I was, I confess, surprised and a little disturbed by the responses to my sunny post of yesterday. I find hope a more powerful motivator than despair, and so, in advance of a battle, I concentrate on what can be won rather than on the likelihood that we will not win everything. The history of popular progressive uprisings makes it clear that even when they are successful, they fall short of the aspirations of those who make them. I have written about the deeper reasons for this, most recently in my Columbia talk, so I shan’t repeat them here. But it is worth reminding ourselves of the consequences of the movements we have been a part of in our lifetimes. The Black Liberation Movement accomplished an enormous improvement in the daily life chances and experiences of African-Americans. But it was unable to overcome institutional racism deeply embedded in the structure of the American economy, and of course it left capitalism untouched. Was it worth the effort? I think the answer to that question should be left to Black respondents. The Women’s Movement made astonishing changes in the life chances of women, and seems poised to dramatically shift American politics leftward. But as the #MeToo movement makes clear, women continue to suffer daily assaults on their bodies, on their dignity, on their very lives. Has the Gay Liberation Movement been worth the effort? As the father of a proud gay man, I have seen close up the changes in the status and acceptance of LGBT men and women in just his adult lifetime. I will leave it to him to say how much remains. If we cannot recognize, acknowledge, and bear up under the disappointments attendant upon these victories, we might as well leave field and repair to our studies, where we can daily remind ourselves of the vast evils and injustices of this world.
Do liberal votes count for less than conservative votes? Of course they do. The sainted Founding Fathers designed the Constitution to guarantee that result. Just to be extra careful, they made amending the Constitution to change that fact almost impossible. Does Gerrymandering systemically diminish the power of Democratic votes? Of course it does. The only remedy is to turn out extra-large votes for state Democratic candidates. Are liberal votes wasted by being cast in coastal urban enclaves? To be sure. Unless a quasi-religious movement catches fire among Liberals exhorting them to move to West Virginia and Utah “for the good of the party,” there is nothing to be done but suck it up, order another half caf skim milk latte with two shots of vanilla, and try to persuade some of the two-thirds of Democratic voters who do not bother to turn out for the mid-term elections that they might consider spending an hour every two years dropping in at their local polling station.
So stop complaining and organize!