Election Madness

by on February 14, 2008 · 1 comment

in Election

By Howard Zinn, The Progressive – March 2008 Issue

There’s a man in Florida who has been writing to me for years (ten pages, handwritten) though I’ve never met him. He tells me the kinds of jobs he has held-security guard, repairman, etc. He has worked all kinds of shifts, night and day, to barely keep his family going. His letters to me have always been angry, railing against our capitalist system for its failure to assure “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness” for working people.

Just today, a letter came. To my relief it was not handwritten because he is now using e-mail: “Well, I’m writing to you today because there is a wretched situation in this country that I cannot abide and must say something about. I am so enraged about this mortgage crisis. That the majority of Americans must live their lives in perpetual debt, and so many are sinking beneath the load, has me so steamed. Damn, that makes me so mad, I can’t tell you. . . . I did a security guard job today that involved watching over a house that had been foreclosed on and was up for auction. They held an open house, and I was there to watch over the place during this event. There were three of the guards doing the same thing in three other homes in this same community. I was sitting there during the quiet moments and wondering about who those people were who had been evicted and where they were now.”

On the same day I received this letter, there was a front-page story in the Boston Globe, with the headline “Thousands in Mass. Foreclosed on in ’07.”

The subhead was “7,563 homes were seized, nearly 3 times the ’06 rate.”

A few nights before, CBS television reported that 750,000 people with disabilities have been waiting for years for their Social Security benefits because the system is underfunded and there are not enough personnel to handle all the requests, even desperate ones.

Stories like these may be reported in the media, but they are gone in a flash. What’s not gone, what occupies the press day after day, impossible to ignore, is the election frenzy.

[For the rest of this article, go here.]

Howard Zinn is the author of “A People’s History of the United States,” “Voices of a People’s History” (with Anthony Arnove), and most recently, “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Monty Reed Kroopkin March 2, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Howard Zinn makes some good points in his article “Election Madness”. None of it is particularly “news” to anybody familiar with some history of social movements, but we always have new people coming along who need to learn it.

As is typical every four years here, we have read a lot lately of people on the Left trying to persuade us to adopt one perspective or another on the USA presidential elections. Although we will continue to talk about this, and should, is it really important enough to devote much sds/mds energy to it?

Progressives worldwide are historically divided regarding whether or not to participate at all in such elections, and if participating, whether to support a minor party candidate (and if so whether it is for protest, or for long term party building or as a method of applying pressure on the major parties) or to support a major party candidate (which, in the US since FDR, has meant a Democrat) and hope/work for influence/inclusion in a Democratic administration. Although we may have very broad agreement on, say, the need to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we don’t seem at all likely to agree on “the best” way to advance any of our consensus agenda items.

Instead of endlessly trying to convince each other of “the best” way to go forward, would it be a more productive conversation if we asked how (and to what extent) can we coordinate and combine efforts on all these diverse tactical fronts? Sure, it is hard to see how people working to elect a Democrat, for example, could coordinate and collaborate with people working to elect a Green. That is, unless we see the objective as something beyond which candidate gets elected. If we are all trying to advance a progressive agenda, we could think in terms of supporting each others work to advance that agenda, regardless of the candidate or the electoral or the non-electoral (direct action, strikes, boycotts, etc.) tactics employed.

It is this kind of conversation that we need.

Five years ago, on the eve of the unprovoked US Invasion of Iraq, we saw a protest demonstration take place on the same day, on every continent, even Antarctica. The communications technology which makes it possible to organize such a global demonstration without years of planning is a new thing in history. Our ability to work together on a very large global scale, on every issue, is greater than it has ever been. The challenge now is for us to think in new terms about how we can all move in the same direction.

It is this kind of movement that we need.


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