For the first meeting we read these articles:
- “The Great Disruption Letter,” by Paul Gilding
- “Creating Moments of the Whirlwind,” by Paul Engler and Kai Newkirk
- “The Class Domination Theory of Power,” by William G. Domhoff
- “Donald Trump is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene,” by Robinson Meyer
Please reply to this post with some notes from your first meeting.
Was it easy to recruit people?
How did you find the reading? We assigned a lot this week–should there be less material in the future, or was it just right?
What was discussed? Did any interesting observations, ideas, or questions come up in discussion?
I will be posting notes from my club’s first meeting this weekend.
Notes from Katie’s reading group meeting #1 (1/28)
7 people at this meeting
To get things started, we each shared five questions/observations/ideas sparked by the reading, and set goals for discussion based on these
Some goals for this meeting:
- Practice applying Domhoff’s class domination theory of power (e.g. trace the ties of Trump’s cabinet picks to corporate and nonprofit boards, clubs, etc.)–what insights does this bring? What is missing?
- Communication vs. structure: How do the current economic/political/power structures enable certain types of communication and disable others? How do we communicate to people within a system that that system is about to fall?
- Dig more into why it is that markets won’t be able to respond in time to fix the climate crisis.
Some highlights of discussion:
How might we apply Domhoff’s analysis to the era of tea party politics? What degree and what kind of influence does the working class “base” actually have in the republican party?
Is it necessary to completely topple the system Domhoff describes in order to move forward with a progressive agenda? (climate change can serve an interesting benchmark here–an issue which needs very particular practical action very quickly) How would we start? What are the weak links?
- According to Domhoff’s theory, it seems like the two party system has been a significant factor in the failure of the working class to gain political power in the US. The “first-past-the-post” system could be undermined by introducing ranked voting.
- But even without the two-party system, political power would still be hard-won for the working class, given the other structures Domhoff talks about such as policy discussion groups, campaign finance, etc. which connect economic power to political power.
- What is the effect of a strategy like that of Brand New Congress on the two-party system?
- Issue/group-based organizing vs. larger "movements of movements”
- During moments of the whirlwind, people join movements directly, not through groups
energy grows more quickly, but there is organization, communication, etc. is more difficult (e.g. women’s march)
- How to meld the organizational and whirlwind methods?
- How is climate change action served/not served by each of these methods? Does the fact that climate change is a “macro issue” (i.e. it encompasses and effects many other issues, and fixing will take such a huge scale of change that it may also be necessary to bring about huge political/economic changes in the process) mean it is better served by a larger movement of movements? How should it be framed within that? Should it be the “framer”?
- Climate movement vs. climate justice movement—what are the real differences between these movements? Shouldn’t the general climate movement be centralizing marginalized voices and putting the needs of the most vulnerable first? A very important question is whether the most equitable transition is the fastest transition, or whether it is worth transitioning more slowly in order to make the transition more equitable. Does the divide between the “climate justice movement” and the “climate movement” actually erase this really important debate?
re: goal #1, Here is a visual of Trump’s connections and their connections, etc!
Here are some thoughts from our first meeting:
People were appreciative that the articles seemed to be somewhat related but not overtly so, and we had a fun time trying to parse that out. We talked a lot about the Domhoff, and I’d say the basic takeaway of the discussion was that there needs to be a combination of structural and movement organizing such that policy planning networks are infiltrated with ideas that are more aligned with what the working class - and the planet - need.
We were interested in reading articles that explore the success that the Right has had with structural organizing. And, maybe some George Lakoff. Maybe some Alinsky.
We were especially taken with Domhoff’s analysis of the historical stratification of the working class, and the difference between freedom and social power. This issue is key, especially because folks on the left are currently being mobilized by fear of Trump’s assault on these freedoms. Can this broad activation be turned into a unified left with social power? Or is it more of the same social issue based mobilization? There was a nice dovetail here with the Demagogue article’s conclusion that in order to prepare for the crisis, we need to mitigate climate change, fight white supremacy, and create a stronger social fabric/civic spirit.
I think basic understanding of climate science and the precarious position that we’re in is still pretty low within the general activist community, especially those who’ve come to climate through other issues. People wanted to discuss their concerns that apocalyptic climate narratives - in the Gilding specifically - seem millenarian, reminiscent of religious dogma. His utopian solution seemed to gloss over solving other issues that are important to people - racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. As you know, “solving” climate change does not inherently mean these other problems will be dealt with. There is, on the other hand, the fact that most people in the global south are not white, and they’re most at risk. We discussed some stuff around this, but might be nice to read something more.
An open question: is activism in the Bay area useful? How important is it to flip red congressional districts? How can we build a national movement?
How important is it to flip red congressional districts? How can we build a national movement?
Yes, very important to overthrow the Republican gerrymandering of House congressional districts to favor their own party.
One possibility is to convince Dems to move. However, there would need to be analysis to work up a list of vulnerable districts based on several criteria to increase the probability of success. The best opportunity is to have Dems move within their state, just a few miles across a district boundary to increase the Dem voters in a district.
Districts have been designed to include a minority of Democrats in cities and a majority of Republicans. This splits the Democrats vote across districts. As a result, a city like Austin TX has no Democrat representative in Congress even though the city is majority Democrat.
I don’t know who can take the lead on this but I would expect the Democratic Party should have thought of this already and must have rejected for some reason that I’m not aware.
“Donald Trump is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene,” by Robinson Meyer
There is much more support for the theory of a Crisis Era and comparisons to the 1930s than that included in the article.
Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. New York: Broadway, 1997. Print.
2020+/-one or two years is a tipping point, a surprising crisis climax event.
Neil Howe is online and in youtube videos supporting the comparisons to the 1930s.
The resistance to demagogues and preparation for a crisis climax sounds weird. Just read the book.
Tony Seba The Clean Disruption
Tony Seba’s Clean Disruption Keynote presentation at the Swedbank Nordic Energy Summit in Oslo, Norway, March 17th, 2016.
By 2030 the US economy will be converted to renewable energy, EVs, batteries. Around 2020 is tipping point, the economy is accelerating and on exponential growth curve.