Here comes election time, yet again. Consider the potential of certain progressives winning high office in the U.S. Beyond their being better than who they defeat, would they turn out to be allies of corporate continuity? Or would they turn out to be agents of change? We know the government is structured to serve power and wealth. We know the deck is stacked. But is there any room for maneuver? And if there is room for maneuver, and if there is sufficient support to push maneuver to go further and further toward radical change, might elected progressives aid that radical change?
Let’s make the picture more specific. Suppose AOC were to run for and become President in 2024. Or Sanders. Or whoever else who is equally or still more progressive but whose name I don’t even know. Suppose, while whoever is inaugurated, grassroots activism is widespread and deep. Might the program that a new President espoused pre-inauguration move from progressive to radical to revolutionary in office? Or might it move from progressive to liberal to reactionary despite public desires?
Well, imagine it is Inauguration Day. The new president gives her opening presidential speech. Innumerable phones are pocketed. The whole country, literally everyone, glues their attention to live TV coverage.
1. What words would indicate a forthcoming sell-out?
2. What words would indicate forthcoming ideal behavior?
3. What words would indicate behavior that someone like me or you would love to celebrate, but that would likely over-extend current reality and therefore not be ideal?
I think these are hard questions. The difficulty is that to sensibly consider the possibilities we would have to consider not just the new president’s words, but also the national context and, in particular, the new president’s support. So let’s start with the first question, then the third, and only then try the second. And let’s keep in mind we aren’t thinking about this because we wonder what is inside the new President’s heart, gut, or mind. We are not deciding whether to take a walk in the park together. We are not deciding whether to go on a date. We care about what the new President is going to do. We wonder how to gauge the new President’s likely future impact.
So, what words would presage sell out? Sell-out would be for the new President to utilize her power to preserve existing economic, kinship, cultural, political, or other hierarchies. It would be to pursue daily life as usual, legislation as usual, adjudication as usual, holidays as usual, entertainment as usual, education as usual, health as usual, production and consumption as usual, and war as usual, each to benefit masters and deprive everyone else. Some change, but constrained to preserve as usual. It would be to act in accord with the structures and pressures of today, not with the structures and pressures of a better tomorrow. An opening speech that reveals future sell-out would say, “my fellow Americans, blah, blah, blah.” You want exact words? Fine, go online and click on any inauguration speech. Biden, Trump, Obama…and from my youth, Kennedy too. Or you could even ask chatGPT to write you one. There is no need to dwell on what we have all endlessly heard. We know the stuff of system maintenance. It goes Blah blah blah. And we all slip-slide toward societal suicide.
Okay, so regarding the third question, what would be music to our ears on Inauguration Day, but also beyond optimal for the new President because she needs to describe not what you or I or she would most love to immediately do, but instead what public sentiments indicate to be the best that she can successfully immediately do. To make this exercise a little entertaining, stare at your TV and imagine the new President stares back and says to you the following, or, at any rate, something like the following. You and the whole world watch:
“Good Afternoon. I have a lot of ground to cover but I want to be succinct and to the point, so let’s settle down and begin. First, I have some apologies to make. Second, I have some promises to make. And third, I think a few moments of celebration are in order.
“In the name of my country I apologize for our military and fiscal role in international mayhem and injustice from Latin America to Asia and from Europe to Africa.
“I apologize to Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Guyana, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Congo/Zaire, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
“I apologize to Chile, Greece, East Timor, Nicaragua, Grenada, El Salvador, Libya, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Iran, Venezuela, Somalia, Syria, and Ukraine too.
“I apologize for our support of dictators, for our exploitative extractions, and for our arms shipments and use. For every provocation. For every violation.
“I apologize for threats, boycotts, and destruction, for massacring native Americans, for our slavery and racism, for our sexism and sexual predation, for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and for exploitative trade, extortion and more.
“But I know apologies are not enough.
“So I promise that in the next four years we will together reverse our history of exploitation and violence and in its place enact a new agenda of sharing and respect.
“I promise we will study war no more and instead foster solidarity and mutual aid with the same energy and effort that we previously put to war-making and profit-seeking.
“To that end, in my first year, I will transfer to the auspices of their local hosts all our overseas military bases to henceforth be used for peacetime solidarity and socially beneficial work.
“I promise to evidence an entirely new and compassionate, internationalist
mindset. And to that end, also in my first year, I will reduce the U.S. war budget by half, then by half again, down to a fourth, in my second year. And proceed apace thereafter.
“I will recommission our domestic bases to socially beneficial pursuits such as developing public housing and aiding society-wide transition away from fossil fuel and toward sustainable energy. That will defend against real danger, not create manufactured danger.
“And what of the enormous savings of resources and energies gained by scaling military expenditures to sane levels? Isn’t it obvious? I have talked about it all campaign long.
“I will institute free enriched medical care for all. Free and greatly expanded education for all. Free solar panels for every dwelling, and affordable dwellings for all. And that is just the beginning of what our new government will do to advance social well-being and development.
“Together we will steadily transform our domestic institutions of polity, economy, culture, and kinship to remove hierarchies of wealth and power and to attain a just and liberating new beginning.
“Together we will transform our relation to the natural environment to make it not simply sustainable but properly reciprocal for us and for the world around us.
“And this isn’t a one-nation, one-constituency, one government, much less a one-person program. This is humanity’s path forward. And I promise to aid and learn from all those who have already or who will now take up similar aims by whatever means they deem suitable, throughout the United States and worldwide.
“Amidst our tremendous, sustaining, and enriching diversity, we need to embrace our shared universal humanity. We need to celebrate and apply our shared values of human liberation to provide solidarity, diversity, equity, self-management, international peace, and environmental balance to every home, playground, school, workplace, community, county, and country, each in mutual aid with all the rest.
“We must reject greed and profit-seeking. We must reject self-aggrandizement and power-brokering.
“We must embrace our natural home, our planet. We must replenish it, not despoil it.
“We must usher in a new era of human empathy, a new time of joyous exploration of humanity’s collective capacities. We must all participate and none dominate. We must all participate and none be dominated.
“As an emissary and servant of the aroused and intent people of the United States and in accord with their emerging and evolving wishes and learning from their incredible grassroots endeavors in our workplaces and neighborhoods, I celebrate all people around the world who will do similarly.
“Forward together toward no more war. No more war-makers. No more war profiteers. Forward together toward no more environmental despoliation. No more bossing and no more bosses. No more oppressing and no more oppressors.
“We can’t do all this overnight, but we can start tonight. And we can continue tomorrow. And on. And on. Day after day. Together. No surrender.
”I will do my best as a humble President who wishes to serve you. And you all, you now listening, will do your best as the power and the glory of our shared revolutionary journey.
“I thank you for the opportunity I have to serve. And may we all be strong and blessed with wisdom and courage for the tasks ahead.
“We begin. (Mic drop)
I can’t say for you, but if a new President did deliver anything like that speech, and if the population by a large majority reacted as I would react, to say it would be the happiest, most excited, most elated, most inspiring, most everything, best moment of my life and of most everyone else’s life up to that moment, would understate that moment.
But that moment isn’t yet real.
So now comes the hard part. Our second question. For this we assume new President would love more than anything to give a more eloquent version of the above speech, butalso understands that the country isn’t yet where she, (or, for that matter, you and I) are. More, she understands that in many cases people in the country may not only have reservations that need to be addressed but also insights that need to be heard and accounted for before even arriving at, much less fully implementing, a viable, worthy, and encompassing agenda.
She understands that there is therefore vast listening and organizing to be done before the above speech or any speech like it could become the agenda of the land. So her opening speech needs to kick off a new level of listening and organizing. It needs to inspire and discover. Here is what I would be ecstatic to hear in light of real current wants and possibilities.
“You have heard me repeatedly, endlessly throughout the campaign. But now the hour is getting late. Now it is action time, not more words time. So I am going to be brief.
“First, I want to sincerely thank all those who voted for the outcome you have enacted. This is your victory. And it is just a start. I and this new administration now have a responsibility not only to deliver on our campaign program, but also, with your support and guided by directions you deliver, to proceed beyond our campaign program toward the better world we seek.
“You know our program: end the electoral college, institute ranked-choice voting, institute community oversight of police; expand free health care for all including preschool childcare; build needed housing/schools/clinics, institute major gun reform, institute free higher education for all, cancel student debt; raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour, shorten the work week to 35 hours with double hourly pay for overtime; aggressively tax the rich via their profits, property, and luxury consumption; institute national workplace health, safety, and union organizing reforms; slash the military budget, and again, and again; end fossil fuel consumption, greatly expand solar, wind, and other sustainable energy sources; and much more all as we have agitated for throughout our campaign.
“Do you remember the town halls, the meetings in towns and cities where we called on you to say what you need, what you want? Where we called on you to present your stories and even more, to present your ideas for positively altering those stories?
We told you we want our administration to be your government. We told you we intend to serve you, the people who endure injustices. To serve you the people who bravely navigate countless, needless, unjust, alienating, oppressive affronts, the people who daily suffer obstacles and deprivations that have for so long stood in the way of your fullest human well-being and development.
“Well, now is the time for us to deliver. But how? Here, right now, I am talking at millions upon millions of you. But that is not the way. The way is to have you talk at me. It is to have you govern our new administration.
“How can we do that? I don’t have all the answers to all the good and worthy questions that face us. But I perhaps have a few ideas about how to hear from you so that we can form, test, and refine our service as we go.
“So, along with pursuing the earlier summarized program you voted for, in the first few weeks of our administration I intend to:
“Develop and implement mechanisms to hold national plebiscites on important issues.
“Develop and implement mechanisms for public participation in determining local and federal government budgets. That is called participatory budgeting. It will be a step towards politics by and for the people.
“Mandate the nighttime use of public school buildings for adult night school classes, for reading groups and social and interest group clubs for citizens, and in particular for twice a month meetings by area residents to discuss local problems and needs and positive programs.
“Provide federal aid to residents who seek to create assemblies to begin to guide and hold accountable local government.
“Provide federal aid to employees who seek to create councils in their workplaces to discover and air grievances and to develop positive ways to implement corrections and institute new relations.
“Establish and staff a Department of Peace, a Department of Ecology, a Department of Governmental Participation, and a Department of Economic Democracy, as well as reconsider, re-conceive, and then restart existing Departments all in accord with popular grassroots democracy and participation.
“All that and more to involve our population in providing aims that will promote solidarity, diversity, self-management, equity, participation, peace, and environmentally responsible sustainability.
“As I promised, that’s it for today. Just enough words to kick off actions that we will undertake together. I know you all know my love for certain popular music.
“So, together, it is time for us to ring the chimes of freedom, and to do it again, and again, and again, until all are free, all are nourished, all are lovers and thinkers and doers, traveling together into a liberated and liberating future.
“We are not just going to fight a good fight. We are going to win our fight.
“Thank you again for trusting me to serve – and now, on to acts. Good night.”
Would the above be great to hear if “our she” had won 51 to 49? If our she had won 55 to 45? What would it take? That? More? Whatever it would take, maybe looking forward to 2024 that ought to be our agenda. Not to stop Trump again. Not to stop Santos. Not to stop fucking fascism to only re-establish decrepit, rotten, soul-destroying, slip-sliding to societal suicide continuity. But to have our she win against their he while we organize a public that agitates for the likes of the above pragmatic, ecstatic leap forward.
But wait a minute. A she who wins. Is that not already a ridiculous delusion? The campaign is “our she” against their Trump, or their Santos, or their whoever the fuck else they come up with, plus against the mass media, against Wall Street, against the mainstream of the Democratic Party, against every odds maker. Clyde the AI? And we imagine she wins? Delusion?
As a partial possible answer let’s imagine one last foray before the TV. The election has been a wild affair. Our she has been honest, humorous, informative, and very very aggressive throughout. Their he has been a lying, manipulative, slug throughout. Our she has been part of a steadily growing, steadily deepening, grassroots movement. Their he has been a point man for steadily withering reaction. And now you sit. Not in motion but just contemplative for the first time in months. You stare at the TV. The concluding debate is down to its concluding remarks. Here they are. Your fingers cross. Your gut clenches. Who wins?
Their He: “How can you possibly have the audacity to stand before the American people and say they should elect you, make you the Commander in Chief, make you the President? You, a woman who anarchistically aims to overthrow our government, a woman who socialistically wants to obliterate our property rights, a woman who feminazi-like threatens to topple society’s family fabric?
You, a woman who would cravenly reduce our armaments, armed forces, and police to passivity, a woman who would make our country pitifully weak, not even a paper tiger. You, a woman who denies religion, attacks individual creativity, promotes soul-destroying collectivism, and denigrates our foundational white roots.
“It will be a pleasure to ship you and your movement’s pathetic power-envy, psychotic animalistic anger back to the fringe communities that spawned it. I happily cede to you my remaining time. Take as long as you like to reply. Your words will only deepen the horror our audience already feels at your vile intentions.”
Our She: “You have no more to say? No more vague, wild assertions? Nothing positive to offer? Okay, I will gladly use your remaining time.
“You wonder at my wanting to anarchistically overthrow our current government. I plead guilty.
“Unlike you, I don’t want to preserve elitist, centralizing, mind-numbingly antidemocratic bureaucratic structures against participation by the American people just to preserve the power of centralizing sycophants like yourself who unaccountably control the destiny of millions. I prefer popular self-management. I prefer political arrangements that empower and serve the public, not institutions that serve only you and your rich buddies.
“You decry my socialistically opposing few hands holding productive property, and I again plead guilty.
“Unlike you, I am not enamored of enriching property holders beyond the wildest dreams of past kings. I do not think being born with a deed in your hand is the highest form of human achievement. In fact, I do not think it is any achievement at all. I think it is obscene. I reject that people like yourself should own society’s rivers, lakes, resources, machinery, and places of production. I reject that you or anyone should rule over them like tin-pot dictators.
“You ought to be aware, however, that you missed a further target to ridicule. I also oppose a relatively small sector of the population monopolizing empowering work. I want to share work more equally so everyone is prepared by their work to participate in social decisions. Unlike you, I want equitable incomes for all. I want empowering dignified work for all.
“I want people able to decide their own working lives. I would say it is a wonder that you don’t want these gains for all humanity, but your attitude isn’t a wonder. It is unmitigated, self-seeking, anti-social greed.
“You say I want to feminazi-like topple the familial fabric of civilization. Why do you say that? Is it because I want young and old people to have a say in their own lives? Because I want families and all living units to freely nurture the next generation without imposing preordained definitions of what boys and girls have to become? Because I want parents and children and extended families to have optimal health care, empowering work, and shared responsibility for their own and for all social life? Because I want women respected and empowered, because I want sexual preference to be whatever free people do and prefer. Because I reject turning back the gender clock a century?
“Well you are right, I do want all that. Why don’t you? Is it because you are a misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, narcissistic brute?
“The human, nurturing fabric of society is already at risk. People like you don’t see its deep scars despite your own broken homes and the bedlam so visibly endured by so many all around you. You can’t see the truth of our times because your heart is a cash register and your paranoid eyes perceive only profit potentials.
“I want to restore and enrich society’s fabric. You want to rape and plunder society.
“I see all families as able to be repositories of love and sources of wise, confident participation. You see most families as sources of cheap, obedient labor.
“I see society’s countless communities as allied and equal centers of creative diversity. You see all but your own community as fringe targets to ridicule, restrain, and repress.
“You say I would disarm the country and leave us helpless because I reject siphoning society’s wealth into useless and pointless weapons that, were they used, would destroy all humanity.
“You say I would neuter the police because I want properly paid and empowered justice workers that serve the public and not power, and because I want our children’s and our children’s children’s human potentials to develop free from war, pestilence, coercion, and restriction in a world of shared peace and plenty.
“I am guilty again. You are absolutely right I want all that.
“You call it making our country weak and defenseless. I call it making our country worth defending.
“You say I deny religion and sublimate the individual to the collective. Why? Because I want all religions, races, ethnicities, and nationalities to be free of fear of imposition and negation from without and because I want individuals and collectives prepared and in position to self-manage their destinies without having to submit to the whims of the rich and domineering elites you serve.
“You are right again. I do reject your racism, your sexism, your homophobia. I am guilty as charged.
“You say that it was a pleasure to have run against me, and that it will be a pleasure to ship me and my pathetic envy and psychotic animalistic anger back to the fringe dwellings that spawned it. Well, I have some news for you. Those fringe dwellings are the soup kitchens, apartment buildings, private homes, schools, hospitals, ball fields, churches, and workplaces of America.
“They are fringe to your gilded billionaire lifestyle, yes they are. But we will see soon enough what goes away, and what goes forward.
“Will the American people vote against the movement I come from and their own futures? Or will the American people elect a very new type of President and continue their steadily escalating popular participation in revolutionizing all sides of all of our lives?
“After your display here tonight, I too feel ready to predict the outcome. I predict that some folks will vote for you due to fearing the make-believe demons that you and your media moguls have manufactured. And I predict some will vote for you to defend their elite interests with no concern for society. But I predict most people will see past the confusions and prejudices that have historically allowed the likes of you to win office.
“Your ignorant posturing, your bullying, your pathetically hypocritical life and your self-serving views, all admittedly more eloquently expressed than some others of your ilk who came before you could manage, have lost too much of their deceiving power for you to push anything aside, much less to push aside the most grassroots, democratic, participatory, multi-focused movement this country has ever seen. Good luck with that.
“I wish I could be a gentlewoman and say it was a pleasure to run against you. But I can’t. It would be a lie. And I won’t lie. It has been a bore to run against you because you are an empty vessel of hate. It has been depressing, because even in one lonely body, such an amalgamation of narcissistic evil as you embrace is seriously depressing to behold.
“We will soon see what this country decides. Will it opt for you and your hate and fear?Will it opt for the billionaires who pray that you will prevail to help them amass still more millions and billions?
“Or will the country opt for the hopes and thoughts that have risen, rallied, marched, and most of all organized all across the country? Will the country opt for the women and men, boys and girls, and movements and activists who have worked tirelessly for our campaign to prevail so that we can aid their efforts to build a vastly better future?
“Time is on our side. Your day is slip-sliding away. Good riddance.
I admit I had “our she” go all out. I couldn’t restrain myself. Too much? Beyond possibility? I don’t know. Maybe looking forward to 2024 and beyond our agenda should not be to stop Trump. Nor to stop Santos. Nor to stop fucking fascism to only re-establish decrepit, rotten, soul-destroying, slip-sliding to societal suicide continuity. Maybe that sets the bar too low. Maybe our agenda should be to have “our she” win against “their he” plus to organize a public that not only votes for “our she” but agitates and assembles for the likes of an ecstatic leap forward.
Maybe we should start to ring them chimes now. If not now, when? After the deluge?
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