Monday, February 13, 2017

Impunity doesn't care about polls, but really worries if we the people should ever get organized

Here is a really interesting meme about Trump:

"New Quinnipiac poll results show Trump is disliked and distrusted by a majority of Americans."

And yet, Trump keeps going. I saw the news about the immigration raids across the country. After Kellyanne Conway suggested that people buy Ivanka's products, the website for the Office of Government Ethics was overwhelmed by traffic. Republicans in Congress continue to plot the repeal of Obamacare in the hopes that Trump will sign their bill.

Republicans in statehouses across the country are planning ambitious efforts to enact conservative agendas they think Americans really want, you know, because they think they have a mandate. In many of the stories I've read, they are acting with impunity since Republicans now have top to bottom control in 25 states. They are moving quickly on so-called "right-to-work" laws, curbing abortion rights, cutting public services and state budgets. They are working to create a meaner, leaner version of what they think government should look like.

This sea change in state and federal government is what happens when Democrats try to do what Republicans do to raise the big money. Democrats begin to do what big business wants instead of what the people want and then they start to look like Republicans and that confuses voters. That dynamic is what now allows Republicans to act with impunity.

I shared that meme again, but I pointed out that impunity doesn't care about polls. Really, it doesn't. People who have power think nothing of polls. When I saw that meme for the first time, the first thing that came to mind was every poll that I ever saw in the primaries last year. In every poll, Sanders beat Trump where Clinton would lose. Impunity doesn't care about polls. The Dingaling National Committee didn't care about polls, either. They rigged the primaries against Sanders and lost the general election.

The polls were against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The people in power don't care. They want war. In fact, if we surveyed the polling for a wide range of political issues, we'd find that generally, people in power don't care about the polls. They must care about something else, then. What is that? Money.

One of my favorite studies to cite on the relevance of polls is this one, "Testing Theories of American Politics:Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens". This study surveyed more than 1700 issues across 20 years of American politics and found that Congress voted against the polls better than 60% of the time. But they also found that elites (some very special, very wealthy people) and organized business interests had a much greater influence upon Congress.

People in power may not care about polls, but they begin to leave little bricks in their pants when the people they claim to represent start to organize and work against that power.

At this point I want to zero in those organized business interests mentioned in the study above. During the same period as that covered by the study (1981-2002), we saw accelerated diminution of union power and a reduction in the organization of labor. We also saw acceleration of the implementation of neoliberal economics, starting with Reagan and continuing with President Clinton and George Bush.

With the reduction of union labor during that period, we saw the rise of organized business interests and their eventual and complete domination of American politics. It is as if there was a concerted effort to discourage people from organizing, instead to urge them to act individually rather than as a group while promoting business power.

This distraction from organizing continues to this day. The Washington Post offers a great example in their article, "A blueprint for resistance to Trump has emerged. Here’s what it looks like." It's actually a good read on current events, but there is nothing in it to suggest organizing as a useful tool to work against what appears to be fascism rising in Washington. The basic thrust of that article is to rely upon Washington and hold guarded optimism. That's it.

Contrast that article with this one from the UK's The Guardian. In the UK, even in mainstream media, they advocate for organizing. In American media, it's "call your Congressman", but in the UK, they want to take it to the streets by organizing. That attitude in the UK has some history behind it. Even if you can't make the protest, The Guardian offers other ways to resist, too.

Here's an article from the Socialist Alternative website, "HOW SOCIALISTS AND THE POLL TAX MOVEMENT DROVE THATCHER OUT OF OFFICE". It describes the struggle against the poll tax in the UK and how very organized that struggle was. From the streets to the courts, the Militants, now known as the Socialist Party of the UK, organized their people to not just protest the tax. They organized about 18 million people to not pay the tax. They provided support to non-payers so that they could overwhelm the courts with people fighting the tax.

When people are protesting, they're not working. Employers need them. The state needs them to pay taxes. The wealthy need us to be working so that we're not attending meetings at the local school board, the statehouses and watching what's going on in Congress. If we're working, they're fine. But if millions of Americans are out in the streets raising a stink, that gets on the news and that's embarrassing.

It gets better. In the UK, the fight over the poll tax was a phenomenon. That poll tax affected everyone there. It was easy to get people into the streets and clog traffic. The protests gave visibility to the cause, but what really hurt was the resistance to paying the tax. The resistance was so strong that it became too expensive to enforce and collect the tax. This is how powerful organizing can be. If you want to go for the jugular in public policy, go for the money.

It's worth noting that Republicans are the party in favor of tougher laws against protesting. Republicans in five states are now pushing anti-protest laws, in defiance of the First Amendment. I guess they want their business allies to be safe and secure while they gut the unions and force everyone else to be disorganized.

See, it's OK for businesses to join an organization, like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, or the US Chamber of Commerce, or even the American Medical Association and use that organization to consolidate power. Those associations are unions of a sort, and they aren't for the people. Then businesses can use that power to influence Congress and statehouses for their conservative agenda. But God help you if you should try to organize a union of anybody that happens to work for those businesses. That tends to strike fear in the halls of power.

That's what right to work laws are designed to prevent. Now it turns out that even Donald Trump is in favor of right to work laws. He's in favor of defeating the efforts of people to organize so that they can make their voices heard. I thought he campaigned on promises to help the middle class. I guess he forgot about all that already.

This is what we're up against. Protests are nice, but organizing is better. When we organize, we can communicate ideas and efforts. Think of it like a laser. Ordinary light shines all over and bounces everywhere. A laser is collimated light, its very organized, very intense, and can be blinding, like the sun. All it takes is one issue for people to focus on and work against. Multiply that force times millions, and pretty soon, some very powerful people might have to surrender some of their power.

Sometimes I wonder if that is reason why Trump is in power today. To remind us that we still have each other and that we can still organize against power used against the rest of us. The only question in my mind is which issue will bring the people together, to organize and to resist.

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