Lee Gargagliano

Eyes on the Prize: Say No to Division, Demoralization and Distraction

Eyes on the Prize: Say No to Division, Demoralization and Distraction
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By Lee Gargagliano

The morning after Super Tuesday I woke up feeling hungover, and not because I had a lot to drink the night before. As a person committed to fighting for a world based on meeting human needs and dismantling white supremacy, it was disheartening to see that the campaign I believe is best suited to move in that direction (the Bernie campaign) didn’t carry the day.

It had been painful in the days just before the voting to see how the ‘just Dump Trump and everything will be fine’ faction in the Democratic Party were able to consolidate their forces and grab the initiative. It was even worse to see the results when the vote totals started coming in.

But after a few hours grieving, I sobered up.

I decided that rather than stay in a funk I should learn everything I could from what happened. And, as a person who has long looked to voices rooted in the Black community for ideas and inspiration, I knew I had to take seriously the fact that a substantial majority of Black voters had not gone with my preferred candidate. I began to think that Super Tuesday was giving me an opportunity to make a more realistic assessment of where progressive forces have strength and where we have work to do.

When I really get down to it, the tasks for people looking to create a better world were not changed significantly by those election results.

We were always going to have to wrestle with the power of the establishment as we fought to win the presidential nomination for a progressive leader and go on to build a coalition large enough to defeat Trump and the fascist tendency he represents. We still have a long way to go in consolidating the incredibly powerful grassroots organizing and organizers that have already gone into progressive campaigns. We’re going to need to continue to expand the number of people and level of organization we can throw into the fray.

I am going to redouble my efforts to win the nomination for Bernie Sanders. And I am going to be ready to go all out to beat Trump and his enablers whether Bernie prevails or not.  That was all true on Monday before Super Tuesday and is just as true today, following the results last night. I am just more sober minded about the size of our task.

BRACE FOR A ROUGH RIDE AHEAD

2020 is going to be a hell of a year. It already has been. White nationalism and authoritarianism are tightening their grip on the Executive Branch of the most powerful imperial state on the planet. People committed to racial justice, economic justice, and the health of the planet need to maintain a laser focus on voting Trump and his enablers out of office.

We can expect obstacle after obstacle to be hurled in our path. Defeating Trump in 2020 is imperative. It is not going to be easy. The Trump coalition is very good at ginning up its base. We should fully expect an onslaught of racist vitriol, racist violence and racist policy in the build up to the election.

We cannot allow their manipulations to throw us off course. We need to be prepared to recognize when we are slipping into the 3 Ds: Division, Demoralization and Distraction. We need to develop our tools to combat them.

SAY NO TO DIVISION

We are well aware that there are real and significant differences among Democratic candidates for president; there were even the progressive ones. There are differences among the even broader segment of people who recognize the grave danger that Donald Trump’s presidency represents. We know that Trump will seek to exploit these differences and turn them into bitter divisions.

The threat of division will also come from within the coalition. As we clarify the various visions that progressives and moderates are promoting, we need to remember that once the primaries are over, we are going to need a broad coalition to defeat Trump.

How can we organize in a way that positions us to build our strength? How can we stay clear eyed about the real differences we have while finding a way to center the things we need to do together to prevent a second term of unbridled white nationalism in the White House?

Our social justice movements have made important gains since 2015. There is a scale of work on the ground today (both electoral and non-electoral) that did not exist in 2015. Many of our ideas – Green New Deal, Medicare for all – now have mainstream, even majority, support. But we may not yet be strong enough to be in the drivers’ seat in the anti-Trump coalition. What is clear is that we will have a lot more space to organize, and more people in elected office who are vulnerable to pressure from our work if Trump and the GOP are beaten in November.

SAY NO TO DEMORALIZATION

The assaults on communities and people we care about are relentless. We face a structurally biased political system rooted in racism, patriarchy and capitalism. The other side has more money, more media, more weapons than we do.

Since we are steadily bombarded by these realities it is natural to want to escape and shut off and curl up in a ball and cry. Having these emotions is part of caring, part of being in our full humanity, and we need to honor them as such. So we need to support one another, pace ourselves, as we commit to both short-term urgency and a long-haul fight. We need to take care of each other and lean on each other. If you can’t do the work this week, reach out and ask a friend.

And we should remember that we are part of a national – in fact, global – majority of people searching for a better life. This is our ultimate source of strength, and the reason why if we work hard and work smart the future can be ours.

We are building on the efforts of those who came before us. And each day, more young people are picking up the torch. The generation of the future – those under 30 – are the most radical yet!

SAY NO TO DISTRACTION

Trump is a masterful media manipulator. He says and does outrageous things in order to suck the oxygen out of the room and he is very good at it. What’s more, what he and his administration say and do are not always mere distractions, they have material impacts on people and communities that are already under attack. We need to continuously re-ground ourselves in what is at stake in the upcoming election.

It is not always easy to tell the difference between an issue or event that we need to address because it will become important, or just another one of Trump’s tweet-storm tantrums. Sorting through those dilemmas has to be a collective and ongoing process. This is why it is important to be part of an organization or network. No one can do this alone.

IF WE CONTINUE TO BUILD, THE FUTURE CAN BE OURS

In the end, I came out of Super Tuesday feeling better than I anticipated – in part because I had thrown myself into working on it and am part of building a campaign I believe in; and in part because I went into it with clarity about my goals and what we collectively need to accomplish.

Together we have a huge opportunity in 2020 to beat back white nationalism and authoritarianism in the U.S. in a way that sends ripples all across the globe.

We can stop the direct attacks on many of our communities and carve out expanded space to continue to work to achieve justice.

We won’t stop working on November 4; rather we will enhance our efforts to strengthen peoples’ movements using all the experience and the expanded base we will gain in the course of the 2020 campaign.

The future of humanity and the planet depends on it.

Seed the Vote (www.seedthevote.org) is a project to organize people from the Bay Area to go to Arizona to support LUCHA in building its grassroots power and defeating Trump while building skills and relationships that will feed the power of grassroots movements in the Bay Area when we get back.

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