{Empty title} | The Nation

This is a great piece, and much needed! The Tea Party assault is about much than an attack on two piece or an article they wrote. When they attack the "Cloward-Piven strategy"--the idea that an organized and outraged public can and ought to demand change--they are really attacking our most basic democratic tradition. Piven is a target precisely because her work has always supported democratic politics from below. She has devoted a lifetime of scholarship to studying how ordinary people, particularly poor people, can and do fight for social change to improve their lot in life. Case studies she has researched over several decades on the Revolutionary era, the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, the unemployed workers' movement in the '30s, the welfare rights movement and the civil rights movement all underscore a basic truth: people can redress the imbalance of power and wealth in our society when they organize and disrupt business as usual. That's the last thing that Glenn Beck et al. want Americans to realize and it helps explain why they are working overtime to offer a counter-narrative.

The right is using scare tactics, scapegoating, distortions, deception, lies and intimidation to immobilize or demobilize or better yet misdirect people to attack the right's perennial targets--like progressive taxation, social safety net programs or a widened franchise--rather than the real causes of our social and economic ills. These tactics undermine democratic politics. And as last summer's instructions to go shout down Congress people at town hall meetings turn to this spring's instructions to "break their windows" and legislators are subject to death threats and mob taunts, it is imperative that all small-d democrats respond. Insofar as Tea Party undemocratic tactics go unchallenged and insofar as they help them achieve their politic objectives, our democratic political institutions are weakened.

So please:

(1) If you are a journalist, columnist or blogger, please write about this. If you have journalist, columnist or blogger friends, ask them to write about it.

(2) If you are a teacher, please teach your students about our history of protest politics and the essential role that the democratic mobilization of people to demand change has played in our nation's progress towards social justice and equality. Consider doing a teach-in using Piven's Challenging Authority. How Ordinary People Change America.

(3) If you are a member of a professional organization, consider passing a resolution condemning the scapegoating, fearmongering and intimidation tactics of the Tea Party right and their attack not just on Piven and Cloward but on democratic politics.

(4) No matter who you are, go out and organize for the change we need in this country. Defend democratic politics by living it.

(5) Become a fan of the Piven and Cloward page on Facebook and urge your friends to do the same.

(6) Spread the word. Let folks know about whatever you do to respond (and let me know, too, so I can post it on the Facebook page).