The year 2011 has truly been an exciting year for progressives. Arab spring sent shock waves across the Middle East, launching a campaign for democratization that will ultimately impact every regime in the region. Also Arab spring showed the rest of the world, and particularly the young, that mass mobilization, challenging economic control and military might with people power, can affect history.
The spirit of grassroots anger, activism, a growing sense of solidarity across races, gender, class, and national boundaries planted the seeds for the rise of a new age out of the old. As the young people in Tahrir Square knew from the beginning of their protest, the struggle will be long, sometimes bloody, but the 99 per cent, in the end, will win.
But 2011 also showed the world that politics can be ruthless. Masses of people died in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan and in various locations in Africa, Europe, and North America. The United States shifted priorities from sending the military everywhere to supporting private armies and high tech drone warfare. Secret intelligence agencies now define the threats to the United States who are targeted for assassination. Meanwhile the mass media has celebrated executions abroad and at home and the deaths of ostracized leaders. In many ways 21st century global culture, has become a “death culture,” in its entertainment as well as its politics. Killing has become fun.
Within the United States, political forces have been unleashed that are trying to return politics to the Dark Ages:
-escalating the shift in wealth and power from the many to the few
-destroying the historic right of workers to organize to better articulate their interests
-privatizing education, health care, and basic concern for the environment
-transferring control of women’s bodies from themselves to various churches and private interest groups
-increasing the power of police to control people’s lives, using pepper spray, SWAT teams, covert operations, and spying to serve the status quo
-eliminating longstanding legal procedures that have given some protection to people, particularly minorities, who have been accused of crimes
-using, abusing, and disposing of immigrant workers.
So at the dawn of the 2012 the world continues its contradictory path. And as the forces of light and darkness contend, progressives once again are confronted with political choices. As the debates escalate, particularly in the electoral arena, some of the summary data I accumulated just after the 2010 election remains relevant:
“From data reported in the media between November 3rd and 10th, 2010 the new United States Senate will be comprised of 51 Democratic Senators and 2 Independents and 47 Republicans. The Republicans experienced their biggest gains in the House of Representatives winning 239 seats to 189 for the Democrats…. The 2011 distribution of the governorships will include at least 29 Republicans and 18 Democrats. In sum, the elections brought Republican control to the House of Representatives and significant shifts in gubernatorial contests which will impact on the redistricting of House of Representative districts for the next decade.
At the state level, Republican candidates won 650 seats in legislative assemblies, taking control of 19 legislative bodies from Democrats. For example, Republicans gained both state houses in Alabama, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. They won an additional house to take control of both houses in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Through gubernatorial and legislative victories at the state level Republicans will control the designation of 170 congressional districts while Democrats will control 70. The rest, about 200, will be determined by bipartisan bodies.
Republicans won three state legislatures in the Northeast, eight in the South, nine in the Midwest, and five in the West. Looking at a USA map of red and blue states, 27 states will be red in the next period.”
As I write, Indiana workers are marching inside and outside the state capital protesting the backroom passage of a new Right-to-Work law. Indiana has not been a right to work state since the 1960s. In 2008, the Indiana House of Representatives consisted of 52 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Today the House has 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats.
And as a result of the 2010 election, not only is it likely that Right-to-Work legislation will become a reality in Indiana but education and resources for women’s reproductive health will be even more vulnerable.
There are similar stories to be told in each and every state, as well as in the national political arena. And, at the same time, there are differences in politics and history in each state and locale. And make note: none of this has much to do with the selection of nominees for president of the United States. That story is the circus, the Super Bowl--Romney or Santorum, the “moderate” Republican or the “social conservative.”
So progressives have a lot to think about in 2012: how to protect the people, the 99 percent, from all the hurt that they increasingly will experience in the short-run while at the same time moving “inch by inch, row by row” to the vision that animated Arab Spring, Ohio, and Madison, Wisconsin.