Swimming against a stronger tide

Many years ago, on a Saturday morning, I walked to a Planned Parenthood clinic on Bush Street near Octavia, in San Francisco (it’s no longer there). First I found the anti-abortion protesters, all dressed as if they were attending church; then I found the counter-protesters and clinic escorts.

It was, I believe, my earliest participation in protest movements. I would attend a few more protests in my life but, these days, I feel chanting repetitive slogans and marching is not a particularly productive use of my time. I also avoid signing online petitions as it is clear to me that these are more about fundraising, as are most nonprofit organizations, than they are about influencing policy.

And we see that, for all the protests and all the politicians’ promises, Roe v. Wade has been overturned,[1] allowing many states to ban abortion,[2] with movements to ban abortion nationally,[3] and the suggestion to ban contraception and overturn LGBTQ+ rights afoot.[4] We see in another ruling that licenses to carry weapons in public must now be granted pretty much on demand.[5]

Gun nuttery and abortion are but two issues; between an activist judiciary[6] and the looming white Christian nationalist lock on elections,[7] it is hard to see how we will not, very soon, in all but name, be Gilead.[8]

I am not feeling vindicated. There is a substantive difference between Left and Right, not just on policy, but in the efficacy of their social movements. Republicans deliver for their base. In their zeal for an incoherent “golden mean,”[9] Democrats flatly do not;[10] rather, they function to enable the Republicans.[11] Right-wing social movements produce results; left-wing social movements do not.

Now, following a pandemic in which ‘freedom’ came to mean the ‘freedom’ to spread disease,[12] thanks to an insurgent white Christian nationalism, we live in a far more dangerous, far less free country. How, indeed, can I feel vindicated?

Zoe Strimpel reprises a so-called ‘centrist’ Democratic Party argument that the “extreme” Left alienates more moderate voters and thus undercuts the movement to retard the white Christian nationalist Right.[13] She neglects that real people have real needs that cannot be met by a mythical “golden mean,”[14] that there is a climate crisis that will not wait for so-called ‘moderation.’

There is a truth that the Right is increasingly monolithic and united, as white Christian nationalism.[15] Social movements take time. They are incremental and iterative, achieving small results that may, if the elite can be pushed far enough, eventually produce large results.[16] The Right has been able to sustain a movement;[17] the Left really has not.

But another crucial difference between the Left and even so-called ‘centrist’ Democrats, let alone the Right, is that the Right does not threaten elite interests in the way the the Left does. Rich women will always be able to find abortions, even if they have to fly out of the country to get them. Poor women will not be so fortunate as bans in some states took effect immediately.[18]

The Left, on the other hand, seeks to diminish social inequality, which the rich perceive could only occur at their expense; certainly it would diminish their privilege relative to the poor.[19] The Left, thus, swims against a stronger tide than the Right.

Strimpel and her so-called ‘centrist’ cohorts never address this; they pretend to be on our (the Left’s) side, when again and again it is apparent that neoliberalism is their governing principle,[20] to be defended even at the cost of losing elections, and indeed, that losing elections relieves them of responsibility for actually accomplishing a damn thing.[21]

Disregard their rhetoric: there are a lot of Democrats who won’t really be too terribly troubled that poor women have trouble getting abortions. They’ll happily settle for taking potshots at Republicans from the opposition.[22]

Another difference between Left and Right: The Right has real allies in power. The Left has only treasonous sycophants.[23]

The question of how to get from where we are as a society to where I think we need to be has occupied me for the better part of two decades. I still do not have an answer, even as the issues become only more urgent, time grows ever shorter,[24] and the only theory of nonviolent social change I’ve seen is incremental, never pushing the elite too far at a time, taking years or even decades to accomplish minimal results.[25] I no longer believe we can even get there.

But if we are to save ourselves, we will most certainly need to find another way to do it, remembering that it is the Right that has the guns and a certain confusion with their penises that increases their proclivity to use them.

  1. [1]Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin, “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Eliminates Constitutional Right to Abortion,” Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-overturns-roe-v-wade-eliminates-constitutional-right-to-abortion-11656080124
  2. [2]Jennifer Calfas and Deanna Paul, “Abortion Providers Confront New Landscape After Roe,” Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-wake-of-roe-v-wade-ruling-abortion-providers-confront-new-landscape-11656268445
  3. [3]Caroline Kitchener, “Roe’s gone. Now antiabortion lawmakers want more,” Washington Post, June 25, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/25/roe-antiabortion-lawmakers-restrictions-state-legislatures/
  4. [4]Matt Ford, “Clarence Thomas Will Wipe Out Marriage Equality and Contraception Next,” New Republic, June 24, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/166891/thomas-roe-marriage-equality-contraception; Alexandra Martinez, “Birth control, gay and interracial marriage, and more may be at risk if Roe v. Wade falls,” Prism, May 5, 2022, https://prismreports.org/2022/05/05/civil-rights-roe-v-wade/
  5. [5]Jess Bravin, “Supreme Court Strikes Down New York Law on Concealed Weapons,” Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-strikes-down-new-york-law-on-concealed-weapons-11655995248; Jon Healy, “Supreme Court throws out New York’s concealed weapons law. Here’s what it means for California,” Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-06-23/supreme-court-concealed-carry-ruling-what-it-means-for-california; Jay Michaelson, “The Future of Gun Control Is in Danger,” New York, June 23, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/06/supreme-court-gun-case-endangers-the-future-of-gun-control.html; David G. Savage, “Supreme Court bolsters gun owners’ right to carry a weapon in public,” Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-06-23/supreme-court-gun-owners-right-to-carry-a-weapon-in-public; Mark Joseph Stern, “Clarence Thomas’ Maximalist Second Amendment Ruling Is a Nightmare for Gun Control,” Slate, June 23, 2022, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/06/supreme-court-new-york-concealed-carry-law-gun-control-bruen.html
  6. [6]Ruth Marcus, “The Rule of Six: A newly radicalized Supreme Court is poised to reshape the nation,” Washington Post, November 28, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/28/supreme-court-decisions-abortion-guns-religious-freedom-loom/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, June 11, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Start changing the border signs: ‘Welcome to Gilead,’” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/18/start-changing-the-border-signs-welcome-to-gilead/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “All hail palliative ‘solutions,’” Not Housebroken, June 26, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/26/all-hail-palliative-solutions/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Democrats and contradiction,” Not Housebroken, January 20, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/18/democrats-and-contradiction/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “The Democrats as the danger within, enabling the Republicans,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/14/the-democrats-as-the-danger-within-enabling-the-republicans/
  12. [12]David Benfell, “The modern Scrooge,” March 14, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/12/12/the-modern-scrooge/
  13. [13]Zoe Strimpel, “America is headed for another civil war where one side has to vanquish the other,” Telegraph, June 25, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/06/25/america-headed-another-civil-war-where-one-side-has-vanquish/
  14. [14]David Benfell, “All hail palliative ‘solutions,’” Not Housebroken, June 26, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/26/all-hail-palliative-solutions/
  15. [15]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, June 11, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  16. [16]Bill Moyer, with JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, and Steven Soifer, Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements (Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada: New Society, 2001).
  17. [17]Katherine Stewart, “How the Christian right took over the judiciary and changed America,” Guardian, June 25, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/25/roe-v-wade-abortion-christian-right-america
  18. [18]Jennifer Calfas and Deanna Paul, “Abortion Providers Confront New Landscape After Roe,” Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-wake-of-roe-v-wade-ruling-abortion-providers-confront-new-landscape-11656268445
  19. [19]Anup Shah, “Creating the Consumer,” Global Issues, May 14, 2003, http://www.globalissues.org/article/236/creating-the-consumer
  20. [20]David Benfell, “Sanity about Donald Trump,” Not Housebroken, August 8, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/2015/08/08/sanity-about-donald-trump/
  21. [21]David Benfell, “Democrats and contradiction,” Not Housebroken, January 20, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/18/democrats-and-contradiction/
  22. [22]David Benfell, “Democrats and contradiction,” Not Housebroken, January 20, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/18/democrats-and-contradiction/
  23. [23]David Benfell, “The Democrats as the danger within, enabling the Republicans,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/14/the-democrats-as-the-danger-within-enabling-the-republicans/
  24. [24]David Benfell, “I am no longer an anarchist,” Not Housebroken, June 8, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/01/29/i-am-no-longer-an-anarchist/
  25. [25]Bill Moyer, with JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, and Steven Soifer, Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements (Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada: New Society, 2001).

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