IMHO: The Times They are A-changin’… again

IMHO: The Times They are A-changin’… again

From the streets to the ballot box: Mike Smith, center, at Vietnam protest in Berkeley, 1966

The American people are facing a series of daunting challenges that suggest the Democratic Party should evaluate its approach to politics, organizing, and policies on the local, state, and federal levels.

Climate change threatens our health and safety, our environment, our species, and our planet. It demands an immediate and comprehensive legislative response. This is no time for incremental or penny-wise, pound-foolish politics. It’s time to think big. 

Our Democracy is under siege. Republicans are no longer content with placing roadblocks and restrictions on voting. They are advocating the doctrine of Nullification which will give states the power to certify the ballots and decide who gets elected. The Republican Party’s march towards autocracy can only be stopped by educating and mobilizing the people and by a unified coherent and consistent opposition from every level of the Democratic Party.

Don’t despair. We can do this.

Trump’s unexpected election and his abhorrent policies gave birth to a number of powerful grassroots movements that mobilized millions of people.

Veterans of other successful mass movements took the fight from the street to the ballot box and brought their energy and organizing skills into electoral politics, leading to the 2018 victories in the Congressional elections and to Joe Biden’s election two years later.

Biden’s “New Deal” agenda reflects the issues of the mass movements and speaks directly to the real needs of working families. His traditional bricks and mortar infrastructure program and his social needs infrastructure program have wide popular support. The stalemate in the Senate is due to Republican partisan obstructionism and the lack of support from key Democrats.

History shows that direct actions and mass mobilizations can change policies, impact legislation and influence elected officials. LBJ’s historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 would never have passed the Senate without Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama.

In 2018 the Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act was defeated because thousands of angry people flooded town halls across the country bombarding elected officials with facts, questions and personal testimony. News media showed hundreds of protesters jamming the halls of Congress. Viewers saw dramatic images of disabled people in wheelchairs, on crutches and with walkers, along with uniformed nurses and doctors, being arrested to save the Affordable Care Act.

In early 2018 the Green New Deal was not on the agenda of the Democratic Party. Nancy Pelosi never mentioned it. That all changed when AOC, on her first day in Congress, surrounded by cameras, decided to join climate activists occupying Pelosi’s office.

The time is right. California can lead the way.

Historically, when the Supreme Court is controlled by a reactionary conservative majority, the struggle for progressive change shifts from the federal to the local and state levels. In the first half of the 20th century, laws were passed in city councils and state houses in cities across the country to establish an eight-hour day, 40-hour work week, overtime, health and safety standards, and banning child labor.

Perhaps it’s time for California to step forward and follow President Biden’s example.

We have the power. The Democratic Party controls the state assembly, senate and governor’s office.

We have the popular support. Recent polls show the American people recognize the threat of climate change and want action. The majority of Democrats support a single-payer health care system.

We have the program. At every state convention, thousands of party activists vote for progressive resolutions. Our platform includes support for Universal Health Care and the tenets of the Green New Deal.

California could still be the first state to adopt a single-payer health care system. AB1400 may be momentarily stalled but is very much alive.

In 2021 we should listen to the voices of many Sonomans and introduce legislation that establishes a Conservation Corps which would employ thousands of people to clear out dead trees, plow fire breaks and man watchtowers during the fire season. We need to take action now. The cost of the fires far outweighs the cost of an investment in a comprehensive prevention program that deals with their devastating effects. 

California can set an example for what states can do when the Democratic Party has the power. Let’s set our sights high like President Biden and fight for policies that will finally deliver to all Californians the elusive promise of the Declaration of Independence, that all Americans have the right to “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

So don’t be discouraged. History shows we can meet this moment. As John Lewis would say: Carry on!