The Pivot: From Purism to Political Will

The Pivot: From Purism to Political Will

We’re reeling at the news that the Supreme Court actually did it. They utterly erased Roe v. Wade. Not that we weren’t expecting this, because we were. Not that we weren’t ready for this, because we are. But we need to fortify ourselves–with will, political will.

This will be an even longer battle than anticipated. Yet it’s one we must fight, and one we will win, not with exhaustion, despair, or ultra purity. Will. I’ve always been a proponent of will and have at times been accused of (or praised for) having a will of some ferocity–although history of late has at times made me feel like I have the will of a limp noodle.

I don’t believe in will used indiscriminately, or against all comers and all odds, and certainly not the triumph of it, and not as power over but power to. I do believe that will can be mustered by ordinary humans like you and me. But it takes time, practice, endurance, and hope. More about this below.

Here are some random items I’ve plucked from the last few days of reporting to keep you going–even actually cheer you–through the summer, and to remind us both that we can pivot from despair into something approaching hope. It’s not that I’m turning mushily Hallmark-card optimistic, you understand. But, as former Congresswoman Patricia Schröder of Colorado, a silver-tongued wit, often said, “You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” So here are some demonstrations of “wringing your hands” purism and the pivoted position “rolling up one’s sleeves.” For example:

The hand wringing position: Oh my god people are being massacred by the gun lobby and the NRA and we’re still not doing a thing about it because of politicians’ cowardice!
The rolling up one’s sleeves position: It requires trudging for hundreds of miles to advance one inch–that’s political change. The Senate has finally come to an agreement on gun legislation. It ain’t perfect, it ain’t what we want, it ain’t what they want either. But it’s a beginning. And it will save lives–because it closes the so-called “violent boyfriend loophole” clause.

Hand wringer purism: Bill Cosby got out of jail! How devastating that he’s free after all he did to women! There is no justice. The Courts don’t matter!
Rolling up one sleeves political will: The Courts matter massively. They’re our last resort. A California jury found that Cosby sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl back in 1975 and awarded her $500,000 in damages. The verdict was a setback for Cosby who, on his release after serving nearly three years in prison, had promoted the Appeals Court decision as a full exoneration–a wild exaggeration now overshadowed by a finding that reinforces his image as wielding his celebrity to assault women. Moreover, he’s been jailed, publicly humiliated, stripped of his awards, his career is kaput, and his fortune has been shriveled. (Not enough? I agree. But I also advise you to dwell instead on Harvey Weinstein, still languishing in prison.)

Hand wringer purism: COVID and the Hearings and this rising fascism have left me such a nervous wreck I suddenly want to smoke again.
Rolling sleeves political will: First, the FDA is now set to propose a reduction of nicotine in cigarettes to help prevent addiction; it’s likely to face fierce industry opposition, but ha! (by the way, that progressive inch was won by Biden’s doing). Second, the Hearings are fabulous, and very revealing. I wish Supreme Court arguments were televised, too. It’s amazing and should be our right to see our government at work. The Committee is unearthing Trump’s deep involvement in plans to push forward fake electors, and to bully the Justice Department and election officials in various states, even unto violent threats. Connections are being exposed between local officials up through middle henchman and then further up through the Rudy Giulianis and other sycophants, directly to Trump himself. They’re not merely evident. They’re brazen. The Hearings are doing their work! Look, what we’ve been hoping for has finally begun to happen! You ask Where are all the principled Republicans? The answer is, Testifying before the January 6th Attack on the Capitol Congressional Committee–and what’s more, they’re high-profile, highly placed, conservative pro-Trump Republicans, yet they are telling the truth. I know that most people aren’t watching the Hearings except perhaps in re-runs or snippets, certainly not gavel to gavel, and certainly not the maga-maniacs or the Proud Boys. But a whole lot of Americans are watching, and for everyone who then does a double take and rethinks their previous loyalty to Trump, or for everyone who has previously been lukewarm about Biden without thinking that through, this strengthens our democracy.

Hand wringer purism: Biden’s economic plans are insufficient, they’re not complete social revolution.
Rolling sleeves political will: Oh c’mon. The poor guy has passed the most advanced economic legislation since the 1930s! Look it up. Do some homework. I’m tremendously impatient, but even I know that profound progressive change happens slowly, with grassroots support as well as leadership. In an age of fake news and Internet lies, that support might feel harder to get, because a lie does travel around the world while truth is still tugging its boots on. But please. Don’t fall into cheap, self-congratulatory outrage or the cowardly convenience of despair.

Hand wringer purism: What in god’s name is wrong with Merrick Garland!? The Justice Department is moving at a glacial pace on absolutely everything!
Rolling sleeves political will: The Justice Department has expanded its January 6th probe with fresh subpoenas amid increased public pressure from House Committee Hearings (you see? it’s a domino effect). Federal agents dropped subpoenas on people in at least two states, in what appears to be a widening probe of how political henchmen supporting Donald Trump tried to use invalid electors to thwart Biden’s 2020 electoral victory. And they’re getting court-ordered probable-cause search warrants and raiding bad guys’ homes, to boot!

Hand wringer purism: The Court has dropped its dreaded Roe v Wade decision on us: outright disaster.
Rolling up sleeves political will: Listen, we anticipated this, we know forelash when we see it, and we’re ready. We’re in the streets, we’re registered to vote, we’re prepared to commit massive civil disobedience if necessary, and we’re absolutely determined to prevail in all the multiple ways we’ve already laid out and will again: from new legislation to menstrual extraction kits; from court challenges to fundraising groups for poor women who can’t afford to travel, get off work, or pay for babysitters; from morning-after to weeks-after pills; from legal aid to pharmaceuticals sent by mail. We are demanding that Congress immediately pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to restore protections for abortion nationwide. And there is a basic Constitutional change in the offing, if we get behind it and push: passage of the ERA would by its existence nullify the Supreme Court’s decision. They want us to give up. Why in hell should we grant their wish?

Hand wringer purism: OMG, Trump might run and even win again, given all the gerrymandering and outright lies. This is like Germany in the early 1930s, I smell fascism rising all around!
Rolling up sleeves political will: Then stop it in its tracks. Remember that we had never seen fascism per se before it was suddenly upon us in World War II. Well, we’ve seen it now, and we know what it smells like. Remember, too, that Hitler had been elected, because otherwise good people stayed home. So vote, get going, get to work. Think of all the decent folks working in both visible and invisible ways, in front of and behind the scenes, to preserve and protect this Republic’s democracy.

Hand wringer purist: Oh young people these days, they don’t know what they’re doing.
Rolling up sleeves political will: Bugger off. Young people might trip over their excessive pronouns on the way to their active verbs, but they’re still the hope of the world. So are you, by the way. What’s more, you’re younger than you think. So no time for dejection or weariness! Rest for a while, then it’s back to the front with renewed energy. There are more of us than there are of them: never forget it. That means that if every single person reading this blog were to vow that between now and the fall midterm election they would persuade/convince/inform/wheedle/charm/win over at least one person to register to vote and then to vote, that would help, hugely. Sure, write off the mega-maniacs as unreachable, but that still leaves a vast number of the unconcerned, the lazy, the uninformed, the ignorant-about-how-our-system-really-works, and most maddeningly of all, the purists.

And I’m not talking about right-wing extremists. I’m talking about so-called progressives.

Social media is crawling with super-pure progressives who whine what they presume is contagious depression, like: the new gun legislation isn’t good enough (see above), Biden’s economic plans have been “compromised” (ditto), the Bernies and AOCs and Jill Steins “never abandon their ideals” (they also never pass successful legislation, and consistently lose practical reality); what’s the point of voting, anyway, when it’s not for the things that would solve the problem, like socialist revolution? (Oh good god, this is why mindless progressives voted for Ralph Nader, and why Al Gore never became president. This is what they repeated about Jill Stein–who was responsible for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss–because HRC actually did win in 2020!). And last but never least: “There’s no real difference between Democrats and Republicans anyway, so what’s the point?” (Really? Really? One look at the Supreme Court strangles that argument forever.)

Terminal purity equals suffocation from trying to breathe rarefied air. Look on the bright side. Political will is the bright side.

So I’m off to make good trouble. How about you? See you in September. . . .

[This blog will be on hiatus until September.]