Future Hope column, March 7, 2008
By Ted Glick
What is the role of a popular movement when, on the one hand, it represents the aspirations and beliefs of a majority of the people in a country but, at the same time, it is operating within the confines of a political system which makes it extremely difficult to elect its champions to office in enough numbers to make the changes needed and desired?
This is, of course, our reality. Solid majorities want the war to end and U.S. troops to be brought home, major changes to our health care system, strong action on global warming, economic policies that benefit working-class people, and more. But between Republican hard-lineism and Democratic spinelessness, the iron fist and the velvet glove, both toeing the pro-corporate line, we continue to be frustrated.
I spent literally 30 years, from 1975 to 2005, personally prioritizing the building of a third party alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. I’ve come to believe, however, that although I continue to support and work for that objective, we need to prioritize more creative and urgent tactics if we’re to stand a chance of seriously changing this country. We need actions that will inspire the kind of independent, grassroots political uprising that the country and the world desperately need.
That’s why, over the last year and a half, I’ve been arrested four times at nonviolent civil disobedience climate actions. That’s why I climbed up onto and sat for four hours on a foot and a half wide ledge 25 feet up in the air just before the 2006
national elections. That’s why I fasted for 107 days last fall. And that’s why I am really psyched to see the positive energy that is building for the 5 Years Too Many anti-war actions in Washington, D.C. on March 19th (www.5yearstoomany.org).
March 19th in D.C., in combination with the powerful Winter Soldier hearings by Iraq Vets Against the War just before it and the hundreds of local actions around the country at the same time, has the potential to inject a badly-needed, genuine
peace, justice and clean energy agenda into the national political debate.
What is happening with the month-after-month-after-month, mind-numbing Presidential political game? On one side is “100 Years of War” John McCain. On the other is Hillary Clinton, using fear-mongering campaign tactics right out of the Republican playbook, and Barack Obama, under pressure to bow to this pressure and respond in kind. There is little basic difference, in any case, between Clinton and Obama as far as their policy on Iraq, their non-support for single-payer, and half-measures or inconsistent positions, at best, on most other issues. Obama supports non-existent “clean coal” and nukes, for example, as does Clinton, while both also advocate for $150 billion
over 10 years for “green jobs” and a transition to a green economy.
There is no question but that whoever gets the Democratic nomination, if they win the Presidency, massive pressure will have to be brought to get at least some of the kinds of changes we need.
And forget it if you think there’s going to be significant media coverage of either independent Ralph Nader or likely Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney.
What we’re up against is much more than a “military-industrial complex,” as President Dwight D. Eisenhower called it almost 50 years ago. What we’re up against is a military/industrial/corporate/electoral/national
security/prison/media complex. There are lots of good people within it, it’s not monolithic, and the economic crisis we’re entering will expose its real character even more, but it is a definite and dominant fact of life in this first decade of
the 21st century.
If there was ever a time when we needed a movement that organizes creative, nonviolent, intelligently disruptive, we-won’t-take-it-anymore actions, this is it. What we need is an updated version of the African American freedom movement of the 60’s, the one spearheaded by the risk-taking and base-building actions of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a 00’s movement adjusted to the interconnected multi-issueness of the present day.
The March 19th day of action in D.C. could well be a critical building block in the unfolding of this movement. The mix of actions being planned, and the positive coordination among them, is wonderful to be part of. There is a palpable sense of
an action that is continuing to build. People are coming, as of now, from 40 states around the country. There will be thousands of people taking part in this action on this Wednesday work day, and business-as-usual in the corporate downtown of the Seat of Government will without question be disrupted, creatively, nonviolently and with positive energy.
There’s still time to make plans to attend. Let’s announce to the country and the world that the movement for positive social change is alive, well and stepping it up here in the belly of the beast.
For more information on the March 19th D.C. actions, as well as the Winter Soldier hearings and local actions around the country, go to http://www.5yearstoomany.org.
Ted Glick is active with several climate groups and is a leader of No War, No Warming (www.nowarnowarming.org), which is organizing an action at the American Petroleum Institute on the morning of March 19th. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.