Originally posted on San Francisco Bay Guardian
I’m turning 43 today and feeling glad to be alive. I would love to be writing about the joy of raising children and the mysteries of the universe. But instead, today I’m thinking about last week’s elections, about losing and the nature of long-term struggle. I’m thinking about being born black in 1969, and how, in fact, our side has been losing my whole life. And while this sobering reality about the balance of forces in the nation could make a sane person completely despondent, today I’m considering it a challenge to radically rethink the way we progressives try to change the world.
The truth is that despite historic victories and truly incredible grassroots organizing over the last several decades, we’ve been getting our asses kicked for a long, long time. Since the right and the state got together to crush people’s movements of the 1960s. Since the Republicans built this rightwing coalition, began pushing wedge politics, winning the hearts and minds of white working people, and winning elections all over the country. And since capitalism shifted gears in the 1970s – we call it neoliberalism now—and the war on poverty was pushed aside to make way for the war on poor people specifically and working people generally. Since then, our cities have lost good jobs, union members, safety net services, and in San Francisco, more than half of the entire black population.
Thanks to Fox News, billionaire Republicans, and fragmentation on the left, conservative ideas about government, about individual vs. institutional responsibility, and about the supposed virtues of free markets have taken a powerful hold over the thinking of most Americans. One result: Last week in Wisconsin, despite the truly historic mobilization against the right’s Scott Walker, labor and social justice forces lost a big one. And here in San Francisco, in the heart of the “left coast,” progressives lost control of the Democratic Party to that special brand of “moderate” big-business Democrats who are socially liberal but have been making me embarrassed to be a registered Democrat since – well, since Bill Clinton was in the White House.
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