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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sam Webb: the shutdown and the fallout

The shutdown and the fallout

1. "Cave In" would fit if Democrats had power to leverage to begin with. But that wasn't the case. The other party controls government in toto at least until November. On the positive side, CHIP is now funded, the Democrats and the rest of us can fight another day, and a rift among Senate Republicans might give Democrats some room to maneuve

2. Not persuaded at all that an extended shutdown of the government would play out in the favor of the Dreamers, the Democrats, or the larger movement. In fact, a prolonged closure could easily dissipate public support for the Dreamers and our side generally. In effect, we could end up losing ground in the immediate battle as well as the larger war in November. Sometimes tactical retreats are necessary, and I believe that is the case here.

3. Leveraging a government shutdown to secure political demands, no matter how just and righteous they are, is difficult in any conditions, but that is especially so when optics — if not reality — suggest that Democrats initiated the closure and when the other side not only holds a tight grip on the main branches of government, but is determined to give the Democrats and democratic movement no legislative achievements to tout in the fall elections unless the weight of public opinion gives them no other alternative. And it may well be the case with regard to the Dreamers now that the legislative fight is disconnected from a shutdown government.

4. From the shutdown debate, it is clear that the strategy of Trump and the right wing extremists is to cast, with a cascade of lies, demagogy, and disinformation, the Democrats as the "party of porous borders and Illegal immigration." In their cynical calculus, they believe that such fear mongering will play well in those states and congressional districts that they figure they must retain this fall when voters go to the polls.

Their tactic that rests on the murky, but time tested ground of racism and nativism should be resisted by Democrats and the rest of the resistance movement. But not by giving up even an inch in their defense of immigrants in general and Dreamers in particular; in fact, they should embrace with new vigor these civil rights issues of the 21st century.

At the same time, they shouldn't allow themselves to boxed in by the Trump/Republican sound bite-tweet machine, as the elections draw close. Indeed, they should speak — and I'm sure they will — to the whole range of issues that are weighing heavily on the entire electorate, while articulating an overarching narrative or story of a country that is generous of spirit, welcoming, inclusive, and rises when all rise, beginning with people who dally encounter discrimination, oppression, and violence.

5. And not least, nearly 100 years ago, someone named Lenin wrote:"In Russia, however, lengthy, painful and sanguinary experience has taught us the truth that revolutionary tactics cannot be built on a revolutionary mood alone. Tactics must be based on a sober and strictly objective appraisal of all the class forces in a particular state (and of the states that surround it, and of all states the world over) as well as of the experience of revolutionary movements. It is very easy to show one's "revolutionary" temper merely by hurling abuse at parliamentary opportunism, or merely by repudiating participation in parliaments; its very ease, however, cannot turn this into a solution of a difficult, a very difficult, problem."

Not sure we have fully metabolized his advice.



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John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

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