For someone who blogs, I took my sweet time joining Twitter. Once I realized that some things I wrote were being discussed there, I decided to jump in, and have stayed in because it is usually the best way for me to keep up on the public discourses left out of the mainstream media. It's also been good for connecting with what's going on in the world of the activist Left, something I had lost track with after leaving academia.
This has also been a little frustrating because of some of the tropes people I actually like have been engaging in recently. I would often see protest movements denounced as ineffective, and elections as meaningless. While I understand the limits of what peaceful protest can do (as someone who protested the coming war in Iraq in 2003), I also know what they can truly accomplish (as someone who engaged in protests and walkouts that led to a teaching assistant union.) The attacks on protests seemed to be a kind of knee-jerk anti-liberalism just as annoying as that emanating from conservative circles. Since the major protests have started in the wake of the Garner and Brown travesties, I have not been hearing much about their usefulness from those Lefty quarters, and with good reason.
The same goes for Left critiques of electoral politics. Don't get me wrong, I barely have any love for the Democrats, and I think the two parties have a lot in common when it comes to complicity in maintaing inequality. However, I have never been so invested in Leftist ideology to claim that elections somehow don't matter. If you need proof that elections really do matter, and that there are real, fundamental differences between Republicans and Democrats, take the case of the mayor of New York. Bill de Blasio has fought to end the stop and frisk practice and in the wake of the Garner ruling has been openly sympathetic with protestors. One gets the sense that he will fight to bring some real change out of this.
Compare this to the recent, noxious pronunciations of Rudy Giuliani, who has essentially blamed the death of Garner and other black men at the hands of the police on the canards of black "dysfunction" and "black on black crime." Lest we forget, Guiliani was twice elected mayor of New York City. It is easy to imagine the reaction to the Garner case and ensuing protests if he were mayor today. The NYPD would be out in full military regalia, batons cracking, tear gas launching, and pepper spray blasting in the faces of protestors. Imagine too if someone like Ed Koch, who played a role in vilifying the innocent Central Park Five and exploiting white racial fears, were mayor again. Based on Mayor Bloomberg's constant defense of stop and frisk and police aggression, we certainly know how he would respond to the situation. Just ask the Occupy protestors.
The fact that de Blasio is mayor today, and that these men aren't, is truly important and significant. It's a sign that progressives need to put resources into the local and and municipal level, where a small amount of resources can go a long way, and can certainly help reign in our out of control police departments. Elections matter, elections have consequences, and elections have to bring change, it's just that the right people have to be elected. If more women and men of de Blasio's stripe get voted into public office, I see a lot of good that can happen, and a lot that will be ignored or shut down if they don't.