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MOVEMENT BUILDING – 3 Pack
What’s the matter with Iowa is what’s the matter with large portions of the U.S. economy: extreme poverty in the presence of extreme wealth. In 1962, Michael Harrington wrote about it in his book The Other America. That America has not gone away. President Johnson’s war on poverty was not won. It was abandoned in the battlefields of Indochina. Today, the United Way estimates almost one in four Iowans live in poverty. And depending on how it is defined, the number of poor people nationwide range from 50 to 140 million. Persistent poverty from coast to coast and growing homelessness are systemic problems. What must be done? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, in his historic Riverside Church speech said, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
From hanging chads in Florida, to purged voter rolls in Ohio to the Iowa caucus debacle, democracy is in trouble. The venerable system is in the ICU. There is still a pulse but the long term prognosis is not good. There are serious structural problems. Can anyone say electoral college or why elections are held on a workday? And then of course there is money. And the media. The experts sit around tables opining on who is surging and who is fading. It’s more like horseracing trying to handicap the steeds. Citizens. This is no time for apathy or complacency. Get off of your phone. Find kindred spirits. Get engaged in what is probably the most important election in U.S. history. Jim Hightower says, It’s a struggle between the powers that be and the powers that ought to be.
One of the techniques of ruling class control is to isolate people from one another. “Look out for yourself,” is the constant drumbeat. We are reduced to self-centered consumers not engaged citizens. Saul Alinsky suggests a different path. In his Rules for Radicals he said, “Change comes from power, and power comes from organization. In order to act, people must get together.” And that is happening. Popular movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Extinction Rebellion and Sunrise are shaking up the establishment. Finding kindred spirits and working collectively with allies not only has broader positive political consequences but helps to overcome negativity and feelings of loneliness and despair. You look in the mirror and you feel good about yourself. History has shown social movements can have a huge societal impact.
Reverend William Barber chairs NAACP’s Legislative Political Action Committee. He co-chairs the Poor People’s Campaign and serves as pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is the author of Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He is noted for his biting wit. His daily radio commentaries are carried on many stations. The Hightower Lowdown is his award-winning newsletter. He is the author of Thieves in High Places and Swim Against the Current.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. Her articles appear in The New York Times, CounterPunch, Jacobin and The Guardian. She is the author of From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation.