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Hot Takes #13 and #14: Alan Minsky and Rebecca Gordon

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Alan Minsky and Rebecca Gordon offer hot take assessments of the gains and limitations of the 2020 election. outcome.

#13: No major headway until progressives lead

It’s great to knock Trump out of the White House. His defeat was absolutely necessary to preserve democracy in the country and around the world where Trump has been the leading figurehead for 21stCentury Authoritarianism.

However, it’s just as essential for left progressives not to lose sight of how poorly the Democratic Party performed. It almost lost an election to a President who has never had a positive approval rating, it failed to gain seats in the House, or to take control of the Senate. Just as significantly, it lost the battle over State legislatures in an essential census year election, after which GOP-controlled states legislatures will be able to continue their racist, anti-democratic regime of gerrymandering.

Why did this happen? Because the leadership of the Democratic Party ran a campaign that didn’t stand for much beyond beating Trump.  While this narrow focus will be blamed on campaign consultants, the truth is the Democratic leadership remains in thrall to neo-liberal ideology, which primarily serves the interests of the investor class, has no mass appeal, and has led our society to its current state of imbalance and injustice.

Only the progressive wing of the party stands for what people want and society needs. The moderate wing of the Party failed, again, to make a coherent case for their policies. This failure is evidenced not only by Biden’s under performance, but by losses across the country by moderate candidates who were favored to win.

These results confirm that the Democratic Party and the country will not truly prosper until progressives are leading the Party.

Alan Minsky is the Executive Director of the Progressive Democrats of America.

#14: The people themselves must act

My favorite scene in Gillo Pontecorvo’s classic 1966 film The Battle of Algiers takes place at night on a rooftop in the Arab quarter of that city. Ali La Pointe, a passionate recruit to the cause of the National Liberation Front (NLF), which is fighting to throw the French colonizers out of Algeria, is speaking with Ben M’Hidi, a high-ranking NLF official. Ali is unhappy that the movement has called a general strike in order to demonstrate its power and reach to the United Nations. He resents the seven-day restriction on the use of firearms. “Acts of violence don’t win wars,” Ben M’Hidi tells Ali. “Finally, the people themselves must act.”

For the last four years, Donald Trump has made war on the people of this country and indeed on the people of the entire world. He’s attacked so many of us, from immigrant children at the U.S. border to anyone who tries to breathe in the fire-choked states of California, Oregon, Washington, and most recently Colorado. He’s allowed those 230,000 Americans to die in a pandemic that could have been controlled and thrown millions into poverty, to mention just a few of his “war” crimes. Finally, the people themselves must act.

On that darkened rooftop in an eerie silence, Ben M’Hidi continues his conversation with La Pointe. “You know, Ali,” he says. “It’s hard enough to start a revolution, even harder to sustain it, and hardest of all to win it.” He pauses, then continues, “But it’s only afterwards, once we’ve won, that the real difficulties begin. In short, there is still much to do.”

It’s hard enough to vote out a looking-glass president. But it’s only once we’ve won, whether that’s now or four years from now, that the real work begins. There is, indeed, still much to do.

Rebecca Gordon teaches at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes  She writes this from Nevada where she has been working with UNITE-HERE’s 2020 door-to-door canvassing effort. For more of her thoughts on “the chaos of this moment” see her latest article on TomDispatch here.