First post in a series on Election Talk
Making history is far better than predicting it.
Let’s practice turning speculation into an organizing opportunity.
Perhaps the most common remark I hear when taking to people about the Sanders campaign — even more so when promoting the Green Party — is “electability.” I always hear: “Can they win?”
Electability is a social-control discourse that we need to counter.
First, know that questions produce answers.
Electability questions rely on untestable assumptions that tend to produce the sought-after answer. Namely, that there is no alternative to the status quo.
Electability arguments draw on the “horserace” or sports framing that corporate media uses to explain elections to its consumers. And, to limit the range of opinion and readily available questions and answers.
“Can Sanders win?” “Can the Green Party win national office?” Such questions are invitation to predict the future, are they not?
Such predictions require speculation and cannot be based on facts alone. These seemingly rational political discussions devolve into statements of incontestable opinion if not outright meaningless soothsaying. Electability drains political discourse of real content.
Counter-factual discourse is useful however to the organizer in that it exposes the underlying assumptions of the speaker since the facts cannot get in the way.
When confronted with the electability argument I respond:
“Yes, of course Sanders can win. Yes, the Green Party can become a viable opposition party.”
“But, its much better to ask a different question.”
“Can we win? Can the American people win?”
“Which candidate or candidates are most effective, right now, based on their record, for helping to promote the sweeping social movements that will be necessary to bring real change to the US.”
By the answer given, you will learn right away about the political consciousness of the person you are talking with. And that, for organizers and activists, is the first step toward meaningful engagement with that person.
“Can we win?” shifts the terrain to what we can do. Yes, you will hear fear and yes, you will hear fatalism, distracting and denial. But at least you can assess the discussion and invite them to make history rather than passively predict it. Or not — but at least you will know its time to move on.
That is, after all, what’s important, isn’t it? Where would President Sanders be without a strong poly-centered social movements to support change? Congress is still controlled by the Corporate Power and even a landslide victory is not going to completely change that.
Sanders has repeated said he cannot make the political revolution without a broader political revolution and the Green Party has long been the electoral wing of the social movements.
Its what we do that matters. We the people. Its in our hands.
So let’s reframe. Let’s challenge the soothsayers and move toward political dialogue about activism, organizing, and a vision for revolutionary change.