Posts Tagged ‘Great Society’

Where political change comes from

May 19, 2016

Keenanga-Yamahhta Taylor, a Bernie Sanders supporter, wrote this for the Boston Review:

When activists recall a Democratic Party that cared about ordinary people, what they really have in mind are the social movements and revolts that forced the party to respond to the needs and demands of those on the streets. 

RTW_protestThere would have been no New Deal without the Hoovervilles, rent riots, sit-down strikes, and Communist Party activism of the 1930s. 

There would have been no Great Society without Civil Rights protests in the South and rebellions in more than two hundred cities across the country during the 1960s. 

Even Richard Nixon, who won office appealing to a racist “silent majority,” waited out his first term before he began dismantling Lyndon Johnson’s welfare state, lest he provoke protests.

As the great activist and historian Howard Zinn put it, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but ‘who is sitting in’—and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”  He didn’t mean that elections are irrelevant, but he emphasized what citizens do to shape their world. 

The anger about inequality and injustice in the United States, which has been given some voice by the Sanders campaign and most certainly by the Black Lives Matter movement, should not be stifled by the pressure to organize through the Democratic Party.  It can’t be done.

Source: Boston Review

Sometimes the art of compromise is necessary, but nobody is going to compromise with you unless you represent something powerful enough that the other person feels they have to compromise.


The Other America and our America

May 19, 2010

When Michael Harrington wrote The Other America, the classic 1962 book about poverty in the United States, he defined the problem as the inability of certain groups – inner-city black people, migrant farm workers, Appalachian mountaineers, elderly people on fixed incomes and so on – to share in the expanding prosperity of the nation as a whole.

His book inspired Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, which sought to bring members of poor and disadvantaged groups into the mainstream of the U.S. economy.  Those goals have been the goals of most self-identified liberals ever since.

Whatever good this approach may have done, it has reached a dead end.  It was workable only in a growing economy where a new benefit for one group did not leave anyone else worse off.  We do not have such an economy.  The vast majority of Americans, not just those in pockets of poverty, are affected by the decline of American manufacturing industry, the erosion of good jobs, the stagnation of wages and the growing debt burden