A 16-Point Plan for U.S. Left

By Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine

“In Virginia, we started making a big community garden and everybody pitched in and worked on it, digging ditches to make sure we’d get water to the garden, and with a little effort we were getting some success,” progressive organizer, activist and author David Swanson told his audience at the First Unitarian-Universalist Church Friday, January 15. “Then this crowd of rain dancers showed up and said we ought to have a rain dance, and they would bring us the water and we wouldn’t have to dig for it. It’s going to be four years of water and we wouldn’t have to dig for it. It was going to be rain we could believe in. So we did the rain dance and then we had a little rain, and everybody said, ‘It worked!’ And they convinced themselves that it worked, until they realized it was just raining the same amount it always did. Did you really think, did you really believe, that a rain dance was going to fix everything? No. Then why is everybody so discouraged because we had this stupid rain dance, and why are we saying we shouldn’t bother to dig ditches anymore because the rain dance didn’t work?”

Gradually it dawned on the over 150 listeners that Swanson meant this story as a parable — they certainly “got it” once he parodied President Obama’s campaign slogan with the words “rain we could believe in” — and though his story was just one illustration of a 16-point program he outlined, sometimes facetiously, for the Left in America, in many ways it summed up his message. Though he was ostensibly there to promote his book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, Swanson’s agenda was bigger than his title. It was an effort to get the Left to rethink its whole national strategy, focus on local issues and campaigns, and tune out all the chatter about presidents and elections. Noting that he was speaking on the 81st anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Swanson said, “Monday is National Volunteer Day for Martin Luther King. When are we going to have a National Non-Violent Resistance Day for Martin Luther King? He said, a year to the day before he was shot, that a nation that puts more money into its military than social uplift is headed for disaster — and today the U.S. government is spending more money on the military than on everything else combined.”

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