Contrary to US folk "wisdom," the same Chinese symbol is NOT used for either "crisis" or "danger" and for "opportunity." Despite this, as a long-time progressive organizer and activist, I certainly see both crisis and opportunity in current political events.
To be sure, these are "interesting times." In this article, I will outline opportunities for progressive transformation presented by our current political circumstances. These include the re-visioning of our political spectrum in such a way as to forge an alliance between authentic progressives and authentic conservatives -- with whom we have much in common, the transformation of the Democratic Party into an authentically progressive party, why we must change our election system to one that actually encourages all U.S. citizens to vote, and how national progressive organizations can and should assist grassroots organizers to build the personal connections and community we need to protect people and planet from the various scourges and threats that beset us.
(Please see and consider signing this petition to our national progressive organizations demanding they cooperate with one another to support local organizing!)
We are millions strong, we have the knowledge, we have the wealth. We must keep our spirits up, dare to hope, become ever more informed, stay engaged nationally and regionally, but we must also dig in to work for real progress right where we live -- where we know the most and are, therefore, the most powerful.
"Hope is not just a feel-good emotion, but a dynamic cognitive motivational system."
The crisis part is clear enough. With the corporate Republicans coming into control of all three branches of national government and the majority of statehouses, as it did during the Reagan years, the vaunted American political pendulum in its rightward swing will, like a wrecking ball, smash vulnerable people and the institutions that protect them.
On December 12th at the University of the District of Columbia's public interest law school, we held a well-attended post-election public meeting to discuss specific threats to, and ways we can protect, our low-income clients and other vulnerable populations. Our clinical law professor panelists and those in attendance came up with a long list of areas of concern, from housing and hate crimes, to lack of federal oversight of police violence, to threats to women's rights and reproductive choice, to immigration, health care, constitutional rights, access to legal services, workers' rights, social safety net programs, LGBTQ rights and more. The threat list is long and overwhelming. (If you are not over-committed already, you can fill out this SURVEY and choose your battles!)
Despite the jeopardy potentially posed by the impending Trump Administration, we are beginning to see that current events also present many opportunities for progressives who organize rather than mourn -- particularly if, rather than "draining the swamp" in Washington, DC, Mr. Trump continues on the path of stocking it with the same old right-wing, insider alligators who will soon alienate a substantial number of his supporters. While mainstream liberal and corporate Democrats have little to offer these voters, true progressives have much to say to many of the soon-to-be-disappointed Trump voters who believed he would actually support working class Americans.
A first bit of good newsis that people of all ages and races have been shocked out of their complacency nationwide. While it is awful that people all over the country are threatened, they are at the same time being driven -- as we have been at UDC - to thinking, reading, meeting, rallying, protesting - and organizing. Might a sleeping giant be awakening? If the millions of us engaged in public interest work or volunteerism were to pick up our game by, say, 20%, what kind of impact might that make? Huge, I believe. It could happen. I believe it IS happening.