Saturday May 28

BACKSTORY 52.1 – Let’s Fight, Not Forfeit

            I’ll admit it.  The mid-term elections look a bit bleak this minute.  Mildly moderate-to-liberal forces aligned with the Democratic Party can see their majorities swept away in the November elections.  Yes, there are many moons between now and then, but despite the fact that I’ve been holding my breath and conjuring up various spirits, the winds of change seem to be blowing in our faces, rather than at our backs.

            An apology seems necessary for any sports analogy these days, but I can’t resist this universal application.  There’s winning, and there’s losing a game, but there’s also a forfeit.  I don’t mean a draw, where both sides fight it out, and there’s no winner.  There’s at least some honor there.  I mean a situation where one team doesn’t come on the field, allowing by its lack of participation, the other side to win without a fight.

            I can’t resist the feeling these days that we’re simply forfeiting rather than contending for power in one field after another.

Our political system has become so bloated and corrupt with untraceable money, it barely rates a headline when a billionaire like Peter Theil – an out gay man  - announces his departure from the Meta (Facebook) Board so he can work full time on electing Trumpists.

            Take the white rural and working population that continues to lie at the heart of the diehard Trump base, and don’t retort, yes, you take ‘em, because that’s my point, and I’d be glad to do so.  We’ve organized in that heartland.  These aren’t bad people.  Even if conservative, they can be moved on many issues, especially economic ones.  Climate is one for example.  Sure, they’re not going to Chicken Little the sky is falling with the Green New Dealers, no matter how right that might be.  On the other hand, don’t tell me that huge numbers couldn’t be organized through rural electric cooperatives on the issue of cheaper – and cleaner – energy through alternative sources, and take the lessons from thee to the next steps.

            Take the energy that workers are expressing in one difficult workplace after another, whether Starbucks or Amazon or wherever.  And, yes, I’d be glad to take them as well, but just like with the Trump base, I would argue that we can’t just go deep in one place or in one company, we need to go wide.  The NLRB has stepped up real protections for concerted activity, we need to build a mass movement of workers, but not through the endless certification procedure and collective bargaining, but my encouraging concerted activity anywhere and everywhere that workers have issues on the job with hours, wages, and working conditions.  If there’s a movement moment, we need to figure out how to support workers taking advantage of the opportunity and leverage that they may have now.  If that happens widely, unions will know how to take it deep, once people are moving.

            Take noncommercial radio where every time the FCC opens a window for applications, evangelical and conservative forces jump on the opportunity like dogs on a bone.  Recently, the FCC once again allowed applications, and, if anyone was paying attention, they dominated again.  Not that it had to be that way.  Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center, which houses Social Policy, and our partner, Southern United Neighborhoods, applied for seven stations and by being willing to get on the field and play, have now won all seven with one in Arkansas, three in Colorado, and three in New Mexico, in exactly these areas that claim to be in the Trump base.  They are listening to radio, why not organize for them to hear other voices?

            We have to adapt.  We have to be flexible.  We have to devise new tools to deal with deep seated problems.  We have to be willing to use old tools that work.  There can’t be any serious question about that, but, mainly, we have to get in the game, do our best, and contend for victories, rather than standing by on the sidelines.

            Our issues are great.  Our values are good.  A lot of great work is being done. Everything indicates that people are with us in one area after another.  So, what’s the problem?  We’re not going after it.  We’re not organizing where we have the opportunities.  We’re not taking the risks and making our own change.

            Not fighting is a forfeit.  We can’t win like that, but how can we even live like that?

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