Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
The task of the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice is much bigger than the presidential election. Our job is to build people power to ensure that no matter who the next president is, the people’s voices are heard and our demands are part of the political agenda.
We urge organizers and advocates across the nation to plan a campaign beginning in early 2017 and carrying on through the inauguration to ensure that right from the beginning the people’s voices are a dominant narrative. The #NoHoneymoon campaign will take various forms in communities across the country. Talk to your networks of activists and plan what would work best in your community. The creativity and energy that comes from diverse leadership has surprised the nation before and can do so again.
The popular movement has been growing since the occupy era in 2011. We estimate that 350,000 people were involved in occupy, about 0.01% of the population, and that frightened the power structure. Today about 1.5 million people are active in the popular movement. People are taking action on various issues e.g. the Black Lives Matter movement, the movement against the TPP and other corporate trade, the Fight for $15, the movement for climate justice, immigrant rights and movements around wealth inequality, banking, college debt, peace and more. In each of these fronts of struggle we are building power and winning victories. With the election of a new president, now is the time to unify our struggles under #NoHoneymoon and shake the power structure.
There is work for the movement to do before the election. NBC news projected that Hillary Clinton has surpassed the 270 electoral college votes needed to win, currently with 288 votes and six states as toss-ups. Based on polls, which have been surprisingly accurate this year, Politico reports that if you include states where Clinton leads by 5%, she has 302 electoral college votes. Indeed, no one with her lead at this stage of the campaign has lost the popular vote in 16 elections, since modern polling began. This is no surprise as more evidence shows that money shapes US elections.
It is our job to make sure Clinton is unable to ignore the popular movement. During the election people are protesting both Trump (also here) and Clinton. This needs to continue and escalate. These two most unpopular candidates ever nominated need to feel consistent people-power pressure.
And we need to make sure more candidate voices are heard than just the two corporate candidates. Our issues need to be in the political dialogue. The way to do this is to work to make sure that Jill Stein is included in the debates, along with Gary Johnson. (We recognize the Libertarians are another corporate party. They agree on some of our issues, but on most they do not.) On Monday, Popular Resistance will announce a Campaign for Open Debates (“like” it on Facebook), which will be pressuring the candidates, especially Donald Trump, to include all four candidates in the debate and then doing on-the-ground protests against a variety of targets. (Sign-up to get involved.)
This campaign is about ending the debate fraud of the phony commission on presidential debates, which is really a corporation of the two establishment parties designed to keep other candidates out. We seek to end the two party controlled debate ‘commission’ (really a corporation), stop the reliance on polls and ensure all candidates mathematically capable of winning 270 electoral votes are in the debates. The public needs to hear new ideas, like Jill Stein’s approach to ending all student debt; without inclusive debates the political dialogue will be stifled.Illusion of Democracy hides oligarchy
We do not tell you how to vote. Some are still in the two-party system of fear-based voting; some even fall for the Nader myth. But we know that throughout history, where we always had two big business parties, transformational change has occurred with the combination of a mass movement and an independent political party.
Thomas Frank wrote in The Guardian that with Clinton certain to win, she will ignore populist movements and govern to the right. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report writes Clinton is stuffing the entire US ruling class into her campaign – neocons and neoliberals, Wall Street and big business, military and intelligence – with progressives, blacks and Latinos pushed to the side. The more votes Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka get, the more power the movement will have since their views represent the movement.
During the election we also need to tell people that after the election their work is not done. After the elections is the time to build a mass movement. Already the Movement for Bernie Sanders is morphing into the Movement for the 99%. In Philadelphia during the DNC activists recognized we need to work for radical systemic change.
Fronts of Struggle After the Election
There are multiple fronts of struggle in the movement but more people are seeing that they are all connected. Each issue is made worse by the extreme wealth divide, now the top 10% owns three-quarters of all wealth. This leads to a corrupt, plutocratic government which impacts everything.
Stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Other Trade Agreements: One source of growing inequality is trade agreements designed by and for wealthy transnational corporations. Last week President Obama put Congress on notice that he is pushing for ratification of the TPP in a lame duck session. He sent a draft of the law he wants to pass to the Congress. House Speaker, Paul Ryan, said there are not enough votes to pass the TPP this year, but the White House will twist arms to get the votes. Opponents of the TPP are signing up for the #NoLameDuck rebellion (sign-up here), grassroots activists are making the TPP an issue in congressional races and Tom Morello’s Firebrand Records is touring in Rock the TPP.
We also got news recently that by the end of the year trade negotiators hope to have the very dangerous Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) completed. TiSA may be the most dangerous of Obama’s three agreements as it involves 52 countries and 70% of all the world’s services.
Black Lives Matter: The movement for black lives, on the second anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, is getting stronger, more organized and more impactful. It is a leading front of struggle and is showing great ability to get people working together across issues.
BLM recently issued a powerful Vision for Black Lives. The agenda covers multiple issues, e.g. recognizing economic racism, the rights of Palestinians, money corruption in politics, racism in banking, opposition to deportations and the need for self-determination of blacks. This vision for black lives is a vision that we should all support, it is a vision that affects everyone. Solidarity is being shown between Black Lives Matter and many groups, e.g. Dream Defenders, Jewish Anti-Occupation activists.
And the movement had significant advances this week: the FBI released 18 hours of spy plane footage of their protests, the Justice Department issued a stunning report condemning Baltimore for racist policing, the DOJ announced the phasing out of private prisons, New York City agreed to pay Akai Gurley’s family $4.5 million, Baton Rouge was sued for aggressive police action against BLM protesters, a Baltimore police officer was found guilty in an on-duty shooting, and Chicago released video of the shooting of an unarmed black teen. None of this would have happened without the Black Lives Matter movement making police violence an issue.
Protests continued with major protests in Milwaukee, perhaps the worst city for African Americans, after police shot a black man at a traffic stop. Protests forced the city to declare a curfew. There were protests in New York demanding the NYPD Commissioner Bratton be removed from office. He did later resign. In Baltimore protests occurred at the national convention of the Fraternal Order of Police, where police displayed their heavy-handed policing.
Black Lives Matter has raised the consciousness of people in the US so that there is no denying police violence and over policing in black communities. And, the shocking nature of the racial wealth divide is undeniable: it would take 228 years for blacks to accrue the same wealth that white families have today. There continues to be a lot of work to do and racial justice will be a key topic in the #NoHoneymoon campaign.
Climate Justice: The urgency of confronting climate justice is reaching new heights with the hottest month on record in July, flooding becoming a new norm and Alaska seeing its mountains collapsing. Author-activist Bill McKibben, in an article published in The New Republic, said there is no more time to waste and a full-scale WW II type mobilization is essential. At the same time the use of clean renewable energy is soaring, and of course the dirty energy companies are fighting the change. But, the combination of destruction, science and hope is putting us at a moment of climate revolution. Work is still needed, as Hillary Clinton’s transition team is being chaired by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who has been supportive of oil and gas development and as a Colorado senator was a spokesperson for that industry.
Advocates need to escalate their protests. Right now we are witnessing one of the great climate protests as the Standing Rock Sioux are not backing down against pipeline developers or lawsuits and vowing continued resistance to the Dakota Pipeline. In addition to slowing work at the pipeline, they have brought their fight to Washington, DC where they will protest a hearing on August 24. While the Standing Rock Sioux are getting a lot of attention, pipeline and extreme extraction protests continue to happen in many parts of the country.
Minimum wage fight for 15Fight for Living Wages: Another front where there has been increased growth in power with many victories is the Fight for $15. This movement is also getting stronger and planning for the future. At the first ever Fight for $15 Convention, they came together to highlight the racist policies that are holding back workers of color nationwide and to mobilize the 64 million Americans paid less than $15/hour ahead of the 2016 election. They left knowing that not only did they need $15 an hour, they also need a union. The movement had a victory this week when domestic workers in Illinois won a Bill of Rights after a five-year campaign.
Opposition to War and Militarism: One area where the popular movement needs to grow is opposition to war and militarism. Hillary Clinton has a long record as a hawk who believes in regime change, militarism and war. We see the ground work for escalation in Syria in “human rights” propaganda, while the corporate media does not discuss key facts about what is occurring in Syria, leaving people confused. The US is running a scorched earth policy in Syria, killing large number of civilians. There are reports of an agreement between Turkey and Iran that could lead to peace in Syria, but Clinton is likely to escalate instead. Syria has become a surrogate battle between Russia and the US. Some are describing the US lurching to World War III with Russia. Clinton’s participation in developing the Asian Pivot, to ensure US dominance in Asia, means there is also potential for a war with China or a surrogate nation in that region.
Bombing in Libya has begun again, and the peace group CODE PINK immediately urged an end to it. The United National Antiwar Coalition issued a statement that pointed out the US has bombed Libya and killed its leader, turning the country into a failed state. Further, the US has bombed multiple countries in the region creating chaos and fertile ground for ISIS to grow. More of the same will not stop ISIS, the chaos the US creates will strengthen such groups. UNAC says “This cycle of destruction can only stop by bringing all U.S. forces home and ending bombing and all interventions against Libya and all other countries.”
Peace activists like Sister Megan Rice are seeking to educate the public on nuclear weapons. Others are showing how close they live to US Weapons of Mass Destruction. A peace flotilla is protesting the trident nuclear submarine. Veterans are protesting a military air show in San Diego. And, the ACLU was able to force the release of the drone strike playbook. World Beyond War, a group that is organizing toward the goal of ending war, is holding its first national conference in Washington, DC from September 23 to 25. The antiwar movement is increasing its activities and will very likely need to do so even more under President Clinton.
Revolt Against the System
We are part of a revolt against a system of global economic and military dominance. It is a revolt against plutocratic rule, the rule of money, and for building the power of the people. The systems of big finance capitalism and the hoarding of wealth are crumbling. Neoliberalism is failing. Militarism is an anchor around the US economy that causes chaos, instability and insecurity. The people in the United States are economically insecure and know the system of government and the economy is corrupt.We Can Build The Future
The government fears the people. They shuddered when a mere 0.01% organized the occupy movement. The movement has quadrupled in size since 2011. The government fears the people so much that the Pentagon is preparing for mass civil breakdown and studying how the contagion of revolt spreads. The people in the government and in the top 1% of the economy know they are part of deep corruption, that is why they are insecure. The truth is coming out. The power of the people is growing.
In the elections we see the contradictions expanding. Both of the establishment parties are faltering. This is a moment of opportunity for the people. We have built power over the last five years. Now, if we come together in 2017, beginning with a #NoHoneymoon campaign, we will create a presidency of protest where the legitimacy of plutocracy is undermined and people power rises.
The future is in our hands. Let us take hold of it and not fear our power.
Copyright 2016 Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. First published in Popular Resistance. Republished in Vox Populi with permission.
Protest inside Ferguson City Hall October 13, 2014