Newsletter: Time For Boldness, Clarity & Assertiveness

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There is confusion in Washington, DC among the political elites. Donald Trump, who ran against the elitism of both parties, won the election with an appeal to economic populism. He won the election when the Rust Belt states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, voted to make him president. These states have suffered the consequences of corporate trade agreements with lost industries and jobs.Occupy election image

The election of Trump has shaken the establishment and opened space for a shift in policies. Trump’s economic ‘populism’ will actually serve the wealthy. He is promising tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, the shrinking of government services and an increase in military spending.

In this moment, the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice needs be bold, clear and assertive in putting forth an agenda that will serve the economically dispossessed, those under attack by militarized police, immigrants facing detentions and deportations and demonstrate policies that ensure economic security. Where Trump is right, as in detente with Russia, the movement will support him against the neocons and humanitarian war supporters; and we will push him further for an end to war as the primary tool of foreign policy.

Both parties are confronting major fissures, leadership challenges and questions about where they go from here. Their confused leadership provides an opportunity for the popular movement to fill the leadership void with policies that put people, planet and peace over profit.

An Illegitimate Government

Democracy Spring protest at the U.S. Capitol in April. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

Democracy Spring protest at the U.S. Capitol in April. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

This year voters felt mass alienation from the two-party system with a New York Times poll finding the presidential campaign filled people with revulsion by a margin of 82% to 13%. This is consistent with an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll which found a democracy crisis where “9 in 10 Americans lack confidence in the country’s political system…” The poll taken as the primary season came to a close found “only 13% say the two-party system for presidential elections works.” The elections left most people in the US feeling discouraged with 70% saying they experience frustration and 55% reporting they feel helpless. Only 13% feel proud of the presidential election. The campaigns of the two most unpopular candidates in history from two unpopular political parties helped more people to learn that the government is illegitimate.

Even though populist anger at DC elites is broad and deep, both parties in DC did not realize the extent of anger. During the primaries, Trump turned populist anger against elites like Jeb Bush and elected Republicans. During the general election, it was turned against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. The Democrats should have seen it in the widespread support for Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders put forth a populist progressive domestic economic agenda, but the Democratic Party leadership rejected it and did all they could to ensure Sanders’ defeat. This only added to the populist anger no doubt aiding Clinton’s defeat. In Hillary Clinton, the Democrats put forward a candidate who stood for the establishment, elitism and corruption. She was the wrong candidate at a time when people were angry at the 1% and wanted change from a status quo that was unacceptable. The Democrats lost because they dismissed populist anger, they were blind to what they had done to the people of the United States over the past few decades.

Every time an organization broadcasts their commitment to deep social change, while instead prioritizing one-dimensional results for their wealthy funders, the task of dismantling multilayered systems of destruction is lost in translation. (Photo: JT)Economist Jack Rasmus shows reality with numbers: “97% of all GDP-national income gains since 2010 have accrued to the wealthiest 1%.” How? Corporate profits more than doubled after 2009, the stock market tripled in value, bond market prices accelerated to record levels, since 2010 more than $5 trillion has been distributed in stock dividend payouts and stock buybacks alone, at the same time corporate and investor taxes since 2009 were cut by more than $6 trillion. Massive money flows from the Federal Reserve went to big finance with access to trillions of dollars of virtually free money through quantitative easing and near zero interest rates.

And, what about the rest of us? Rasmus reports stagnant wages, low paid service jobs—often part time, temp and contract jobs replacing the higher paid jobs they lost. Tens of millions of young millennials in debt for decades to come with college youths joining them everywhere. The retired received no interest income because of near zero rates for eight years, which made bankers rich on cheap money but the elderly poor. At the same time, pensions collapsed and medical costs rose, there were 13 million home foreclosures and trillions of dollars of home values ‘under water.’  The people were put into an economically insecure situation where they went further into debt and could not afford any surprise expense from a car repair to a dental problem.

Wall Street Protests Fort LauderdaleThis resulted in voters sending a message to the establishment: “you, the political elite, have hurt and harmed us these past eight years. You have ignored us and left us behind while ensuring your wealthy friends recovered quickly and well from the 2009 crash. We have experienced great anxiety and insecurity. Now have a taste of that yourself!”

Richard Wolff, also an economist, sees the same economic realities as Jack but then connects the dots:

“Let’s remember that elections these days are integrated parts of a system. The dominant power is intertwined with the dominant wealth. The corporate system — and the individuals it makes rich — normally buy the political process. That’s how systems work.”

In fact, in 2015 and 2016, banks and financial interests put more than $1.4 billion into efforts to elect and influence people in national political office. A new report, Wall Street Money in Washington, found they spent more than $2.3 million a day — $800 million of which was campaign contributions. The result of this election, in which $6.6 billion was spent, was that money won.  But, under the surface of the usual story, a moment of populism was foretold, the people rose and showed their anger. They are fed up with being thrown under the bus by a corrupt government. This presidential election was a protest vote against a duopoly government corrupted by money.Media don't trust the corporate media

One other election loser deserving mention was the corporate media. They serve as cheerleaders and mouthpieces for the DC elite. They mistreated Sanders’ populist message. While Trump’s bigoted and misogynist comments and actions gave the media reasons to criticize him, they were unable to compete with his social media and with the anger voters feel from an economy designed for the wealthy.

The TPP is Dead

As we were writing this newsletter, the news broke that the Obama administration has accepted reality – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is dead. Obama has given up on ratification in the lame duck Congress. We have been organizing for most of the year to stop ratification and finish off the TPP. The movement made TPP politically toxic, which pushed all presidential candidates, except Gary Johnson, to oppose it. Some key senators had to change their pro-TPP to opposition in order to get re-elected. Leaders of the House and Senate have reiterated that they will not consider ratification, something they have said for months. Even before the election of Donald Trump, the TPP was unlikely to be considered. With Trump’s election, the Republican congressional leaders say they will follow Trump’s lead, forcing Obama to give up.

After a quarter century of off-shored jobs and depressed wages in the wake of corporate-driven trade de-regulation, the claim that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will make life better for American workers is so discredited that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are opposed. (cool revolution/ Flickr)

(cool revolution/ Flickr)

Our Lame Duck Uprising protests next week will celebrate the death of the TPP. The European agreement, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is also finished. It was also in death throes before the election, primarily from people powered protests in Europe. We will urge the end of Obama’s third agreement, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which also faces serious hurdles. The defeat of this trifecta of trade agreements is a major victory for people over transnational corporate power.

Now, we will push for more: the end of corporate trade agreements, replaced by trade that serves the people and planet; and is negotiated in a transparent way where people participate. It is time for a transformational trade regimen that enforces the Paris climate agreement, lifts labor and environmental standards and makes the International Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements a reality.

People around the country can join the protest by helping us spread the message with a massive Twitter Storm. On Monday at 9:30 pm ET go to www.Twitter.com/FlushTheTPP and begin by tweeting the pinned tweet at the top of the page. Now with the TPP flushed, we will have new messages about where we go from here.

Here are some lessons from this tremendous victory. We won because a movement of movements formed including activists, labor, environmentalists, food advocates, Internet activists and more. Our spectacle protests forced a trade agreement they were trying to keep secret into the open. Wikileaks’ exposure of portions of the agreement let people know what was being secretly negotiated. A key was slowing fast track trade authority so that TPP was not considered until an election year when we were able to make the TPP toxic. Now, if it fails in the lame duck, it may never succeed. Ratification of the TPP was difficult and Trump’s pro-corporate agenda, with bigger profits for US corporations, will make it even more difficult.

TPP equals toxic political poisonStopping the TPP is only a first step. Trump opposes the TPP but for different reasons than we do. TrumpTrade is likely to be even worse for the people and planet than Obama’s trade agenda. After we stop the TPP – which will be a tremendous people powered victory over transnational corporations – we need to stop TrumpTrade and put forward a vision for the kind of trade for people and planet, that is negotiated in a transparent and participatory way.

We need to use the success of stopping the TPP as a springboard for people powered movements to set the agenda on multiple issues. It will be a beginning, not an end.

Escalating Demands For Economic, Racial, Envirnmental Justice and Peace

Richard Wolff points out that the system will not allow the change we need. Our job is to continue to build national consensus over the necessities of the people and planet. Wolff points out that people need to know that “only when massive oppositions of the people get aroused do they relearn the first of the great old lessons, that ultimate power resides with the people.” The second lesson is “the power of the people becomes effective when it is organized.”

We are making progress on these fronts. National consensus on many issues is developing, especially around the corruption of government, the failure of the electoral system, the need to get money out of politics and to diminish the power of corporations, among other issues.

1trumpTrump has already ignited the movements against racism and bigotry. In the immediate aftermath of the elections there have been nationwide protests with the theme of Love Trumps Hate under the hashtag #NotMyPresident, and people standing with communities of color, especially immigrants as well as women and workers.

This is very much a protest led by youth. High school students staged a walkout to protest Trump, thousands marched in cities across the country. In Baltimore, where we are based, the Trump protest was attended by at least two thousand. The police were not friendly. In fact, our live streamer, photographer and videographer was pushed to the ground by a police lieutenant for no reason. Thankfully, it was all caught on video showing Carlos had done nothing to deserve this brutal assault. He spent more than five hours in the emergency room and is worried about hospital bills (you can donate here). No doubt his is one case of many.

There is no question that a critical front of struggle during the Trump years is going to be the rights of immigrants, communities of color, workers and women. In all of these areas, protests are going to have to escalate. The emotional protests in reaction to the election are going to have to be turned into ongoing campaigns in order to be effective. A good model is Black Lives Matter which was initially an emotional reaction to police killings and which has grown into ongoing, effective campaigns for racial justice.

A key conflict with the Trump agenda will be stopping carbon infrastructure and transitioning to a clean energy economy. Trump, who denies climate change, works with people who profit from pipelines and will put them in key cabinet positions. The #NoDAPL protests are going to have to get even more aggressive and the KXL pipeline is also likely to make a comeback and require new campaigns to stop it.

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Joe Catron/Flicker

Joe Catron/Flicker

In Standing Rock there has been tremendous progress as people have seen war crimes committed against the water protectors. Armed police have descended on Standing Rock but this has had a backlash against the police. One donor agreed to pay $2.5 million to release everyone arrested. The UN is investigating human rights abuses by the police. Individual police officers are turning in their badges as they will not be part of the injustice and police departments are refusing to send police back to Standing Rock because of the abuse. The religious community is joining as 500 interfaith clergy joined in protest. While President Obama is looking for an alternative route, there is none. Trumps victory has not stopped protests. #NoDAPL is focusing on banks lending money to the pipeline and November 15 is a national day of action focusing on the Army Corps of Engineers. During all of this the pipeline has continued to be built making our actions even more urgent.

One area where there could be a positive turn of events is US foreign policy. The US has been in a constant state of war for 15 years. Trump’s America First campaign opposed the US spending money abroad on military actions. He wants to see a working relationship with Russia rather than the escalation of conflict being pursued by Clinton. It is possible that with Trump will negotiate an agreement  to end the war in Syria. The peace movement needs to seize this opportunity to support this agenda to get the US and Russia out of Syria and avoid a military conflict with Russia; and push further for an end to war as a tool of US foreign policy.

US foreign policy is in crisis and people see the decline of US Empire. Finally, the International Criminal Court is investigating US war crimes in Afghanistan. We hope they will look at US crimes around the world in Iraq, Libya, Syria and the many countries that have been subjected to drone strikes. None of these wars and military actions had the approval of the United Nations. The US was not under threat of military attack, and as a result they are all illegal under international law. While the US will seek to avoid prosecution, it is important for the international court to do all it can to hold war criminals in the United States responsible for their actions.

Art by People’s Collective Arts/Photo by Gan Golan

Art by People’s Collective Arts/Photo by Gan Golan

The major area where the movement will need to build its power is challenging an economy designed for the oligarchs and finding ways to put in place an economy that serves the people. This requires a grassroots intervention at all levels of government. It requires an agenda to build economies in urban areas, especially in communities of color. An agenda for economic fairness for women needs to be central to our advocacy. And, workers need to be paid a fair wage - $17.28 is a living wage in many parts of the United States – and be able to easily form unions. These are issues that businessman Donald Trump opposed and we expect he will oppose as president.

Trump is also preparing to make significant changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but in a way that will worsen the healthcare crisis. It is true that the ACA has failed, but that is because it is based on a flawed model that treats health care as a commodity instead of a public good. Trump has said that he wants a simple solution that would be universal. The public agrees and supports a national Medicare for all. This is our moment to push for it!

It will soon become evident that the economic policies Trump pursues will increase the economic insecurity for most people. There will be big corporate tax cuts and a less progressive tax system. This will result in either the budget shrinking with less services or a massive increase in debt. People who voted for change will not be getting the change they want. They will be even worse off.

The movement must show there is an alternative, economic democracy that will transfer power to people and create an economy that shrinks the wealth divide, increases personal income for the working class and creates greater economic security for people in the United States. There were good reasons people wanted to thumb their nose at the elites, the movement needs to show we share their concerns and we must present that vision so people see there is an alternative path to the neo-liberal corporate path of the Democrats and the big business and the austerity of the Republicans.

Confusion Among the Elites is Our Opportunity

We are in a populist moment at a time when the elites are confused. As a result of policies that created a spiral of money to the wealthiest while everyone else suffered economic insecurity, the people’s anger has been ignited creating an historic opportunity. More than ever we must stand together, mobilize and grow the popular movement. We must insist on human dignity and justice – racial, economic, climate, health and trade justice – and more.

Reparations for police tortureThe popular movement has had tremendous victories, among them ensuring equal access to the Internet, stopping pipelines, ensuring police wear cameras and that police are prosecuted. These are just the beginning. Our greatest successes are ahead of us if we continue to build a mass movement and exercise the power we are building.

More important than who was elected president is that people power just defeated transnational corporate power. We stopped the largest corporations in the world along with politicians who they have put in office and stopped the TPP and other corporate trade agreements. There will be #NoHoneymoon for Trump. He will face a presidency of protest.

The people are aroused and organized. We know we have power and we will exercise it. It is time for the people to set the agenda, not big business. It is time for an era of peace not continuous war. And, time for an economy that serves us all and creates a shared prosperity. The oligarchs will not give up their power easily. There are many battles ahead, but now the movement knows it has power to put forward an agenda that serves the people and planet.

  • Uniquematerial

    This wouldn’t be happening but for the criminality of the DNC. We could have had an elder statesman and peace maker – but no, the Clinton Foundation, the corrupt political system, the “ones in charge” had to rip off the bandaid holding our fragile nation together and is instead, allowing our country to hemorrhage.

    It WILL be okay by and by but it will be ugly until it’s over. Perhaps – just perhaps – this will be the cleansing that we needed in the US. Not an “ethnic” cleansing but a look in the mirror and own that shit kind of cleansing that has been festering under that bandaid, oh these many years.

    IF – we manage to survive as a nation. And that’s a very big IF.

  • DHFabian

    Interestingly, unlike the past (prior to the 1990s), media have been presenting a list of those who are considered relevant to the discussion — LGBT, pipeline opponents, a quite specific list of racial minorities, middle/working class…

    For so many, this has highlighted the continued exclusion of the poor, the majority of whom are white. We’re 20 years into our war on the poor, and it would be wise to consider educating the working class about what happens when they, themselves, get pushed out of the job market. No matter how hard they try, a good chunk of the jobless aren’t going to be able to get jobs before their UI runs out, and they need to be prepared.

  • il corvo

    Thank you Kevin and Margaret for a very good synopsis of what has happened and what can happen, politically. To me, Donald Trump is the perfect example for the state of American democracy. When a billionaire can just blatantly buy the elect, then we know for sure the big business has, at this point, finally won. The Clinton’s have a net worth of over a quarter billion dollars, Trump over a billion. What does this say about, the old myth that politics is about public service?

    Politics is the avenue, like big business, to becoming very wealthy. Watch Barack Obama’s net worth skyrocket now that he is out of politics and into becoming a national celebrity. Names like Kennedy, Bush, Clinton, Obama and of course Trump become celebrity products. The product names hide the intent and character of the folks behind the name but for sure, they never have and never will be public servants.

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  • Mensch59

    Populism can be reactionary voting-wise. What will be the cool, calm, measured responses by the powers behind the presidency, the owners/rulers of the State, Capital as the ultimate “insider”?

  • DHFabian

    There’s no populist movement, no “people’s movement.” We’re more divided by class and race than we were a decade ago, more deeply pitted against each other.

    I have a question: Virtually every aspect of life in the US is determined by economic/class status. How do today’s progressives define “economic justice?” Or more directly, how do they define economic justice for the jobless poor, and those who can’t work (health, etc.)? We’ve brushed this question aside for decades with merely reciting, “Call for jobs.” OK, until those jobs come along…?

    One particularly divisive aspect of the past eight years was the rise of BLM!, highlighting police violence. We stood in solidarity against this brutality. We were split apart when the message morphed into “…and white lives don’t.” As the statistics show, the majority of victims of police violence have been white, yet mentioning this results in a backlash of, “How DARE you…”

  • DHFabian

    Actually, this might be the end of the US as we thought we knew it. The US set this course some 30 years ago. It seems that the more fortunate just didn’t notice much of what has been happening. Trump is simply the inevitable next step, not an abrupt takeover.

    Understand that the US has been implementing fascism (by definition) for years, slowly, and from the bottom up. (Did you know that we’ve stripped our poor of a list of fundamental civil and human rights?) Trump just ushers in the next stage.

    As for any expected public backlash, a revolt — tomorrow’s another working work day, and very few of us can risk losing our jobs. There’s nothing to fall back on.

  • Linda Jansen

    speaking of ripping of bandaids

    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.752757

    Go for It Donald. Legalize the Settlements

    Trump has the capacity to mete out a mercy killing to all the empty formulas, to let the air out of the “peace process” balloon and to finally kill off the walking dead known as the two-state solution.

    Gideon Levy

    Nov 13, 2016 5:30 AM

    If only the president-elect of the United States will keep his word. We must now pray for the health and well-being of Donald Trump, and hope he does not go back on his big promises to Israel. After he moves the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, preferably to the eastern part of the unified capital, we must hope that his election will also bring about a change in U.S. policy toward the settlement enterprise.

    I write these words without a trace of irony. If Trump gathers up the courage to make such a change, then he will contribute more than any of his predecessors, more enlightened than he, to reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

    Trump has the capacity to mete out a mercy killing to all the empty formulas, to let the air out of the “peace process” balloon, to serve one last drink, to disperse the grotesque masked ball and to finally kill off the walking dead known as the two-state solution.

    His statement, reported on Friday in The Wall Street Journal, that he hoped to make the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians, must be attributed to his ignorance: Such a deal no longer has any chance, it does not even have one serious partner. But Trump can shake up the situation, that is what he was elected to do.

    Such a shock is essential. Before the election, he declared that the settlements were not an obstacle to peace and that he would not stand in their way. The time has come for a president to speak that way too. The policy of his predecessor — all his predecessors — is what has allowed some 800,000 settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, a critical mass which has led to the point of no return.

    Trump’s predecessors said they opposed the settlements. What didn’t they do to stop the construction: Begged, asked, sometimes reprimanded, once or twice even harshly; occasionally the muttered “freeze,” but every settler hut in the occupied territories belongs to them. They funded it, did not lift a finger to prevent its construction. They were the friends of the enterprise, the presidents of the settlers. Trump is supposed to put an end to this farce. The end of hypocrisy, enough with the self-righteousness; onward with the settlements.

    Trump promised, and Trump may carry out his promise. The time has come to slacken the straw reins. In any case, another 100,00 or 200,000 settlers will not change anything. Letting go of the reins will tear away the mask: The settlers will build, the law legalizing settlements built on private Palestinian land will pass — even without the law no one has considered punishing them for their crimes — and the tricks of Amona and its like will end. Area C will be annexed to Israel, and additional areas in its wake. The legal situation will finally catch up to the situation on the ground, and the situation on the ground has been one of annexation for a long time already, but now only without the disguise. No one will be able to deny the reality any longer. The Green Line is dead, the two-state solution will not arise, for 50 years already a single state with apartheid in its east has existed.

    If Trump keeps his word and legalizes the settlements, the declarations about wanting two states, which no Israeli government has meant, much less endeavored to implement, will die. Trump will rip off the masks and Israel will be exposed to the naked truth: We have a single state with two peoples, one with full rights, the other with no rights, with a military dictatorship of half a century. In the world, it is accepted to call such a regime apartheid. Thanks to Trump, it will be officially declared as such.

    It is possible that Western governments will continue to support the existence of an apartheid nation in the 21st century, even after reality blows up in their face. It is possible that most Israelis will continue to live in peace with their consciences in their apartheid state; they became accustomed to it a long time ago. But there is also a chance that ripping away the cloak by the president of the United States will outrage governments and public opinion.

    The only solution that will remain will be changing the form of government in the country, from apartheid, which grants undemocratic privileges to one people compared to another, to an egalitarian democracy of all its residents. In other words: “One man, one vote.” That is the twist of fate: It is possible that the implementation of this exalted and just slogan, which was born in South Africa, will actually go down in the books in the name of Donald J. Trump, the man who it is doubtful whether he has heard of it, and certainly would not agree to it in its time.

  • …and when they take that away…..can we revolt? At this rate we’ll wait so long that half of us will be dead or destitute like the half of America that is already.