After the Election Disaster: Back to Basics

Raul Grijalva

Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva won an uphill battle.

Now what?

We need to build a grassroots progressive movement — wide, deep and strong enough to fight the right and challenge the corporate center of the Democratic Party.

The stakes are too high and crises too extreme to accept “moderate” accommodation to unending war, regressive taxation, massive unemployment, routine foreclosures and environmental destruction.

A common formula to avoid is what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the paralysis of analysis.” Profuse theory + scant practice = immobilization.

It’s not enough to denounce what’s wrong or to share visionary blueprints. Day in and out, we’ve got to organize for effective and drastic social change, in all walks of life and with a vast array of activism.

Yes, electioneering is just one kind of vital political activity. But government power is extremely important. By now, we should have learned too much to succumb to the despairing claim that elections aren’t worth the bother.

Such a claim is false. As bad as the election results are, they would have been much worse across the country if progressives hadn’t worked hard against the right-wing juggernaut.

For instance, consider the many hundreds of on-the-ground volunteers who rejected the paralysis of analysis by walking precincts and making phone calls to help re-elect progressive Congressman Raul Grijalva. He won a tight race in Arizona’s southwestern district and will return to Congress next year — much to the disappointment of the corporate flacks and xenophobes who tried to defeat him because of his strong stance against the state’s new racial-profiling immigration law.

The mass-media echo chamber now insists that Republicans have triumphed because President Obama was guilty of overreach. But since its first days, the administration has undermined itself — and the country — with tragic under-reach.

It’s all about priorities. The Obama presidency has given low priority to reducing unemployment, stopping home foreclosures or following through with lofty pledges to make sure that Main Street recovers along with Wall Street.

Far from constraining the power of the Republican Party, the administration’s approach has fundamentally empowered it. The ostensibly shrewd political strategists in the White House have provided explosive fuel for right-wing “populism” while doing their best to tamp down progressive populism. Tweaks aside, the Obama presidency has aligned itself with the status quo — a formula for further social disintegration and political catastrophe.

norman solomonThe election of 2010 is now grim history. It’s time for progressives to go back to the grassroots and organize with renewed, deepened commitment to changing the direction of this country. If we believe that state power is crucial — and if we believe in government of, by and for the people — it’s not too soon to begin planning and working for change that can make progressive victories possible in future elections.

Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign organized by Progressive Democrats of America. His books include “War Made Easy” and “Made Love, Got War.” For more information, go to:


  1. Temporarily Anonymous says

    Obama claims to be a Progressive and look what he has got us into. When he was in college he belonged to the Marxist Party. So to me being right at 14T in debt, small businesses scared to do anything for fear of what he might do next, fear of the worthless Obamacare that is going to bankrupt the Nation. We have slowly become a nanny nation and he is destroying us economically and pushing us toward a Global One World Order under the UN and one Nationalized Bank for the entire world. This is America. Those that want to live under those rules need to move to the UK or Canada because we are trying to stop it here. We want our country back the way it used to be. I doubt it will ever be that way again but what are Communist, Radicals, Socialists, Marxists doing in our representatives? They do not belong there. The Democrats are gone. You can hardly find a true Democrat out there. But I, myself, want as much of our country saved as possible and I want our Constitution and Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence with the words “OUR CREATOR” still in it. I am proud to be an American citizen of the United States of America.

  2. says

    The problem for progressives is that we don’t have an agenda, let alone a platform. We are worried about style when we should be worrying about content. We believe liberal leaders instead of constantly organizing against them so that they have to stay with the a progressive platform or find themselves being replaced by new leaders. Immediately after Obama was elected I said in these pages that we ought to feel good about Obama but begin organizing pressure to force him and the democrats to do right — just as serious labor and community council/unemployed councils organized in the 30s to push FDR to do the right thing. We didn’t organize in that manner and the right wing did — now we have this election behind us and a lost majority in the house, a weak majority in the senate and a president who needs us out in the streets and nasty if anything is to be saved.

    Democracy is not a word/concept it is an action, you can stand around saying it all you want but until you organize nothing happens. Power flows from organized masses not from posturing leaders. In the 60s and 70s I built neighborhood organizations in poverty communities and we looked for allies in the liberal and progressive communities: then as now we found most liberals and progressives frightened of poor people and poor communities and the maximum feasible participation of the poor movement died (Think Welfare Rights Organizing, etc. Oh, one last group lasted until the last election when ACORN was destroyed by the right and the liberals and progressives allowed it to go down — our representatives didn’t even fight back in the congress but let it be defunded and crushed by the right. Organizing takes face to face work with people who need/want to get organized — not posts on facebook and other social pages that don’t guarantee anything but in fact substitute words for actions. The social networking can help by transmitting data but if the bodies aren’t in action then nothing happens. It so happens that working people and the unemployed poor are the largest unorganized sectors of US society that will benefit from progressive/radical social change yet they are ignored by liberals and progressives who want to hang out with “middle class”, i.e. middle to upper-middle income folks who aren’t a threat and who though they will bitch about things know that they can still get along without much social change because life in general is still pretty good for them compared to the poor and lower income working class. If this seems like strange words ask yourself who dies in the wars? Who goes hungry when welfare is cut? Who dies from a lack of medical care? Who is made poorer by paying for child care when forced to work at minimum wage jobs,or less, when welfare benefits are cut off or reduced? NOT THE MIDDLE CLASS AND NOT MOST LIBERALS AND PROGRESSIVES IN BETTER NEIGHBORHOODS who don’t want to get their hands dirty in poor communities. And let’s quit using euphemisms such as “low income” instead of poor, and “disadvantaged” or “minority” communities instead of ghettos and barrios — we are the people and we are of all shades of the human rainbow and we should be damn proud of that and not talk of each other in some pretty sociological terms that are used to hide the truth of the wretchedness of the life of many of us and our neighbors and lets us off from having to take action. When we play that pretty, liberal role we disarm ourselves and cede victory to our adversaries who can hide and use our own petty language. If we call for power to poor and working people the right will not join us — power for the people is anathema to the desires of the plutocracy and the corporate power elites — the “power elite” if you will that C. Wright Mills spoke to so well. We are letting the social reactionaries organize our constituency into their clutches, now is the time to say no and get back to work.

  3. says

    What do we do now? OK I have an answer.

    Today I say to those Liberals and Progressives who lurk here I consider it the point in history to rush the bastille of the Prison that corporate America has built to imprison Democracy.

    The Revolution will appear bloodless, in fact more like King Louis caught in a Bell Jar where the air has gotten sucked out and King Louis will die of suffocation.

    There comes a point when those who get discouraged and angry find their righteous anger and say I will not accept this any longer.

    Do not accept a corporate corrupted congress and Presidency any longer.

    I find that some of those companies that give money to conservatives in congress at fault for the corporatist legislation over the last 30 years aided by the boll weevil Democrats to the current day Blue Dogs.

    It does not appear new what I will tell you to do. I want you to accept that you will contact some of the funders of these conservatives in both parties by phone or email and tell them

    Get your CEO to help by talking to congressional leaders and the president and get us this legislation and until it gets enacted I will not buy any of your god damned products any more. Of course you can act more polite in your email or phone call.

    You will effectively suck the air out of the bell jar with King Corporate in it and figuratively make him die.

    No CEO wants to get emails and phone calls from 100s of thousands of people demanding legislation because his company has funded conservatives and that he faces a huge loss of money from customers who will no longer buy his products or services or go to his establishments.

    Do something about these mean spirited conservative funders and contact them at

    Such actions brought the British down in 1947 in India, and the South African National Party in the 1990’s and it will bring down conservative America
    in 2010 if you tell every person that you can to send those emails, make phone calls. The more people who do this the more likely it will happen fast.

    It appears the day you act and tell conservative America, we will no longer patronize some of your prominent corporate friends. We will hold them accountable for their funding of legislative sociopaths and we will bankrupt you with our noncooperation.

    Yes, elections appear important but you also need to act every day to make life for the funders of conservatives very inconvenient until we get social and financial justice in this country.

    Those who oppose me or those who say it will not work, I say to you what has worked? WE have had 30 years of Neanderthal Republican Reaganism chipping away at the New Deal and it will stop if people join me in this massive refusal to cooperate with our legislative oppressors and their funders.

    So let it get written. So let it get done.

  4. says

    Article and prior comments are in interesting mix. Norman correctly describes the administration and its recipe for stage-by- stage conversion of Dems to Gops-lite. Like Gary H, he describes a perennial task. According to Jerry L we seem to be too late and past the ‘elastic limit’ for doing anything effective at all, and Brian Z. seems to be saying that we need war in order to have peace.

    John Lloyd Scharf correctly characterizes our inherently unprogressive misrepresentative republican form of government (federal and other levels), and the resulting abusive self-serving of the misrepresentatives, including the Dems.

    However, I don’t agree that mass voting to settle anything represents effective democracy. Mass votes are nondeliberative. And the more you ask everyone to vote on, the less time anyone has to really inquire and reason about any one thing. A workable democracy – for which progressives can work – will instead divvy up public affairs decisions among many teams of ordinary citizens – generally educated and even well-educated people who however are interested in a well-rounded life, not merely in being full-time public-affairs students and activists.

  5. John Lloyd Scharf says

    There is nothing progressive about a republic where misrepresentatives control. The Democrats are all about power in the House and Senate, not about promoting democracy. If we had referendums, initiatives, recalls, and votes for executive officials on the national level, that would be progressive. That would be democratic. The only thing the democrats are progressing toward is totalitarianism like the national socialists of the 1930s.

  6. GaryH says

    We have a progressive grassroots movement.
    But we need to put more direct pressure on the Democratic Party which marginalizes true progressives.


  7. Jerry Lobdill says

    I’m sorry, but why only now do you think it is important to build a grassroots progressive movement? Why didn’t you think so back in 2004 BEFORE the blue dogs killed off Howard Dean?

    It’s too late now. This nation has passed the elastic limit. We are headed for certain destruction.

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