Seize the Radical Moment
Re Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John McMillian’s “America’s Radical Roots” [May 31]: I understand that progressive social programs had their roots in radicalism. However, it is difficult to be overly enthusiastic about what this means in today’s America.
In the 1930s we had the New Deal and a strong feeling of radicalism and class identity among the working class. The influence of unions and their effect on government was much different. “Socialism” was not a bad word. In the ’60s Jim Crow was viewed (at least by the sane) as a system so outdated that radical change had to come.
Fast-forward to today. Any radicalism is pre-empted by right-wing media, particularly Fox, corporate-backed network news and AM talk-radio. There is virtually no advocacy or reporting of anything radical or progressive. Combine this with the disproportionate coverage of Tea Party rantings at “town hall” meetings, and public opinion has been swayed rightward.
The authors say they wish to “bring about a more charitable perception of radicalism.” They provide past examples: the American Revolution, the abolition of slavery, public education. But it is difficult for this longtime Nation reader to feel their optimism or to hope that we, as a nation, will be radicalized again anytime soon. Only a monumental event could spark radical action.
The “radicalism” of today is this new wave of right-wing Tea Partyers financed by Astroturfers—the wealthy and corporations. They had their monumental event—the election of an African-American president. That rallied their masses.
Unfortunately we on the left have not rallied our masses to push this president to take up progressive causes, as radicals did in FDR’s time, when they made him promote their agenda. Will we progressives have our monumental event? And will it be enough to rally our masses? I hope our country survives until then.
Coming Soon to a Shelter Near You
Katha Pollitt asks “What Ever Happened to Welfare Mothers?” [May 31]. Nearly uncountable numbers of poor families double or triple up with friends or relatives or are stranded in shelters for homeless families. If the “welfare mothers” have not lost their children to foster care (so are no longer “families”), and if they have “maxed out” the lifetime PRWORA [Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996] benefits that accompanied the low-paid jobs that enabled them to meet the work requirement, homeless shelters are lifesaving.
These families are now joined in the shelters by those whose landlords’ mortgages have been foreclosed. Tenants typically don’t know of the foreclosure until a utility company arrives to cut off service or a bank rep comes to “secure” the property. The low-paid jobs “welfare mothers” may have found in the early days of PRWORA have vanished, many to unemployed workers who move back to parents’ basements when their unemployment benefits are exhausted.