2016 Year End Thoughts

Notes to Progressives

To quote our President-Elect: “this year has been a disaster”. The waning days of 2016 have left me bereft of hope. It’s been hard to focus on the day-to-day aspects of life. I’ve got family members who have gone through much worse this year than I’ll ever know, so I’ll try and maintain some perspective. But at no point in recent memory can I recall seeing more friends and people I care about post pleas for help – needing cash, a job, or a way out of this soon-to-be authoritarian regime working hard to undo the Obama legacy of the past eight years. There’s got to be some crumbs of hope left to sweep from the table. What tips do I have to keep the pilot light of progressive thought going in the dark and cold winter of our discontent?

Spend less time on Facebook.

I’m the worst follower of my own advice. For the past few years, I’ve blogged about my desire to quit Facebook. But I keep coming back. #1 I now get paid to make posts on social media. #2 many of the groups I care about use FB as their organizing platform of choice. And this 2nd notion is one I’d like to address this year. FB is a time suck. It is designed to distract you from the thing you wanted to do on there in the first place. Progressives need to organize better and FB is definitely not the place to be doing that. One of my top priorities is to find an alternative platform to build coalitions and scale momentum on issues that are going to matter in the years to come.

Focus on one or two main areas you can make an impact

Every day, Trump announces another train wreck of a Cabinet appointment. Each one seems hell-bent on erasing all the gains we’ve made during the Obama years. Whether it’s the environment, racial integration, women’s rights, education, or international peacemaking, there’s just too many emergency flares going up. Pick something you can dedicate to focus on for the next year or two. Start from there. It’s easy to get pulled into many directions, attend multiple rallies and protests, watch a MoveOn online video, etc. Figure out what you’re most passionate about and connect with others that you can work together with to resist the oncoming wave of suck that’s about to hit America.

Build power at the local level

It’s tempting to give $27 to the next Bernie Sanders or whomever is going to run for a national post like DNC chair. But I’d suggest looking to the smaller races. No race is too small. Help elect a progressive dog catcher, or water reclamation commissioner. The smaller the race, the more likely your efforts can have impact. Progressives need to build a bench because eventually, these folks are going to run for higher office, and the experience you and they get on these smaller campaigns will help down the road when the stakes are higher.

Entertain the idea of strange bedfellows

My liberal buddy looked askance at me recently when I suggested a Sanders – Romney coalition is what we needed to form. When you’re up against mortal evil, you might need to employ the “enemy of my enemy” tactic and sign up with people you might not see eye-to-eye with on certain issues. With public schools on the chopping block by our new Secretary of Education, maybe there’s something the charter and anti-charter forces could do together to keep the voucher wolves at bay. Planned Parenthood and evangelical conservatives might not agree on the abortion issue, but maybe there’s agreement on supporting immigrants and refugees need for sanctuary. If Ralph Nader and Grover Norquist can work together, so can progressives. As we saw in this election, it’s not so much left vs. right as much as it’s elites vs. working class.

Millenials will save us (with our help)

OK maybe I’m reaching with this one. After all, I think they let us down in 2016 by not going to the voting booth in the same numbers as they did for Obama. But like it or not, they’re our future, and I’ve had the fortune to meet several people under 30 who have a wealth of creativity and optimism that floors me. But being under 30 also means not having the hard-earned life experiences that those of us GenXers brought having survived the Reagan and Dubya years. Millenials will be the ones with the energy to run for office, but we can support them through campaign donations, our network of expertise, our professional contacts, and the lessons learned from past mistakes made.

Retreat to the countryside

It’s kind of frustrating living in Illinois, a reliable state for Democrats in national races, but on a local level, stuck in partisan gridlock and unable to break the grip of strongmen who’ve been in charge of the Machine for decades. Hillary Clinton won Illinois regardless of how I voted. It seems like progressives waste the impact of their votes living in urban metropolises like Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. I wish we would spread out to rural and small-town America. Spread out and establish beach heads or outposts to the needs and frustrations of the America that saw Trump as their last, best hope. Yeah it might suck not having a Whole Foods within walking distance of your house, or five craft coffee cafes to pick from. Yeah, you might not have high-speed Internet. But if we don’t make a decent play to win in some of those states, we’re going to get more Trumps in our future.

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