This is the second half of the transcript of my interview with Adolph Reed Jr., transcribed by the podcast published here. Here's the intro:
My guest tonight is Adolph Reed Jr. He is a professor of Political Science at University of Pennsylvania. He is the editor of Race, Politics and Culture: Critical Essays on the Radicalism of the 1960s and Without Justice for All: The New Liberalism and our Retreat from Racial Equality.
He's been a columnist for The Progressive and The Village Voice, and has written frequently for The Nation and he has a feature article out in this month's March issue of Harper's, Nothing Left, The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals. Race and 20th-Century American Political Social Thought Power, Culture, and American Cities and Labor and the Left in Postwar American Politics. Welcome to the show.
R.K.: You know, let me throw one other thing out. I call my show the Bottom Up Radio show because I believe we are in a transition from a top-down to a bottom-up culture...
A.R.: Yes, I like that too, by the way.
R.K.: ...so, I'm curious where those ideas fit in and I'll throw in Occupy as well. Now, you finish your article in Harper's talking about, you kind of say that electoral politics are important but not enough and that it really is going to depend on labor.
R.K.: I just wanted to throw in the Bottom Up stuff to see if, kind of get you to think along those lines if you have any thoughts on that.
A.R.: Oh, absolutely.
R.K.: And the answers.
A.R.: Well, l you know, I think ultimately all of us need to work out the answers together because I'm not that smart, I'm not that good. But I think, I suspect that a lot of people who consider themselves on the left, or progressives would agree with you and me that we need to have a bottom up politics, right? But it's one thing, it's kind of like a foreign language.
It's one thing when you can hear it and translate it as you hear it into your native language and then translate back from the native language to speech, but fluency comes when you hear and think in the second language. And I think that we're in something of a position like that when it comes to thinking through the implications of commitment to a bottom-up politics because I think, first of all, and this is also, I believe, this is also a product of the decades of defeat, but too much of progressive politics have gotten focused on the electoral realm and I think that's because, well, obviously it's in the first instance it's because people feel the urgency of the need for some kind of change.
Nobody likes to hear it when I say, well, we didn't get into the situation overnight, we're not going to get out of it overnight; but the reason that I make that argument is that I just don't believe that the electoral domain is a place for building a social and political movement. It's a domain for consolidating power that's been won at the level of social movement organizing. That may be can be a longer discussion if you want but, first of all-
R.K.: Yeah I want. I also...I mean, where is the bottom...