Do You Have An Activist Endgame?
by Chris Bowers, Mon Apr 30, 2007 at 08:05:35 PM EDT
Don't get me wrong. Not only do I (usually) thoroughly enjoy being a full-time political activist, but considering my history as union organizer I actively sought out full-time employment as a political professional before blogging became my principle occupation. In fact, I don't even know what I would do besides politics right now. I certainly have no intention of returning to my previous career, academia. Once and a while, I even still have nightmares that I am teaching again. It is just that I can't conceive doing this for the rest of my life.
I think, fundamentally, the problem is that, to use a term introduced to me by MyDD commenter blueflorida, I am a "child of 2000."Blueflorida explains (emphasis in original):
This has been described before many times but to put it in the simplest (Brooks-ian)terms: there are the children of 1972, the children of 1992, and the children of 2000. The children of '72 transformed the country culturally but were inept at the nuts-and-bolts of electoral politics and were oblivious of a conservative counter-revolution happening in less-urban parts of the country. They have been stuck in the attic by the children of 1992 for about 20 years, but were let out (with conditions) by the children of 2000.This feels absolutely right to me. My decision to engage in politics full-time was based heavily on the belief that we are in the midst of a political crisis brought on by conservative overreach, as defined by a series of events from 1994-2006 (Clinton impeachment, a rising corporate plutocracy, the stolen election of 2000, the invasion of Iraq, etc). In the back of my mind, I have probably always believed that once the imminent threat of that overreach has been vanquished, I can return to my "ordinary" life, whatever that may be. Once we shift a bunch of Overton windows, put a wide range of sophisticated progressive political infrastructure in place, and match it all up with a very solid Democratic trifecta not only in D.C. but also in most states around the country, the political situation will be righted, the crisis will be resolved. It might even be disingenuous to say that this is an idea that is in the back of my mind, since for a number of months I have kicked around a date by which point, if all goes well, I think this can be satisfactorily accomplished: January 20th, 2013. I have little doubt that this is nothing more than a wild fantasy, but that I would even have a date in mind by which point I would like to see my political goals accomplished goes quite a long way toward explaining why I can't see myself as a political professional for the rest of my life. Whether naïve or not, at a gut level, I think I am responding to a crisis that I believe can ultimately be solved, and which will not occupy me for the rest of my life.
The children of 1992 have nothing but contempt for the children of 1972, holding them responsible for the catastrophic presidential defeats of '68, '72, '80, '84, and '88. They currently dominate the party leadership and they hold as articles of faith the perception that modern America is basically a center-right nation that only votes for Dems if Dems confine their progressive message to pocketbook topics and embrace a basically conservative posture on crime and national security issues.
The children of 2000 basically see the modern political environment as one of perpetual crisis engendered by conservative over-reach. It's the sense that conservatives have gone too far that fuels their outrage in general and deep frustration at the children of 1992 specifically. The feeling is very similar to a sense of betrayal, that the children of 1992 let conservatives over-reach on their watch and without really trying to stop them and never having apologized for their failure. The children of 2000's acute sense that things have to change have embraced the proud posture of the children of 1972 and allied with them generally while studiously (but perhaps not sustainably) avoiding too much of a public emphasis on comprehensive philosophy and ideology.
I bring this up to offer not yet one more strange insight into my mind, but rather to ask MyDD readers if they consider political activism to be something they intend to engage in, at a high level, for the rest of their lives. On a broader level, do you think the recently, and greatly, increased engagement of progressives in political activism is a decade or so long phase brought on by a sense of national crisis, or a longer term, fundamental shift in American politics? In other words, is the progressive movement a temporary activist coalition catalyzed by a new wave of activism and political energy from the children of 2000, or is it instead the beginning of a long-term upswing in progressive civic engagement? Are we here to stay, or will we fizzle out?
I don't know the answer to these questions, but I thought it would be a worthy topic of conversation tonight. I look forward to reading your responses in the morning.