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Talking United Front With Rising Majority’s Loan Tran

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“The Left has a role to play in terms of demonstrating to our communities that we’re willing to contend for leadership because we’re invested in the future. We’re not just invested in being correct in this moment or having to show this analysis.”

Convergence’s new weekly editorial podcast Block & Build premiered with a conversation between Publisher Cayden Mak and Rising Majority Executive Director Loan Tran on the united front we need–yesterday. Who’s in it? What shifts does the social movement Left need to make to participate? What’s hard, and what can we gain? Here’s a snippet of their conversation; you can listen to the whole episode here.

Cayden Mak: What you’re pointing to here, Loan, gets to the heart of what we’re talking about when we’re talking about the work of block and build. It is wild to me how many people are not aware that the Heritage Foundation, a huge arch-conservative think tank, has put out this enormous document outlining the Trump agenda if he were to win in November. They pull no punches. They are very clear about what they want to do, not just in terms of the policies that affect people’s everyday lives, but the structure of our government. It’s about banning abortion and banning the teaching of anything having to do with race and racial justice, but it’s also about how they’re going to warp the Justice Department and how they’re going to eviscerate the civil service so that the people who deliver the services to humans who need them in our country just won’t exist.

And that’s really what we’re up against. That really gets to the heart of what we’re trying to block. And the imminent question then is what is the “build” part? And the term that I keep hearing in spaces is “united front.”

What is the united front? Who’s in it? How do we relate to it? The reason I keep hearing it is because it’s a live question. What are your thoughts about where we sit right now in this united front as people who are explicitly progressive, who are invested in building a more just society? What is that looking like from where you sit?

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Loan Tran: All that you’re naming is really live, and particularly for a project like Rising Majority. We got started shortly after the 2016 presidential elections by movement organizations, namely the Movement for Black Lives, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Blackout Collective, Center for Third World Organizing, and BlackBird. We’re a crew of organizers and movement formations that have been wrestling with some of these questions for quite some time and tracking some of the major gaps, particularly around our strategic clarity and foresight on these big questions of power.

We spent a good number of years just trying to wrestle among ourselves about correcting some historical positions that social movements in particular have taken related to the question of electoral organizing and electoral power as one pillar of governing power.

It’s not the whole pie, but it is one critical pillar of it. And that’s why a project like Project 2025 has the ability and room to put out a 1, 000-page document in great detail about how they are going to systematically gut any semblance of democracy in a regulated market as we currently know it, right? Because they have honed in on this strategic gap.  

We’ve taken a very antagonistic position to elections, their role in this question of democracy. That is space that we have conceded in a lot of ways, because that’s a direct response to our lived experiences. When we talk about democracy most of our folks–our Black communities, Indigenous communities, hell, even working-class white folks–are like, democracy for who? It seems like it’s democracy for rich people and for corporations, right? And when we talk about united front in this period there are some interesting conversations to be had.

One is around the political objective of this united front. Some of us might argue that it’s a fairly big united front. against Trump or against MAGA. Some of us might dare to say that it’s a united front for democracy, but it’s hard to say that sometimes because we have lots of different definitions of democracy. But broadly speaking there are lots of forces in this united front, and the reality is that the united front in this moment exists, whether or not the Left chooses to engage in it.  

And so one of the first steps for us is to just have a sober assessment that these forces are coming together. When I’m talking about these forces, I’m talking about the neoliberals. I’m talking about the centrists. I’m talking about the Democratic Party establishment and increasingly, more participation from the social movement Left and from progressives in general. But we are not in leadership of that united front. The ideas that are dominant, the approaches, the strategies, are still very much about status quo democracy. They’re about neoliberalism as an economic and governance approach. But if we don’t engage in that united front where all of these forces are coming together, then it’s going to be more difficult over the long term for the Left to ever be in any position to lead anyone, even ourselves, potentially.

This is a tough, bitter pill to swallow right now, that we have to find ourselves inside of this big very broad front that includes neoliberals who in many instances are our targets, right? We go after them for their economic policies. We go after them for their heavy reliance on the law and carceral systems to target our people. But in this moment when we’re talking about the potential of another MAGA administration that’s been very explicitly clear about how willing they are to use authoritarianism and how willing they are to be fascist, those forces are actually our main enemies, right?

And inside of this united front, let’s be real. Not all of us are going to do all the things. Sometimes it’s a bridge too far to figure out how to be tactically organizing with the centrists. But some of our forces have to do that because the truth is also that some of those centrists, some of those liberals, have more strategic positions to leverage.

They have more access, they have more influence, they have more infrastructure. And so we think about it from that vantage point. If we try to shed some of the individualism that seeps into us as a function of living under racial capitalism and under neoliberalism, then we can perhaps more readily assess that there is a very critical role for the Left to play in terms of holding a pole around our long term vision and strategy.

And there is a role for the Left to play in terms of demonstrating to our communities that we’re willing to contend for leadership because we’re invested in the future. We’re not just invested in being correct in this moment or having to show this analysis. We’re willing to take some risk but we need to do that with each other and with our folks.

Cayden Mak: That’s excellent. It just feels like such a grounded approach in this moment when things feel very dire, but also we need to understand what’s at stake and what the things we can do today might make possible for tomorrow.

There’s so much of an understanding of elections as a one-and-done fight in the consciousness, but what I hear you talking about is building a new muscle, building a new culture around how we think about any particular contest as a time to test our relationships, test for alignment and figure out how we move together–so it’s no surprise that you have somewhat of a hopeful lens on this.


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