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Why am I still smiling?

In Dallas, the “business elite,” a euphemism for “unscrupulous greedy rich people,” won the June runoff elections for City Council and School Board. Turnout was among the lowest in the nation.

Elections are absolutely critical, but we always find that the winners we support (think Obama) can’t really save us from everything and the ones we worked against (think Trump) can’t really do as much damage as we feared. So elections are not entirely completely totally about who won and who lost.

To understand politics, we have to look beyond candidates and try to understand trends. For example, the Dallas election turnout was 33% higher than the last comparable election. The runoff election, which should have had a much lower turnout than the first round because there were far fewer candidates, was the same as the first round!

What does it mean? It means that we may have a very low level of political consciousness in Dallas, but that it’s dramatically improving! That’s one thing to smile about!

Another trend worth noting is the humongous amounts of money that rich people are paying to win elections. Positions that they used to buy for a few thousands are now costing them millions! Money still wins elections, but it takes more of it!

Another very good trend sounds like a bad trend: the political stooges of the rich-and-greedy are trying every possible way to end democracy, especialy as it applies to elections. Voter suppression is obvious in many state legislatures, especially ours. If they weren’t running scared, would they be publicly shaming themselves so?

The rule of the rich-and-greedy is becoming precarious, and they know it!

Some other good things are evident in Dallas’ local elections. In the past, it was difficult to pick the candidates to vote for. Nowadays, the Dallas AFL-CIO has perfected the most comprehensive screening process ever available for working families. Many Dallasites haven’t realized it yet, but the information is there for future elections.

And, speaking of information, the Dallas AFL-CIO is steadily improving its ability to inform and activate the progressive population. In the last week of the runoff election, we were finally able to establish a Digital Organizing Committee that will be the beginning of a progressive information network. Our goal is to organize everybody, and, thanks to the farsighted National AFL-CIO leadership, we have the tools to do it!

Thanks for reading this. You’re proving my point! If you share it around, you’ll prove it even more!

-Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Our masters rule us because we are confused. They want it that way. That’s the main reason for it.





What is your aim?

The process of improving our human condition, the only process worth living for, benefits as confusion diminishes. But how can we diminish it?

We often find ourselves unable to distinguish between the many choices offered. This may particularly be felt during elections when we are trying to choose candidates. But it also true, more generally, when we try to distinguish between organizations that seem progressive. Which of them will actually set things right?

There are no good answers to the question, but that is not a reflection on the possible answers. It’s the question that was wrong.

Ask the right question

If our goal is to improve the human condition, then it should be obvious that none of the candidates in an election will be able to bring about a great transformation. It should also be obvious, in a more general sense, that none of the various organizations seeking our time and money can, by themselves, create a better world.

Great changes come about because of great mass movements. The biggest lie repeated on the internet, and repeated so often that people think it is true, is that individuals or small groups cause historical changes.

When we ask which candidate to work for or which organization should get our donations, we should be asking how they will affect that great mass movement of working families that will, eventually, bring the change we want.

Demagogues and sectarian organizations will end up on the bottom of our list. Those who promote progress and working class unity will rise to the top.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

I liked a great deal of what I saw at the Texas Democratic Party convention in Ft Worth on June 22, but not everything.

conv-laborcaucuscrowd

The first thing we attended was the Labor Caucus. Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy presided over a completely packed meeting with people standing three deep along the back and sides. I caught Levy’s opening remarks on “Facebook Live” where you can see them at https://www.facebook.com/gene.lantz.7.

Just about every critical candidate in Texas was there seeking union help. Levy could only recognize most of them briefly due to time constraints. The ones that he introduced to the podium were the most critical statewide candidates such as Lupe Valdez for Governor.

candidate-lupevaldez

I noticed at least two unions had bought ads in the Democrats’ brochure: CWA and UAW. The Texas AFL-CIO booth in the Exhibit Hall was abuzz with activity. They took polaroids of people posing in front of their big slogan, “I’m union, I fight, I vote!’ It has a “big fist” image, to show power and commitment.

Labor’s big impact on the Democrats was evident everywhere. It doesn’t mean that labor is in their pocket, it actually means the opposite. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa likes to say that Labor and the Democrats are “joined at the hip,” but in truth labor’s activities are very much our own. In this photo, you can see Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy thinking carefully while Hinojosa speaks to the Labor Caucus.

conv-levy-gilbertohinojosa

The deep polarization in America is causing working families to support Democrats. Recent news reports show Republicans trying to implement $6 trillion in cuts that would affect working people, less than a year after their big tax giveaway of more than a $trillion$ to the wealthy. The Texas Republican Party’s platform, just finished June 18, is a kick in the face to working families, and especially to our children.

On the downside

In their exuberance, the first dozen or so speakers at the Democrats’ convention emphasized two main themes: immigration and gun violence. These are hot-button issues today, to be sure, but they are issues that the Democrats already own. The Republicans have generously donated those issues and those voters to the Democrats.

But what about fighting the corporate takeover? What about America’s three ongoing wars and attempts to coerce and undermine other nations? What about America’s disgraceful top-of-the-world prison population? What about taking concrete steps to end the health care hodgepodge and support Medicare for All? What about saving the state’s environment in the face of rampant oil well fracking and nuclear waste dumping? I didn’t hear those issues, except for some vague emotional appeals here and there.

The inescapable conclusion is that the Democrats are not ready to forego big corporate campaign donations any more than the Republicans are.

What will you do?

I realize that many of America’s best activists have adopted the age-old goal of trying to take over the Democratic Party. I hope they do, but history tells us that it isn’t likely.

Supporting working families, not candidates nor parties, is the way to go. It may be true that nearly all of labor’s candidates in 2018 will be democrats, and it may be true that an individual activist can be more effective short-term working directly for candidates than he/she might be while working for the AFL-CIO, but that would be a major long-term mistake.

The electoral arena is only one of many, and we must choose labor in every one!

If the goal is to make serious change, activists must recognize that only workers can do that. They are the only ones who can stand up to capitalists. A few years ago, one could not have been blamed for feeling that the AFL-CIO and unions in general were not rightfully the leaders of the working class, but that is no longer true and has not been true since 1995. The AFL-CIO today truly works for the entire class and strives to organize everybody.

That’s the team we should join!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. The “events” tab on the web site leads to recent podcasts. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.

 

 

 

 

Republicans continue the countdown on democracy with their plans for the 2020 census. African American and Latino organizations are trying to stop them.

count2

The NAACP’s lawsuit says that the last census seriously undercounted African Americans, and preparations, or lack of preparations, for the 2020 census threatens to do the same. Latinos are especially upset by the Trump Administration’s plan to ask if they are citizens or not.

If the Republicans get away with it, they will be able to seriously diminish Black and Brown representation in government. Their anti-democratic redistricting would be made even easier for them.

Historical Context

This is not the first time that the parties in power have used counting as a way to undermine democracy. Bear in mind that the first constitution counted slaves as 3/5’s of a person so that slaveholders could amass more electoral clout, even though the slaves had no say about anything.

Political Context

The fight for a fair census is another part of the larger fight for democracy and against incipient fascism. Voter suppression laws from state governments are rampant. Redistricting has undercut the “minority” vote. Big money has won Supreme Court backing and is now free  to dominate all elections without even revealing who they are. The Voting Rights Act has already been eviscerated.

Working families have to fight on every front to preserve the partial democracy that we have won over the centuries. Every front includes economic struggles as well as electoral.

— Gene Lantz 

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you look in the “events” tab of knon.org, you can find programs from the last two weeks. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

Every serious progressive I know is gearing up for election work. There are basically two ways to go about it, and I would like to contrast them here. I’ll call them “what we normally do” and “what we oughta do.”

ballot

Voting

Normally

In almost every election, progressives work for certain candidates or we work for a political party. Analysis leads us toward choosing candidates and races where we can win. America’s elections, unlike those in more civilized countries, are “winner take all.” You either win a race or you lose it; consequently, activists check the demographics and opinion polls before they deploy their resources.

One of the important things that people look at before designating a certain candidate as “viable” is “how much money have they raised?” It is my understanding that 85% of all American elections could be predicted if we knew which candidate had the most money.

According to today’s newspaper, Texas Democratic governor candidate Mark White just became more “viable” than Lupe Valdez because he raised more than twice as much money in their first reporting period.

It’s ironic that White now has $100,000 in campaign money, while the incumbent Republican he wants to run against has $40,000,000 and rising. So White may be more “viable” than Valdez by this standard, but he’s 400 times less “viable” than Governor Abbott!

Nevertheless, Democrats will work for the more “viable” candidate and their fund-raising ability will be an important determinant.

At the end of the campaign, the chosen candidates will either win or lose. The people and organizations that put their time and treasure into those campaigns will think they either have a “friend” or an “enemy” in the given political position, but that’s about all they will have. Those “friend” and “enemy” designations aren’t very concrete. Our “friends” often betray us because they weren’t sincere to begin with. Nearly all politicians are opportunists who look out for themselves first and always.

Next elections, the progressive activists will go through it all again. They will start more or less empty handed, and they will end up more or less the same way. The one concrete thing that they will gain is a sense of self-sanctification that allows them to gripe about everybody else right up to the next election: “Why didn’t those so-and-sos vote!”

A Better Approach to Elections

Progressives should develop the ability to see past candidates, political parties, and elections. They should examine their own goals and realize that what they really want is fundamental improvement in our society — a lot more improvement than was ever intended by Democrats or Republicans!

To get that kind of change, progressives need to build our own progressive organizations. There are a lot of progressive organizations worth building, but my personal favorite is the American labor movement.

Instead of pursuing candidates or parties during elections, we can and should be examining our organizations and looking for ways to strengthen them. One of the best explanations I’ve ever seen came from some West Coast labor people who developed a “labor neighbor” campaign.

“Labor neighbor,” in essence, is a process of locating and strengthening the individual activists within a progressive organization. A union might, for example, identify one of their members who really wants to work for change. They then provide information and support for that member. Instead of canvassing door-to-door where some candidate wants them, they would canvass in that particular member’s neighborhood. His or her electoral strength would improve for that election, but also beyond the election to the next election or to the next political opportunity.

Then they pick another good activist and help him/her the same way. Labor/neighbor!

I’ve been working on a similar approach within the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans. Our Dallas Chapter identified one member, Mary, who was willing to improve her political strength in her own precinct. We were able to get two big lists of her neighbors. We telephoned a bunch of them and invited them over to Mary’s for coffee and donuts.

Mary ended up with a lot of information that can help her in whatever political opportunities, including the current elections, present themselves. I thought it was a pretty good program and I’d like to see it extended.

But I realize that a lot of political-minded progressives aren’t going to prioritize this kind of work. They are going to chase after some candidate or some political party in 2018 just as they always have done. There are two different philosophies here: one believes that election work is an end unto itself; the other believes that building a progressive movement is the priority.

One is purely reformist, the other has revolutionary potential.

Elections Matter, But They Aren’t Everything

Some radical activists don’t believe in elections at all, but I’m not one of them. I believe that every arena of political struggle should be utilized to bring about desired progressive changes in society. In my “labor neighbor” model above, the designated activist who was strengthened in his electoral work is also strengthened in other matters.

He/she, for example, might be able to bring some neighbors to a march or a picket line that had nothing to do with electoral politics but had everything to do with building progressive people’s power. As he/she applies their newfound ability and strength, they will develop more of each. The progressive movement will consequently grow toward being able to make some real improvement.

It’s not just a game.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON.org radio 89.3FM every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you want to know what I really think, try http://lilleskole.us

 

 

The New York Times published a long liberal’s lament on the situation in France:

SundayReview | OP-ED COLUMNIST

France in the End of Days

Marine Le Pen’s road to victory is clear enough.
Can a pragmatist stop the extreme right?

On the day after the election, small groups of demonstrators hit the streets in a number of American cities. I just got a request that I join a call for a general strike — a national work stoppage — on Inaugural Day. I call this kind of non-thinking acting-out “knee jerk activism.” It’s more traditionally called “ultra-leftism” and has been correctly labeled, “the infantile disorder.”

strike1877

We had a tremendous general strike in 1877

Union activists are used to hearing people call “strike!” when they have no idea whether or not the tactic would work. A lot of them don’t care. If a union called a strike every time some hothead wanted one, we’d get a lot of people fired for nothing. When my union ran a successful 15-month “work to rule” contract fight, there were people calling “strike” instead of doing the hard work of a long struggle. The three of them that I knew personally were all promoted to foreman immediately after the union won. They were company stooges, as it turned out. The company knew that the union might win the long battle, but we would almost certainly have lost a strike.

If you’re reading along in Facebook, you’ve seen lots of responses to the Trump election victory, and nearly all of them are way less than helpful. Some are silly, and some are outright dangerous!

First, Figure Out What Happened

Nearly all the pollsters were wrong about the election results. The best single explanation I’ve seen was in a “letter to editor” in today’s Dallas newspaper. A guy named, I think, Roland Young wrote that when the pollsters called, “We lied!” Some of Trump’s voters may have been too ashamed to confess.

But the best explanation of the pollsters’ failure is that their approaches are based on previous history, and the 2016 presidential race was, to state it modestly, unique.

Are Americans Mostly Chauvinists?

Elections are the best evidence we have of the national character. If the Electoral College puts Donald Trump in office, does that mean we’re mostly chauvinists like him? Actually, more than half the electorate voted against him, and only 56% of all eligible voters went to the polls at all. The ones that went voted for marijuana and higher minimum wages by much better margins than they voted for Trump.

Everyone who voted for Trump did not do so because they wanted to express their chauvinism. They surely didn’t vote for him because they think his far-flung ideas are actually going to solve America’s problems.

What They Wanted Was Change

I think it is fair to say that they voted for change. We see this in the unions all the time. Members who haven’t taken the time to investigate the candidates in union elections will nevertheless vote to “throw the bums out” against whoever is in office. Next election, you can’t find anyone who admits they voted for the incumbents and it’s “throw the bums out” again. After a lifetime in the public eye, and because of the outright duplicity of the national Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton was a perfect target for that kind of sentiment.

People voted for Trump over Clinton for the same reason that they had voted, in 2008, for Obama over Clinton. Change.

People voted for Donald Trump because they are dissatisfied with life in America and they don’t know what else to do about it.

I don’t exactly blame them. I’m dissatisfied too, but I know what to do about it.

Educate and Organize the Working People

Media pundits are blaming “white blue-collar workers” for electing Donald Trump. His voters were probably Anglos all right, but they didn’t represent the working class. The working class is the solution, not the problem. The progressive leadership of the AFL-CIO is head and shoulders above any Democratic or Republican Party politician. For now, it’s better to follow them than Bernie Sanders, too.

If we’re willing to do the long hard work of educating and organizing America’s workers, we could win elections. We could win strikes, even general strikes!

But it will take some work.

–Gene Lantz

Click here if you want to know what I really think!