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Why We Protest: A Message for Middle America


Why We Protest: A Message for Middle America

Ira Chernus

I live in a small, pretty typical middle-American city. For decades it was rock-ribbed Republican. Recently it’s been turning slowly but steadily more liberal. So now it is solidly purple.

When we stand out on Main Street (yes, it’s really called Main Street) at our weekly progressive vigil, we get plenty of approving honks from the cars driving by, a sprinkling of thumbs down or middle fingers up, and lots of blank apathy.


I think the main reason so many people are protesting is to prevent the US from becoming a fascist country. Trump is attacking two of the most important parts of a democratic society, the free press and the courts. And it appears things are in the works to attack peaceful protesting itself. Also, Trump is attacking science and the public dissemination of scientific information.


Some good points Ira. The Republicans are not listening to the majority of Americans, just as the Democrats refused to listen to the people during the primary and the general election.

Clinton was the wrong candidate to face Trump and until the Democratic Party admits this simple fact, the Democratic Party will continue to lose support from those who witnessed the corrupt means that were used to put down the surging populist who was the only progressive running for the Democratic Party nomination, Bernie Sanders.

Taking responsibility for their failure would require the Democratic Party Establishment to have strength of character and honesty. I'm sure they believe admitting mistakes would show weakness.

Neither of these two old parties have any integrity any longer. They are run by soulless humans who care nothing for the masses. All they care about is squeezing as much of our hard earned money out of us, as they can.

This, is why we protest.


If the best Chernus has to offer with his protests is returning the Democrats to power, he's wasting his time. Based on this article, he obviously doesn't understand the role the Democrats played in helping Trump to get into the White House. Replacing a Republican status quo with the same old Democratic status quo still leaves the majority of people in this country without real representation. The poor, in particular, haven't had any representation in either party for decades. Little wonder, then, that so many voters were desperate enough for change as to vote for Trump, hoping he could provide the change that the Democrats obviously could not or would not provide.

By all means, get out and protest Trump, but replacing him with another Democratic party hack just opens the door for the next Trump.


Chernus DOES need to remind the middle that if the colonists had not protested Britain's governance during the 18th century, the US would have continued to be a British colony and there would be no Murka.


I protested. But I do not agree that the problem is the Republicans. So, Mr. Chernus does not speak for me in his Op-Ed. The Democrats are, and have been for quite some time, complicit in the rich-get-richer America that now exists. The Democrats are responsible for no longer representing the great majority of us and, worse, for not even seeing us as we struggle to survive. The lesser of two evils argument no longer convinces us. I protest because I do not think Donald Trump is the answer. But please don't assume that I think the Democrats are.


Will the US left PLEASE get over this neurotic, and fantastical magical notion of an all encompassing glorious revolution coming down from on high if we just shout louder and adhere to absolute religious purity from our keyboards?

There is this thing the US left need to learn about called "strategy" Strategy involved a stepwise process - one step at a time. And lots of boring but critically important organizing chores too. Compromises will be needed along the way too.

With the extremist Republicans in power, we will be fighting for - at the most optimistic - merely restoring the status quo of the Obama years - and having to make making alliances with the same mainstream Democrats we should be opposing in doing so.

But had we pursued a "defeat Trump and the Republicans first" key-state electoral strategy last November, think of what forward-looking agendas we could be fighting for right now. And yes, merely replacing the Republican house rep with a Democrat one in your district would be a step - just a step - in the right direction. Why? One at least listens to us, the other despises us.


If you really think your more of the same, get in bed and cozy up to the same old Democrat hacks is the way to go, go for it. If you really think that restoring Democrats to power is going to make a dent in the oligarchy, that's your call. How's that strategy been working out for you, by the way? Hasn't worked for the last thirty years, but, hey, maybe you'll get lucky four years or maybe eight years, down the road.

Change is coming, but some of us DO know that it won't be "magical" or "from on high", nor will it come from our keyboards. Your strategy and timetable for more of the same insures that it will come from the streets; that it will get progressively uglier and that it will, sadly, get violent. The one chance for keeping resistance peaceful and constructive is to quickly find unity outside the control of either the Democrats or Republicans. Thanks to Democrats squandering countless opportunities to make a difference, time is no longer a luxury we have to play politics as usual.


Who is calling for more of the same? I am fully open to other alternative strategies. Please provide it and detail the steps. Do you honestly believe that you can have a fully functioning new left-political formation - one that can defeat the popular reactionary forces currently in power - ready to fill all the seats on congress over the next 4 to 6 years?


If the Democratic Party doesn't change fast to prevent the GOP from attaining control in 38 states. the GOP will have the power to rewrite the entire Constitution and Bill of Rights, that would surely include making the US a one party nation.

The choices are clear for the Democratic Party: Change or cease to exist. No gray area here.


What is the mechanism that your are proposing?

Rhetoric rhetoric rhetoric all day. Slogans and rhymes are not levers of power.

What is the mechanism? All I see, as Yunzer says, is idle fantasies about a 20th century-style vanguardist revolution.

Let's think about that, honestly, for just 5 seconds. Have you ever seen riot cops close up? I ask the question seriously, not flippantly. This is the first barrier to the Necharevian dreams of revolution the United States: there aren't many of you, and the cops will squish you like fucking insects. Forget rubber bullets and tear gas. You want to fuck with weaponized lasers and hollow points? That's what you're asking when you talk about change through "violence in the streets".

But let's say, somehow, you succeed, and now the State falls! Huzzah comrades! Well, now what happens? Are you prepared? You know who IS prepared? The right-wing paramilitaries that spend their weekends training for the collapse of the state. Guess what? They hate you. They hate socialism. They LOVE God and they LOVE guns.

You know what else they like? They like Order. They like Order, they like their Heritage, and they like Guns. You know who else like Order, Heritage, and Guns? Fascists do! So guess what, now you've got organized fascists paramilitaries that are armed and ready. Who do you think will form the new State? You and your Marxist book-club buddies, or the neo-nazi paramilitaries waiting in the wings?

And that doesn't even bring up the power of global capital that will come to bear on any fantastical post-revolution period. You think corporations have a lot of power now? Well who do you think can afford a better army: you, or Goldman Sachs?

You'd better fucking hope it doesn't come to violence in the streets, because WE DO NOT WIN when that happens. WE NEVER WIN when that happens. Look. At. History.

We've seen what vanguardism leads to: Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba. We've seen what failed revolutions lead to: Syria, Iran. How much more evidence do you need to drop the myth of the glorious revolution bathed in blood? How many million deaths is it worth to hold on to the myths of the 19th century?

"Violence in the streets" needs to be avoided at all costs. Even if — gasp! — it means making compromises. We aren't negotiating from a position of strength. We are negotiating from a position of weakness. To threaten violence is just absolutely laughable. Laughable.


Nice article Ira !

Strange - I am secular, but I am always drawn to these religious articles.

Could it be trust in the author's basic integrity ?

In any case - I want to agree with those comments that say that the Democratic Party, at least as it is now configured, is not the answer.

Even seeing how bad Trump et al is, were I an American voter I would never have voted for Clinton and her party, who are worse, if that is indeed possible, than Trump et al.

I hate being lied to, and prefer an outright criminal to a hypocrite.


How the fuck could they be worse? They were in power for eight years. Was it worse then than now? Is your memory that short? :persevere:


I think you 'speak' Hollywood and wax rhetorical. Hollow points? Um, let me point out something. Kent State was a tragedy but no one forgot it nor excused it. Your hyperbolic excess about riot police and hollow points is rather ridiculous but maybe it comforts you.

I don't see Americans engaging in a violent revolution. We are better educated than that. You come down hard on a crowd and those people will then organize an even bigger crowd by word of mouth next time. That is America. We don't tolerate being bullied by authority. Sadly we accommodate authority more than we should but just the same... firing hollow point bullets into a crowd? Are you for real?

Nor will militias take over. That one made me laugh. Silliness in the extreme. Like they are needed by our police forces? Give me a break!

By the way, they hate the government more than they hate protestors. You are all mixed up about them.

You need to learn the difference between civil disobedience and disobeying an authority figure.

You also need to get up off your knees and join the struggle to restore/regain our democracy. The coup is happening. Fight it!


The protests need to be ratcheted up a few notches to get the message across to those in power. A concerted effort to bring commerce to it's knees for a few days nation wide could be a first step to effect real change. It's kinda like people chaining themselves to trees or blocking railroad cars full of oil or the pipeline protests. Some will be arrested or even beat up but the time for gentle sideline waving signs has passed and if we want to save Earth for future generations immediate action is called for. If I wasn't so damn disabled I'd start organizing on a local level. The time is now! Social media can be most useful.


Both candidates were equally reprehensible for entirely different reasons. Hands down Trump's worse for the environment and civil rights. HRC was more of a hawk than Trump, IMO. This country has been ruled by toxic rulers long enough, it's time to effect real change.


I was replying to:

Perhaps I'm being unfair to jneastra, but if you think people here and elsewhere aren't clamoring for a revolution in the streets then you aren't paying attention. The Left is absolutely still fascinated by the messianic promises of Marxists. Aside from Marxists, what is there even left of the Left? Post-modern nausea.

I'm sick of the polarizing absolutist bullshit that is definitive of the Left.

And there's nothing dramatic about cops using hollow points. Cops use hollow points as a matter of standard practice, to prevent their bullets from passing through their targets and hitting bystanders (look it up).


By what mechanism?

Does Trump's cabinet appear to you like a nest of doves?

Meanwhile they are well into the mass deportations.


I'm in a small town, rural county, and have a different perspective. Trump merely represents the latest (last?) stage of what began with the "Reagan Revolution." In real life, not everyone can work (health, etc.), and there aren't jobs for all. The US shut down/shipped out a massive number of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare aid in the 1990s, and mainstream America continues to ignore the consequences. Out here, we watched factory jobs disappear while family farms went down like dominos.

Liberal media have spent the past 20-some years implicitly supporting the false notion that our deregulated capitalism is so successful, that everyone is able to work and there are jobs for all, therefore no need for poverty relief. They are wrong. No legitimate story about "middle America" can exclude our poverty crisis.


You wrote that you were replying to jneastra. Do you mean that other people shouldn't read or respond then?

You speak of the Left as if it were uniform and vanguardist no less. Marxist? You must be joking!

There are still a few hardcore 'Old Left' types out there I am sure but they hardly constitute what might be called the 'Left'. This is a world where labels are post modernist and clear cut definitions are elusive.

Nobody (except Yunzer maybe lol) knows what a Trotskyist is except another Trotskyist and he refuses to call the other one a real Trotskyist anyway. See the problem? You are railing against an old version of the left. A very old version!

Imagine lots of young people who consider Marx a name that might be on the test but otherwise have absolutely no interest in reading him (or Freud - another well known name on the test but whom nobody reads unless assigned as homework).

The left ... is mainly of a younger generation mentality who has showed little interest in trying to fit themselves into such old fogey categories.

I suggest you call them the Climate Driven Left ... it rings truer than does anything else. Trump and the billionaires have created this definition simply by denialism.

The New Left is Climate Driven (or will be soon enough)! Marxism has absolutely nothing to do with it. Opposing the coup of billionaires ala Trump and Co. is the reality.