Election 2016: The Progressive Wilderness Ahead

Body 4: Progressive Values Beyond Electoral Politics 

The fourth option general is to step outside of electoral politics all together to pursue the establishment of liberal values in our society by other means. This could take many forms that may or may not challenge the current two-party system. While there are many options I can think of two that might immediately appeal to progressives looking for something to invest in beyond electoral politics.


War Tax Resisters

One option is to form our own progressive communities independent of the State. The goal of these communities would be to establish liberal values by living them out, taking care of each other, and confronting the State. The basic idea is, “Why bother trying to make the State more compassionate and just towards x community, lets just form a community where x is treated equitably.”

Examples of these movements and communities exist throughout our history, with many of them being religious in nature. Today there are a number of progressive movements and communities that provide a form of universal healthcare and/or debt forgiveness to their members. Some progressives live in tax resistance communities in protest of the military industrial complex. Others have formed their own self-sufficient communities completely outside the State.

While some of these communities and movements have been more successful than others in remaining viable, none of them appear to have had an impact on the State. So even if millions of dissatisfied progressives formed such self-sufficient and self-governing communities they would be ceding political power to the GOP and would face an even more entrenched and regressive domestic policy from the State. I also have a hard time seeing how this option would impact our foreign policy, so we would be leaving global citizens to the whim of the military industrial complex, large corporations, and the financial elite.

While this option might appeal to the rugged individualism celebrated in our society, this separatist approach is not likely to upset the status quo of power in our political landscape, even in the forms that seek to engage with the State. At best it would establish progressive spaces in a regressive society, a situation not that beneficial to most people.


Are the people any more represented now than when we had an actual King?

The other option I can think of is to work towards an actual-no-bullshit-shots-fired-eat-the-rich revolution. Such a revolution would look to up-end the normal and legal power systems that govern our nation, replacing it with something else. While this is the most appealing option to me at a very visceral level I realize there are many barriers and problems with this approach.

Given our history, our national character, and present circumstances I don’t think a peaceful revolution that changes the political order of things is possible. Not only are we an increasingly partisan nation, but violent revolution is in our history, civil war is in our history, and the glorification of violence is in our history. Any violent revolution would mean a lot of people getting killed and most of these people getting killed would be average citizens that are currently being oppressed by the wealthy elite and/or the State. Our militarized police forces and military would probably be split at best on these issues and I think most likely would defend the State as they show ample willingness to do this now. This means the death toll would be very high and success not that likely.

More importantly, while many want radical change, there is not currently a clear vision for what we should establish afterwards. For argument’s sake let us say that a revolution succeeded and a progressive movement of the people killed or banished all of the banksters, corrupt politicians, right-leaning demagogues, Neo-liberal salespeople, racist leaders and corporate lobbyists poisoning our government today. This leaves us with a myriad of questions about what power structure would take shape the following day and how could we be sure it didn’t devolve into the same cesspool we just ended? This is a question that remains without a unified answer that would be needed for a successful progressive revolution.

Ensuring a successful revolution to a new progressive society that worked would require years of education, coalition building, training, and resistance. It would require the establishment of many “Survival-Pending-Revolution” programs, like the Black Panther Party implemented, to get people by until we could actually revolt. The State would actively suppress such a growing movement at every turn. The FBI has already greatly expanded its powers since 9/11, quietly doing away with many of the Church Committee reforms, and it would certainly roll out a COINTELPRO 2 against any sort of serious revolutionary movement. I’m not saying such a revolutionary change is impossible, but another revolution is not a viable option in the short-term nor an easy goal to work towards in the long-term.

About Speakfaithfully

I am figuring out life and faith and taking other people along with me on my journey. Sometimes as fellow travelers, sometimes as hostages.
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1 Response to Election 2016: The Progressive Wilderness Ahead

  1. skyewinspur says:

    Very good essay. The second wilderness image is provocative and well-chosen.

    There is ample time now for progressives (at least middle-class ones) to examine their own lives and think about how they may be quietly enabling the kinds of tyranny they deplore. Movements to boycott Wells Fargo and US Bank (over the DAPL pipeline) are promising, I think. And we should not forget holidays tailor-made for resistance like International Workers’ Day on May 1st.

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