America Must Find The Lighthouse in 2022
Now isn’t the time to lose and point fingers. Now is the time to organize and take power.
Joint Composition | Charles Ellison & G.S. Potter, PhD
Just 21 percent of Americans, overall, are satisfied with the direction of the country, according to Gallup trends; economic confidence is at -33 index and poor government leadership is ranked at the top of "Most Important Problems." A full quarter of Americans are either adamant about not taking the COVID vaccine (14 percent), or applying a "wait and see" approach before they do (6 percent) or waiting until they're forced to (3 percent).
Worse, reports the Washington Post …
The percentage of Americans who say violent action against the government is justified at times stands at 34 percent, which is considerably higher than in past polls by The Post or other major news organizations dating back more than two decades. Again, the view is partisan: The new survey finds 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 23 percent of Democrats saying violence is sometimes justified.
Meanwhile, 2021 ended up being the second-busiest year for gun sales: nearly 20 million guns were purchased last year.
New Year expectations are typically full of celebration, promise, and dashes of optimism. Yet, Americans now head into a grim observance week as the first year anniversary of the most destructive attack on the U.S. Capitol since 1814 arrives on January 6th. While remembering that day is essential in a needed bid for prosecution and accountability, lurching into a full, fresh new year while in a state of deep collective national depression and cynicism is not only unhealthy, it's destructive. American attitudes are now an incessant doom scroll towards another step off the cliff. There's a spit of hypocrisy in that mood, too: the public often wants to gripe about lost leadership, societal decline and the sorry state of things, about how shit is going to shit - but, the collective national public doesn't seem inclined to put in the community-wide “shared responsibility” work that's required to fix shit.
Hence, the New Year's resolution should be figuring out how we can prevent our collective selves from continuing to lose our collective damn mind and, ultimately, self-destructing into something much uglier than this pandemic. Right now, Americans appear organized in two teams racing the other towards (preventable) apocalypse: one team consciously disruptive and fulfilling either personal or entity-driven axes to grind as actual chaos agents. The other team subconsciously further stirring up the moment and offering no real energy towards a solution. Neither team is helping the situation. It's an all-for-self, build-your-own-bunker, no-fix crowd of "buy more guns" or "no vote" going out in a blaze of American glory.
People must be convinced that there is something better on the other side of this. Yet, they're not seeing it. Here's where current political leaders and policymakers continue to fail; President Biden should be working much more energetically to re-instill something very basic: hope. Lead by offering a counter-narrative or vision of a New America. But, his White House seems exhausted and he is too old and wedded to the idea that his beloved, but tattered Senate can fix everything.
What we're in now feels much like what cli-fi novelist Kim Stanley Robinson describes in his recent essential read The Ministry of the Future as the …
… [T]he late middle ages' dance of death, danse macabre in French, Totentanz in German ... some who feel the end is near work to hasten it, or worsen it. Their position seems to be that if they're going to die then the world must die with them. This is clearly a manifestation of narcissism, and has been named the Gotterdammerung Syndrome. Hitler in the last days of World War Two has become the canonical example of this response. Hatred of the other is also quite obviously manifested in such a reaction.
It's crucial that we resist the temptation of "Gotterdammerung." It is relatively easy to slip into because it requires so little work and thrives off intellectual laziness and low emotional IQ. In 2022, with a critical set of elections on all levels ahead of us, Americans must decide if the way to fix the crisis we're in is to eagerly march towards more self-destructive attitudes and behavior or actively navigate our way out of it. We can find the light house in 2022 so long as we really want to.
People must be convinced that there is something better on the other side of this. They're not seeing it. Here's where current political leaders and policymakers continue to fail.
We must be very honest about what will happen if Republicans take control of Congress and the White House. So, we must get clear on what can be accomplished if we actually succeed in stopping them. Fear and hope - offense and defense - are going to mean different things for different people, though. More specifically, the hopes and fears of White people are not the same as those of Black, Indigenous and Brown “people of color” folks.
Personally, I’m tired of the strategic imagination of the Democratic party being bound by the desires and fragility of White people. In my opinion, it is an absolute waste of time to focus our efforts on convincing White people to do what’s right.
Will White Democrats ever do what’s necessary to beat the White nationalists in 2022? Nope, not a chance. Will the Congressional Black Caucus, as a collective of 56 votes in Congress, ever realize they should have more influence over the Biden Administration than the Freedom Caucus had over the Trump Administration? Not on this planet. Not on this timeline.
With Democratic strategists getting paid to go on daily cable news to say the Democrats are going to get destroyed in a landslide in 2022, should we expect the current media and strategic alliance to create the tactics and messaging needed to completely turn the tables? They can’t even figure out what team they are playing for.
And as sick as I am of the White and privileged BIPOC bullshit, I’m even more sick of many in the community saying things like they aren’t going to vote because the Democrats aren’t giving them what they want. Like seriously? You’re going to hand the community over to people who are cool with slavery because you’re mad at the other team? Really?
I am so confused by the idea that folks think that not voting is going to somehow teach the Democrats a lesson. Newsflash: tens of millions of mostly BIPOC folks who are eligible to do so aren’t voting. There were far too many low income Black and Brown wards in Philly, for example, that had a voter turnout rate of less than 10 percent. Have they taught the Democrats a lesson? Are Democrats all of a sudden bending over backwards to ask, say, Ward 7 what it wants? Are there ballot boxes and reparations checks overflowing in the streets? Um … no. Cuz the idea that not voting is somehow a source of political power is literally the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
You know who doesn’t vote? Slaves. Slaves don’t vote. You know who wants Black people to be slaves that don’t vote? The Confederates. And you know who flies the Confederate flag? That’s right: Republicans.
Sure. Maybe White Democrats and their establishment BIPOC colleagues are not getting us what we want. But they aren’t very literally trying to destroy the three laws - 13th, 14th and 15th Amendment - that stand between us and what life was before the Civil War.
The Democrats aren’t restricting our voting rights. The Democrats aren’t trying to take away reproductive rights and health centers. The Democrats are certainly not doing the best job trying to pass increases to the minimum wage, but they are the side that’s trying. The Democrats might not be doing the best to teach inclusive history, but they aren’t actively trying to ban melanin from our textbooks. The Democrats might not be winning the war against gun violence, but they aren’t the ones blocking gun control measures and trying to blanket the nation with bullets and AR-15s. The Democrats might not be doing enough to pass criminal justice reform measures, but they aren’t the ones in bed with the National Fraternal Order of Police and supporting people like Derek Chauvin and Kyle Rittenhouse, either.
People need to think long and hard about what the Confederates and insurgents will do if they have control of all three branches of government. We all need to do our part to make sure that messaging is clear. And we need to bring that message down to the state and local levels, as well.
I keep hearing pundits say that people vote for what they want not what they hate. That’s incorrect. The GOP is fueled by hate. They made blatant unabashed white supremacy OK again. That’s their only agenda. The GOP base votes because it hates people of color and wants to “own the libs.” In 2020, Democrats mobilized in kind. We didin’t win 2020 because we loved Biden. We won because we hated Trump.
There must be a space, a huge space, for people to hate Republicans, particularly for what they are doing to our country now. We need to openly be able to hate the racism, the mysogeny, the transphobia, the treason – all of it. We need to be able to hate, constructively, together so we can defend each other against the party that is threatening us.
But as you said, we also need to hope.
And for me, there is hope in the weakness of White Democrats.
We don’t have time to mess around. The 2022 elections are literally months away. We don’t have time to wait for White Democrats to get their shit together and come up with a plan to beat the Republicans in 2022. I think we need to expect them to screw everything up. We need to expect them to hire the worst strategists, come up with the shittiest messaging, and run the most ridiculously stupid campaigns. And we need to mobilize to win anyways.
White middle class Democrats aren’t the ones who will suffer if the GOP takes back Congress. It’s poor Black, Brown, Indigenous and other vulnerable people of color communities who will be fed to the Elephants. We have a responsibility to protect each other even if the White folks won’t step up. But I’m going to argue that we don’t just need to help the Democrats win, we need to use 2022 and 2024 as our opportunity to say: “F**k you. We’re now doing this without you.”
The BIPOC community has an opportunity here to completely claim the party, destroy the white nationalists, and create enough leverage to ensure that White Democrats know that the party’s core and political power is irrevocably Black, Brown and Indigenous.
Instead of saying “hey, Black folks flipped Georgia and you still didn’t give us what we want?” the Black electorate should continue to flip Louisiana, Alabama and the Carolinas and ensure that the we hold enough Senate seats and electoral college votes to hold the party by the cajones no matter what Manchin or Sinema or any other White Democrat says. Instead of saying we’re going to tap out because we don’t want to work together as a coalition with other melanated communities, BIPOC networks in racially diverse states need to mobilize enough votes to flip Florida and Texas and really put ourselves in the position to completely control the direction of the Democratic party.
Instead of pretending we have enough leverage to make White Democrats advance our agendas, we need to actually do the work needed to actually seize that power. But, we haven’t, not by a longshot.
Why are we waiting for White Democrats to mobilize low income BIPOC communities? Why are we offering ourselves and our communities as sacrifices to White Democrats? Low income BIPOC communities are the ones that have the most at stake. It’s our job to protect them and each other. Not White people’s. We need to help our folks get the resources they need to survive and we need to mobilize to defend each other.
Right now there is no shortage of service and funding that isn’t getting to where it must go. Housing assistance, cable and utility programs, direct payments, food, and employment assistance are just a few of the things that are available because of the Democratic party. Unfortunately, because the Democrats have been completely unmotivated and unable to connect to poor communities of color, that assistance is largely untapped.
White Democrats can’t and won’t build the infrastructure necessary to connect low income communities to the political process and its tangible benefits. Grasstops and grassroots organizations and networks can. We need to get our people the tangible support and services they need to survive. And we need to use these channels to help communities overcome obstacles to political enfranchisement so they can keep those benefits, expand upon them, and politically defend themselves from the people that want to take them.
If our low income wards and precincts aren’t mobilized to both survive and vote in 2022, it isn’t the fault of White Democrats faults. It’s ours.
Once we do that work, we can quantifiably change the landscape of the 2022 and 2024 elections. We can secure enough votes and seats to hold real control of the Democratic Party. We can then use this power to produce and pass our own legislation. But we can’t do that by tapping out. We can’t do that by destroying the only party that is capable of being used as a vehicle to take on the white nationalists. We can’t do that by waiting for White Democrats to do that work for us.
If the White Democrats are really the failures we are saying they are, then now is the perfect time for us to assert our power. 2022 can’t just be about defeating the Republicans. We need to have hope that we can defeat the White people in both parties and start amassing and wielding the political power that is rightfully ours. If White Democrats are as weak as we say they are, and we are as powerful as we think we are, now isn’t the time to lose and point fingers. Now is the time to organize and take power.