Citizen Action Monitor

“When you organize, when you push, when you create a viable political constituency, you can be heard”

“This [Obama’s victory and Democratic Senate majority] was extraordinary, I will say, up-from-the-bottom set of victories, longshot challenges”

No 607 Posted by fw, November 9, 2012

“This was strong organizing, with legal challenges, with people refusing to give up the ghost, with organizations like Color of Change targeting the corporate sponsors of conservative groups like ALEC. I mean, people used every tool at their disposal. And again, it comes down to electoral strategy paying off by movements to support a Democratic majority. We now need that Democratic majority to take the leadership from those movement groups and set some priorities that will [affect] change…” —Laura Flanders

Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, and Laura Flanders, host of GritTV pay tribute to countless “up-from-the-bottom” popular movements that contributed to the rejection of Romney and his GOP values favoring the 1%. Below is an abridged transcript from their appearance on Democracy Now, focusing exclusively on their homage to the people who organized and cleared a path to a Democratic victory. To access an external video of the interview and the complete transcript, click on the linked title.

As an aside, Canadian activists hoping to defeat Stephen Harper in 2015 – take note — there are lessons to be learned from the 2012 presidential election on organizing and movement building. What won’t turn the tide is a continuing over-reliance on awareness raising, petitions, write-in campaigns, letters to the editor, speechifying, panels, and personal insults hurled at Harper and company. But where are those with the wisdom, expertise and charisma to lead us to an election victory?

Election 2012: Ben Jealous, Laura Flanders on Obama’s 2nd Term & the Future of Progressive Politics, Democracy Now, November 7, 2012

ABRIDGED TRANSCRIPT

Benjamin Jealous

BENJAMIN JEALOUS — You know, this is, I think, a great day for our democracy. We saw the vote attacked with more ferocity this year than we have seen in a very long time. More states passed more laws, pushing more voters out of the ballot box in the past year than we’ve seen in a year in the past century. And so, people really triumphed, because they took their vote seriously. And they took it seriously when it counted, months ago, when we had to push governors to veto these bills, when we had to push DOJ [Department of Justice] to actually go in and invalidate laws, when we had to file lawsuits and get the job done. But then they stayed engaged, and they turned out their communities. We overcame all sorts of myths, people saying that the black vote, for instance, would lack enthusiasm or it really didn’t matter. Well, it mattered in Virginia. It mattered in Florida. It mattered in Ohio. It mattered in Pennsylvania. Folk—and it mattered across this country. People did great work. You know, we saw brown voters come out like never before, and we saw movements really win incredible victories. I mean, the fact that, you know, all this happened, and he’s pro-marriage-equality, and then we defend marriage equality in four out of four states last night, is huge.

Laura Flanders

LAURA FLANDERS — This was an extraordinary, I will say, up-from-the-bottom set of victories, longshot challenges. Four years ago, we were talking about a longshot candidate for presidency. This year, we were talking about longshot movement victories, like the sort that Ben is talking about, movement victories fighting back an unprecedented assault on voting rights, movement victories fighting back an extraordinary tsunami of money, and people voting against the odds on a wing and a prayer, a prayer that this vote would make a difference. We saw them go out into the wet, cold, rainy night in New York City and around this region, Sandy—Hurricane Sandy survivors leaving their cold, dark homes and going out into the cold, dark streets to cast a ballot.

What happens now is that we hold those hopes and dreams precious, and force our politicians to live up to the extraordinary courage and organizing bravery and smarts that people showed last night.

When you organize, when you push, when you create a viable political constituency, you can be heard in this country.

Let’s be clear, the history of America is a history of having to fight really, really hard for standing and the rights promised under the—under the promise of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, fights that have been waged by movements, from the labor movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement.

I mean, one of the things we saw yesterday that I’d love you to talk about more, Ben, that you talked about last night, was about the extraordinary organizing that the NAACP was part of, with LGBT groups, with unions, with women’s organizations, with Latino and immigrant rights groups, who fought against—again, we’ve talked about these tremendous odds, but it’s not just magic that this happened. This was strong organizing, with legal challenges, with people refusing to give up the ghost, with organizations like Color of Change targeting the corporate sponsors of conservative groups like ALEC. I mean, people used every tool at their disposal. And again, it comes down to electoral strategy paying off by movements to support a Democratic majority. We now need that Democratic majority to take the leadership from those movement groups and set some priorities that will change economic—and I think also—

Two things on Elizabeth Warren. The irony, of course, is that she came to prominence fighting big money and big power of big banks, and is now going to come to the Senate as the Senate candidate who raised more money than any other in American history. So let’s hope that she doesn’t feel beholden to her big donors. I don’t think—I hope she won’t.

On the question of Tammy Baldwin and the [LGBT] politics that we’re talking about, we’ve often heard in American political punditry that one must, you know, suppress identity politics organizing in favor of, you know, good-class, mainstream politics. If we hadn’t built movements to defend against bigotry against women, against people of color, against LGBT people, if we didn’t have powerful identity politics movements in this country, we would have seen Tammy Baldwin have no chance of defeating Tommy Thompson. The fact that she won shows that these two issues—these movements have always got to walk in—work in lockstep. And that’s what happened in Wisconsin. And it’s a huge lesson I hope we’ll learn.

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