presidential race. 

Can local activists rise to the occasion? Their organizational skills are remarkable as well as inspiring. But can their movement think outside the two party box?

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