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What Activists Do

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Somewhat bemused at how several (definitely not all though) commenters responded to Simon’s post from earlier today about abolishing the police–DO YOU NEVER WANT TO WIN ELECTIONS AGAIN!!!!!

That this narrative has legs with the moderate wing of the Democratic Party as well, particularly people who simply don’t care cops slaughtering Black people such as Abigail Spanberger, really does require a step back to discuss some basic realities of our politics.

First, lots of politics exist outside of just electoral politics. It is the role of the activist to bring up whatever issue of justice it is they think is important. If that is abolishing what passes for policing in America, then it’s abolishing what passes for policing. There’s no moral argument against it. There may be practical arguments, but that’s neither here nor there for this post. This is what activists do. They lay their lives on the line, sometimes quite literally, in the fight for justice as they believe it. On this issue, they have all the rightness on their side. This has always been part of our politics and it always will be. Remember, William Lloyd Garrison was BURNING COPIES OF THE CONSTITUTION IN PUBLIC!!! and claiming the document was a pact with Satan. And yet today we see him as a hero because he took the right position, completely not caring how it affected electoral politics. Can you imagine what would happen if I walked out into the street and started burning the Constitution or even better, the flag? Y’all just have to deal with activists saying things that might make you cringe or seem unreasonable or bad electoral politics or however this makes you uncomfortable.

Second, some of those activists are going to end up in electoral politics because that’s how a lot of change does get made. This is a good thing! We want people taking these moral fights into our political system. They help make a ton of change. We can see this again and again and again in our history. AOC and Tlaib and Omar and Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman are part of a new left wing in our electoral politics that is actually a response to liberals poo-pooing street based politics and saying “why don’t these people run for office instead of protesting?” Well, now they are running for office and you have to embrace them or at least understand them. They are taking the street politics and they are making demands of the nation–and representing the people in their districts by doing so.

Third, Republicans are going to make up whatever bullshit they want against Democrats regardless of whether it is true or not. If it’s not Abolish the Police then it is completely ridiculous things such as JOE BIDEN IS A COMMUNIST! Oh wait, that was the actual line of argument that allowed Trump to win Florida. They had a playbook against Bernie and they just used it against Biden, no matter the absolutely absurdly of it. Joe Biden, Commie!!!! What????? You can’t message yourself into political victory. It just doesn’t work that way, not with Democrats anyway. There’s no evidence that by being careful and not saying controversial things that all of a sudden we will win. I remember falling victim to this back in the day, thinking a long time ago that the timing of gay marriage fights was going to hurt Democrats in the next election. That was not only wrong but I was also contributing to a culture of bigotry, even if I mostly kept these thoughts to myself.

The reality is that you have to stand up for what is right. This racist, misogynist, often horrifyingly terrible nation may not accept it. But there’s no other option if you ever want to make this country better. And if your response to all of this is to curl up in a ball and complain that this one bad message is sure to doom Democrats, then your myopic position about politics needs a serious revisiting because it’s way too connected to 24-hour news cycle talking points and way too disconnected to the structural problems with America.

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