Why can’t we Americans get what we want?

Here are some bits of information I pulled from a post by a blogger named Benjamin David Steele.


Columbia law Professor Tim Wu wrote an op-op in the New York Times that included the following list of things he observed the public wants, but is not getting:

About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy.

The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support.

Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws.

Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices.

The list goes on.

Michael Moore included a segment in his film “Fahrenheit 11/9” released last fall (pre-election) intended to bring home the realization of how much more to the left the American public is than what the political establishment is providing.

Here are the facts.

The vast majority of Americans are pro-choice. [Slide: 71% pro-choice (NBC News/Wall Street Journal, 2018)]

They want equal pay for women, [Slide: 82% Equal pay for women (YouGov, 2013)]

  • stronger environmental laws, [Slide: 74% stronger environmental laws (Gallup, 2018)]
  • legalized marijuana, [Slide: 61% legalized marijuana (Pew, 2018)]
  • a raise in the minimum wage, [Slide: 61% raise the minimum wage (National Restaurant Association Poll, 2018)]
  • Medicare for all, [Slide: 70% medicare for all (Reuters, 2018)]
  • tuition-free college, [Slide: 60% tuition-free public college (Reuters, 2018)]
  • free child care, [Slide: 59% free child care (Gallup, 2016)]
  • support for labor unions, [Slide: 62% Approve of labor unions (Gallup, 2018)]
  • a cut in the military budget, [Slide: 61% a cut in the military budget (University of Maryland, 2016)]
  • break up the big banks. [Slide: 58% Break up the big banks (Progressive Change Institute, 2015)]

Most Americans don’t even own a gun. [Slide: 78% Don’t own a gun (Harvard University, 2016)]

And 75% believe that immigration is good for the U. S. [Slide: 75% Immigration is good for the U.S. (Gallup, 2018)]

And on and on and on.

Chris Hedges, in an interview with 2020 Green Party Presidential candidate Howie Hawkins, told how public opinion polls support the Green Party platform.

• 82% of the Americans think wealthy people have too much power and influence.

• 69% think large businesses have too much power and influence in Washington.

• 78% of likely voters support stronger rules and enforcement and regulation of the financial industry.

• 48% think economic inequality is very big while another 34% think economic inequality is moderately big. (48%+34%= 82%)

• 59% of registered voters and 51% of registered Republicans favor raising the minimum that low wage worker can make and still be eligible for earned income tax credit from $14,820 to $18,000.

• 96% of American, including 96% of Republicans believe that money in politics is responsible for the dysfunction of the American system.

• 76% believe wealthy American should pay higher taxes.

• 59% favor raising the federal minimum wage to at least $12 an hour.

• 61%, including 42% of Republicans approve of labor unions.

• 60% of Americans believe it is the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care.

• 60% of registered voters favor expanding medicare to provide health insurance to every single citizen.

• 59% favor free early childhood education.

• 76% are concerned about climate disruption.

• 84% support requiring background checks for all gun owners.

• 58% of American believe that abortions should be legal.


It’s true that you can get different results from polls based on how you ask the question.  It’s also true that there are divisive current issues that aren’t reflected in these questions.

And it’s also true that some of these polls are old news.  But that makes them all the more damning.  Americans have wanted these things for a long time.

I think these answers represent a consensus that a majority of Americans can agree on.  So why doesn’t it come about?  Why can’t it come about?


American Leftist Supermajority by Benjamin Davisd Steele on his Marmalade blog.  The full post has more details and much analysis.

Everybody’s Realizing It Now: The Political Establishment Is Not Willing to Give the Public the Things the Vast Majority of Americans Want and That We Could Easily Have by Michael D.D. White for National Notice.

The Oppression of the Supermajority by Tim Wu for The New York Times.

Fahrenheit 11/9 documentary film by Michael Moore.  The part of about public opinion starts about 38 minutes into the film.

Interview of Howie Hawkins by Chris Hedges.  The part about public opinion starts a little after 10 minutes into the video.

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9 Responses to “Why can’t we Americans get what we want?”

  1. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    Thanks for spreading the info. It makes me happy to see someone bring a little more light to the topic. Neither you or I have a massive audience. But every little bit helps. That is how change happens.


  2. Bill Harvey Says:

    Thanks MUCH to Phil, Benjamin David Steele, and others for bringing all this together.

    For nearly 50 years I have known in my bones that the broad outline of this trend in US politics is the key to the moral and political universe. The chasm between many people who regard themselves as “Left” and working people has seemed insurmountable for too much of this time. The Left’s determination- long story this- to misread working people’s desire is a brute factor in our coming to the pass we have.

    For more than 30 years I have worked- off and on- for a single payer health insurance system. I have talked, one-on-one and in groups, to thousands of people. There’s overall agreement among most people that everyone should get whatever medical treatment they need. However, this SENTIMENT is a mile wide and an inch thick. Objections that “The people will never accept Big Government” have come from less than 10% of the people I’ve talked to, and they seem to be mainly professional middle class people. The most frequent contrary comment I’ve heard goes something like “I appreciate that you’re a nice person to be out here on your own time at the Farmer’s Market, but I’m telling you that what you’re talking about ain’t going to happen.” That is, we don’t have the moral and political umph to make it happen. And they haven’t been proven wrong yet!

    Recognition of this trend is longstanding; even before the 1993-94 ClintonCare log in our road, supportive commentators- Vincente Navarro comes to mind right now- were calling attention to favorable poll results. Discussion of what now goes by “Medicare for All” seemed to get a boost in the time of the recent Democratic presidential primaries when exit polls showed time and again (was it true of every poll?) that most Dem voters want it. Where are we at now?

    Single Payer- and countless other issues cataloged here- doesn’t have a snowball’s chance until we OR-GA-NIZE for it. The answer to Phil’s questions:

    “I think these answers represent a consensus that a majority of Americans can agree on. So why doesn’t it come about? Why can’t it come about?”:

    …is simple enough on the face of it: OR-GA-NIZE, and it will become far more complicated as we get rolling on it. “We make the road by walking”- Myles Horton. There are MANY hopeful signs that we’re wising up to what needs to be done; the bare reality of what we’re in for over the next 30-40 years is a harsh instructor, but so far we have hardly taken a couple of steps.

    Bill Harvey

    Liked by 1 person

    • Benjamin David Steele Says:

      Hello, Bill. I thought I’d respond to some of your comment. You wrote that, “The chasm between many people who regard themselves as “Left” and working people has seemed insurmountable for too much of this time.” That really stands out to me in that, according to corporate MSM and corporatocratic politics, I’m a ‘left-winger’.

      And supposedly the ‘Left’ are a bunch of disconnected elites: liberals, academics, activists, etc. Yet I’m working class and for most of the 20th century the working class was always the base of the ‘Left’ and that still seems to be true in recent decades. It’s funny that it’s the right-wing elite in media and politics who tell us in the lower classes the the ‘Left’ are the elite.

      It is true that the middle-to-upper classes are over-represented in organized politics and community organizing. Even on the small scale of this smaller city, there is a local elite that controls most of the decision-making or otherwise has disproportionate influence. They happen to be a paternalistic elite with good intentions and generally I don’t find myself in conflict.

      Indeed, some of them are relatively more liberal; although I see no evidence that they are more liberal than the average resident here or more liberal than the average American. Certainly, on many issues
      (particularly economics and probably on the education, healthcare, legal system, police, prisons, etc; and maybe environmentalism), the local ‘liberal’ elite are still probably not as far ‘Left’ as the general population.

      So, I’m not so sure about, “The Left’s determination- long story this- to misread working people’s desire is a brute factor in our coming to the pass we have.” The working people are the vast majority of the Left. It’s just that most of the ‘Left’ is silenced because most of the working class is silenced. What goes for the ‘Left’ in the ‘mainstream’ is often rather centrist and sometimes center-right. Bernie Sanders is a centrist who is portrayed as a radical leftist out of touch with the people.

      I like what you said about the “overall agreement” about healthcare: “However, this SENTIMENT is a mile wide and an inch thick. Objections that “The people will never accept Big Government” have come from less than 10% of the people I’ve talked to, and they seem to be mainly professional middle class people.” That is definitely what I see in my own experience. I’ve noted the lack of urgency among the comfortable classes, even among those who are relatively more liberal. The fact of the matter is their economic comfort, class position, and social privileges trump any nice-sounding ideological rhetoric they might spout.

      You then say that, “The most frequent contrary comment I’ve heard goes something like “I appreciate that you’re a nice person to be out here on your own time at the Farmer’s Market, but I’m telling you that what you’re talking about ain’t going to happen.”” Part of that is the audience. Farmer’s markets are generally only affordable to the economically well-off. As a working class bloke, I can only afford to shop at the farmer’s market because I have a well-paying unionized government job. You’d have to go to a different kind of place like a Walmart parking lot to hear the majority position on the topic.

      It’s unsurprising that middle-to-upper class people, even the relatively liberal, would claim that, “we don’t have the moral and political umph to make it happen. And they haven’t been proven wrong yet!” These people aren’t merely making predictions for they are also the same people who are blocking the change from happening. Their commitment is more to the safety and stability of the status quo than to justice and fairness, democracy and freedom. These are the people who will always vote for the supposed “lesser evil”, no matter how evil it is.

      You bring up another point and a question: “Discussion of what now goes by “Medicare for All” seemed to get a boost in the time of the recent Democratic presidential primaries when exit polls showed time and again (was it true of every poll?) that most Dem voters want it. Where are we at now?” It wouldn’t be surprising that it shifts up and down a bit, but the majority position has been fairly stable for more than a decade now. When I looked at polling data in 2010, I noticed that on many issues Americans had been quite liberal and leftist over the preceding decades and that it had been a steady leftward shift for a long time.

      I came across an even more powerful example recently. For most of Christian history, abortion was mostly a non-issue and was accepted. There were many theological and scriptural justifications, but generally people simply didn’t think much about it. This was true in the US going into the mid-20th century. It was only in the 1980s that the supposed “Moral Majority” began pushing the minority position of anti-choice. In 1980 at the launch of the Moral Majority organization, the leader Paul Weyrich admitted they were a minority and couldn’t win elections without suppressing the vote.

      Even in the years following Roe v. Wade, most evangelicals and Christians weren’t opposed to giving women the choice and accessibility to safe abortions. Republican leaders at the time made arguments in favor of pro-choice. Eisenhower’s wife helped found the Texas Planned Parenthood and Eisenhower argued against criminalizing abortions because it wouldn’t actually stop abortions; and the evidence has proven him correct, as abortion bans actually increase the abortion rate while making them more dangerous. Most Americans still support pro-choice and yet the mainstream media and politics frames it as if Americans were divided on the issue. It’s total bull shit.

      That brings us to your last point: “The answer to Phil’s questions […] is simple enough on the face of it: OR-GA-NIZE, and it will become far more complicated as we get rolling on it. […] so far we have hardly taken a couple of steps.” Well, the complication is that there have been powerful forces opposed to leftist organizing. There were early 20th century immigration laws that prevented leftists from gaining citizenship. Jim Crow and the Klan were used to attack minority labor organizers and community organizers, and those who sought to reach across racial lines. McCarthyism, corporate blackballing, COINTELPRO, assassinations, etc annihilated the political left.

      The ‘Left’ has organized again and again and again, only to be attacked and destroyed again and again and again. It’s not only violence but also the power of propaganda and silencing. The right-wing that always gets heard in the ‘mainstream’ obsesses over censorship and political correctness. Yet the majority of Americans on the ‘Left’ are so disenfranchised as to be treated to not exist at all. The real ‘Left’ isn’t even acknowledged in order to be dismissed. It’s a silencing so absolute that the silence is deafening.

      It is hard to organize the leftist supermajority when most don’t realize that they are leftist and don’t realize they are a supermajority. It’s impossible to get people to collectively and publicly act on something that can’t be perceived and imagined as a social fact. People don’t hear themselves and so this enforces an oppressive unawareness and passivity.



      • philebersole Says:

        You seem to be making unwarranted assumptions about my respected friend Bill Harvey.

        Bill has devoted his adult lifetime to supporting left-wing causes and to trying to organize the unorganized.

        He has given up the possibility of a middle-class standard of living and middle-class job security in order to do so.

        Everything he writes about the working class and the difficulties of organizing comes out of hard-won experience.

        He is also one of the most politically sophisticated people I know.

        There is a great deal of difference between blogging, as you and I do, and getting out on the streets year in and year out and trying to make a difference.

        By the way, not all farmer’s markets cater to yuppies. The one here in Rochester, NY, caters to people who want to save money, and I’m guessing this may be true the one in Baltimore, also.


      • Benjamin David Steele Says:

        I was making no assumptions about your friend Bill Harvey. But apparently you were making assumptions about my making assumptions. My only intention was making general commentary.

        It was not directed at anyone in particular. By the way, you are also assuming that I’ve never been politically involved. You sure do lob around lots of assumptions. I’ve done political activism on numerous occasions over the years. One can both blog and do politics.

        Sure, some farmer’s markets are attended to by a wide variety of people. It depends, of course. But I was responding to a specific comment. Bill stated that, in talking to people at places like farmer’s markets, objections “have come from less than 10% of the people I’ve talked to, and they seem to be mainly professional middle class people”.

        That isn’t to say everyone at farmer’s markets is of the comfortable classes. Still, no one could deny that many, maybe most, farmer’s markets are disproportionately directed at people with more money. This is no grand insight I was offering.

        Go to a poor community, particularly a ghetto, and you won’t often find a farmer’s market. The poor have higher rates of living in food deserts, unsurprisingly. That is true even in farm states. My brother lives in a fairly poor county. There is a farmer’s market there, but it is very small and has almost no fresh produce.

        Most communities here in Iowa don’t have farmer’s markets these days. That is because the farming populations are in decline, as the young head to more urban areas. The people remaining behind are poor and get most of their food from gas stations and Walmart.

        I’m reminded of why I stopped commenting here. Don’t worry. I’ll never make that mistake again. If you want to make assumptions about others, try not to project your assumptions of people making assumptions. It’s rather off-putting. You are no longer welcome in my blog.


    • Benjamin David Steele Says:

      In talking to my conservative father, I was reminded of some of the weird dynamics in this area. The whole ‘majority’ vs ‘minority’ is rife with meaningless rhetoric and posturing. When I speak of a majority, I’m not doing so in order to silence a minority. Even the supermajority being discussed above is more of the overlap, alliances, etc of numerous minorities with various views, interests, and experiences. For example, the vast majority of Americans want some kind of healthcare reform far far far to the left of anything that is permissible within the corporatocratic two-party system. But, once we get into the thick of details and options, there are many differing views and plenty of disagreement. Still, it would be nice to get that supermajority acknowledged so that we could have that real debate.

      I’d love to see some democratic process of actual public decision-making, not the false division and staged polarization that is being used for social control. I have not desire to dominate others and enforce my views onto the world. That is what made it so shocking when I realized that my views were in agreement with that of most Americans, as I had grown apathetic in thinking I was a radical outlier. That is the other thing. Most Americans do seem to want a functioning democracy, specifically a social democracy. Surprisingly, Americans have not lost faith in government. They simply no longer trust our present corporatocratic government. As far as that goes, they neither trust big biz either, along with much bad feelings about what feels like a corrupt and oppressive economic system.

      The point is most Americans would be glad to have open public debate. That would include tolerating and allowing the right-wing minority to speak as well. But what we can’t tolerate and allow is a continuation of the right-wing having a disproportionate position in the ‘mainstream’ while the supermajority continues to be suppressed and silenced. That is where the problem exists. There is a particular segment of the political right, many of them older conservatives, who are used to having dominated systems of power and media since the Cold War. They became used to this as a privilege they thought they deserved. I see this in my father and, understandably, it scares him to suddenly realize he is in the minority. He probably has been in the minority a long time, maybe his whole life, but he never had to acknowledge it before.

      Today, when we were speaking, my father began defending minority rights. By ‘minority’, he simply meant people like himself. There are still thousands of other minority groups in the US that he has no problem being silenced and censored. And he is fine with the leftist supermajority being kept out of power and unrepresented. His defense of ‘minority’ rights is basically limited to himself and those who agree with him. That isn’t to say he is a bad person. He is just conflicted and lacking in self-awareness. To be honest, he really does mean well and he’ll give lip service to democracy and freedom. But push comes to shove, he admits that he is fine with oppressive measures being used against minority groups he disagrees with. That is demonstrated by his still believing that the government’s attack on the left over the past century or so was necessary to defend the American way of life.

      He is a stout anti-communist and everything right of neoconservatism is communism. The Clintons, Obama, Biden, etc — all communists or else neo-Marxists or, worse, postmodern neo-Marxists (he watches Fox News, listens to Jordan Peterson, and reads The Epoch Times). All those people are to the right of the American people, but to his mind they are left-wingers. That means centrists like Sanders and AOC are beyond the pale. My father is an older white male. He grew up at a time when the economy was booming, there were high progressive taxes, college was nearly free, and government was subsidizing many areas of society. He benefited from the GI Bill and had a career that made him reasonably well-off with a great state-funded pension from working as a professor at a state college. He even grew up in a racist sundown town and he remembers visiting his grandmother in what was still the Jim Crow South.

      He doesn’t recognize all of the privileges he had and still has. He takes it all for granted. From his perspective, he worked hard all his life and he made use of his talents. Sure, that is true to an extent. Yet there were millions of Americans smarter and harder working than him who never had the privileges he was given. He can’t see any of that, though. All he perceives is the sense of what is being taken away from him, as that is the narrative repeated by right-wing media. He has a hard time coming to terms with the idea that his views aren’t the norm and shouldn’t rule all of society. Like many right-wingers, particularly middle class whites, he feels like a victim and so he has fallen under the sway of persecution complex, paranoid conspiracy theory, and resentment politics. My parents the other morning were complaining about too many black people being in commercials. My parents aren’t consciously racist and they are liberalish in many ways, but the reactionary mindset has in recent years has sometimes pushed them into a dark place.

      My father grew up in a small factory town. Interestingly, though a racist sundown town and former Second Klan town, it was also a labor union stronghold and solidly Democratic. Then the economy went south with neoliberalism. All of the small factories closed and some of the nearby big factories were moved. Also, the small family farmers that was the foundation of the local economy went belly up, as big ag took over. That town is now filled with unemployment, poverty, and Trump supporters. Yet, if you did public polling there, most of the population probably would agree with most other Americans in supporting leftist policies of healthcare reform, prison reform, economic reform, democratic reform, etc. But partisan politics have become disconnected from real world issues, as the political game has become about symbolic issues and symbolic identities. This is the way a leftist supermajority, even among the working class, is hidden from view. Even the leftist supermajority doesn’t realize its own status. And that leaves older white conservatives like my parents in a bewildered state. All in all, this allows for endless public perception management and voter manipulation.

      We don’t have a functioning democracy. Earlier last century, a defining feature of a banana republic was high inequality. Yet now the US has vastly higher inequality than those old banana republics. Indeed, that is what the US has become, a banana republic. Basically, polling shows Americans know this or sense it, if they lack the data and the language to talk about it, even if they weren’t being silenced in the ‘mainstream’. An example of this is that most Americans think that high inequality shouldn’t be tolerated. So, why do we tolerate it? It’s because most Americans, when asked, extremely underestimate how much inequality there is. Why do they underestimate it? Because the media and political elites are constantly lying, spinning, and downplaying the issue. There can’t be honest public debate where there is a lack of knowledge. Yet the same system keeping that knowledge from the public is also keeping that public from hearing themselves and being represented.

      Even my parents, in their increasingly reactionary mindset, will often express somewhat leftist views. My father, a former business manager and business management professor, thinks that CEO pay is too high and big biz has become too powerful. He used to preach hardcore neoliberalism to his students, but now doubts the neoliberal faith. I can even get him to agree that inequality itself might be problematic, and sometimes he’ll go so far as to entertain a universal basic income. My mother is more supportive of such things, as her working class father was an old school Democrat. So, on many of these issues, even my conservative parents lean toward the leftist supermajority. And think about many of the Trump supporters who voted for him because he promised to bring jobs back, rebuild infrastructure, and reform healthcare; while promising he wouldn’t touch Social Security — strangely, some of Trump’s campaign promises were to the left of those of Hillary Clinton. This is what makes the leftist supermajority all screwy and confused. Partisan politics, particularly as lesser evilism, has become empty and meaningless. It’s irrelevant that almost all of Trump’s campaign promises were lies. Of course, this makes organizing difficult. Who is to organize, around what, and with what means?


  3. Bill Harvey Says:

    [Here I reply to Phil’s comments of June 7.]

    Phil and Benjamin and All,

    Thanks again for the kind words and for the support, Phil. I hope you last long enough to be around to write my obituary. There will be some hype and baloney in there, but I suppose that’s the way of all obituaries. It’ll be good for my kids to have to read aloud on my birthday, tho- it’ll give them some chuckles. Anyway, no sweat, I’m actually pleased that Benjamin is a little defensive about “the left.” What a messy term!, but isn’t that the way of all terms these days?

    I’ll reply to some of the substantive points in Benjamin’s comments ASAP, hopefully by tomorrow. As the Italians say, “I don’t have time to fart!” (Please don’t tel the Italians I said that.)



  4. Bill Harvey Says:

    [This is a WAY too long too long reply and within minutes I could see that I’d be cutting a lot of corners.]

    I want to be as diplomatic as possible.

    I usually avoid discussions of politics whose point of departure is someone’s parent. I risk offending Benjamin and his family; this is certainly not my intention now and it was nowhere in my mind when I first replied on this thread.

    More substantively, parents have an outsized influence in every individual’s life, so judgments based on a parent’s views and political associations often skew in ways that are not helpful in making a series of (hopefully rational) calculations about the lives of 331 mill/ 7.8 bill people.

    Benjamin raises so many issues in his 2 replies that I’ve decided to boil it down to what I think is most important. At the end Benjamin writes:
    “Who is to organize, around what, and with what means?”

    I’ll go for that, and at the end I’ll offer a few scattered comments on other points Benjamin has raised.

    To think about organizing, we need to have at least these 6 things in place:

    – An understanding of who the enemy is. Shorthand: Corporate capital. It’s odd to me that this has not been mentioned anywhere in this thread. In my off the shelf pitch I express this as “The banks, the oil companies, and the Military-Industrial Complex.” (I told you I’m cutting corners here!) Much of this is expressed not in off the shelf headlining as in the way campaigns are structured. We don’t initiate campaigns against the Muslims, the Mexicans, or the Korean grocers. A campaign for a ban on fracking comes directly up against the oil and gas industry. The multi-front campaign here in Baltimore against Johns Hopkins comes directly up against one of the most powerful forces in the city. (In many US cities elite universities drain resources while hiding behind a faux front of noblesse oblige.) Two, three, many such campaigns, I say.

    – The clear-sighted understanding that nothing is going to break our way if we don’t organize power from our side. HAVING POSITIONS can be good in and of itself, but it goes nowhere unless those positions are brought with a ruthless power that says “Either this goes our way or you’re going to pay a price you can’t afford to pay.” Building such power in 2021 is an uphill project, but I do believe that the overall landscape has improved dramatically for us since the 2008-09 crisis.

    – A vision. Huge corner-cutting here: For now I’m going to call it the quest for the greater good and leave it at that. Benjamin’s comments about the majority and minority baffle me as this framing of political questions always has.

    For all I know, Benjamin’s dad could agree that we’d be better off if the fossil fuel industry were prevented from befouling the water supply (among many other problems it creates with fracking) and that Hopkins should pay its fair share of taxes (among other things).
    I can agree with some people on some issues even if I see no prospect of overall agreement, or even discussion, with someone who believes that Obama and Biden are socialists. A million times I have made the mistake of drawing lines between myself and other people, raised my fist to them, and said, “OK, cross that line and I’m going to let you have it.” I’ve been a damn fool many times, I’ll admit, but I see no benefit in failing to recognize occasions when someone else is drawing the lines. Obama and Biden socialists?: I’m going to leave that one alone.There’s just not much headway to be made in such a situation. If I can’t get with Mr. Steele and we can get these reforms anyway, then my view is that he’ll have bear the burden of living in a world where everybody can afford housing, where everybody makes a living wage, where nobody has to suffer racial discrimination, etc., etc.- just as so many now have to live with those unnecessary burdens.

    – Policy that points us toward the greater good. Again, I’m fudging, cutting corners, but let me to say that the list of many issues in Phil’s original post, largely derived from Benjamin’s compilation, can serve as a starting point for discussion for me. The one thing I would mention here is that all of them are either partial reforms or regulations OF CAPITALISM. Even put all in a pile (like a Sanders speech), they do not constitute a new social system. They do not constitute socialism or any other different economic system -is there another way worth considering? Many reforms contain elements of socialist-tending outcomes, but even many taken together constitute a SOCIALIST SYSTEM. This seems to bear mentioning here. (Whew! Cutting corners!)


    AND NOW FOR THE HARD PARTS. No one reading this is any more sorely aware than I am of how much of a long shot all of this is:

    – A social base. Having enlightened positions is great, but none of it is going to happen if we don’t have the umph to make it happen. I start with the 70+% of the American people, roughly 230-240 mill people, who are poor and working people. (This seems such a monumental presumption- to be sitting here at 4 am strategizing on all these people’s behalf- I won’t even begin just now to mention the world’s “other” 7.5 bill people. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Besides, me and mine have a stake in how this all this goes.) We need and have many strong allies among the professional middle class; some of them have skills and resources that we can’t do without. But our strategy and organizing efforts need to be rooted in the common life experience of the majority of the people because the majority of the people experience life in similar ways, bear similar burdens, and have similar aspirations. Moreover, the sheer numbers of the majority promises power, however you size up the matter: potential voting power; potential strike power in our position in the production process; potential demonstration numbers; potential in setting a moral pole in the public discourse; potential in outflanking the most powerful institutions, the cops and the military, that could torpedo our agenda.

    As many as 100 mill Americans, including Mr. Steele, are not included in our project as I conceive it. I don’t mean this to be rude to Benjamin; I simply see it as an obvious and necessary outcome of trying to see a way to avoid what corporate capital has in store for all of us over the next 30-40 years.

    – Organizational capacity that could be a vehicle to make our vision and policy reality. This is the most vexing problem we have. Whereas many poor and working people share progressive positions, they have little prospects for joining a campaign to make them happen.

    In recent years I have pitched in on both the fracking ban and the anti-Hopkins campaigns here in MD. My work on the fracking ban was greatly facilitated by the fact that FOOD AND WATER WATCH, one of the very best environmental groups we have, made the campaign a priority by pouring organizers and other resources into it. It took 3 years, but we finally won what anyone who had to eyes to see was justice. And, of course, MANY other organizations across the state pitched in.

    The Hopkins campaign, spearheaded by NNU (Nurses) and SEIU (Service Employees), has stalled some, largely due to COVID. We raised a good bit of hell in the year or so before COVID hit and made a lot of contacts, and I expect that things will pick up pretty soon as we get back to “normal.” We did win a partial victory in the last session in Annapolis that restricted some of the nastier practices in medical debt collection. (Hopkins, the city’s great benefactor to hear them tell it, cleaned out one person’s bank account of its last $91.)

    The main point I want to draw from this for present purposes is that FWW, NNU, and SEIU have organizational machinery- organizers, office space, media operations, recognition from politicians- that it’s impossible for me or any other individual to bring to these campaigns.

    On the most individual sort of “self-help” level (oo-wee!) it’s necessary to find other people to come together with in order to be effective. If you can find 10-12 people who are doing consistent focused outreach on a good issue, I’d say roll with them. Unions and organized issue groups can make this much easier, but they sometimes control the agenda in ways that you might not like. That’s a big part of why they call it a struggle!

    And of course, ultimately, we’re going to need a more coherently organized political force to win bigger victories. To me it’s clear that that doesn’t mean the Democratic Party as currently constituted. Because the corporate liberal leadership of the Dem Party is against us, tho, doesn’t afford us the luxury of abstention from real world politics.

    And there are a number of quasi-political organizations that some of us in particular locations- there’s wide variation from one place to the next- might be able to look to. PEOPLE’S ACTION- their fairly recent active support for Single Payer here in MD is a potentially helpful sign; from a thousand miles away, their operation in Iowa looks interesting. Some of the other more prominent: POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN, OUR REVOLUTION, DSA, WORKING FAMILIES PARTY (for all their many faults), PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS OF AMERICA, and many more.

    Two potentially conflicting points: In any location where they are not doing FOCUSED OUTREACH ON ISSUES, forget it- we don’t need to perpetuate the “join the club” mentality that has overtaken so much of the left; and there’s no such thing as an “independent” socialist/ progressive/ radical (choose your term).


    The condition of the Single Payer “movement” here in MD illustrates the shortcomings of the Left to which I referred to initially. In the past 20 years I have gone to 3 groups- Green Party, Health Care Now of MD, and Our Revolution, all of which I had been involved in for some time- and urged them to undertake a concerted ongoing campaign of outreach to unions, religious groups, community groups and so forth in support of Single Payer, to tap and help organize the support that all of us involved in this discussion believe is already there. Nary a nut.

    Currently 3 groups- Health Care Now of MD, Health Care is a Human Right, and the DSA- have made their priority SP work lobbying of Senators Van Hollen and Cardin and Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger. I was taught that pissing in the wind is a bad idea and I’m sticking with that. They want to talk to Dutch Ruppersberger- but they don’t even know what the union locals are in the district. I am not involved in those groups.

    The obstacle is NOT the repressive measures you describe:

    “”That brings us to your last point: “The answer to Phil’s questions […] is simple enough on the face of it: OR-GA-NIZE, and it will become far more complicated as we get rolling on it. […] so far we have hardly taken a couple of steps.” Well, the complication is that there have been powerful forces opposed to leftist organizing. There were early 20th century immigration laws that prevented leftists from gaining citizenship. Jim Crow and the Klan were used to attack minority labor organizers and community organizers, and those who sought to reach across racial lines. McCarthyism, corporate blackballing, COINTELPRO, assassinations, etc annihilated the political left.””

    This is a passing strange analysis of what I’m talking about. Yes, yes, repression is always just a nick away, I know it- I have some ideas as to what ARE the problems, but I’m feeling a need to cut some corners here, to cut this loose sooner than later.

    This has been going on for 32 years. Think what you want, Benjamin, defend whatever it is you think you’re defending, I’m telling you that the Left is not fulfilling its designated historical function of working to “Unite the Many to Defeat the Few.” And I would even go so far as to say that, with exceptions- and God knows I want there to be exceptions- that on Single Payer this is likely pretty much the case across most of the rest of the country.


    What’s it like on SP and other issues where you’re at?


    A few loose ends:

    – I have been playing fast and loose here with what is broadly called “organizing” so I feel a need to give a plug to Jane McAlevey’s way of sizing up various modes of political involvement, and especially her way of distinguishing between organizing, advocacy, lobbying, mobilizing, etc. Her NO SHORTCUTS is the main source- some of the main points are nicely summarized in a 3 page interview she did with THE NATION’S DD Guttenplan:


    – I’m basically with you on the politics of abortion. The way you set it up reminds me of a book one of my teachers, James Mohr, wrote, ABORTION IN AMERICA (1981?). There could some fodder there for you. In 1800 no state in the union had a law on the books against abortion. In 1900 every state had some law on the books regarding abortion. He finds that this change had next to nothing to do with religion and everything to do with concerted political campaigns conducted by what were called “The Regulars,” doctors trained and credentialed by elite medical schools who were vying for control of the market in women’s bodies over against country doctors, midwives, abortionists, nurses.

    – I had no idea I would be getting into an evaluation of the social composition of Farmer’s Market shoppers, but for what it’s worth: The Waverly Farmer’s Market, about 40 years old and 5 blocks from here, seems to my not too careful eye to be slightly skewed to white and middle class compared to the overall population of Baltimore, but there will be many working people, black and white, there come Sat. morning. All I intended in using the reference was to signal what I use as a generic way of saying “Get out and talk to people you don’t know!”

    A lutte continua,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ragnarsbhut Says:

    Nobody has any right to free stuff on-demand.


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