Category Archives: Politics

Don’t Curse, Organize

Source: Michael Kazin, Dissent, Winter 2017

A cruel irony lurks beneath the debacle of the 2016 election: Donald Trump may have won the roughly 80,000 voters he needed in the Rust Belt at least in part because he vowed to fix a massive problem of twenty-first-century capitalism that the left had propelled into national prominence: economic inequality. The insurgents of Occupy, the fighters for $15, and Bernie Sanders and his young apostles had all drawn the media’s attention to the nagging wage gap, bad trade deals, and lousy, non-union jobs. Barack Obama won reelection in 2012 partly because he stoked this discontent when he ran against a businessman who wrote off nearly half the population of his own country. But last fall, it was Trump, not the uninspiring Democratic nominee, who made an effective, albeit classically demagogic, appeal to white working people to change a system “rigged” against them. “He stoked his base’s fears,” observed Gary Younge in the Guardian; “she failed to give her base hope.”

So how should radicals and liberals resist and help defeat an administration hostile to every principle and policy that makes a decent society possible? Several contributors to this issue offer sharp, sensible views about those burning questions. …. Leftists, in and out of social movements, should instead seize the opportunity that Hillary Clinton’s defeat has given them—by transforming the Democratic Party from inside.

Articles include:
The Fight Ahead:

Tomorrow’s Fight
Jedediah Purdy
Trump has put us where he put his followers all year: frightened, in a besieged place, a country we do not feel we recognize, in need of a champion. Now we all have to be one another’s champions.

Left Foot Forward
Sarah Leonard
….Now that our enemies are in power, what comes next? For starters, if the Democrats stand a chance in the near future, Republicans have conveniently demonstrated for them what they did not believe coming from the left: economic populism works….

The Next Democratic Party
Timothy Shenk
Parties recover from defeat in two ways. They can try to beat the opposition at their own game, or they can try to change the rules of the game. Donald Trump did the latter. Now it’s the Democrats’ turn.

A Call for Sanctuary
Mae Ngai
The American public does not support mass removal of immigrants. And by turning cities and campuses into sanctuaries against raids and deportations, we have the power to stop it.

Prepare For Regime Change, Not Policy Change
N. Turkuler Isiksel
Lessons from the autocrats’ toolkit. …. Confidence in the exceptional resilience of American democracy is particularly misplaced in the face of today’s illiberal populist movements, whose leaders are constantly learning from each other. Trump has a wide variety of tried and tested techniques on which to draw; already, he has vowed to take pages out of Putin’s playbook. Defenders of liberal democracy, too, must learn from each other’s victories and defeats. Below are some hard-earned lessons from countries that have been overrun by the contemporary wave of illiberal democracy. They could be essential for preserving the American republic in the dark years to come…..

A Devil We Know
Robert Greene
Frightening as it is, Trumpism has many precedents in U.S. history—and the social movements of the last century, from the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to ACT UP, offer important lessons for how to fight it.

Texas’s New Ground Game
Michelle Chen
….The Texas Organizing Project (TOP), a gritty grassroots network linking three rapidly browning cities—San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston—has fought and won enough local battles to demonstrate the value of seeding incremental progressive wins on the neighborhood level in order to build a grassroots people’s movement. And they know better than to take anything about Texas for granted. For TOP’s communications director Mary Moreno, giving people a reason to believe voting still makes a difference in a politically predictable state starts with talking about them, not their vote…..

The Future of Work:

Introduction: No Retreat
Sarah Jaffe and Natasha Lewis
….When we sat down to consider the future of work, then, we decided to set aside the debate over whether, how many, and how fast the robots are coming and concentrate on these questions of politics, of power. Which workers have it, and how do they wield it? Whose work is valued, and how much? Who is a member of the working class these days, and how is that likely to change?

And we decided to think big. Though it might be hard to imagine a more dire political reality than the one we currently face, the shock of the recent election shows there is space for new political ideas. The authors in the following pages set out provocations and strategies to win the future we want, and warn of the futures we might get if we lose these fights…..

Thank God It’s Monday
Kate Aronoff
….Reverence for hard work is not simply a decorative gimmick, but core to the WeWork philosophy. The imperative to hustle reflects the way the founders see (and wish to shape) the future of work. Meanwhile, WeWork’s popularity is driven—in part—by the increasing atomization of labor, across income brackets. By offering workers an alternative to days spent alone behind a computer, Neumann and McKelvey discovered they could turn a profit by exploiting one of the defining features of work’s so-called future: isolation….

A Strike Against the New Jim Crow
Janaé Bonsu
(subscription required)
….Last September, inmates around the nation boldly resisted as exploited workers have often done in the past. They staged the largest prison strike in U.S. history. It was organized by the Free Alabama Movement, a group of prisoners and allies, and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a segment of the Industrial Workers of the World…..

Love’s Labor Earned
J.C. Pan
(subscription required)
….To most women today who find themselves exhausted by unwaged, unappreciated emotion work, receiving payment for it probably seems like a pretty delightful idea. Why continue to coddle and counsel men without getting something in return? Why work as therapists without charging therapist rates?….

Learning from the Rank and File: An Interview with Barbara Madeloni
Sarah Jaffe and Barbara Madeloni
On November 8, as the electoral map turned redder and redder, Massachusetts and the surrounding northeastern states began to look like a little blue island. Reliably Democratic in presidential elections even after a Republican took the governor’s office in the state two years ago, Massachusetts was still the site of significant election-night drama, as an initiative that would have drastically expanded the reach of charter schools was on the ballot—and went down, sixty-two to thirty-eight. Barbara Madeloni is the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and helped build the No on Two coalition that defeated the initiative. She spoke with Dissent about the lessons from that fight for the future of the labor movement as it prepares for the attacks that will likely come from a Trump administration.

An Economist’s Case for Open Borders
Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
…..Last April, an economist named Branko Milanovic published a proposal to reduce global economic inequality in the Financial Times. The best way to help the world’s poor, he wrote, is to encourage movement of labor and get countries to open up their borders. But of course, that’s easier said than done: many citizens of rich host countries balk at the idea of increased migration. When they imagine foreigners settling down within their borders, they fear that their jobs, their benefits, and their idea of national (and, let’s face it, ethnic) unity will be threatened. The campaigning around the British initiative to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election will endure as the consequences of this talk in action. Milanovic’s suggestion is as follows: what if we make some concessions to these concerns and fears, and formally reduce the rights and benefits foreigners are entitled to, so long as they are welcome to come, work, and get a shot at improving their economic situation, at least for a limited time?….

Bargaining with Silicon Valley
Rebecca Burns
(subscription required)
…..At this rate, it’s unlikely that all of us will be working on online platforms anytime soon. But the defining feature of the gig economy isn’t really that workers accept jobs through an app on their phone: it’s that they work with no benefits, no job security, and no unions. And it’s this model of the future, in which workers are fully fungible, that is being embraced not only by tech acolytes, but also by traditional employers and the broader right. Under the guise of inevitability, a host of tech, business, and anti-union groups appear eager to use the gig economy as a Trojan horse for changes that affect far more workers: privatizing what remains of the social safety net, “modernizing” (read: gutting) key labor laws, and further hobbling unions…..

A Left Vision for Trade
Erik Loomis
(subscription required)
….Both Trump and Clinton explained their objection to the TPP in terms of the very real threat it posed to American jobs. But globalization is not going away, with or without the TPP. So how can we make it fairer?….

Motivated Reasoning about Public Performance: An Experimental Study of How Citizens Judge the Affordable Care Act

Source: Oliver James and Gregg G. Van Ryzin, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 27 no. 1, January 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Public performance reporting is often promoted as a means to better inform citizens’ judgments of public services. However, political psychology has found evidence of motivated reasoning, with citizens’ accuracy motives often supplanted by biased searching for and evaluation of information to defend prior political attitudes, beliefs or identities. We conducted a survey experiment to evaluate motivated reasoning about the performance of the US Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), which has been politically contentious. In the experiment, we randomly assigned a sample of US adults to either a politics prime, to encourage partisan motivated reasoning, or a health care needs prime, to encourage accuracy motived reasoning stemming from their own perceived need for health care. We then asked them to rate the strength of real performance information in the form of evidence statements about the Affordable Care Act and to choose real performance indicators from a graphical array. The findings show that the political prime strengthened partisan differences in both the ratings of evidence statements and the selection of performance indicators. Thus, for contentious public programs where partisan identities are activated, partisan motivated reasoning influences how citizens process performance information and thus may limit its potential for enhancing democratic accountability.

“Hope Not Hate”: A Roadmap for Navigating the Racist Backlash Against Neoliberalism

Source: Kate Aronoff, In These Times, December 20, 2016

Anti-fascist organizing in post-Brexit Britain offers lessons for Trump’s America. ….

….For months, organizers in Britain have been grappling with questions their U.S. counterparts are now facing. What does defending those communities most vulnerable to xenophobic attacks entail, and what does bringing those same communities into the ground-floor of a multi-racial movement-building strategy look like? Why are progressive organizations—most housed in major cities—so out of touch with voters who feel the economy has left them behind? And how can movements honor feelings of voicelessness and economic pain while excising white supremacy? What does taking back power look like?….

Meet the Trump Cabinet

Source: Government Executive, 2016

Few presidential transitions have been as fraught with uncertainty as the one associated with the incoming Trump Administration. While candidate Donald Trump pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, deport millions of undocumented immigrants, build a wall across the Southwest border with Mexico, renegotiate trade deals and redefine international partnerships, it’s not at all clear what President Trump may actually do once he’s in office. To understand how the man who promised to “fire stupid people” and shake up Washington might actually govern, its useful to consider the men and women he has tapped for his Cabinet. While the Senate still must confirm Trump’s picks, they offer insight into how he may manage the federal bureaucracy…”

Indivisible: A practical guide For resisting the Trump agenda

Source: Angel Padilla, Billy Fleming, Caroline Kavit, Ezra Levin, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Jennay Ghowrwal, Jeremy Haile, Leah Greenberg, Matt Traldi, Sara Clough, and Sarah Dohl, Indivisible, 2016


Word document

Google Doc

Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.

We: Are former progressive congressional staffers who saw the Tea Party beat back President Obama’s agenda.

We: See the enthusiasm to fight the Trump agenda and want to share insider info on how best to influence Congress to do that.

You: Want to do your part to beat back the Trump agenda and understand that will require more than calls and petitions.

You: Should use this guide, share it, amend it, make it your own, and get to work.

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President-Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding.

Together, we have the power to resist — and we have the power to win. We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism — and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness.

Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.

We believe that the next four years depend on citizens across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda. We believe that buying into false promises or accepting partial concessions will only further empower Trump to victimize our fellow citizens. We hope that this guide will provide those who share that belief useful tools to make Congress listen. ….

New reports document link between Trump election, hate incidents

Source: Rebekah Barber, Facing South, December 1, 2016

This week the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released two reports documenting the correlation between hate incidents and President-elect Donald Trump’s win on Nov. 8. The reports shows that racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic people nationwide have been emboldened by Trump’s win and the divisive campaign he led…..
Ten Days After: Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Election
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center, November 29, 2016

The Trump Effect: The Impact of The 2016 Presidential Election on Our Nation’s Schools
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center, November 28, 2016

The conservative activist behind Trump’s bogus ‘millions of illegal voters’ claim

Source: Sue Sturgis, Facing South, November 30, 2016

….Where did the bogus information come from? Politifact traced it back to the Twitter account of one Gregg Phillips:
Tweets by Phillips on Nov. 11 and Nov. 13 said that “we have verified more than 3 million votes cast by non-citizens” and that Phillips had “completed analysis of database of 180 million voter registrations. Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million. Consulting legal team.”

Phillips refused to discuss his claims in detail with Politifact, saying he’s not yet ready to release his supporting information publicly. When asked by the British online newspaper The Independent to discuss his evidence, Phillips refused. “We will release it in open form to the American people,” he said. “We won’t allow the media to spin this first. Sorry.”

So who is Phillips?

A resident of Texas with a business degree from the University of Alabama, he’s the chairman and CEO of AutoGov, an Austin-based company that makes software to help hospitals, nursing homes and other health care organizations decide whether to admit Medicaid patients. He founded the company in 2004 following an 18-month stint as executive deputy commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees Medicaid and SNAP food benefits. Phillips played a key role in crafting 2003 legislation to privatize parts of the Texas safety net and came under fire for conflicts of interest and cronyism there and in a similar position he held in Mississippi, as the Houston Chronicle reported…..

The Ideological Nationalization of Mass Partisanship: Policy Preferences and Partisan Identification in State Publics, 1946–2014

Source: Devin Caughey, James Dunham, Chris Warshaw, MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2016-34, August 28, 2016

From the abstract:
Since the mid-20th century, elite political behavior has increasingly nationalized. In Congress, for example, within-party geographic cleavages have declined, roll-call voting has become increasingly one-dimensional, and Democrats and Republicans have diverged along this main dimension of national partisan conflict. The existing literature finds that citizens have displayed only a delayed and attenuated echo of elite trends. We show, however, that a very different picture emerges if we focus not on individual citizens but on the aggregate characteristics of geographic constituencies. Using estimates of the economic, racial, and social policy liberalism of the average Democrat, Independent, and Republican in each state-year 1946–2014, we demonstrate a surprisingly close correspondence between mass and elite trends. Specifically, we find that: (1) ideological divergence between Democrats and Republicans has increased dramatically within each domain, just as it has in Congress; (2) economic, racial, and social liberalism have become highly correlated across state-party publics, just as they have across members of Congress; (3) ideological variation across state-party publics is now almost completely explained by party rather than state, closely tracking trends in the Senate; and (4) senators’ liberalism is strongly predicted by the liberalism of their state-party subconstituency, even controlling for their party affiliation and their state public’s overall liberalism. Taken together, this correspondence between elite and mass patterns suggests that members of Congress are actually quite in synch with their constituencies, if not with individual citizens.

Do Politicians Use Policy to Make Politics? The Case of Public-Sector Labor Laws

Source: Sarah F. Anzia and Terry M. Moe, American Political Science Review, Vol. 110 no. 4, November 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Schattschneider’s insight that “policies make politics” has played an influential role in the modern study of political institutions and public policy. Yet if policies do indeed make politics, rational politicians have opportunities to use policies to structure future politics to their own advantage—and this strategic dimension has gone almost entirely unexplored. Do politicians actually use policies to make politics? Under what conditions? In this paper, we develop a theoretical argument about what can be expected from strategic politicians, and we carry out an empirical analysis on a policy development that is particularly instructive: the adoption of public-sector collective bargaining laws by the states during the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s—laws that fueled the rise of public-sector unions, and “made politics” to the advantage of Democrats over Republicans.

An activist’s playbook: How to influence Trump’s cabinet and policies

Source: Sarah Snyder, The Conversation, December 7, 2016

As Donald Trump works to fill his cabinet, his choices have inspired considerable anxiety among his critics. Advocacy organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch have reacted with concern and outright objections, in particular to the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general and Rep. Michael Pompeo to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

They claim these appointments show that “Trump’s administration will threaten human rights protections.”
In 1980, Ronald Reagan’s election similarly raised widespread anxiety among human rights advocates. His nomination of Ernest W. Lefever to head the State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs heightened their fears. Lefever had been a vocal critic of Jimmy Carter’s emphasis on human rights in U.S. foreign policy.

Lefever’s nomination elicited a groundswell of opposition among members of Congress, human rights activists and the public that helped defeat his nomination.

My research shows how this coalition succeeded. Its efforts could serve as a model for concerned activists today…..