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The internecine conflict within progressive and lefty social movements is nothing new.  Ideological infighting and political jockeying has always been a feature of movements and campaigns.  In many ways, such rivalry casting is part of the human condition, but perhaps is more acutely experienced amongst those with a strongly committed to either an ideological position or to a particular political personality. Indeed, as we noted in Tribal Political Discourse Part 1 the most strident debates often happen within an ideological or religious faction as opposed to between factions. The Left is not immune from this phenomenon.

The Left Saves Their Sharpest Knives for Themselves

If you have been part of progressive movement building or political organizing, you likely have witnessed this factionalization, if not participated in it.  In the middle of such moments, I often observe that the left saves its sharpest knives for themselves.  Despite the overwhelming odds against making last progressive change against monied and powerful interests, despite all the evils that are confronted, the toughest battles often are within progressive movements. Often these conflicts can be beneficial in eliminating blind spots on such issues as institutional oppression where the organization or movement may be mimicking the very practices and behavior that we are seeking to defeat.   In other cases though, the stridency of the conflict and the personalization of the attacks can lead to weaker movements, networks and organizations and even bring to an unfortunate end that which is necessary in the world. 

When we lose perspective and turn on each other, we forget what's at stake in making sure we have a seat at the table to enact progressive policy change.

As we struggle with the tensions and conflicts, we should be asking ourselves, do we have processes and norms that facilitate productive conflict?  How do we hold ourselves accountable?  When we slip into unproductive conflict, how do right the ship and set our sights to win-win problem solving?  How do we keep perspective that the biggest issues we face are out there as opposed to within our network or organization?

The Forms of Conflict

Often these conflicts take on a few typical forms:

  • Purists vs. pragmatists - Ideological purity is often a natural outgrowth of feeling passionately about an issue or a framework.  Converts to a way of thinking passionately advocate for a set of positions based on this ideology.  There is often a degree of absolutism that finds itself in conflict with those who fancy themselves as pragmatists willing to compromise and cede ground.  When to make a more political compromise and when to stand your ground on principle even if you will lose are the types of conversations that can be helpful to have.  However, to what degree the movement cedes ground or makes compromise is often the basis for faction formation.  Such divisions can stop movement building and coalitions in their tracks.  
  • Decision making, power, and authority can be nebulous in movements and coalitions that are more ad hoc by their nature.  Well-established organizations can also have these types of disagreements between boards, staff, and other constituencies,   Often the community connectedness versus some other power center is the root of the conflict. Those who find processes for decision making that are viewed as trusted by all parties (often because they are representative or democratic) can channel conflict productively.   Opaque decision making processes can lead to power struggles that can bring down movements through infighting or decision-making that grinds to a halt in an outside world that often requires rapid decision making about rapidly changing circumstances.
  • Old Guard vs. New Energy -  New energy is often welcome in progressive movements or within organizations until the demands for change come.  New ways of thinking can challenge norms and traditions, even those norms which are broadly perceived to be functioning well.  The maintainers of tradition and continuity find themselves holding onto what they know and using established relationships to hold onto the power and authority that often comes with those traditions.  Generating a balance between the old and the new can take movements, organizations and networks to incredibly power places.  Over-valuing one at the expense of the other can lead to stagnation if too much old and a lack of wisdom if the baby is thrown out with the bath water.

Let's Start with the Presidential Campaign

The Presidential campaign is in full swing, unfortunately earlier this cycle than ever.  We should recognize these conflicts when we see them.  I'm already seeing social media spats amongst the fans of various candidates.  To be sure, a primary is a vetting process that should allow for tough questioning and debating amongst the candidates and their supporters.   However, many of these conflicts are folks already dug into a set of positions often along purity-pragmatism and new energy/old guard conflict spectrums.  Let's undig ourselves and look at the 2020 Presidential campaign with a fresh set of eyes.  Let's value and respect what so many good candidates are bringing to the table.  Let's be clear where there is disagreement on policy and why.  And let's not get so caught up in the internecine primary battles that we take our eyes off the fundamental need to defeat a President who has ushered in one of the most tragic political epochs in American history.

Part 3: 

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. A this week came out that asked questions about past and current criminality of . 2/3 of believe is a . They are right.

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So you wanna be President?  Who doesn't?!

On an almost daily basis, a new entrant emerges on the Democratic side for President.  Each candidate announcement sets off a range of speculation from the mass media talking heads and the social media chattering class. Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes shift their coverage on Trump/Russia collusion and the government shutdown to allow candidates to preview their campaigns with an initial TV appearances.  Twitter polls and already heated Facebook conversations speculate on the preferred candidates and which candidates are supposedly dealbreakers for their votes in a general election.  

The understandable Democratic zealotry to remove Trump from office in one way or another, has potential candidates announcing earlier than in any other campaign season.  This elongated campaign will invariably suck up much of the oxygen around social change activity and transfer to campaigns, punditry, and electioneering.   In this series, I offer a few cautions as we head into this new period in our history.

Progressives:  Steward Our Energy and Attention 

A full year away from the first primaries, we progressives need to keep our eyes on the current challenges.  The immediacy of the government shutdown certainly helped focus our attention to begin the new year, but there's still so much to do over the next 18 months before the fall election period.  Where we do not believe we will achieve a legislative win, we can frame the issues for the 2020 election and beyond.   Here's what rises to the top in terms of a legislative agenda and a framing of issues:

  • Securing Democracy - HR 1 is an excellent start in confronting the political corruption from the influx of significant sums of money and addressing some of what is fundamentally broken in our democracy.  Issues address include: Automatic Voter Registration, Restoration of the Voting Rights Act, Public Financing of Elections, An End to Gerrymandering, and A Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United.  These measures would restore faith in the democratic process and create a more just political playing field.   
  • Medicare for All - Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and other progressive coalitions are actively engaged in education and canvassing efforts, pushing the universal health care agenda.  There is broad public support and multiple Democratic candidates are now on board with a measure that Bernie Sanders's first brought to the fore.  We certainly must defend the gains of the ACA, encourage all states to accept Medicaid expansion.  And we must continue to education why the United States should join most of the rest of the world in provide health coverage to all citizens.
  • Green New Deal - There is a growing movement with new entrants like Sunrise who are lifting young voices and taking an adamant stand around the Green New Deal set of policies to fully address the impending and immediate threats of climate change.  In her few weeks on the job, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez provided tremendous exposure to this agenda which also includes economic justice issues.  We need to figure out in greater detail what this agenda means at state and local levels and start implementing.  
  • Immigration Reform - With all the talk about the the wall and border security, it would seem that there is an opportunity to put forward a new framing as opposed to just reacting to Trump administration racism and xenophobia.  I hear many Democrats expressing their support for border security without fully embracing the notion that we need to be welcoming of immigrants.  Immigration reform has been on the table for years, but perhaps now there is an opening to move in a bipartisan manner.  

With firm control of the House and dozens of wins in state legislatures and governorships, progressive and Democrats should keep the focus on issues and making some headway..  Yes, campaigns can help amplify issues, but there is also the risk that a particular policy solution gets solely associated with one candidate and one campaign.  More to come on this topic..

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This well. was at when he bragged that he had more than almost any other two years in. No for a #lying man.

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The that supporters live in means they might not hear about or understand the full gravity of Trump’s worst day as .


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: "I don't know why he lowers himself to such a low, . He our country. The has great difficulty with the .

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against : delivered an eloquent speech taking on the and his sundering of the country through , Threats to and our , and flagrant disregard for or .

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Just when you think hits he goes even lower. He has no limits to the lows he takes himself and the country. Last week he said he did more to comfort families who had lost a loved one than previous , yet another false claim of hundreds of he's told since becoming . He then completely botched a family. Let's not forget it took him a long time to even acknowledge the deaths of soldiers in Niger. What will it be this week?

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gave a ripping and his to threads. He also called out and of the current and his fans. To note however, is #nostranger to his own use of #racism and #homophobia to win elections.

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alert!. With the firing of as Director of the , the must not be allowed to appoint his own investigator of Trump campaign ties with .
We demand that an be appointed now to conduct to the investigation.

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is lying about . Yet again, the man breaks any we have as a . When the sitting President attacks the previous with no evidence. It is a lie intended to distract us from the closing in on the investigation. #resist

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