This particular election offers the perfect moment to build opposition to Citizens United and "corporate personhood," for renewed movements for a constitutional right to vote, the deeper regulation of Wall Street, and a constitutional right to vote for campaigns down the road. Does anyone seriously believe that the Dreamers and marriage-equality movements will accept a return to second-class status without the fight of their lifetimes?
It can be time to begin a realignment of the electoral left as well. The active Green Party networks need to shed their reputation as "spoilers" just as the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) needs to shed its appearance of only "tailing" the Democrats. Labor insurgents like National Nurses United, and even the formidable SEIU, are demanding a more independent role in coalition politics. One can almost feel a new politics trying to be born in the so-called womb of the old, a third "party of the people" both inside and outside the two-party system. What if the Green Party decided to invest in places of the richest electoral opportunity instead of campaigning vigorously where the stakes are 50-50? Why not a negotiated merger of the Greens and PDA in the close races, and PDA support for Green candidates where they are most viable? It is entirely possible to visualize creative leaps out of electoral traps while strengthening an independent left within the institutions of state power. Protestors in the streets should serve as a permanently challenging - and threatening - disruptive presence in constant orchestrated interaction with forces on the inside, too, not simply serve as occasional "street heat" to be enlisted when pressure is needed by the insiders.
Now through November, the radical left can be the effective One Percent. The 99 Percent will be appreciative.
For a thoughtful left perspective, please see also Bill Fletcher and Carl Davidson's August 9, 2012 essay.
My "Saving Obama, Saving Ourselves" commentary is being circulated widely in the blogosphere, which I am thankful for. Let me share my responses to some of the many comments I have received in their various incarnations.PATHOLOGICAL
"Your fraud-man Obama is the ultimate slick suave lick-spittle corporate tool not just content to keeping the MIC/Pentagon well oiled and lubricated whilst greasing his greedy grubby outstretched palms throughout the obscene duration of his four year tenure."
Get a grip and let's be in touch. If you include your email address next time, then I'll gladly write.RADICAL DISAPPOINTMENT
"Hayden now says our expectations were unreasonably high for Obama. But I and a friend heard Hayden speak a couple weeks (at Metro State in St. Paul) before Obama's 2008 election and were surprised, even then, at how absolutely enthralled he was. He could not gush enough."
Yes, I was emotionally moved to see Obama win the primaries and the presidency, achieving something I never imagined possible when I lived in Georgia during the civil rights movement. But I also founded a network in 2008 called "Progressives for Obama," which stipulated that we would continue opposing him on Afghanistan, NAFTA and other issues, while strongly supporting his election as a victory for his progressive and multi-racial constituency.
I have an African-American child and it moves me deeply that he is growing up in Obama's world. I strongly identify with the women, the LGBT community, and the student Dreamers who have so much at stake in this election. So much. The left should be on their side.
At the same time, every day since 2003, I have written and spoken out against the Long War, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan-Pakistan War, the Yemen War, and their terrible domestic consequences in terms of budgets and civil liberties. Until we end those wars, and the Drug War as well, it will be next to impossible to protect civil liberties from constant erosion. There is no reason to think our cause would be advanced under a Romney presidency.SUBSTANTIVE DIALOGUE
"I think Mr. Hayden racializes the question too much in order to discount why radical progressives view the Democrats and Republicans as a two-party tyranny even though there are obviously great differences between the two wings as to how the tyranny of the corporate feudalism is to be enforced. Hayden sets up a straw man fallacy that the argument against the two-party dictatorship is based on the notion that "there is no difference between the two major parties." That is not an argument anyone is making, except in the most rhetorical fashion of saying when it comes to the issue of the power of wealth controlling the nation the differences are negligible."
Good points all, including the rest of the comment and those similar.
I know the "straw-man" argument seems made up, but Ralph Nader in 1990 and the Green Party this year argue that there is no difference between the parties, that they are a "duopoly" of one ruling system. The apparent difference between the parties, in this view, is only a difference in ruling methods. So there is no way the rank-and-file can ever take over the Democratic Party.
On the latter point, based on my experience, I think the critic is right. But I am not sure I have ever believed or written that the rank-and-file can "take over" the Democratic Party. The critic holds to a top-down analysis of the two parties as different "wings" of the lords who rule; the Democrats try to buy off the middle class in order to serve the same corporate interests. Maybe, but middle class achievements like Social Security were won by mass movements who secured valuable concessions from those "lords" in the 1930s, and there is more than a small difference between Social Security and No Social Security.
My point is that the critic entirely ignores the role of rank-and-file social movements in forcing important improvements in everyday life from the political class. These should not be dismissed simply as ways to keep the rulers in power -- if that was so, why were those rulers so madly opposed for so long to women's rights, civil rights, labor rights -- as some of them still are? Social movements influence the climate of civil society, which influences voter beliefs, which forces some politicians to sometimes make concessions that matter to us all.