An excellent article by Mark Bittman recently caught my attention. While the Presidential elections and the circus that precedes it, captivates the media and offers us a measure of entertainment, the danger is that it is becoming more of a distraction.
2011 was a pivotal year, whichever side of the fence you dwell. The Arab Spring, Tea Party and Occupy movements sent a clear message that the people have had enough and want change. Moreover, there is a wide understanding that coordinated, mass movements can effect change.
What is imperative now is to band together and organize so that the President and Congress take our claims seriously. The Republicans are tied up with their desperate attempts to find a candidate who is…well remotely Presidential.
The left, whether it be the green movement, the occupy movement, or the mainstay democratic party and trade union activists need to coordinate a clear rallying cry around those issues most critical to “the 99 percent” and be ready in Mr. Bittman’s words “to garner enough political will and power to pressure the president and Congress to move resolutely on the issues that matter.”
This coalition will certainly include the environmental movement, the Occupy movement, the foreclosed homeowners movement, the indebted students movement, the food and health movement, or the unemployment movement, and I am sure there are others that I have missed.
Somehow, the plethora of movements worries me. Once you get individual leaders and proud movements there is inevitable competition for the microphone and the ear of the media. There needs to be a clear channel recognized by the President and government as a respected pulse of the people.
As Mr. Bittman says: “It doesn’t matter what you call the movements, or the people behind them. What matters is forcing the government to act in the interests of the sometimes-silent majority rather than its corporate paymasters.”
He also points to a recent Pew poll that found just about half of all young people now have a more positive view of “socialism” (whatever that is) than “capitalism” (we know what that is), as do nearly a third of all Americans.
How do we take this momentum and turn it into clear, measurable changes in policy? Mark Bittman lays out a course that I will present on Wednesday.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).