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Elect Hillary – then fight like hell

A diversity of tactics

Where do the movements that fueled the Bernie Sanders campaign – Occupy, the Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers, Moral Mondays, LGBTQ rights – go from here? These movements deserve a good part of the credit for Sanders’s extraordinary attack on oligarchy in the United States. Now, for these movements to grow, we need to elect Hillary Clinton as president of the United States.

Why? Not because Clinton is our candidate or shares our deepest political commitments, but because left movements gain influence when the regime in power depends on them for support. Clinton is unlikely to win without significant support from Sanders’s core voters. The coalition of progressive youth and left-leaning liberals behind the Sanders candidacy has forced the Democratic Party to accommodate change, and a Clinton presidency would be vulnerable to activist efforts in the future.

There is another reason: The rhetoric of a vulnerable regime also gives movements courage. Think of Obama’s comment that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Or that if he worked in a fast-food restaurant, he’d join a union. Or his statement about the Dreamers, that “these kids are Americans just like us and they belong here.”

MOVEMENT BUILDING

Finally, the hesitation to deploy the police affords some protection to movements. On this point, those who think a Trump victory would somehow be better for the left because it would stiffen our resistance ignore history. A Trump victory would expose our movements not only to official repression, but to mob violence.

To be sure, there is the very real concern that the Democratic Party, with its serpentine machinations and big-money donors, might smother these movements. But does this really have to be such a worry? We vote for Clinton not to gain access to the inner sanctum of the Democratic Party, but to gain time and position for movement politics. If the movements build on their distinctive capacities for raising the issues politicians want to suppress, and creating the disruptions they can’t ignore, Clinton’s very opportunism may make her a good target. So we should vote for the Democrats who need us to win, and then work for the movements that make trouble for them.

Frances Fox Piven is a distinguished professor at the Graduate Center. This article is republished with permission from The Nation.


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