author – activist – faculty – mom
So the electoral college failed to do its job and keep an unfit man from being elected president. It was a long shot. But I’m proud of the lone republican who went rogue. In future, we may remember him like we recall Barbara Lee, as the only one who stood up against the Iraq invasion.
As Trump’s inauguration looms, people are thinking and talking about how they are going to protest. Plans for marching, rallying, and other actions are in the works in many major cities. I welcome all of this! I am excited to see posts on my professional network of people who say they are going to a protest for the first time. Yes! to people becoming politically active. I welcome a chance for the rest of the world to see that the US does not agree with Trump and we preemptively oppose what he will be doing during his (hopefully brief) tenure. I say yes to protest because it helps people feel less alone. I say yes to protest, because people need a place to shout and chant and above all feel the power of the people.
For my own family, I’m not sure. I don’t really want my daughter to be witness to all these adults’ therapy sessions about their fear and anger. I’ll be considering child-centered spaces for her that focus on learning about justice in a less fear-based environment of hope and empowerment. I’ll also be supporting my students’ protest activities at UC Berkeley.
But while many have their eye on January 20th–inauguration day–I have my eye on January 7th. This is the day that those registered Democrat in the latest election get to vote for Assembly District Delegates in the Democratic Party. And I will be voting for a progressive slate led by Tony Thurmond in my assembly district 15, which stretches from Piedmont to Hercules. I signed up to vote for them on January 7th.
This is a new strategy for me. But the election of Trump has convinced me that it’s time to stop being passive about the electoral politics of our democracy. I participate in artistic and community activism. And when elections come around, I vote and I encourage others to vote. For many years, that has been the extent of it. But this election, and Steve Phillips’ book Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority, and my conversation with political operative Jessica Byrd, has taught me that it’s not enough to vote. We progressives need to fight to change the options that people will be offered from the major parties during elections and to change the electoral strategies. We need bold progressive policies, people of color, and working class people right in the center of the WHO of our candidates the WHAT of our platform and the HOW of our voter mobilization.
This is new for me. I always thought of the democrats as the more liberal option to govern the country while we grassroots progressives do our work for deep social justice transformation. Now I have come to believe that part of that work is to transform the Democratic Party. Democracy in Color has a vision for change to a New American Majority coalition of progressive whites and people of color. Steve Phillips’ book has proven that this coalition can win national elections, as well as state and local ones. And if we can pull it off, this has the potential to be a permanent change, because this nation only gets browner every day. But the entrenched racism, classism, and insider politics of the Democratic Party undermines their ability to be the party of the people they need to be in order to win.
Right now, there’s another election going on: the Democratic Party is choosing its new leadership. Like Bernie Sanders and many other progressives, I am backing Keith Ellison. Ellison is an African American Muslim congressman from Minnesota. He is a community organizer, small donation fundraiser, hardcore progressive, and he has a vision to transform the Democratic Party along the lines of Democracy in Color’s vision. The Sanders campaign has been critical, because he’s shown what a progressive takeover of the Democratic Party might look like.
I don’t know what I’ll be doing on January 20th, but I do know this: I don’t want to protest. I don’t want to demonstrate. I don’t want to spend a lot of energy opposing someone or something. I want to build and I want to take back the power of the state in this country. Obama wasn’t perfect by any stretch, and we have no idea what he could have done if he had had a congress backing him. But when the executive power was in his hands, I had the feeling that someone rational, who shared many of my values was running this country. And I want that back. I want history to look back at this era and see Obama as the beginning of major progressive change, and Trump as the brief but brutal setback.
Trump’s racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia is going to be on the front page for years to come. But the racism that stands between progressives and power is actually the racism of the Democratic Party–their irrational preoccupation with white swing voters and their chronic neglect of people of color. This is the racism that will be the focus of my energy. Because if the party learns its lessons and puts Keith Ellison in place, we can mobilize voters and harness anti-Trump sentiment to win the midterm elections. This would transform the congress and significantly curtail the damaging power of a Trump/Pence white house.
So, for me, the current battle isn’t about opposing Trump–we lost that one at the polls–it’s about building power. Building it through the Democratic Party, building it through community organizing, and building it for generations to come.
Whatever you do on January 20th, I hope you’ll join me in this fight.