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Believing in Activism Is How We Win

Enlisting more people to step up to participate and support activism—even at long odds—is the only way to win.

"Activists have creativity and imagination. They see openings and opportunities where others see walls. Without a guaranteed win in every instance, participating in activism increases the odds of a better outcome. You never know," Levy writes. (Photo: ACLU Nationwide/Facebook)

Over the last few weeks, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) has been conflicted and waffling about the Kavanaugh vote. The moment when Ana Maria Archila co-executive director of the nonprofit Center for Popular Democracy Action confronted him in the elevator of the Senate office building appears to be when he shifted. After that encounter, which can be seen here, Flake called for an investigation of the allegations—prior to the final Senate vote, saying that he will otherwise vote “no” to the nomination.

In a Facebook status, Jeffrey St. Clair publisher of CounterPunch points out that, “the FBI investigation will be overseen by director Christopher Wray, who was two years behind Brett-boy at both Yale and Yale Law. After graduation, they entered the same rightwing political orbit and both took jobs in the Bush Administration. How do you think it's going to turn out?”

St Clair has a point. The scope and time frame have been limited. It’s therefore realistic to expect another Republican attempt to whitewash Brett Kavanaugh and shoehorn him into the Supreme Court. The concern is that more political drama will lead to more public exhaustion, more reasons for cynicism, and the same end result.

While we don't know the outcome of the investigation, given the Republican’s short time frame to get a right-wing ideologue into the SCOTUS swing seat prior to the mid-terms, delays and running out the clock are tactics favorable to Kavanaugh opponents. The only danger is that the weary public will in a week’s time forget the horrifying revelation of Kavanaugh’s true character on display in Thursday’s hearing—which confirmed accounts that he was a heavy drinker and a Jekyll and Hyde mean drunk during the time period of the alleged rape attempt.

Nevertheless, both the investigation and the delay open the door to other elected officials shifting their positions, as well as to other events that may influence the outcome, such as further revelations about Kavanaugh or Mark Judge, the eye witness to the rape attempt—or further validation of any of the multiple allegations that were not considered in Thursday Senate Judiciary committee’s hearing.

Before the protests began, many people believed that, "We can't win. The numbers make that impossible." In a current New Yorker commentary, Doreen St. Felix echoes this sentiment:

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is almost certainly going to be appointed the next member of the Supreme Court of the United States. Whatever Christine Blasey Ford said in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and whatever Kavanaugh said in his, and however credible and convincing either one seemed, none of it was going to affect this virtual inevitability.”

In the end, it’s certainly possible that such predictions may prove accurate. In fact, odds are that they will. At the same time, they fail to consider the role of progressive action— through which tiny changes can sometimes lead to big results.

As this country faces the end game of an authoritarian, corporate financed takeover, long odds are what we have to work with. One reason for that sad state of affairs is that too many people for too many years sat around passively believing what establishment pundits have told them—there was nothing to be done. It may sound world weary and wise, and but at this critical juncture, it’s non-strategic and counter productive. This is the time when this country has seen enough to inform action. We can win if everyone stands up and gets involved.

Activists have creativity and imagination. They see openings and opportunities where others see walls. Without a guaranteed win in every instance, participating in activism increases the odds of a better outcome. You never know. 

The elevator confrontation with Jeff Flake didn't happen out of the blue. Even though Democrats paraded through MSNBC nightly news programming claiming credit for Flake’s change of heart, few in mainstream media offered the true context, nor listed Archila’s affiliation with the Center she co-directs.

The “chance” confrontation happened because for the last ten days thousands of people came from all over the country to participate in protests, organized by the Women’s March, Cancel Kavanaugh, Be A Hero and other affiliated groups. These protests are currently ongoing with open calls for participation and support.

The heroic action happened because Archila was in the Senate building as one among:

  • Thousands of activists who marched there from the Supreme Court or the reflecting pond;

  • Women who lined the hallways, sharing their rape and assault stories in front of the doorways of absent senators;

  • Progressive friends, organizers, and allies, some in wheelchairs, who got arrested;

But most of all Archila and thousands more came to the Senate office building to support Christine Blasey Ford, who left her home and hired security guards so that she could do her civic duty: opening an honest accounting about the true costs and consequences of sexual assault— and why women must not be the sole ones to bear them, while institutionalized and systemic male entitlement allows the commission of illegal, corrupted, or criminal acts that harm and disenfranchise half of the population— or more.  

Critical thinking is essential, but defeatist attitudes are retrogressive. Enlisting more people to step up to participate and support activism—even at long odds—is the only way to win.

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Alison Rose Levy

Alison Rose Levy

Alison Rose Levy is a New York-based journalist who covers the nexus of health, science, the environment, and public policy. She has reported on fracking, pipelines, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, chemical pollution, and the health impacts of industrial activity for the Huffington Post, Alternet, Truthdig, and EcoWatch. 

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