Presidents, Revolution, and Organizing

Presidents, Revolution, and Organizing
By Wade Lee Hudson

Leadership is commonly defined as the ability to mobilize followers. This definition prevails throughout society — with grassroots activism, private businesses, foreign policy, and elsewhere. But President Franklin Roosevelt adopted a different perspective. He told activists, “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” 

Many activists want a revolutionary President, Bernie Sanders, though most Americans don’t support many of the policies he advocates. These revolutionaries envision President Sanders using the “bully pulpit” to change hearts and minds. 

But if radicals move too quickly, without popular support, they can provoke a counter-revolutionary backlash that sets back the revolution indefinitely — as we Sixties radicals, with our arrogance, contributed to the emergence of Reaganism. 

The tone of the Sanders’ campaign, set by Sanders himself, inflames anger, amplifies rage, and contributes to his supporters harassing opponents, even fellow progressives. His campaign echoes the Sixties, when he formed his unchanging political dogma.

Elected officials don’t lead lasting revolutions. The people lead. Leaders follow. The President’s role is to help the majority realize its will — if it’s compassionate and consistent with America’s highest ideals. 

If Sanders wins the nomination, it will be a gift to Republicans. If Sanders wins the Presidency, it will likely be with a small margin and the backlash will be overwhelming. The grassroots foundation to counter that reaction has not been built.

Rather than focus on top-down, temporary, electoral campaigns, Sanders could help organize democratic, sustainable, grassroots organizations. He might, for example, join the Democratic Party and encourage its transformation into a precinct-based force engaged in face-to-face organizing year-round.

The revolutionary’s role is to build grassroots support for concrete reforms that prepare the soil for the never-ending process of evolutionary revolution — holistic, systemic transformation. How to move in this direction is complicated. The Systemopedia collects and constantly updates ideas and information that can contribute to this effort. You’re invited to help develop this “encyclopedia with a point of view.”

You Are Now Remotely Controlled

For the Sunday print edition.
“Cambridge Analytica’s real innovation was to pivot the whole undertaking from commercial to political objectives.
In other words, Cambridge Analytica was the parasite, and surveillance capitalism was the host. …
They have the knowledge, the machines, the science and the scientists, the secrets and the lies. All privacy now rests with them, leaving us with few means of defense from these marauding data invaders….
Surveillance capitalism threatens to remake society as it unmakes democracy…. They have the means to know everything about us, but we can know little about them. Their knowledge of us is not for us. Instead, our futures are sold for others’ profits…. furiously dedicated to the lucrative science and economics of human prediction for profit.”

Reflections on Elizabeth Anderson

Reflections on Elizabeth Anderson
By Wade Lee Hudson

NOTE: Following is the text used in my January 12, 2020 “Democratic Equality and Democratic Dialog” PowerPoint presentation at the Humanists and Non-Theists committee of the San Francisco Unitarian church.

The article that had the biggest impact on me last year was “The Philosopher Redefining Equality” in The New Yorker. The subtitle reads: “Elizabeth Anderson thinks we’ve misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society.” That profile of Anderson begins: [play audio]

She ended up studying political and moral philosophy at Harvard under John Rawls and teaching at the University of Michigan, where she stayed, despite being heavily recruited by other universities.

In 1999 the esteemed journal Ethics published her path-breaking, widely reprinted article “What is the Point of Equality?” She’s also written three books, including Value in Ethics and Economics, which argues that some goods like love and respect should not be sold on the market or otherwise treated as commodities, and The Imperative of Integration, which examines how racial integration can lead to a more robust democracy. Her many podcast interviews include a great one with founder Ezra Klein.

Last year Anderson received the no-strings-attached $625,000 MacArthur “Genius” award. Included in their announcement was this [play video].

Anderson’s primary concern is social equality — equality not just in politics and economics but also equality in social relations throughout society — how to treat each other as equals, without trying to dominate, or being willing to submit. She calls this democratic equality.


Recommended Links

Why Trump Persists
Voters are less tolerant, less empathetic and less interested in integrity than many political analysts thought.
By Thomas B. Edsall


Ten Political Podcasts For The Savvy Citizen
By iHeart Radio

NOTE: Feminista Jones, from the excellent Pod Save the People podcast, is now a regular on MSNBC.


The Myth of Middle-Class Liberalism
The bourgeois are supposed to ensure open, democratic societies. In fact, they rarely have.
By David Motadel


The war on Muslims (with Mehdi Hasan)
Ezra Klein Show


Guaranteed Public Service Employment


Guaranteed Public Service Employment
By Wade Lee Hudson

Growing interest in a federally funded public-service job guarantee — as reflected in the Job Guarantee Manifesto — challenges the assumption that avoiding poverty is primarily an individual responsibility. In fact, a personal deficiency is not the main reason workers can’t find a living-wage job.

According to conventional wisdom, the cause for poverty is lack of skill, lack of discipline, or emotional instability. The solution therefore is assumed to be more education and training, better habits, or mental health treatment — so poor people can get a job, gain experience, and find jobs that pay a non-poverty wage.

Based on these assumptions, society only provides minor, stigmatizing relief, claims its apparent lack of compassion is justifiable tough love, and denies any responsibility to prevent poverty. People say to the poor, Get your act together. Climb the ladder.

If you focus only on the individual, there can be some logic to this argument. Any one individual may be able to do more to improve their situation. But if you look at society as a whole, the flaw in the argument is clear. There aren’t enough living-wage jobs for everyone. If one individual finds a living-wage job, countless others can’t get that job. It’s a game of musical chairs.