Friday, December 16, 2011

Why Young Activists Won't Rally to the Obama Campaign

Although I agree that the country is on the whole quite conservative, I think Occupy Wall Street is a "game changer" which over time will create an activist left in this nation of a kind we have not seen since the 60's and possibly since the 30's. If I am right about this- and my assessment comes from in depth work with four different groups of young activists since the late summer, one of them connected to the Save Our Schools March, the other three to the Occupy movements, I am convinced that there is no chance at all mobilizing these young people for Obama's re-election. I also think that the Occupy movement is more important to the long term cause of social justice than the Obama Presidency. My message to young activists is therefore to keep building grass roots movements and stay independent of electoral politics except in those rare instance when involvement won't compromise important goals ( e.g. the referendum to remove Scott Walker in Wisconsin; Elizabeth Warren's Senatorial campaign). As for the Obama campaign, leave that to allies in the labor movement who feel their bread and butter interests are advanced by a Democrat in the White House.

That message is one that has great resonance with my young comrades and co-workers. They see Obama as a President who supports those who would gas them, detain them, and, in the case of the young teachers, destroy the opportunity for them to have any creativity and self-respect in their jobs

All I ask is that Obama supporters, especially those in positions of authority, whether in universities or in government, don't try to suppress grass roots activism that remains independent of their campaign.

But that may be a tall order

1 comment:

Alan Stange said...

You offer a thought I had not considered. As a social democrat I've easily looked to representative democracy as the most effective agent of change. I've been overlooking nongovernmental organization as a stronger change agent. Pools and cooperatives were grass root movements in the first half of the twentieth century. They developed in a conservative political climate. We cannot afford to ignore established political parties but we should not expect radical change from them either. I hope the occupy movement is part of the grand narrative of social justice that reaches back at least to the French Revolution. I hope it helps to nurish young idealism.