An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator raises her hands painted with hearts during what protest organizers called a "Day of Action" in New York November 17, 2011. Reuters/Mike Segar
Building on Deepak Bhargava’s points, I would offer that there is a broader base for an economic justice movement than ever before. Despite political polarization, just below the surface, more and more Americans are feeling deep pain around their jobs, homes, health, security and future opportunities. From immigrant domestic workers and their families in California, to aging white boomers in deindustrialized Pennsylvania, to African-American teachers in Alabama and young veterans in Iowa, there is a continuum of anxiety and suffering that connects us. Regardless of election outcomes, this may be the greatest opportunity for us to unite in generations. To seize the opportunity, we must pay attention to the connective tissue needed to build and hold a broad movement together.
We must create a culture that welcomes people from all walks of life and creates opportunities for everyone to participate meaningfully. And that starts right now. As Deepak points out, there are dire issues that we will face immediately after the election, namely the so-called fiscal cliff, a defining budget fight that could cost us important infrastructure and many of the social services on which our communities depend. If we can communicate what’s at stake and how this moment affects each of us, we have the potential to achieve broad engagement. We should be organizing as many actions as possible to take place immediately after the election.
We need to embrace the direct-action spirit of the Occupy movement, and we need to broaden that spirit by offering the millions of people who are hurting ways to connect and participate. We should claim the significant voter protection, registration and mobilization work that was done to promote democratic participation in this election cycle. We can embrace the many ways in which people are coming together already to support one another and meet their communities’ growing needs.
We need to engage in massive efforts to change the culture, both within and beyond our movements. We need to engage in politics from a place of love and care; we must challenge the tendency toward individualism and self-interest that has dominated our politics for several decades. We need to reaffirm our humanity and spirit, emphasizing the importance of building emotional connections between people in local communities and identifying where interests overlap across constituencies. We need to come together to write a new story for our changing nation, one that places equity, care and human connection at its center.
When we do all of those things, we adopt a more powerful stance with which to face the future. And once we have reached a space expansive enough to see them, we will recognize that we already have many of the solutions we need.
Other Replies to Deepak Bhargava’s “Why Obama?”
Dorian T. Warren: “Go for the Jugular”
Frances Fox Piven and Lorraine C. Minnite: “Movements Need Politicians—and Vice Versa”
Saket Soni: “We Need More than a New President”
Bill Fletcher Jr.: “Defeat the Reactionary White Elite”
Tom Hayden: “Obama’s Legacy is Our Leverage”
Robert L. Borosage: “Re-elect Obama—But Reject His Austerity”
Ilyse Hogue: “Time to Rewire”
And this web-only article:
Michael Brune: “For the Climate, Obama Needs Another Four Years”