2012 countdown: Time for the left to step to the plate

For the past year the left has debated the merits of participation in the election process. As you might expect, not everyone is on the same page. Some say that the differences between the two presidential candidates, Obama and Romney, are not significant enough to warrant involvement in the elections, while others maintain they are.

At this point, nearly everyone on the left has made up his or her mind one way or another. And it is unlikely that their minds are going to change in the next four weeks, no matter how compelling the argument from the other side.  

Thus it is time to draw down the curtain on this debate; it has exhausted itself. To continue it is counterproductive.

For those on the left like myself who believe that the outcome does matter, it is time to turn our attention in another direction – that is, to join labor, people of color, women, youth, gays and lesbians, and other social groups who have been concretely engaged in the elections since the beginning of this year.

Indeed, while the left has been debating the significance of this election over the past several months, ordinary people have been doing the hard grassroots electoral activity that is at the core of any successful strategy to defeat right-wing extremism at the ballot box:

* Registering voters and at the same time fighting off the campaign of the right wing to disenfranchise millions of eligible voters.

* Politically engaging voters in the workplace and neighborhood.

* Making phone calls and riding buses into swing states.

* Raising money.

In short, the broad democratic movement has been doing the sweated labor in the trenches of mainstream politics.

Now this may not sound sexy to some people on the left; it may not sound visionary enough; it may even feel much too pedestrian. But isn’t this what the realistic left should be doing too as the clock ticks down on the 2012 elections?

In 1936, the left didn’t sit out the elections. Nor did it stand apart from the main organizations of the people’s movement. Nor did it confine its role to popularizing anti-capitalist alternatives. It was part of the on-the-ground mass mobilizations to re-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the White House and New Dealers to Congress.

With phone banks looking for callers, buses to battleground states searching for people to fill seats, and the organizers of labor and neighborhood walks welcoming volunteers, isn’t it our time to step to the plate?

Photo: Labor walk in Virginia, Oct. 1, 2012. Bernard Pollack/AFL-CIO CC 2.0



Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.