2016 Electoral Map counting votes of 18-24 year olds
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Yeah, maybe so. Works for me. Or a straight line to utopia with zigs and zags or dialectical fixes, earnest resolve or plain luck, position or maneuver, hesitations or meditations, atonement or penance— ya takes your choice and press on. In any case, we know, there are gonna be setbacks. Coming up on two hundred years since the birth of a wise middle European gray beard who took all this very seriously. In his mid- twenties he wrestled himself, some distance, but never that far, from his gang of “Hegel bros” —“You guys are just philosophizing.” Me, I’m looking for some new friends, he thought, “Done with interpreting; time to change the world!” So, eyes wide and fleet of foot, through tragic 18th of Brumaire and farce of the 1848 revolutions, to the the massacre of the communards in the May 1871 “Paris Agony” we organize: “Unite the Advanced! Educate the Intermediate, Isolate the backward!” Wait, friend where are you going? Tell us, now what? “I need a fucking minute.” Gonna hang in some reading rooms, a nice lot at the British Museum, check on a few writers and critics, prophesize with my pen a while.
Jump to November 2016. Probably all gonna need a few minutes? Maybe read a thing or two? So, for starters I’m pleased to share ten essays below.
1. Richard Rorty, Achieving our Country (1998)
Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else. At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots . . . One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion . . . All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
2. Jan Werner-Muller, Real Citizens. Boston Review .October 26, 2016
Populists always claim that they, and they alone, represent the people. Consider Trump’s salvific boast in his speech at the Republic National Convention: “I am your voice,” with the corollary: “I alone can fix it.” This rhetoric condemns other political contenders as entirely illegitimate. The populist does not just disagree about policy; disputes are always matters of character. Other politicians are corrupt, or they put elite institutions before the people. In a word, the defining orientation of the populist is not anti-elitist or even antiestablishment (for populists are perfectly content with the establishment when they are in power) but anti-pluralist. This attitude translates into exclusions both at the level of party politics—other politicians are crooked—and at the level of citizens: opponents are likened to traitors to the nation.
3. Jedediah Purdy,Tomorrow’s Fight, Dissent, November 9, 2016.
What does this mean? In the coming months, especially if Trump delivers on his promises of torture, attacks on the media, stepped-up deportation, and religiously selective exclusion, massive displays of peaceful resistance and refusal will be absolutely necessary. This may be four years of vigils. It will be time for serious discussion about the ethics of civil disobedience, not as an academic question, but in lived practice. On the one hand, we will be trying to keep the country whole, to appeal to the people against themselves, as Thoreau put it in his defense of civil disobedience….The first concern must be for the immigrants, women, people of color, and so many others that Trump attacked and belittled throughout his campaign. This means protection and solidarity against both official and private bigotry and targeting….We also must prepare for the likelihood that Trump will move from attacking the most vulnerable to betraying the rural and white working people who turned out for him. He won in part because he told them they had been betrayed by Democratic elites, and the Democrats did not succeed in refuting him. But he has nothing for those voters except a vicious identity politics that cloaks standard right-wing tax-cutting, government-slashing, and regulation-gutting. He told them they lived in a merciless world, and they agreed with him, but he has no mercy to bring. You do not have to forgive the votes for Trump, or excuse the reasons behind them, to understand that, as ever, political majorities need allies, and Trump in time will prove to be a true friend to very few people.
4. Janice Fine, Liberals and the right have been dismissing unions for years. Boston Review, November 15, 2016
Unions, more than any other institution of American life, have been the vehicles through which working-class people, often across boundaries of gender, race, and ethnicity, have organized to have their say, assert their power, and ensure their share of the economic pie. For these reasons, aside from the New Deal interregnum, they have come under unceasing attack….Just when we need them most, the main institutions that have fought for decent jobs are a shadow of their former selves. Unions that have played a singular role in forging solidarity across racial, ethnic, and gender lines can now do so only for a diminishing number of Americans. Adding insult to injury, it is not just the right that has hastened their demise; liberals have been dismissing unions for years….Union locals were once citizenship schools for the working class. When unions were weakened, working-class people lost a central means through which they could develop an understanding of the world—of who was to blame for the decline in their standard of living and how to take action to correct it….Unions have been at the forefront of the fight for Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights, affordable healthcare, occupational safety and health standards, and quality public schools. Today they are the backbone of the fight for immigrant rights, higher minimum wage, and paid sick days….It often seems that liberals think all we need do is make a good argument or speak truth to power. They disdain confrontation and the messy nature of mass-based, democratic, working-class unions. They may support some policies, such as raising the minimum wage, but not the powerful—and, yes, complicated—institutions that have made them achievable….In the absence of unions, no other institutions have arisen that have elevated the voice, needs, and aspirations of working-class people and organized at the scale they once achieved. In the absence of collective institutions, people have been known to look to charismatic men who promise to make their countries great again.