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Building a Multi-Racial Class-Based Coalition

[ 151 ] November 16, 2016 |


The best piece I’ve read on Trump, the American working classes, and the path forward is this by Sam Adler-Bell. Good stuff:

I’ve largely avoided this conversation until now. It’s been marked by bad faith and straw men on both sides. And I think the media’s preoccupation with these voters—over, say, working class people of color—is itself an effect of a white supremacist lens. Why are media organizations willing to spend so much money and energy seeking to understand and empathize with the plight of certain members of the underclass and not others? As is often the answer to American questions: racism.

That being said, I don’t think there’s a sufficient way forward for left politics that does not try to organize and win over white workers. It may be true that due to demographic change, Democrats won’t need white working class voters to win presidential elections in the near future. But they do need them to win back state legislatures, gubernatorial races, senate and congressional seats. The thing about these “irredeemably racist” hinterland states is that they all have cities, and in those cites are minorities. These states also have women and immigrants and LGBT people and disabled people. As it stands, the marginalized populations in red states live under the rule of increasingly authoritarian statehouses and governors, whose priorities include depriving gay & trans people of their rights & safety, depriving poor and black people of the franchise, depriving working people of the right to organize, and depriving women of the right to get an abortion—not to mention empowering police, prosecutors, and immigration enforcement.

Unless leftists are content to condemn these populations to permanent white, nativist, reactionary rule, we have no choice but to prioritize organizing—yes, “winning over”—white workers in these states. Make no mistake: the most inspiring organizers in the country,many of them black and brown and gay and trans, are already and have long been doing this work. But the instinct among some liberals right now to write off Trump-voting states altogether is both politically and morally untenable and insulting to the organizers struggling—in an often hostile environment—to empower oppressed communities in the South and upper Midwest.

Crucially, the point is not to develop an economic program that simply ignores anti-racist concerns. Trump’s working class voters cannot be won over to a progressive coalition simply by bribing them with economic rewards. White supremacist ideology is an insidious thing. The very means by which struggling white workers lives could be materially improved—redistribution of wealth, government investment in communities and education—have been stigmatized as handouts to minorities. As we know, racism itself is among the chief obstacles to the implementation of a more egalitarian welfare state. Rather, the task—as it has always been—is to convince these workers that they are part of class that includes black and brown people, but that does not include their wealthy white bosses. That is: that they are part of the working class; and that the antipathy they feel towards elites is justified and shared by the people of color scapegoated by their political leaders.

Creating a multi-racial, anti-racist populist front will be difficult. There’s no roadmap. But it’s been done before—to varying degrees of success—by labor unions during the Black Freedom Struggle, by communists organizers in the South, by the CIO, by the New Deal coalition. A reinvigorated labor movement is an indispensable part of the way forward. Throughout history, unions have been the best vehicle by which white workers come to identify as workers first. That remains true today.

I could not agree more.


The Ultimate True Leftist is the One Who Donald Trump Retweets

[ 166 ] November 16, 2016 |

Ok, Freddie hasn’t quite made it to that level yet. But it’s not only luminaries like Rod Dreher and Ross Douthat who find Freddie’s brilliant insights useful. Now Ann Coulter thinks he’s the bee’s knees too.

As the kids say, LOL

TPP Dead

[ 61 ] November 15, 2016 |


This is certainly not the way I wanted it to happen, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead. Personally, I’d take neoliberalism and the TPP over Trumpism and no TPP any day. The killing of the TPP in this fashion really isn’t going to solve any of the problems with it. The Trump administration is still going to be a boon for corporate domination, for pharmaceutical companies, and for employers seeking to exploit workers. I can’t really comment on how this affects U.S. relationships with its allies in Asia but given the utter disaster that Trump’s foreign policy is going to be, I imagine China is going to be a huge winner in the next 4 years with or without the TPP. Not subjecting even more workers and more national laws to the ISDS courts is a good thing. Rejecting the TPP is at least a sign that maybe, just maybe, the U.S. is going to start revisiting its 50 year tradition of encouraging American jobs to go overseas and then call anyone who questions that as the greatest thing in history a moral monster. But then we all know the Trump administration isn’t going to do anything to keep American workers employed. And this is more about hating Obama and denying him a policy goal than any actual opposition to anything in the TPP.

In the hell that is to come, it’s important not only to fight but also to still articulate a more just world for global workers. What I called for in Out of Sight seems even farther away than ever, but nevertheless, I still believe in the ideas of global workplace standards and enforceable labor rights across the world as the future for which we should envision and demand.

Today in the Coming Apocalypse

[ 23 ] November 15, 2016 |


In case you aren’t depressed enough.

Trump Governance

[ 110 ] November 15, 2016 |


I guess we can try to hang our hopes on the Trump administration being so utterly incompetent, so corrupt, and so concerned with purging internal enemies that maybe, just maybe, the damage will be limited. Well, good luck with that.

Mike Konczal on what the new era of Republican governance is going to look like. He makes three basic points. First, this doesn’t compare to 2009 because Republicans don’t even want Democratic votes, whereas Obama wanted Republican votes.

Obama did this all for many reasons, including the idea that his Presidency could overcome the strong partisan and ideological differences in the country. McConnell’s refusal to meet him anywhere was successful because President Obama, practically and ideologically, really wanted to make it work. Later in 2011, Obama would chase Republicans down rabbit holes to get any budget deal, offering 6-to-1 spending cuts to tax increases to secure a Grand Bargain, which Republicans rejected even though it was their own economics staff’s number. Obama wanting to win Republicans was often compared to Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football in an artifact of the time period called “the blogosphere.”

Here’s the flip side: the Ryan Agenda is designed in no way to appeal to, or rely on, liberals and Democrats. It’s been engineered to pass through reconciliation on a party line vote. All those times liberals made fun of Republicans for passing party-line bills that would get vetoed Republicans were simply doing test runs for what they would do with unified government, testing the boundaries of their members and the institutions themselves.

Second, the infrastructure program is going to be a huge grift.

As David Dayen writes in detail, the Trump infrastructure plan is engineered to be a crony, privatization nightmare. It’s not Hoover Dam and the WPA, it’s the toll road between Austin and San Antonio, Texas that is already falling apart and causing flooding while making outsized private profits. “Public-private partnerships” means poorly executed, cheap labor and big financial returns. It’s all tax credits, so it’s not even clear it counts as actual stimulus to get the economy going. The best ask if infrastructure goes forward is a strong Democrat to oversee and investigate the implementation, like Joe Biden did for the ARRA, but I bet that would be dead on arrival. The media is portraying this as Clinton’s infrastructure plan or the ARRA Part Two, but this is different in kind, not just degrees. It’s almost engineered to fail.

Third, all the different parts of Trump’s allies can work fine together. Ryan wants to decimate Medicare, Bannon wants to oppress black people. They won’t get in each other’s way.

Supporting even more aggressive policing of black communities exist perfectly fine next to privatizing Medicare and block-granting all income support programs. Rounding up three million undocumented people in a year is totally chill with eliminating progressive taxation. Creating a database of Muslims is like peanut butter and jelly with deregulating the financial derivatives market.

Do your homework on Hayek in Pinochet’s Chile, William F. Buckley in Franco’s Spain and the history of how punitive and carceral-minded classical liberals were, to see that the contradictions won’t fix anything. In general, hoping ideological contradictions will save us is a fool’s errand, but here there aren’t even the contradictions.

Konczal brings a little hope in the end because they are so far from being ready to actually govern effectively, not to mention dealing with the political impact of their actions. But really they are, which is massive voter suppression so they never face the consequences. It’s a lot to overcome.

We Are Really Going to See “Both Sides Do It” Taken to Tragicomical Levels

[ 98 ] November 14, 2016 |

Shoot me in the face please.

How Not to Talk About the Working Class. No, the Other Way Not to Talk About the Working Class

[ 57 ] November 14, 2016 |


Yes, we know that it is a huge error to talk about the working class as if it were all white people. There’s another huge error: talking about the working class in a story that interviews nearly 10 people and every single one of them is a man, as in this piece on why Ohio voted Trump. That this is story written by a woman with additional reporting by another woman would make it odd except that this assumption is so ingrained into mainstream journalism, just like it is to talk only to white people.

Today in Trump’s America

[ 26 ] November 14, 2016 |


I guess grabbing her by the pussy was too classy or something.

An apparent Donald Trump fan punched a lady in the face after the pair got into an argument about the outcome of the election at Boerum Hill French bistro Bar Tabac on Saturday evening then made a hasty getaway as staff tried to chase him down, according to witnesses who were shocked to see the whole thing play out in front of families during dinner-time.

“It’s the worst thing ever — a guy in front of kids punching a girl in the face,” said Jonas Leon, the manager who was on duty at the Smith and Dean streets eatery at the time of the attack.

The assailant was having dinner with a woman when he got into an argument about the president-elect with the two women at the table next to him after they expressed their disappointment about Trump’s victory, according to Leon.

The man asked Leon to throw the women out of the restaurant, but he refused, and instead moved the gent and his companion to a different table. The guy paid his check and exited the restaurant at 6:50 pm, but then dashed back in again — nearly knocking over a kid on his way — and slugged one of the ladies in the face, according to the manager.

This is now normalized behavior unless we step up and resist whenever we see it. And we may well see it everywhere.

Union Decline and Trump’s Rise

[ 90 ] November 14, 2016 |


One thing about the apocalypse: those who specialize in a particular part of it suddenly become high demand. I spoke to The Atlantic:

In Michigan, home to the influential United Auto Workers, Republican Governor Rick Snyder passed one such law in 2012 amid mass protests. In the first year after the law went into effect, union membership in the state fell by 11 percent (though it has inched up a bit since then). In 2015, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker pushed the same type of law through with similar results. “Republicans knew this would decimate unions, and now we can see the impact,” says Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island.

Back in the 1980s, unions represented 22 percent of private-sector workers, he says. Now they represent only about 8 percent. Loomis points to two major historical shifts that inflicted major damage to the labor movement: the drying up of manufacturing jobs in the late 1970s as factories moved overseas, and more recently, Republican-led movements to pass laws restricting unionization. This year, West Virginia became the 26th state to pass right-to-work laws, which went into effect this summer.

But it’s not just right-to-work laws that have weakened the labor movement. Unions had tried to stop the impacts of globalization and automatization, Loomis says, but “they were overwhelmed by a bipartisan belief in globalized trade and nobody has taken long-term unemployment and community decline seriously.” Neither Ohio nor Pennsylvania has passed right-to-work legislation, but their industries—and the chance that they would vote Democratic—have fallen nevertheless.

The election results in Nevada reflect a stark contrast. Hillary Clinton won the state with the help of the labor movement, and in particular, with the help of Culinary Union, which put on an aggressive campaign to mobilize its 57,000 members to vote for Democrats. Clinton won by a large margin in Nevada and so did the state’s Democratic Senate candidate, Catherine Cortez Masto. “The key difference is that they were able to organize working-class people to get their votes,” says Loomis. There is also another key difference: The Culinary Union is mostly made up of Latino workers in the hotel and service industry, a different demographic from the predominantly white factory workers in the Rust Belt who made up the base of the labor movement there and have since seen their jobs disappear.

The real dichotomy in this election is how different right to work states have different labor movements. The role the Culinary Union plays in Nevada is a real model for other right to work states. Not easy to emulate but important. I hope to have more on this soon. It would help if I wasn’t getting migraine headaches as a result of post-election anxiety and fear and thus losing days of work.

Jobs and Trump Voters

[ 418 ] November 13, 2016 |


I am consistently amazed at the resistance people have to the idea that a reasonable percentage of Trump voters cast a ballot for him because of economic anxiety. I know it’s easier to call everyone a bunch of racists. And some of them are! And some of them are racist and also voted for Barack Hussein Obama on two occasions! And some of them genuinely know that Barack Obama did nothing to keep their jobs in Ohio or Michigan or Wisconsin from moving overseas or being automated. And they know that Hillary Clinton really didn’t either. So, yes, some workers genuinely voted for Donald Trump because they want to keep their jobs. Take many workers at the Carrier plant in Indiana, famous because of the notorious filmed reaction to the bosses announcing the closing of the factory and the move of the jobs to Mexico.

Carrier’s decision to move the factory to Monterrey, Mexico, will eliminate 1,400 jobs by 2019. Mr. Trump quickly made the factory Exhibit A in his argument against the trade policies of Republicans and Democrats alike.

He cited Carrier again and again on the campaign trail, threatening to phone executives at the company and its parent, United Technologies, and to hit them with 35 percent tariffs on any furnaces and air-conditioners they imported from Mexico. To the cheers of his supporters, he predicted at rallies that Carrier would call him up as president and say, “Sir, we’ve decided to stay in the United States.”

Now his supporters expect action. “If he doesn’t pass that tariff, I will vote the other way next time,” warned Nicole Hargrove, who has worked at Carrier for a decade and a half and is not certain what she will do if and when her job goes to Mexico.

Carrier isn’t changing its plans. On Friday in a written statement, the company said, “We are making every effort to ease the transition for our Carrier colleagues in Indiana.” The company pointed out that it will finance four-year retraining and educational programs for employees and provide financial help.

For workers like Mr. Roell, 36, who started at Carrier just weeks after receiving his high school diploma and never returned to school, the problem is not a shortage of jobs in the area. Instead, it is a drought of jobs that pay anywhere near the $23.83 an hour he makes at Carrier, let alone enough to give him a toehold in the middle class.

When he drives to work each day before dawn, Mr. Roell passes warehouse after warehouse of giants like Walmart and Kohl’s with “Help Wanted” signs outside promising jobs within. The problem is that they typically pay $13 to $15 an hour.

“I guess I could work two full-time shifts a day,” he joked.

The situation confronting Mr. Roell and other blue-collar Carrier workers is not simply one anecdote from the region some people call the Rust Belt. It is part of a broad predicament for non-college-educated workers borne out by Census Bureau data. And it explains why even in Indiana, a state with a lower rate of unemployment than the national average, and a strong rebound from the recession in many ways, the economic and political frustration is palpable.

Sure, Donald Trump is lying to these workers. But that doesn’t actually matter in terms of winning an election. Because those workers know that Obama or Clinton weren’t going to keep that plant open. So why wouldn’t they vote for Donald Trump?

This is part of a larger massive failure of the entire political and economic establishment, which is five decades of indifference to communities decimated by globalization. Globalization has helped or hurt different parts of the nation in different ways. It has massively improved my home state of Oregon, which was really pretty poor as late as the mid-1980s and now is quite wealthy. Other coastal and urban areas have done as well. But we all know which communities have been the most left behind. They are the Democratic states that voted for Donald Trump. We need actual economic plans in the places people live. There are concrete political reasons for this–these states have a lot of electoral votes. Democrats have to pull enough white working class votes to win in those states. That means providing actual economic hope for people where they live. But that is not even close to being central to the national agenda, even on the left. Unfortunately, with automation likely to decimate even more jobs in the next years, even more white workers are probably going to be susceptible to racist appeals.

So yes, Trump voters were motivated in some extent by racism AND misogyny AND economic dislocation and community decline. If we chalk it all up to racism, we lose. Deal with the problems of these communities and you not only have done the right thing and have helped all working people–black, brown, and white–but you’ve convinced people of all races that Democrats have a real program for working people.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 57

[ 37 ] November 13, 2016 |

This is the grave of Lyle Alzado.


Born in Brooklyn, Lyle Alzado loved football but was not seen as a college prospect. Thus he traveled to faraway Texas to play at Kilgore College, a 2-year school. He then transferred to Yankton College in South Dakota, a school that has since been turned into a federal prison. He was noticed by a scout watching film of an opposing player at equally obscure Montana Tech. The Denver Broncos drafted him in the 4th round in 1971, where he played until 1978. He soon became an excellent defensive linemen. A contract dispute led Denver to send him to the Browns, who traded him to the Raiders in 1982. By this time, he was playing with utter angry abandon, known for his enforcer style that fit Al Davis’ teams of the time. At one point, he threw his helmet at an opposing player, leading the NFL to create the Alzado Rule that banned players from using their helmets as weapons. He retired in 1985 with 112.5 sacks. In order to keep up this intense style of play and physical regimen, he shot himself full of a shocking amount of steroids. Many claimed that Alzado’s death from cancer at the age of 43 in 1992 was due to his chemical regime, but that’s probably not true.

As a child, rooting for the Seahawks in the early 80s, there was only one player I hated more than Alzado. That was Horseface Elway.

It does not seem that anyone has ever played Lyle Alzado in the movies or TV. But Alzado himself appeared on the screen many times. He was in episodes of True Blue, Top Cops, Trapper John MD, MacGyver, and many other fine shows of the 1980s and early 1990s. He was also in Ernest Goes to Camp and Who’s Harry Crumb.

Lyle Alzado is buried in River View Cemetery, Portland, Oregon.

Today in Trump’s America

[ 133 ] November 12, 2016 |


Exhibit A:

A Gwinnett County high school teacher said she was left a note in class Friday telling her that her Muslim headscarf “isn’t allowed anymore.”

“Why don’t you tie it around your neck & hang yourself with it…,” the note said, signed “America!”

Mairah Teli, 24, who teaches language arts at Dacula High, said she feels the note is in reaction to Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race.

“I feel children feel safe making comments that are racist or sexist because of him,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Gwinnett County Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said in an email that the district is “doing all it can to identify the person who wrote and left this note.”

Teli said the administration and fellow teachers were very supportive after she informed them she found the note.

Teli, a California native who grew up in Gwinnett, suspected it was from a student.

She said she was shocked and disturbed but worked to be measured when she addressed class. She told the students she was happy to speak with them if there were questions about her hijab.

Exhibit B:

Swastikas and other inappropriate images were spray-painted on school banners, sidewalks and telephone poles at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda over the weekend, according to Assistant Principal Gabby Bellagamba.

Bellagamba sent an email to parents late Sunday night informing them that Montgomery County police are investigating the incident. The assistant principal said the graffiti has been covered and “will be removed as soon as possible.”

Gboyinde Onijala, a Montgomery County Public Schools spokeswoman, said maintenance crews will be at the school Monday to remove the graffiti.

Police said Monday the vandalism was reported on Sunday morning by a member of a Jewish congregation that holds weekly services at the school. An image of male genitalia was also spray painted on the banner, which was posted near the school entrance, according to police. The school is at 7900 Beech Tree Road.

Heck, maybe over the next 4 years, the greatest Jewish-Muslim unity alliance in the world will develop in the U.S. has both have to survive the racist hell of unleashed Trump supporters.

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