Read

Search form

Post-Mortem from the California Coast

Post-Mortem from the California Coast
Tue, 11/13/2012 - by Jonah Raskin

Living in California and following national politics, whether it‘s the Occupy Movement or the presidential election, feels like standing on the sidelines. I know that we have our own issues here, our own politicians, and elections. We had a hell of an Occupy Movement in Oakland, which some observers have called the last radical city in America. Maybe it is. And maybe what happens in California politics is important, but it doesn’t feel that way to me, perhaps because I’m an ex-New Yorker living in exile on the Pacific coast, thousands of miles from Washington, D.C.

I tuned into the 2012 campaign and I stayed tuned. I watched the debates and I followed the returns on Election Day, but I didn’t lose sight of daily life. I harvested tomatoes in the field, celebrated the Day of the Dead with Mexican farm workers, and watched football on TV. At least a week before the nation voted en masse, it seemed clear that Obama would win. The Republicans kept telling themselves that they had it in the bag. They kept saying it over and over again, and they paid a lot of money to tell the whole country that they’d won and that Romney would be in the White House. They said it so often that they came to believe it themselves.

That’s what happens to people in positions of power. They believe their own lies. They lose touch with reality. They think that everyone else shares their view of the world. I know that about 57,468,000 Americans voted for Romney. That’s a lot of people. I believe that most of them were duped, that they voted against their own self-interests, that they bought the big lie that government is the enemy of the people and that the free market is the answer to everything.

In the weeks before the election, what I heard from friends and neighbors is that the nation is terribly divided. Some of them even fear a civil war in this country. I don’t think that likely, not in the foreseeable future, but on-going low-level insurgency seems likely. From where I stand in California, the nation looks like a big battleground. The Republicans are already regrouping and planning how they can retake the White House. Like the big bankers, who haven’t changed their ways of operating, the big politicians haven’t changed theirs, either.

I’ve taken part in elections since 1968, when I didn’t cast a ballot, but “voted in the streets.” I have cast a ballot in every election since then and I have never felt that this country has had a president I could be proud of and support one hundred percent. In my lifetime, I don’t expect there will ever be a man or woman of the people and for the people in the White House. In 1968, I thought that there would be a social, economic, and political revolution in this country. I no longer do. I think there will be profound change brought about by technology, by capitalism, and by climate change and natural catastrophes. As a nation, we will be more and more vulnerable to wind, air, fire, and the quaking of the earth itself.

I believe that protesting and organizing and activism are still essential and necessary. Too often I have seen radicals talk to themselves using their own language. Too many radicals don’t like the American people. But if there is ever to be radical change, someone, somewhere is going to have to start talking to working people and talking to them in ways they can understand. It takes a lot of courage and patience to reach out to working people, more courage and more patience than it takes to occupy a building in the heart of Oakland or any other city. Electoral politics is in large part the name of the game in the United States; if you're not in that game in some way, shape, or form even if it’s a third party you’re not in the ballpark.

Is anybody out there ready to play ball?

Jonah Raskin is the author of "The Radical Jack London" and biographies of Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg.

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

climate chaos, carbon emissions, climate movement, Break Free from Fossil Fuels, worldwide climate protests, disrupting dirty power, Climate Mobilization, 350.org, keep it in the ground, renewable energy transition

Starting next week, a global wave of mass actions will target the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects.

protest movements, social mobilizations, movement of the squares, Occupy Wall Street, Podemos Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, protest demands, horizontal democracy, Arab Spring, Nuit Debout

The movements of the squares were a watershed moment that profoundly changed grassroots and institutional politics – they have enthused in equal measure as they have disappointed, both under-delivering and over-delivering on their promises.

Bay Bucks, alternative currencies, barter economy, alternative economic systems, Chong Kee Tan, community resilience, sharing economy, Swiss WIR

The Bay Area currency operates a commercial barter system – where businesses with unused inventory or excess capacity "deposit" their excess into an exchange, and “withdraw” other businesses’ excess goods and services instead of money.

climate crisis, climate information, Climate Feedback, accurate climate coverage

Climate Feedback brings together a global network of scientists who use a new web-annotation platform to provide feedback on climate change reporting.

Black Lives Matter, ACLU of Oregon, state surveillance, surveillance programs

Monitoring the social media use of BLM activists is an example of "how the level of trust between law enforcement and communities of color has been so damaged," the civil rights group says.

migrant crisis, East African migrants, migrant smugglers, organ trafficking

A week ago, on April 17, 400 East Africans drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat capsized on the way to Italy – and when the numbers get this big, we forget that they are individual lives being lost, like this, every day.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
Panama Papers, tax avoidance, tax shelters, corporate tax evasion, Oxfam

The names on the list of "Broken At the Top" are like a who’s who of big business – and some of the headline figures are simply staggering.

Posted 2 days 1 hour ago
British academies, privatized education, lower teaching standards, low teacher pay, National Union of Teachers, Anti-Academies Alliance

“It is a complete bonfire of pay and conditions," said David Gilchrist of the Anti-Academies Alliance, who claims the government has "no evidence to back up the claim that academies improve educational standards – in fact the opposite is true."

Posted 3 days 2 hours ago

In recent weeks, thousands of people marched and were arrested on the steps of the Capitol demanding that the people’s voice be heard: that we the people, not money, be the driving force of our government.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
solar energy, rooftop solar, California clean energy policies, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, carbon emissions, San Francisco solar policy

Starting Jan. 1 of next year, new commercial and residential buildings here up to 10 stories high must install rooftop solar systems for heat or electricity – making San Francisco the first major U.S. city to enact such legislation.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
Civil Rights movement, environmental movement, green-black alliance, Black Lives Matter, Moral Mondays, Martin Luther King Jr, movement of movements

A beautiful thing is happening: Advocates for racial justice and for environmental protection are coming together in a new way.

act out, occupy, spoken word, poetry, Harriet Tubman, 20 dollar bill, money in politics, regulation, cost benefit analysis, human life, cost of life, value of life, Public Citizen, Amit Narang, corporate accountability, corporate malfeasance, May Day, Int

This week, regulation is the name of the game if you want to hold corporations accountable and keep them in line with the interests of people and planet. Sadly, there's one serious hurdle standing between us and regulation.

British academies, privatized education, lower teaching standards, low teacher pay, National Union of Teachers, Anti-Academies Alliance

“It is a complete bonfire of pay and conditions," said David Gilchrist of the Anti-Academies Alliance, who claims the government has "no evidence to back up the claim that academies improve educational standards – in fact the opposite is true."

Bay Bucks, alternative currencies, barter economy, alternative economic systems, Chong Kee Tan, community resilience, sharing economy, Swiss WIR

The Bay Area currency operates a commercial barter system – where businesses with unused inventory or excess capacity "deposit" their excess into an exchange, and “withdraw” other businesses’ excess goods and services instead of money.

With more than 1,300 people arrested on the steps of the Capitol earlier this month, the Democracy Spring campaign pulled off one of the largest acts of civil disobedience this century.