Mr. Brainwash (Photo by Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)
As always after a defeat following a hard-fought battle, we've seen a rash of I-told-you-so, no-I-told-you-so commentaries long and short. As always after a defeat a few people have said this one is unlike any others before it, and this time there is no hope of future victories. As always, a few people say they're renewing their passports and pondering emigration.
It's all part of the mourning process, an essential element before making plans for the next step.
I'm not here to offer my 2 cents regarding why this move in Wisconsin should have been that move. Or why the timing was off. Or anything else of that sort. Plenty of people here and in various other venues have already done that.
I want to address the attitude of despair I see in too many quarters. Despair breeds apathy and apathy kills activism. Instead of succumbing to despair, we need to have a good cry for another, say, 24 hours and then back to work.
Why were we in this fight in the first place? Because terrible leaders are doing terrible things to Wisconsin and the rest of country while calling it wonderful. Because extremist reactionaries are trying to impose their schemes on whoever they wish and calling this just. Because amoral oligarchs are determined to enhance their slice of the economic pie and labeling this the natural order. Because myopians are doing everything they can to ensure they are in charge of America’s future.
We lost on June 5. Came in second place in a crucial battle whose damage may still be felt years from now. The despicable record of our foes makes our defeat in Wisconsin good reason for disappointment and fear. It energizes not just rightists in Wisconsin but nationwide. They seek to crush labor, shred the safety net and, state by state, dismantle 75 years of social legislation.
But Tuesday was only one round in our struggle. It’s only the end if we let it be. And we can't let it be. Progressives who turn tail aren't progressives.
Winning elections is essential. However, I’m not just talking solely about elections, but rather the broader political realm, the realm outside of electoral politics, the kind of politics expressed by movements like Occupy! that have always pushed America to live up to its best ideals and overcome its most grotesque contradictions.
Not a few people have spoken in the past few hours about how we're doomed by the Koch Brothers and the Supreme Court-mediated economics of political campaigning, both inside and outside electoral politics. Yes, it will be harder than before, much harder. But we progressives won in the past by innovating, by finding the weaknesses in our foes' armor and rousing people who never before had been roused. We can do that again. We, in fact, must do that again. But doing so requires that we stick together, not bashing each other, not fleeing or hiding or yielding to the temptation of “what’s the use?”
It’s tough on the psyche to be beaten.Throughout our country’s history, abolitionists, suffragists, union organizers, anti-racists, antiwarriors, civil libertarians, feminists and gay rights activists have challenged the majority of Americans to take off their blinders. Each succeeded one way or another, but not overnight, and certainly not without serious setbacks.
After a decent interval of licking our wounds and pondering what might have been and where we went wrong, we need to spit out our despair and return—united—to battling those who have for the moment outmaneuvered us. Otherwise, we might just as well lie down in the street and let them flatten us with their schemes. Personally, that ain't in my genes.