Betsy Clarke, a 68-year-old retired psychotherapist in Normandy Beach, NJ, is the classic profile of the longtime Democratic Party activist, who first marched for abortion rights some 40 years ago. year. More recently, she attended the massive women’s march after Donald Trump’s inauguration, protested for gun control, donated to congressional candidates and even sent postcards to voters in Georgia during the inauguration. 2021 special election that overthrew the Senate.
This summer, she said she’s “lividabout the US Supreme Court’s ruling overturning abortion rights, but also annoyed by a disappointing response to this crisis by Democratic Party leaders. “Didn’t they see this coming?” she asked. “It was no surprise.”
Via Twitter, she told me, “This year I haven’t donated to a single campaign or made a single phone call. I feel very guilty about this but I’m not happy with Democrats, which doesn’t mean I won’t vote, just that I’m not happy.
Clarke’s mix of anger and frustration is not unique. Even before the High Court’s decision last month to overrule the 49-year-old Roe vs. Wade ruling that guaranteed the nation’s right to abortion, an unprecedented leak of the draft ruling in the case prompted thousands to take to the streets in near-spontaneous protests. Another flurry of angry marches and waving signs came with the actual 6-3 decision.
But amid the public rage, a growing sense of exasperation was also palpable at protests and on social media sites like Twitter. The pace of protest marches, fiery promises from Democratic Party officials — followed by political inertia — was familiar to many.
A number of people have expressed a strong desire to do something about the growing weight of America’s right-wing minority. But they said they weren’t sure where to focus that energy – unconventional protest and civil disobedience, or traditional electoral politics…or something else?
This week I caught on Twitter ask readers about their feelings and frustrations with political activism in a post-deer United States. This word “livid” was thrown around repeatedly, accompanied by growing disappointment with Democratic Party leaders who did not seem to share their passion or sense of urgency. A woman who has been voting since 1977 told me she was “furious” and had “walked five times since 2017. I don’t know what else to do!” Another wrote: “I donate, I make calls, I write postcards, but it’s not enough.”
Jessica Korpacz, a 32-year-old Exton-based editor, told me she was eager to get involved and attended her first Democratic meeting after the Supreme Court ruling, but she had difficulty approaching strangers. register them to vote. She added that “donating doesn’t satisfy my sense of ‘doing something’. [because] I can’t give much.
There is no doubt that a series of political bombshells in mid-2022 have changed the political landscape somewhat as a crucial midterm election approaches. We’ve had months of speculation about a GOP “surge” fueled by a mix of historical trends, runaway gas prices and President Biden’s unpopularity. But now the string of unpopular Supreme Court rulings, mass shootings and revelations about Donald Trump’s January 6, 2021 coup attempt have spurred many Democratic voters. This week’s much-discussed New York Times/Siena College poll revealed a stalemate in voter preference between Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress.
But at the same time, there is growing vexation that conventional election day politics can solve America’s much deeper problems, with a right-wing Supreme Court seemingly locked in for decades to come and with structural problems – the undemocratic nature of the Senate and the Electoral College – cooking in minority power by an increasingly authoritarian Republican Party. In particular, many abortion rights protesters seemed offended that some elected Democrats saw the overthrow of deer as an opportunity to increase campaign donations, with nothing but exhortations to vote louder.
» READ MORE: How minority rule became the American Way | Will Bunch Newsletter
A video of a young woman at an abortion rights protest who was furious that Biden texted her asking for a $15 donation immediately after the Supreme Court ruling went viral on Twitter and went viral. racked up over 5 million views. The women, identified as Zoe Warren, said: ‘I thought that was absolutely outrageous because my rights shouldn’t be a fundraising point for them, or a campaign point.
“It’s at a certain point where people have to do more to stand in front of the Supreme Court and scream about a deal being done,” Dana Fisher, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in science, told me. the study of protest movements. I had reached out to Fisher to both get his thoughts and share some of my own ideas about what a successful left-wing protest movement around the current civil rights and democracy crises might look like.
Here are some thoughts and suggestions for some things that are not currently happening, but could make a difference.
Launch an umbrella group that offers a unified progressive front – but outside of the Democratic Party. There are a number of groups out there that are doing tremendous work on the issues that people care about most – abortion rights, gun violence, climate change, voting rights – but there are also so many overlaps between these problems that one can only imagine the combined power of a unified front group. Give it a catchy name like Fight For America, even if too many good ones (the moral majority…sigh) have been taken. People need to feel As they are part of something bigger – and bigger and bolder than a compromised political party.
“Leaderless moves” don’t work. Encourage a new generation of diverse and bold young leaders who are NOT elected officials. The hallmark of social movements since the early 2010s – Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Trump’s “Resistance”, etc. The lack of a long-term organizational structure is a big problem, but so is the lack of identifiable leaders. I understand the idealistic philosophy of “leaderless movements,” but there is also a reason why the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated every January and still quoted daily.
Rally behind big events that are a bit off the beaten path. The recent deer reversal had activists on the far left advocating for a national general strike – a big, bold idea that cannot work in a country where workers lack basic labor protections. In 1969, anti-Vietnam War organizers faced with this conundrum proposed a nationwide moratorium — a two-part demonstration of local teachings and vigils, followed by a massive march on Washington a month later. It would be a fantastic model for today’s movement.
Make local chapters and local action the building blocks of a movement. “Structure it to have reasonable and coordinated tactics and goals, because the effect needs to be more about getting results,” Fisher said. The issues that arise today – the critical importance of state and even local laws on reproductive rights or gun safety, or the need for volunteers to maintain access to abortion where it is still legal – lend themselves to local activism.
National goals should be ambitious and bold, but also achievable. Much of today’s frustration centers on structural dysfunction in Washington. Overcoming the decisions of a rogue Supreme Court that is locked into a long-term right-wing majority is particularly discouraging. Yet the building blocks for sweeping change – ending the filibuster and using a 51-vote majority to expand and reshape the High Court – are within reach. Indeed, a victory along these lines could be the launching pad for other sweeping reforms to end minority rule.
This shouldn’t be the time to despair. The majority of Americans who support reproductive rights, tougher gun laws and climate action have both the numbers and the passion to win these fights. All they need is a plan and a little leadership. But waiting for Godot or Biden or anyone else won’t be enough. The time to mobilize is now – before this nation’s struggling democracy goes on life support.
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