While the Democratic Party's interests may at times coincide with that of the American people, they are clearly not synonymous. The party's raison d'être is to win elections, not to change America. Depending on the time, place and candidate, it may well stand for office but little else. The right understands these limits of electoral politics only too well. Its victories have ended in Washington, but they didn't start there and were not sustained there. The terrible truth about the past seven years is not that the country has been divided but that the wrong side has been winning. The right has fought for its agenda and has never been in doubt about who its enemy is.
It's high time the left did the same. Arguing for policies that eradicate poverty, confront racism and homophobia, tackle economic and gender inequality and corporate excess, normalize the status of millions of undocumented immigrants and address the ballooning prison-industrial complex is about being progressive, not divisive. It does, however, mean recognizing that divisions exist and that to resolve them we have to take sides and fight for our beliefs. Unity is not forged by fiat but by struggle. Candidates can talk about "transcending" race, gender, region and party all they like. But before we can talk sensibly about transcending difference, we must first transform the conditions that give these differences meaning. To get beyond race, for example, we must first get rid of racism. Then every day can be like Martin Luther King Day, and black people won't have to watch from the sidelines.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Gary Younge, of The Nation: