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Some of us progressives despair of the shortcomings of the Obama Administration and corporatist leanings and mistakes in the Affordable Care Act. In this column and other forums I have argued that American history has been made by average American people struggling collectively for more justice and more freedom. Of course, that has never been a straight line and progress has always been uneven, but great change has been made throughout our history in what was once called the experiment of democracy.

Perhaps the single greatest example of that change in spite of overwhelming obstacles was the sea change that occurred in the first half of the 19th century in American attitudes toward slavery culminating in a gigantic civil war that took the lives of 650,000 people — more than all the lives lost in every other war the US engaged in combined. In about 50 years, slavery went from being a horrendous fact of American life to people sacrificing all they had in a war to destroy it.

There is no place for despair among American progressives and the American Left.

We can never be sure when the culmination of activism, agitation, direct action and political action turns into an unstoppable movement, when as if by direction thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of Americans begin to move collectively.

Referring again to Foner’s biography of Abraham Lincoln, The Fiery Trial, Foner writes, “[Lincoln] came to see himself as part of a long struggle against slavery that stretched back to the eighteenth century and might, he said, continue for another hundred years. Lincoln had found life’s purpose… ‘I am proud to contribute an humble mite to that glorious consummation, which my own poor eyes may not last to see.’ There was no mistaking the consummation Lincoln envisioned was the eventual eradication of slavery.”

There is no place for despair on the American Left.

Photo source: Will O’Neill on Flickr via a Creative Commons Attribution License

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