Robert Jensen and Pat Youngblood :
Working for a realistic left politics in Texas

To our friends outside Texas, we ask: Is it really so much better where you live? Where in mainstream politics in the United States is there much sanity?

simpson wins

Image from Warming Glow.

By Robert Jensen and Pat Youngblood | The Rag Blog | February 18, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas — As left/progressive political organizers in Texas, we have for years listened to friends around the country ask, “How do you survive in such a crazy state?”

It’s true that the recent primary election results are cause for concern. Our likely next lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, advocates that creationism not only be taught but “heralded” in schools and has warned that undocumented immigrants bring leprosy. And crazy campaign rhetoric turns into regressive policies, such as the Legislature’s assault on women’s health now being felt as clinics close.

But a basic aspect of Texas politics is familiar everywhere. Republican factions — the tea party and the old guard — slug it out in the primaries, sliding ever rightward. Democrats fill the centrist void, leaving voters with choices that skew further right with each election.

The politics of the Obama administration ought to be called center-right, economically and socially. That President Barack Obama’s so often labeled a leftist is testament not only to this rightward shift but also to our political culture’s increasing detachment from reality.

To our friends outside Texas, we ask: Is it really so much better where you live? Where in mainstream politics in the United States — whether Republicans or Democrats dominate — is there much sanity?

We spend little time decrying the ideological fanaticism of Republicans but instead highlight differences between our work on global justice at the Third Coast Activist Resource Center and the Democrats’ conventional wisdom. The reactionary right is more viscerally frightening — especially for immigrants, women and other vulnerable groups — but neither party has a coherent analysis of the cascading crises of our time or meaningful policy prescriptions.

Keeping alive a realistic critical politics is crucial, illustrated by examples from ecology, economics, and empire.

That’s why keeping alive a realistic critical politics is crucial, illustrated by examples from ecology, economics, and empire.

Climate change: Much of the Republican Party denies (or, to appease denial-driven voters and donors, ignores) anthropogenic climate change. Rejecting the overwhelming consensus of peer-reviewed science is ecocidal. Meanwhile, most of the Democratic Party accepts the science but continues to talk about “solutions” that deny the scale and scope of the problem, pretending that capitalism’s demand for endless growth is sustainable. This rejection of the implications of the science is ecocidal, too.

Inequality: Much of the Republican Party is unconcerned about widening wealth inequality or the persistent racial wealth divide, preferring an unreflective commitment to allegedly free markets and whatever distribution of wealth results. Most of the Democratic Party expresses concern over this inequality and offers variations of traditional New Deal programs that, at best, only temper the worst of it.

Neither party acknowledges that capitalism is a wealth-concentrating system at odds with our commonly stated theological and ethical principles, which put the inherent dignity of all people at the heart of a decent human community.

Foreign policy: Since World War II, the United States has mostly pursued a bipartisan agenda of economic and military dominance, using overt aggression and covert crimes to solidify that control. As U.S. dominance wanes and domestic politics fractures, there is more mainstream disagreement over foreign policy.

Libertarian isolationism (detached from the reality of the contemporary world’s complexity), conservative aggressiveness (imposition of U.S.-dominance through brute force) and liberal imperialism (a slightly more diplomatic effort at dominance) all share one goal: continue, to the degree possible, the United States’ dominance that makes possible our disproportionate consumption of the world’s resources, protecting the bottom line of U.S.-based multinational corporations.

There are often important differences between Republicans and Democrats, and we do not hesitate to support saner politicians.

There are often important differences between Republicans and Democrats, and we do not hesitate to support saner politicians who run for office and policy proposals they put forward. We also support efforts to challenge ultra-right-wing Republicans who shut down women’s health clinics, ratchet up anti-immigrant rhetoric, and try to push public education back to the 19th century before they kill it off completely with vouchers.

All these issues matter, but so does this long-term and big-picture observation: Republicans and Democrats today lack the moral courage and/or intellectual capacity to articulate a political program that deals with reality. When we organize around the issues of the moment, we should do it with an eye to challenging not only obvious opponents on the right but untrustworthy allies in the center.

Is it unrealistic to pursue left politics in Texas — or anywhere in the United States? Quite the contrary: The ecological crises, economic catastrophes, and immorality of empire lead us to conclude that mainstream politics is a dead end. We remain committed to left politics because we are realistic.

This article was first published at the Austin American-Statesman and was cross-posted to The Rag Blog by the authors.

Read more articles by Robert Jensen on The Rag Blog.

[UT-Austin journalism professor Robert Jensen and Pat Youngblood are co-founders and board members of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin.

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4 Responses to Robert Jensen and Pat Youngblood :
Working for a realistic left politics in Texas

  1. Extremist2TheDHS says:

    “Is it unrealistic to pursue left politics in Texas — or anywhere in the United States?”

    ! Yes !

    Just ask the residents of the bankrupt cities and deeply indebted state of california, where left politics and union pandering have left residents with the highest income and gas taxes in the country, and left them with a staggering debt load including $27B NOT including pension and medical liabilities. The teachers pension shortfall is 75B while the main public employee retirement fund and unfunded medical benefit shortfall is estimated to be $400B. (figures from Forbes).

    Ask the residents of New Jersey where wealth is fleeing the state at a record pace after 9 years of net wealth inflow.

    In Texas we are fortunate to have politicians who take their responsibilities seriously and manage the states operations in a responsible, fair manner. I will take “crazy” Texas everyday over the wacky wannabe “left politicians” running their states into the ground.

    – Extremist2TheDHS

  2. joe manning says:

    Creationism, immigrant bashing, racism, climate change denial, inequality, and isolationism are endemic to capitalism in that they are good for business. What the right lacks in numbers it makes up for with gerrymandering and vote suppression. Can liberalism be resuscitated in time to save us from imminent crises? Lets hope so.

  3. Larry Youngblood says:

    Wow I guess Austin can even pollute the minds of Texas Youngbloods

  4. Danni says:

    We have to show why Blue is better. There has been a 30 year Propaganda Effort against those of us who truly believe in Freedom for all.

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