We should expect more of this “democracy”

November 12, 2018

If anyone thought Donald Trump might slow his onslaught because of Republican defeats in the midterm elections, they were proved wrong the next day when Trump fired his Attorney General Jefferson Bauregard Sessions and picked a fight with a CNN correspondent to continue his war on the media.

Sessions’ firing was widely seen as a sign that Trump was planning to derail special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of his 2016 campaign and its possible links to Russian meddling in the election. Liberal organizations activated long-held plans for local demonstrations if the Mueller investigation was ever threatened.

The idea of demonstrations against the racist reactionary Sessions was bizarre, to say the least, and the focus of liberals on Mueller’s Russiagate investigation has been a distraction from the many struggles that need to be fought now. But the call to protest led to an estimated 900 demonstrations that mobilized people who wanted to take the next step in opposing Trump and stand up against his regular abuses of democracy.

In Madison, Wisconsin, some 300 people turned out at the state Capitol to protest last Thursday, and Scot McCullough, a member of the International Socialist Organization, was able to speak. Following after Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, McCullough made the socialist case for relying on the power of mass mobilizations to confront abuses of power and making an extension of democracy part of our vision.

WE ARE facing serious attacks on democracy in the world today. With the elections this week, we saw one of the most extreme and blatant acts of voter suppression in a lifetime.

In Georgia, the secretary of state, Brian Kemp, who oversaw the election process, ran for governor to oversee his own election. He oversaw removing tens of thousands from the voter rolls and invalidated tens of thousands more for failing to clear the so-called “exact match” process.

In North Dakota, changes in voter registration were pushed through that required a residential address to vote, which prevented thousands of Native Americans, who use a P.O. box instead of a house address, from being able to vote.

Protesters rally outside the Wisconsin state Capitol
Protesters rally outside the Wisconsin state Capitol

The process of making it harder and harder to vote — this erosion of the simplest component of democracy — has been happening for years, with voter ID laws to more difficulties in registering.

In fighting for basic democracy, for the right for people to have an equal say in the world we live, we should look as well to the other powerful relics of un-democracy in the U.S. In the Senate, Democratic Party candidates got 12 million more votes nationwide than Republican candidates, and yet the Republicans gained seats. The minority wins.

And we are just two years out from a presidential election that put Trump in office despite him getting 3 million less votes than Hillary Clinton — here in the so-called “greatest democracy in the world.” These relics from the origins of the United States, the Electoral College and Senate, gave undue power to the slaveholding states, and they still continue to give power to reactionaries.

THE FIGHT for democracy must include not only the accountability of those in power and maintaining existing democratic norms, but fighting to extend democracy.

In this fight for democracy, we need to look at who is standing beside us and who wants to rise themselves up above us. The FBI, for example, has its roots in trying to destroy political organizations throughout the country, from infiltrating groups to blackmailing Martin Luther King Jr.

The most recent feat of the FBI was its cover-up of Brett Kavanaugh’s attempted rape of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. In its investigation, the FBI refused to interview either Kavanugh or Ford, or dozens of people who reached out saying that had information to contribute. The FBI covered this up, and we are left with a lifetime appointment of a rapist on the highest court in the country.

In this fight for democracy, we need choices in what and who to vote for.

The Republican Party took some losses this week to the Democratic Party’s gain. Thousands of people organized registrations, carpools, events and more to get out the vote. Millions of people voted because they are against Trump, they are against the far-right growing, and they are against the Republican Party. They voted for the Democrats as the choice against this.

And Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in the House said that, with this mandate to stop the racist-in-chief, she wants to pursue “bipartisanship.” Bipartisanship with the party that suppresses votes, sends the military against unarmed refugees, refers to the Klan as “good people” and more.

In the “greatest democracy in the world,” millions of people voting against Donald Trump and the Republicans gets us a party that seeks to collaborate with those evils. We deserve better and need better.

I BECAME political during the occupation of the Wisconsin state Capitol building in 2011, fighting against Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on workers. A regular slogan of those days — and before and since — was “This is what democracy looks like.”

Looking at the last two years, we can see when we were able to get gains or at least prevent going backward. We can see who was there and what it took. Many of these best moments from the last years looked a lot like the rallies we had here in 2011.

When Trump first signed his Muslim ban in his first days in office, people rushed to organize protests at airports across the country, demanding that those detained be set free and the ban be lifted. We succeeded that day in pressuring the courts to block the ban.

When Trump and the Republicans put forward their repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the nonstop organizing and hounding of politicians, including courageous occupations in the U.S. Capitol building by people with disabilities from the group ADAPT, those actions stopped the repeal.

We have a voice when we organize publicly, visibly and in large numbers. When we ordinary people organize and show up together, we can halt the system and push back against it. Our power lies in each other. Right now, the expression of our voice comes when we organize together.

This government isn’t made for you and I. It’s made for billionaires and their millionaire cronies. Having money gets you an office and gets you the ear of those in office.

We can and should fight, tooth and nail, to make them live up to the ideals they profess, but the parties of millionaires, and the secretive, unelected, unaccountable FBI, aren’t our primary tools. Organizing in our workplaces, on our campuses and in our neighborhoods — this is where our power lies, in working with tens of thousands and millions of people.

This last summer, when news broke about Trump’s family separation policy at the border, we all met in Madison on these steps, two weeks in a row, joined by more than 100,000 others across the country. The mass outrage and grassroots organizing put Trump and his goons on their back foot.

But we let up, they regained their composure, and they are hitting back. We need to grow bigger and stronger if we hope to address to severity of the crisis we are in.

I want to invite people to the public meeting of the International Socialist Organization tonight. We are going to be discussing how the state of affairs has changed with the midterm results, and what socialists can do going forward. If you’re a socialist, but don’t yet work with other socialists, please join us. If you aren’t sure if you’re a socialist, but you know we deserve better than this shit of a world we are living through, please join us.

Comrades, I don’t just want Trump to face the music for his corrupt business and electioneering. I want him held to account for the rise of the far right and their murders. I want the rest of these people held to account as well: George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” Bill Clinton’s sexual assaults and his dismantling of welfare, Barack Obama’s deportation of over 2.5million people and drone warfare program, and every senator and every congressperson who voted for these atrocities.

Comrades, we deserve better. We have a world to win. Thank you.

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