Category Archives: Future Hope

FERC: From Rubber Stamp to Climate Action Leader?

(This is testimony that I presented publicly to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioners last Friday at an all-day FERC workshop to move toward setting up an Office of Public Participation, 43 years after it was authorized by Congress. I testified on behalf of Beyond Extreme Energy, which has been taking nonviolent direct action at their headquarters in DC and putting as much pressure as possible on them since 2014.)

I have been interacting with and experiencing FERC for the last decade. As the gas industry has expanded nationally I have been involved with numerous efforts to prevent the imposition of pipelines, compressor stations and export terminals. I’ve done so in the county, Essex County, NJ, where I live, in other parts of NJ, in the Md/DC/Va. area when I was the National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and nationally through CCAN and the organization Beyond Extreme Energy.

A constant among all of these experiences is that FERC has operated as a willing partner with the gas and pipeline industries, making sure that in virtually every single case they get their permits to expand their operations. It doesn’t matter if the number of comments opposing a project is 99-1 opposed; they’ll get their permit, their Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. That’s why FERC is widely seen by those who experience it as a rubber stamp agency. According to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in a release put out in April of last year, “FERC has a pattern of rubber-stamping these certificates.  According to data submitted to the Subcommittee, in the past 20 years, FERC has granted 1,021 certificates, while rejecting only 6, a greater than 99% approval rate.”

The main responsibility of a new Office of Public Participation must be to end this rubber-stamping process, create a level playing field in which the opinions of local landowners, communities and towns on proposed projects are taken seriously. For this to happen, several things are necessary.

First, an OPP must be adequately staffed, both numerically and with people who have expertise and experience in democratic community organizing and governance. With all due respect to those who must work within a necessarily bureaucratic structure, there is a difference between democratic and participatory ways of work and bureaucratic ways.

Second, environmental justice concerns must be central to the functioning of an OPP. This means there must be people of color and people from low-income backgrounds part of the staff, and these issues must be prioritized. Indeed, for FERC as a whole, we would urge that an Environmental Justice Impact Statement for proposed new energy infrastructure, as well as an Office of Indigenous Relations, become part of the functioning of a new and reformed FERC. We need a 21st century federal energy regulatory agency, not one mired in 20th century thinking and practices.

The Office of Public Participation cannot be an operation separated out from the rest of the way FERC operates. The concept of “public participation,” of genuine community involvement, of taking seriously the concerns of local people affected by proposed projects and policies, must permeate all of FERC. This means that current FERC leadership must take on the issue of fossil fuel industry influence over and corruption of the way FERC operates. All of the many ways that this happens, from the revolving door between FERC employment and industry employment, to the hiring of contractors with deep industry ties, to hiring industry-connected individuals to lead FERC departments, and more, all of these must be identified and changed. FERC’s culture must change from one of industry participation and influence to one of genuine popular participation and influence.

And if that can’t happen, if it is just too deeply rooted, FERC needs to be replaced with a new federal energy regulatory agency that can do so.

Ted Glick is a volunteer organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy and author of Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War, published last year. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://jtglick.com.

A Winning Climate and Political Agenda

I don’t have any regrets about the work, and the 32-day hunger strike, that I did last fall to get Joe Biden elected. I knew what we would be getting: first and most important, an end to Trump in the White House and second, someone replacing him who wasn’t a climate denier.

I support the Green New Deal idea, embodied in Congress in the Thrive Agenda, introduced in February by Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. That agenda is much stronger than what President Biden put forward last week, much more realistic as far as what is needed to prevent worldwide societal breakdown via climate and environmental catastrophes. But, thinking big picture, it is a major improvement from the Trump years to have an opening-up, three-way, public debate between Republican climate denialism, centrist Democrat proposals not-to-the-scale of the need, and the progressive Green New Deal/Thrive Agenda.

It is absolutely essential that the much more realistic progressive approach continue to grow in popular understanding and support, this year, next year and as long as necessary. If the Biden proposal is the best that can be passed this year, then it should be supported and passed, but with a clear understanding that it is a beginning, not an end.

This three-way debate over government policy is not going away. One of the latest examples is an article, “What To Do About Natural Gas,” published in the April issue of Scientific American. It is authored by Michael E. Webber, a writer, educator and Chief Science and Technology Officer at ENGIE, a global energy and infrastructure company. From my research, ENGIE seems to be an all-of-the-above kind of energy company, though it’s selling some of its coal assets. Webber is definitely big on gas pipelines and infrastructure.

One of his sentences about hydrogen in the article is revealing: “Anticipation feels similar to what arose during the very early days of fracking shale: a huge resource is out there, if engineers can figure out how to harness it cheaply and safely.”

There’s not a word of substantive criticism of fracked gas in Webber’s article. Nothing about how people living near gas wells, compressors and pipelines have been poisoned. There is no mention of the fact that, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the overwhelmingly primary ingredient in gas, methane, is 86 times more impactful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 over a 20 year period.

Also unmentioned is the clear need to stop building out new gas and oil infrastructure, stop the decades-long, rubber-stamp approval of industry expansion permit applications.

Webber quickly dispatches renewables in his third paragraph because of transmission issues. Then he never looks back as he proposes various ways to keep the gas and pipeline industries in business for seemingly forever through various still-to-be-proven proposals. In his final paragraph he opines that “climate change requires many solutions. Declaring who cannot be part of those, such as natural gas companies, only raises resistance to progress.”

Reading this yesterday, I was reminded of how Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm spoke in an interview April 1 on PBS. Talking about fossil fuels, she never used any language to the effect that we need to reduce, much less get off, fossil fuel use. She kept saying that what we need to do is “clean up fossil fuel emissions.”

That approach is directly tied to support of the holy grail of industrial carbon capture and sequestration, something I have been following since I became a climate activist in 2003. So far, 18 years later, it has yet to be commercially viable but, clearly, the fossil fuel industry and their active or passive supporters in government have every intention of getting as much money as they can for this failure of an approach to solving the climate emergency.

I’m not opposed to some funding going into research into potential new ways to advance genuinely clean technologies and reduce emissions. But that is not the same thing as research to prop up 20th century industries in a 21st century that must move as rapidly as possible to truly clean, renewable energy as the dominant energy sources. Fortunately, with the technology improving, the prices of solar steadily dropping, and the growth of battery storage technologies, renewables dominance can happen this decade.

And with polls for many years consistently showing that 75-80% of all US Americans, including about half of Republicans, support wind and solar, this is a political winner.

Progressives, let’s keep our eyes on the prize.

Ted Glick is a volunteer organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy and author of Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War, published last year. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://jtglick.com.

On Aging and Clear Vision

The month of March has been a month when I’ve both felt my age (71) and experienced the possibilities for positive physical change despite the unstoppable process of growing older. How? Through eye cataracts, their removal, and the eye renovation that followed.

It was several years ago that my optometrist first told me I was in the beginning stages of cataracts. Since then, when getting my yearly check-ups, I was told that they were getting worse but very slowly. Then last year, all of a sudden that changed when, mid-year, I noticed that the vision in my left eye had definitely gotten worse. Eventually, this month, that led to my getting cataract operations on both eyes. The old lenses in my eyes were replaced with human-made prescription ones; I’m still recovering, putting drops in them throughout the day.

What has been amazing is that, for the first time since I was in second grade, I no longer need glasses or contacts to see things. I need reading glasses to read, but that’s it. It’s like a miracle! And apparently, much of the cost is going to be covered by Medicare (still not sure about that).

I’m still 71, and there are other health issues that I have related to the aging process, but overall, now that I have what feels like a new set of eyes, I look forward to an improved quality of day to day life, God willing.

I remember hearing decades ago about people with cataracts needing to spend days in bed as still as possible after cataract surgery. Today, with modern medical technology and the advance of human knowledge, it is completely different. And very importantly, that knowledge and technology, some of it, is available not just to the rich and powerful but to the masses. That is progress.

Of course, Improved Medicare for All will extend the reach of the best of health care to everyone, which is absolutely what is needed and what we should be fighting for. I’m very clear-eyed about that.

Ted Glick is a volunteer organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy and author of Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War, published last year. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://jtglick.com.

Senate Action an Historic Turning Point?

Despite all of the efforts over many weeks by the Trumpist Republicans to paint the just-passed American Rescue Plan Act as just more “liberal pet projects,” they’ve failed big time.  Polls over the last month have shown margins of 62, 73 and 76 percent of US Americans in support, including half or more Republicans.

This is for a piece of legislation that will cost $1.9 trillion, over twice as much as the stimulus package in 2009 to deal with the Great Recession. Politically, this is a very big deal.

Why has it maintained this level of support? Clearly, it’s because of the twin crises of the pandemic and the economy, but not just that. It’s also that people can see that this is truly in the best interests of the vast majority of the country on both accounts. And it helps a lot to see a unified Biden/Harris Administration successfully leading the fight against the pandemic, in a way the Trumpists failed spectacularly to do.

This morning on MSNBC one of the talking heads was talking about the passage of this legislation as, potentially, the beginning of a turn away from the last 40 years of Ronald Reagan-inspired policy to shrink-the-government (except for police and the military) and let-loose-the-capitalists. If that turns out to be true, what just happened is an even bigger deal, for sure.

What about the failure to include a $15 minimum wage? There’s no question but that this was a defeat for which 50 Republicans and eight Democratic Senators are responsible. 42 of them voted in favor of Bernie’s amendment to include it, but these eight Dems deserve to be targeted by progressives for maximum political pressure going forward.

There are some on the Left who believe the minimum wage defeat should lead to the Squad and Progressive Caucus members in the House voting against the bill when it comes up for a House vote tomorrow. This makes no sense to me. It’d be like resigning from an overall decent job your family really needs the income from because some co-workers put you down in a disrespectful way.

I liked Bernie’s role in this fight. He played a major role putting together a very progressive piece of badly needed legislation. When the $15 minimum wage had to be taken out to get the rest of the package over the finish line, he stood up and proposed an amendment to keep the issue alive and to make visible for all to see who it was on the Democratic side who needed to be held to account.

The independent progressive political forces that supported this legislation after helping to get Biden elected despite very real differences deserve more than a small bit of the credit for this legislative and political victory. Without us, it wouldn’t have happened. Let’s keep building a principled but tactically-smart, inside and outside, multi-racial people’s movement that turns this country around, maybe much more quickly than any of us thought possible just a couple of months ago.

Ted Glick is a volunteer organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy and author of Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War, published last year. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://jtglick.com.

The Purpose of Power: a book review

“To build the kind of movement that we need to get the things we deserve, we can’t be afraid to establish a base that is larger than the people we feel comfortable with. Movements and bases cannot be cliques of people who already know one another. We have to reach beyond the choir and take seriously the task of organizing the unorganized—the people who have everything at stake and are looking to be less isolated and more connected and who want to win changes in their lives and in the lives of the people they love.”  (p. 216-217)

Alicia Garza’s 2020 book, The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart, is a timely and valuable contribution to not just the Black Lives Matter movement, of which she was one of the initial founders with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, but for all who believe in and are working for a truly just world.

The book is very personal. The first half of it is primarily autobiographical. However, because she has been an activist and organizer and movement leader for about 20 years, it is full of insights and observations for anyone who is or who wants to be an effective social change agent. In the second half, “Notes on the Next Movement,” the specific focus is on how we can build a winning movement in the USA.

One thing I appreciated was her well-grounded understanding of what is necessary for fundamental social change to occur. One of them is “shifting people from spectators to strategists, from procrastinators to protagonists. Movement building and participation require ongoing engagement, and the levels of engagement must continually shift and increase.” (p. 144)

She is also clear that to win we need a multi-racial movement, at the same time that the organizing of a strong and powerful Black movement as a leading component of that alliance is absolutely essential. My experiences over the years as an activist and organizer bear this out. Whether it be the civil rights/Black freedom mass movement of the 50s and 60s, the Jesse Jackson/Rainbow movement of the 80s, the Obama Presidential campaign of 2008, or the tremendously broad, massive and multi-racial movement of millions last summer sparked by the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, there is no question but that when Black people as a people stand up strong, the whole country changes.

That is why people of European descent, as well as people of other nationalities, need to take seriously all forms of racism, including anti-Black racism. From my experience and study, within US society the darker your skin color, the greater the likelihood that you will experience more discrimination and injustice than those with a lighter complexion, with white people, of course, generally most guilty of that discrimination or oppression, especially but not only rich white men.

I don’t think this “colorism” is talked about as much as it should be on the Left and in the society. It’s a real thing.

Garza addresses what she calls the “racialized patriarchy,” and she is explicit that it’s an issue that all men, of whatever color, class or caste, need to take seriously.

She identifies political education as an essential component of the multi-racial movement necessary. She defines it as: “a tool for understanding the political contexts we live in. It helps individuals and groups analyze the social and economic trends, the policies and the ideologies influencing our lives—and use this information to develop strategies to change the rules and transform power.” (p. 220)

She takes on the issue of the need for public spokespeople who are able to get on national TV or in other major media forums and articulately and clearly explain the issues, demands and perspectives of the movement or organization they are representing. For some dedicated activists, this is more a problem than a good thing. There is understandable concern that mass media attention to individuals can have negative impacts, that US corporate culture is way too much into the cultivation of personal fame and power instead of highlighting the work of organizations and movements.

Garza puts it this way: “Movements that are afraid to enter the mainstream will have an increasingly hard time being relevant or accessible to the millions of people who are looking for them, and some movements are in denial about that. In many ways, we are more comfortable talking to one another and to people who already agree with us than we are with taking on every corner of society, the economy, and the government. We need to push past our comfort zones and get creative about how to use our platforms and profiles for politics and power rather than as pedestals.” (p. 267)

This is a valuable book at a critical time in US and world history.


Ted Glick is a volunteer organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy and author of Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War, published last year. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://jtglick.com.

A Big Victory at FERC

One of Joe Biden’s very first appointments on January 21st, one of his least publicized but definitely one of his most important when it comes to the future of the earth’s ecosystems and human societies, was the appointment of Richard Glick to be chair of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Why was that appointment so important?

It is essential that we as a species urgently transition away from polluting fossil fuels and nukes to clean, jobs-creating, renewable energy sources–wind, sun, tides and currents and the relative heat, in winter, and the relative coolness, in summer, of the earth. Those non-polluting energy sources can then not just generate electricity for the world’s homes and businesses but to power electric cars, trucks, buses, and electric heat pump powered heating and cooling systems.

Electrification of power sources, transportation vehicles and heating and cooling systems is absolutely essential to make a clean energy revolution in enough time to prevent escalating and massive, worldwide climate catastrophe.

Richard Glick was nominated to be a FERC commissioner in 2017. Before his nomination he had a decades-long history of work in government and business in support of renewable energy. I learned this from him in person when we met about a week after I had been arrested during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on FERC in the summer of that year. Glick, who is no relation, was at that time the general counsel for the Democrats on that committee. He was in the room up at the front with all the Senators when I stood up as part of an organized nonviolent action and loudly said something like, “FERC is a rubber-stamp agency for the fossil fuel industry and a threat to the future of life on earth.” I was quickly removed by Capitol Police and ending up spending two days and one night in DC Central Cellblock before being released.

A couple of days later us two Glicks received an email from a staffer for one of the Democratic Senators on the Senate ENR committee. She suggested that the two of us might benefit from meeting and talking; I agreed to do so and a week later Rich and I met in the same room where I had been arrested.

By the end of 2017 he had been nominated and approved as a FERC commissioner, and since then I have watched with some amazement as Glick did something no other FERC commissioner has ever done: speak truth to power over and over again from within the corridors of power, particularly about the urgency of the climate crisis. The Republican majority over those years continued what had been happening under both Democrats and Republicans for at least 20 years, rubber-stamping every methane gas industry permit application to expand that industry. They were also making decisions to disadvantage renewables. In those 20 years, according to a House Committee on Oversight and Reform report last summer, of the 1,021 gas industry permit applications to FERC over that time only six had been rejected.

Glick dissented from just about all of those renewable energy disadvantaging and gas industry expansion permits when they came before the commissioners for a vote. He always wrote clear and well-reasoned dissents, primarily arguing that FERC was not doing serious analyses of the climate impacts of those new pipelines, compressor stations and gas export terminals. There’s little doubt that his dissents helped to educate people, including federal judges, about the reality of rubber-stamping FERC. By the fall of 2020 he was saying publicly that it was understandable why so many people were describing FERC as a rubber-stamping agency.

Glick’s first commissioners meeting as chair was last week, on February 18th. Once again, he didn’t disappoint. In his opening presentation, he made clear that FERC must become an agency where renewable energy and battery storage would be given space to grow and expand; where FERC’s rubber-stamping ways would be a thing of the past; where environmental justice concerns would become, for the first time, FERC concerns; where, 43 years after being authorized by Congress, there would be a FERC Office of Public Participation; and where the rampant abuse of landowners and property owners via eminent domain for corporate gain would be reined in. And from statements made by the other four commissioners, it was clear that some of those positions were more than just his.

As of June of this year, when Republican commissioner Neil Chatterjee’s term is up, Biden will be able to appoint a third Democrat to team with Glick and commissioner Allison Clements, giving them a majority for the next four years to transform FERC. It really is a whole new FERC world.

There is no question that there will be all kinds of pressures brought to bear to weaken what a Glick-led majority will try to do, including lawsuits brought by deep pockets fossil fuel and pipeline companies. There’s also FERC’s internal culture, corrupted by many years of partnership with the fossil fuelers. And if, in 2024, Republicans take over the White House, whatever positive has transpired up until then will be threatened.

That is why Beyond Extreme Energy and 240 other organizations, as well as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, among other elected officials, are supporting the idea of replacing FERC with FREC, a Federal Renewable Energy Commission. FREC would have a Congressional mandate to be all about helping to lead the transition away from fossil fuels to renewables. Leadership would be required to have a background of support for renewables. Environmental justice and community participation in decision-making would be guiding principles. Eminent domain abuse for corporate gain would come to an end.

BXE has been talking with House and Senate offices about this idea for the last several months, and we’ve been pleased by the response. We anticipate that legislation will be introduced, hopefully this spring, for FERC Into FREC.

In the meantime, we will continue to keep watch on FERC, expecting to like a lot of what we see and hear but prepared to take action as necessary to stand up for communities and the planet, as the movement against fracking and new fracking infrastructure has been doing over the last decade. It is good to know that this time, when we do so, we have reason to expect that our arguments will be taken seriously, finally.

Ted Glick has been a volunteer organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy since its founding in 2014. He is the author of Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the War, published last year. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://jtglick.com.

How We Keep the Neo-Fascists and White Supremacists Down

The Senate impeachment trial didn’t get the 2/3rds needed for a conviction, unsurprisingly, but it has clearly hurt Donald Trump and his white supremacist followers. Trump and those who physically attacked the US Capitol have been exposed for the violent extremists that they are. Their supposed pro-police politics were forgotten as they fought with and hurt Capitol and DC Metro police standing in the way of Trump’s attempted coup. And the fact that seven Republican Senators voted to convict Mafioso Don makes clear that the internal battle within the Republican Party will deepen between the overtly anti-democracy white supremacists and those who are more traditional, right-wing conservatives.

There are some on the Left, the ultra-leftists, who lump together not just all Republicans but also centrist Democrats, see them all as enemies of the people. Indeed, when Trump was up for re-election last year, these ultra-leftists took the position that there was no difference between the Republicans and all Democrats, and anyone on the Left who gave critical support to Joe Biden was a traitor to the cause of progressivism.

This self-marginalization through ultra-leftism is definitely not the way to keep the neo-fascists and white supremacists down, much less build up the progressive Left’s political power and effectiveness.

But there’s another error that people on the Left can make that will ultimately have similar negative results. It is being uncritical of, unwilling to be independent from, Democratic Party politicians whose willingness to fight for the needs of working people and the least of these, the large majority of the population, is compromised by their hunt for big-money campaign contributions and desire to be in the good graces of the rich and powerful.

There is no way that this country can decisively move forward in a progressive direction and decrease support for Trumpist politics and policies, politically defeat the neo-fascists and white supremacists, unless these two fundamentally problematic approaches to doing politics are rejected.

Affirmatively, what the progressive Left must be about is actually very simple: a justice-oriented government of the people, by the people and for the people, and not of, by and for the corporate elite.

Very simple, yet very complex, given the domination of our political and economic systems by the obscenely rich corporate class and the results of that domination.

One result is politicians who overtly align with that class and strive for their approval and support; in many ways these are the easiest to oppose. But another result is politicians who wish things were different and who are willing to do some things to ameliorate people’s pain and suffering but who fear being truthful and acting on that truth because of lust for more personal wealth and power, concern about career advancement and/or just plain human weakness.

A progressive Left which gets it on the dangers of both ultra-leftism to the left and selloutism to the right will go about its work, determine its strategies and tactics, openly and clearly proclaiming that the ultimate goal is an end to corporate domination of our society and all that goes with it, like white supremacy, patriarchy and heterosexism. It will strive toward that objective consistently, but it will be willing to achieve victories along the way through, in part, tactical compromises with non- or sometimes-progressives.

What are examples? One is Obamacare, when what is needed is Improved Medicare for All or stronger universal, national health care. Another is Biden’s weaker climate plan if, after political struggle, we are not able get right now a strong Green New Deal. A third is forceful federal action to restructure local police forces to stop racism, police killings and brutality, when what is needed is a complete overhaul of our criminal justice system.

When the progressive Left as a whole is consistent about its objectives, flexible in its tactics to get there, principled in the way that it navigates the complexities of forward-moving social change, and a visible model of an inspiring cultural alternative to the competitive and individualistic dominant culture, helping more and more people find the strength and support to fight for justice and to grow and develop as better, more loving human beings in the process—then and only then can we change the world.


Ted Glick is the author of the recently-published “Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War.” More information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.

Obama’s “The Promised Land,” a book review

I’ve read Barack Obama’s two other books, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, so I knew his latest one, The Promised Land, would be well-written and interesting, and it was.

What I wondered about after receiving it as a gift from a loved one in my family was how honestly he would assess his administration’s failures.

There’s no question that, compared to the Trumpist hell that came after Obama’s eight years in the White House, the Obama/Biden administration was close to heavenly. But that isn’t the way a lot of progressives—climate activists, especially fracktivists, those fighting for immigrant rights, supporters of Medicare for All, economic justice advocates critical of Wall Street’s dominance of the economy, peace activists, others—felt during those eight years. For me personally, as a person who has prioritized the climate crisis since 2003, it was maddening to watch Obama consistently, uncritically and publicly support oil and gas fracking all throughout his eight years. To do so while doing some good things on climate and speaking about the climate issue as an existential crisis was very problematic and very hypocritical.

The Promised Land is very long, 701 pages, and it ends in the Spring of 2011, with most of those pages devoted to his first Presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008 and the first two-plus years of his Presidency between 2009-2011. There’s 78 pages at the beginning briefly reviewing his life up to the announcement of his Presidential campaign in February of 2007 in Springfield, Illinois.

As I got into reading Promised Land, I found myself looking for what he had to say about Joe Biden. He didn’t say very much, but when he did our current President comes across looking pretty good, from a progressive perspective. Biden and his “able chief of staff Ron Klain” are commended for their good work administering the 2009 economic Recovery Act’s “billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.” (p. 302) The two of them did “an excellent job, with Joe often devoting chunks of his day to picking up the phone and barking at state or local officials whose projects were behind schedule.” (P. 521)

Biden, “among the principals” discussing what to do about the Afghanistan war, was the only one who “voiced his misgivings. I knew Joe still felt burned by having supported the Iraq invasion years earlier.” (P. 318) He maintained this approach in several internal battles over what to do.

When it came to whether the US should intervene militarily to help overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, “Joe considered it foolish to get involved in yet another war abroad.” (P. 657)

This was all good to learn about.

How honest was Obama in assessing not just the accomplishments and the frustrations of his time in the White House but what many progressives saw as his weaknesses? Here, I found myself reminded of a review I did of The Audacity of Hope one month before the February, 2007 Springfield, Il. Presidential candidate announcement. After delineating the good and problematic things he wrote, here’s how I concluded it:

“Last week I happened to see an article which compared Hillary Clinton’s voting record in the U.S. Senate with Obama’s. I remember the numbers: 82.5 vs. 79.8. The numbers placed them on a most conservative (1) to most liberal (100) scale in relationship to others in the Senate. (Keep in mind that 55 members of the U.S. Senate last year were Republicans, and it’s not exactly a progressive institution.) As African American author and activist Kevin Gray has written, there should be no doubt about it: Obama is cut from similar cloth as Bill and Hillary. He’s a Democratic Leadership Council man. Progressives beware.”

Obama in Promised Land acknowledges and somewhat addresses the criticisms of progressives on a range of issues, so that is a good thing. When he reflects on his handling of the 2008 Great Recession, for example, he “wonders whether I should have been bolder in those early months” taking on the Wall Streeters and financial speculators responsible for it. But after reflecting on it for a couple of paragraphs he reports that if given a do-over, “I can’t say that I would make different choices.” (pps. 304-305)

He writes more about this issue later in the book. He lays out the differences between the corporate-friendly “moderates” in the Democratic Party and “many on the left” who believed that his administration’s weak approach toward those responsible for the economic crisis “would merely put off a long-overdue reckoning with a system that failed to serve the interests of ordinary Americans.” (p. 547) Obama indicates that he agrees with that view of the reality of the “system” but goes on to rationalize and defend his incrementalist approach.

There is one huge topic that comes up nowhere in the book: the responsibility of a President who understands the systemic problems we are facing to speak truth to power and to mobilize the 99% to take on the 1%. Indeed, Obama was criticized at the time by many on the left for making very little effort, if any, to use the very big email list he compiled during his campaign, or even to use the bully pulpit of the Presidency, to mobilize support for strong policy proposals. His was not a movement-building Presidency, not at all. Indeed, after he was elected, many progressives took their cues from Obama, wishing him well and demobilizing as he and his chosen team tried to do the right things within the confines of the unjust system and the halls of power in Washington.

Clearly, Obama’s former Vice-President just cannot do the same thing. The progressive movement cannot allow him to do the same thing. We need to do what FDR is said to have told civil rights leaders after a meeting at the White House in 1941: “make me do it,” in reference to their demands.

There are signs, based upon what has happened in the two weeks since Joe and Jill Biden moved into the White House, that President Biden has his ear at least somewhat to the ground when it comes to what he is prepared to fight for. Let’s take hope from that but understand that continued movement-building and grassroots organizing and the coming together of our movements into a powerful progressive force continues to be, under Biden as under Trump, an essential component if we are to bring about the urgently-needed change this world and its ecosystems and peoples so desperately need.

Ted Glick is the author of the recently-published “Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War.” More information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.

It’s a New World?

I’m having very mixed feelings today. I have to admit that as relieved as I am that Biden/Harris are now running the country, as emotional as I couldn’t help but be watching, first, disgraced Trump leaving town and then the Presidential inauguration ceremony yesterday, I’m not getting my hopes up too high. My politics are Bernie Sanders-type politics, which at its core is a sharp critique of the massive and growing wealth inequality, the dominance of the obscenely-ultra-rich, in the US and the world, which is THE reason for so much of the suffering and unnecessary struggling of so many people, literally in the billions worldwide.

My politics are also those of the Christian church of the first century AD, as written in the book of Acts 2:44-45:  “All who believed were together and had all things in common, they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This was repeated in Acts 4:32: “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they held in common.”

Those are radical words, fighting words if you’re a greedy capitalist who is determined to prevent any sharing of your wealth with the homeless, the poor, the least of these, working-class people.

These early Christian politics are not Joe Biden’s politics, for sure, but on the other hand, Joe Biden appears to be a person who takes his Christian religion very seriously, so maybe there’s something inside him that can be appealed to going forward over these next four years. And I mean that seriously.

Part of my mixed feelings today come from the new political world in which we now find ourselves. One aspect of that is a number of signs that it’s not just Trump’s time in the White House that has come to an end. It could well be that his disturbing hold on the hearts and minds of so many US Americans is rapidly eroding.

A very big example can be found in an article in today’s New York Times, “They Called Trump ‘Emperor.’ Now, He’s ‘Weak.’” The article reports on comments being made on a private internet channel by members of the Proud Boys, probably the most influential of the white supremacist militias who supported Trump. Here’s some of the quotes: “Trump will go down as a total failure”; “At least the incoming administration [Biden/Harris] is honest about their intentions”; “It really is important for us all to see how much Trump betrayed his supporters this week. We are nationalists 1st and always. Trump was just a man and as it turns out an extraordinarily weak one at the end.”

What about Biden reaching out to Republicans? In general that is understandable, but if achieving bipartisanship is more of a priority than taking action quickly to address the multiple crises of the pandemic, the economy, the climate and racial justice, that is a major problem. So far, through his Executive Actions, Biden seems to have his priorities straight.

It was so much simpler under Trump. We knew he was the enemy who had to be resisted in just about every single case, and he was such a terrible human being. Biden is a decent human being, and he is not the enemy. Biden is definitely an ally in many cases, but he is not going to be so across the board, particularly as far as militarism and the US empire with its 700 or so military bases around the world.

So is it a new world? Certainly not yet as far as on the ground realities. But it seems realistically possible that these four years could be the first part of the world-changing decade that it needs to be, that it absolutely must be for the health and survival of the planet and all of its creatures.

I believe if the Trump resistance stays in the game, doesn’t relax and “leave it to Joe and Kamala,” January 20th, 2021 will be the beginning of a new political world, a politics of justice and democracy and respect for the earth that keeps building and building until we truly have created, in full, a new world.

Ted Glick is the author of the recently-published “Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War.” More information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick

Revolution Around the Corner: a book review

From 1974 into the 1980’s I worked actively with the US Branch of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP) in support of the cause of independence for Puerto Rico. I have maintained connections to this should-be country ever since, primarily through a close friendship with a leading community activist in Vieques, a small island off the southeast coast of the main island.

Revolution Around the Corner is a special book. If you don’t know much about Puerto Rico and its relationship to the USA, there’s a lot to learn within this book. If you were active with the PSP back then this is definitely a book you should read. It’s the same if you are a progressive North American and understand that PR is a colony suffering for over 120 years under United States domination and that you have a responsibility to help free it.

But there’s another reason why this is such a valuable book. It’s one of the best books I’ve read that gives a sense of what it’s like to be part of a Left organization that has big successes for a number of years but then loses steam, members, energy and its sense of direction and ultimately disappears as an organization. Revolution Around the Corner includes the personal stories of people who were deeply affected by all of that and who, decades later, share their thinking about what went wrong.

That overall story is very relevant to all of us on the Left. It is particularly important for young people new to the movement to learn from and appreciate so that they will be able to minimize, if not prevent, destructive internal organizational/personal dynamics going forward.

For example, here’s what Alfredo Lopez, one of the US branch’s top leaders for years, said about his role: “Several of our leaders [including me] suffered from the same baseless arrogance, and this style managed to glue together coalitions that had no business existing. While I was in the party’s leadership, I told myself that these means were justified by the end. Since that time, I have come to realize that when the means are sullied by undemocratic practice, the end is never a desirable one. The demise of the PSP in this country is as much my responsibility as anyone’s.” [This assessment is based on the testimony of Carmen Vivian Rivera, a PSP leader and co-editor of the book.]

Andres Torres writes of the PSP’s serious problems with sexism: “From the party’s beginnings the role of its women members was fraught with stereotype and tradition. Leadership was heavily male dominated. The companeras were typically assigned to supportive work areas—taking minutes at meetings, providing nourishment, and so forth. They were not expected to be spokespersons or ideological leaders. The sources of this discrepancy are found in the very structure of all societies; national liberation movements are not immune to the workings of patriarchy.”

Despite these weaknesses, which ultimately led to the PSP’s downfall, the book reports on the many successes of the PSP in the 1970’s: building a mass-based and activist, socialist and independista organization in the Puerto Rican community throughout the United States; filling Madison Square Garden with 20,000 members and supporters in the fall of 1974; leading a broad July 4th Coalition in 1976 which brought out 40,000 people on that day in Philadelphia and 10,000 more on the west coast; and giving leadership to a Coalition for a People’s Alternative in 1980 which organized a Peoples Convention of thousands on Charlotte Street in the South Bronx and a march of 15,000 people to the Democratic National Convention in Madison Square Garden.

The book is a collection of 15 histories and testimonies by a variety of authors. It was put together and edited by Jose E. Velazquez, Carmen V. Rivera and Andres Torres, all PSP leaders in the 70’s. It is well done, an excellent read, lots of interesting stories, good writers, and comprehensive information from different perspectives. Revolution Around the Corner can help us turn the corner as we build towards a 21st century revolution which learns from past weaknesses and errors, a necessity if it’s going to happen. Si, se puede!

Ted Glick is the author of the recently-published “Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War.” More information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick