Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Personality Cults? Sure. Movements for Change? Not So Much.

Opinions on the left about Edward Snowden are mixed, but we can't seem to stop talking about him -- a statement purportedly from Snowden on the Wikileaks site was the top story in the blogosphere for nearly an entire day, according to Memeorandum, mostly as a result of posts on lefty blogs.

We also love Wendy Davis on our side -- she's become an overnight star on the left, and to some extent in the mainstream press, after her Texas filibuster.

But it's highly unlikely that Davis or anyone else in Texas is going to stop the state from ultimately passing the legislation she filibustered -- and while lefties tout Davis as a gubernatorial candidate, a new poll has her 14 points behind Rick Perry. Meanwhile, abortion restrictions are being passed in just about every state in which Republicans control the governor's office and legislature (most recently in Ohio).

So America has a new pro-choice heroine. Too bad America doesn't have a new (or newly rejuvenated) pro-choice movement. (Or, for that matter, a strategy to win white voters in Republican states back to liberalism and/or the Democratic Party.) Nor does there seem to be much of a movement to fight the surveillance excesses Snowden has revealed.

We often seem to think we've started to turn the tide when one person with progressive ideas grabs the spotlight and does something high-profile and mediagenic. But there has to be follow-up. Superstars don't make change -- not all by themselves. It takes a lot of people doing a lot of work for a long time.

We didn't build movements after the first Obama campaign -- we just assumed we could kick back after his inauguration and let him take care of stuff. Occupy Wall Street seemed like a movement, but it was, in effect, a newly emerged celebrity who happened to be a group of people rather than just one, a group engaged in a bit of performance art that was interesting to watch for a few weeks but, like a 24-hour Warhol film, ultimately became boring. Nobody really built on what Occupy began. Nobody said, "Yes, fight for the 99% in these specific ways." As Occupy became mired in the fight to keep occupying public spaces, nobody assembled a movement to fight economic injustice.

As I've said in other posts, the gay-rights and immigration-rights movements are the most successful progressive movements right now -- and please notice that when you think of them, you think of them as movements, not as Famous Activist(s) Whose Big Moment in the Spotlight Made the Walls Come Tumbling Down. In each of these movements, a lot of people whose names you and I don't know have logged a lot of hours getting stuff to happen -- and a lot more hours trying to get stuff to happen and hitting their heads against brick walls, but persisting anyway.

That's how you get change. Wendy Davis is swell, but there has to be more, in a lot of good causes.


Kathy said...

There is more, but you and I don't necessarily know about it because "In each of these movements, a lot of people whose names you and I don't know have logged a lot of hours getting stuff to happen -- and a lot more hours trying to get stuff to happen and hitting their heads against brick walls, but persisting anyway."

Also, I believe I heard correctly that there were five or six thousand protesters inside and outside the TX state house yesterday, with plans to continue protests going forward. Maybe that doesn't sound like a lot, but it is when it comes to these kinds of protests. The key will be to continue the presence, and the pressure.

The right played a long game to get where it is; we have to be ready to do the same. And you're absolutely correct that a lot more people need to wake up to what's happening around them. Every time I hear someone say, "I don't do politics," I want to scream.

BH said...

Politics "does" (a euphemism) those who "don't do politics".

Victor said...

Too bad we can't have Democratic National Conventions every year, because last year the party made a good case for a lot of different things, on a wide variety of subjects.

Maybe some people on the left are STILL in some sort of shock, caused by the vehemence of the Republicans reactions to losing Presidential elections, the last two go-rounds.

As a rule, Democrats aren't overly obstructive, when Republicans win.
Republicans, on the other hand, went into full obstructionist mode even before President Obama was sworn into office, the first time.

That, and the fact that the width and depth of of the damage that Republicans want to inflict on this country, sometimes takes your breath away.
Where do you start?

Especially, now that Unions, whose members were our most effective ground troops, are slowly being shrunk.

The Republicans are like a party of Hydra's.
Cut off one head, and two even more rabid ones pop up snarling in its place.

The kind of anger and rage that Conservatives have, would normally burn out people who weren't as angry.

Having said all of that, it doesn't help that our cowardly, compliant, and complicit MSM doesn't routinely point out how maniacally insane the Republican Party has become.

If you looked at last Sunday's show, there was Rachel Maddow, facing Ralph fucking Reed and Jim DeMint.

RALPH fucking REED!
On "Meet the Press!!!"
Why the fuck, is Ralph fucking Reed ever even on?

You want an example of how bad our fucking MSM is, you need look no further!!!

My apologies, for my foul mouth.

BH said...

If Davis chooses to oppose Perry next year (assuming he decides to run for re-election), she may well fall short. However, polling 14 points behind Perry now, 16 months before the election, means just as little as would polling 14 ahead of him at this point. I think a real horserace is very possible, given a compelling candidate with some serious money behind her.

The New York Crank said...

"Nobody really built on what Occupy began. Nobody said, 'Yes, fight for the 99% in these specific ways.'"

I said it, to various of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. Others who were with me said it. We might as well have been talking to our shoelaces. I got everything from sneers, to shrugs, to "We don't tell anybody what to do," to a condescending, "Different things are important to different people."

The problem with the Occupy Movement was the people in the movement. The protest was the only, only, only thing most of those people wanted to do.

A few old lefties, and a few union guys, could be seen at the fringes, tearing their own hair out. The movement died because most of America has the attention span of a dandelion. The nude with the body paint was, I must admit, fun to look at. But when she can't get either an abortion or a job, she'll have nobody to blame but herself.

Very Crankily yours,
The New York Crank

aimai said...

I don't think anyone in the real world thinks we can get anywhere just with a standard bearer. But its also clear that you can't mobilize people electorally just behind an idea or the democratic brand. The women of texas are going to lose this battle over abortion rights--but they may yet win the war. But they can't do it without a charismatic, forceful, money raising machine. They may not be able to do it with her but they will at least give Perry et al a run for their money. And there is simply no other way to go about oraganizing and beating the Republicans. You can't argue that we need to field candidates in every race without also acknowledging that we have to field charismatic, energetic, vote getting candidates.

I'm not surprised that Wendy Davis is still losing a hypothetical match up at this point. I'm more impressed that she has gone from "Wendy Who?" to "Identifiable brand" basically overnight. Scott Brown had to work pretty hard to achieve the same level of name recognition with his barn coat that she already has with her red shoes.

If you look at what Texas women are doing on the ground Wendy's filibuster was a huge, huge, shot in the arm and women are going out and getting involved in registering people to vote right now--today--as a result of looking around and seeing someone fighting for their rights.

Of course Davis isn't the end and hasn't won anything yet. But she is a good beginning and in electoral politics you have to have the Wendy Davis's in order to get to the organizing and the progressive legislation.

cwyatthouston said...

Native Texas here. This Wendy thing feels different, and hopeful to me. And Texas liberals haven't had ANYTHING to feel hopeful about since Ann Richards was in office. I don't want to subscribe to a cult of Wendy, but I feel and hope that her courage has awakened a sleeping giant (a phrase which we heard several times in speeches at the Austin rally yesterday.)

Generic political philosophy has not rallied our troops. But I am hoping that charismatic, articulate and smart candidates like Wendy and the Castros can serve as a call to action for all of liberals!

Kathy said...

Good to hear, cwyatthouston! It does my heart good to see the number of protesters who have turned out. Seems to be contagious - they're all over the NC state house too.

creedin said...

Gurus and their cults are nothing without the fools dancing to their beat.