Reader’s Forum — Al Bell


2034: A Novel of the Next World War

A Review by Al Bell


“It is possible to read this book in increments as time permits. However, by the time you get to page 234 or so, good luck on that pace. I put the world on hold at that point and finished the book in one sitting.

Then I sat and thought for a very long time. That is the clue that I had just read something of considerable importance. It forced me to clarify what I had thought I understood.

As a novel, this is an attention grabbing tale of war. As a wake-up call, it is a world-class messenger.”

Let’s begin at the beginning. All the books we read and discuss together in our book club have to do with sustaining and improving the Great American Experiment. Like all experiments, it is vulnerable to influences we can control and those we can’t. It has been, and will always be, subject to threats small and large, internal and external. 2034: A Novel of the Next World War clearly fits into the “large” category. What we do because of it will have to match the gravity of the theme—or so the authors would hope.

Al Bell

If my genes permit, I will wake up on my 100th birthday to the terrifying world created by Admiral Stavridis and Mr. Ackerman. I’d rather not. Neither would they. So they use their imaginations to get our attention. Why? To engage enough minds about the possibility they describe that we might devote our energies to shaping a better path while that’s still an option.

At least, that is what I glean from the (hopefully fictional) narrative in 2034. I owe whoever reads this review a few disclosures, as well as admitting the perspectives that drive my observations. You can read them at the end of my review if you wish.

A major impact on my reaction to 2034 is provided by one of my heroes, the author and brilliant (my view) analyst, Andrew Bacevich. I was reading his latest book, After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed, when I began 2034—which surely counts as a world transformed, alright. I alternated between them until finishing 2034 first. I urge readers of 2034 to also read the Bacevich book. In fact, for any reader who wants to think further about avoiding the 2034 option, Bacevich offers some challenging ideas to shape an agenda for a new calibre of leaders that we need to elect. Sounds like a job for Independents, doesn’t it?

Both books deserve to be read by anyone honestly interested in the fate of the world generally and the United States specifically. They offer thoughtful insights insulated from the noise defining what passes for information on our breathless news sources: the internet in its various guises, television, and even a large proportion of printed news media. Thoughtful matters.

It is possible to read this book in increments as time permits. However, by the time you get to page 234 or so, good luck on that pace. I put the world on hold at that point and finished the book in one sitting.

Then I sat and thought for a very long time. That is the clue that I had just read something of considerable importance. It forced me to clarify what I had thought I understood.

As a novel, this is an attention grabbing tale of war. As a wake-up call, it is a world-class messenger.

A definition of terms is probably in order. Merriam Webster defines war as:
1) a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations;
2) a period of such armed conflict.
Von Clausewitz, the renowned military theorist, described war as “politics by other means.”

I see it differently. Webster is too general to be useful. Von Clausewitz is talking about how war is used, not what it is. I offer this definition instead:

War is institutionally sponsored and conducted mass murder.

Why, when and how it is used varies considerably in scope, timing, duration, and intensity. “Institutions” can include nations, tribes, political states, religious communities, insurgent movements, confederations, or even privately structured forces (e.g., mafia). Defining it otherwise is like defining guns as devices for target practice.

The war described in 2034 requires no declaration. It requires only action and deceit, including self-deceit. This should come as no surprise. The combination occurs globally and has been for some time. The book reminds us of the price we could readily pay for such behavior.

We currently experience considerable—and appropriate—angst about the state of affairs globally and, certainly, within the United States. The authors of 2034 deliberately use a hypothetical extension of contemporary incompetence and myopia to devise a plausible (if not likely) catastrophe only thirteen years into the future.The priceless public service they offer is not to predict the future (they explicitly do not), but to stretch our imaginations so enough people to make a difference will be motivated to lean on the curve of history toward a different trajectory. There is no way that will be easy. And it will take way more than thirteen years.

The re-orientation of our Nation’s global role entails, among other things, seriously overhauling the nature of our military/congressional/industrial complex, partially described by President Eisenhower in his 1961 Farewell Address, and its heavy hand on our highly stressed public treasury. Push-back will be immense because vested interests are ubiquitous and deeply entrenched. So, we are way behind the curve. Still, getting seriously started is better than sleepwalking and is demanded by any true sense of patriotism. This is a multi-generational endeavor, as is the case for every serious issue we have ever confronted. Only this one is compounded by several parallel complications, not the least of which is the deterioration of America’s capability for self-governance, courtesy of toxic political party dysphoria and general civic ignorance on a massive scale.

A major requirement for any progress toward a better direction is to elect a different breed of decision makers to federal and state leadership positions. Absent that, reflection on how to deflect our path toward destruction with enough depth to implement an alternative is highly unlikely and may be impossible. Our organization’s focus on voting rights clearly applies.

One way to imagine the magnitude of public awareness shift that faces us is to contemplate our current coronavirus disconnect, in which the killing of over 600,000 Americans can’t even get us to the halfway mark of personal commitment to take preventative action—yet. That’s half the number of all Americans who have died in all of our wars. This is civic irresponsibility taken to the extreme. Had such a mentality prevailed in the generation before mine, we would be speaking German east of the Mississippi and Japanese west of it. Dialing back the level of excess spending on our war machine is a heavy lift almost as unimaginable as the nuclear game of chicken outlined in the novel.

We have been told that our failure to anticipate 9/11 was, at base, a failure of imagination. 2034 no longer lets us off the hook for a similar failure on a vastly magnified scale, with horrific outcomes to match. It might just behoove us to overcome our pervasive inattention. Or, more precisely, our inclination to devote attention to what doesn’t matter much and that, more often than not, is not our business anyway. Priorities do matter.

Self-interest and true belief in the Idea of America demand a reading of 2034. Such a commitment would properly be considered an act of patriotism. Becoming motivated to do something because of the images it portrays would be an act of survival.

DISCLOSURES

“In an earlier life, I was a Navy pilot. Our squadron’s primary function was anti-submarine warfare. I was also qualified to deliver nuclear weapons. Had I been ordered to do so, I would have. Several incidents involving Hiroshima, Japan during our deployment in 1959, changed my life. They inspired a fifty year exploration of the Nuclear Age and its impacts on civilization.”

This had nothing to do with any other part of my life. Twelve years ago, I donated over 9,000 items—books, periodicals, special reports—on the subject to the State of New Mexico Historical Library in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They call it the Al Bell Nuclear Age Collection. I mention this, not to assert that I am an expert on the subject (I am not), but, rather, to simply declare that the potential for nuclear war is an idea I have lived with for most of my life.

Al Bell

Just a mental aside: having experienced all of this, would I still follow that order? That’s a discussion for another day. The answer is anything but simple. Easy judgements do not apply.

This sequence of events convinced me that our relationships with the rest of the world and our own self-image had evolved in some unfortunate and increasingly damaging ways. This pattern has cost us and many others dearly. Here’s my conclusion.

The only way the United States can sustain a positive influence on global affairs as well as increase its potential as a democratic republic that does justice to “the Great American Experiment,” is to demonstrate that we are continually getting better at that experiment. Not enough Americans actively believe that. It is instructive that, according to many important metrics, the United States now punches far below its weight in comparison to other nations.

We will not get there primarily with military might. We will not do it by pretending that we rule the world and—even worse—are the sole nation deserving that role. We cannot continue to get away with fooling ourselves nor the world at large. We have been coasting on our undeniably deserving World War II reputation far too long and the world has noticed. Leading by example is the ultimate form of persuasion. Leading by arrogance and intimidation is self-destructive.

These are not really my ideas; they are gleaned from decades of messages delivered by numerous men and women far superior to me in their knowledge, wisdom, and dedication to the service of our Nation. People with a profound grasp of “the Idea of America” and a clear understanding of the demands that places on us, individually and collectively.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, my view does not embrace the notion that we can do without a strong military capability, any more than our society can get along without police departments. In both cases, however, clarity of purpose, informed scope, responsible behavior, and focused funding are essential. This reflects a life-long aversion to either/or thinking and embrace of a both/and perspective. Yes, there are either/or choices (e.g., whether or not to jump out of the way of an oncoming truck), but they rarely apply to complex situations.

We have been here before and recovered, for the most part. However, the powerful leverage of modern technologies on excess weaponry, mis-communication, information distortion, economic manipulation, gross financial usury, governmental ineptitude, and plain despotism on the part of small leaders in large positions, create an unprecedented vulnerability to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point.” We may not recognize when we have already passed it or, realizing it after the fact, be incapable of reversing direction.

I suspect that most of us are victims of some form of confirmation bias: seeking information that reinforces what we already think we know. The only antidote I know is to force open our minds by learning and listening. One of the most powerful is reading; listening to authors who have invested the time and made the effort to think deeply, share perspectives that challenge our biases, open our eyes to new perspectives, and force us to be more honest with ourselves. And then do something. Informed action is what brings improvement. Learning without doing, especially on pivotal matters, is just another form of serial self-indulgence.

It turns out that continuous learning and relentless engagement are essential, though far from painless.

That concludes my disclosures. For now.

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona. Al served on Independent Voting’s Eyes on 2020 National Cabinet, working to get the 2020 presidential primaries open to independents across the country.

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JOIN US
Thursday, August 12th at 2pm ET
For the Politics for the People ZOOM Event
With 2034 Authors Elliot Ackerman
and Admiral James Stavridis
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

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A Message from Jacqueline Salit on 2034


A special message from Jackie Salit
President, Independent Voting
about:

2034: A Novel of the Next World War

By Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis


In her message, Jackie Salit talks about the themes explored in the book:

It deals with everything from our overreliance on technology, both the ways in which it makes us vulnerable but also the ways in which it distances us and alienates us… Another really important theme of the book is the risk of over reaction, politically, militarily and the ways in which ideology or preconceived notions can affect decision making at the highest levels that have incredibly dangerous and destructive effects. And the book also deals with the question of the difference — and in some ways the conflict — between national interests and a collection of national interests versus the interests of human beings and humanity….”

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JOIN US
Thursday, August 12th at 2pm ET
For the Politics for the People ZOOM Event
With 2034 Authors Elliot Ackerman
and Admiral James Stavridis
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

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What Happens if the Military Starts Doubting Our Elections?

Elliot Ackerman, co-author of 2034, is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times covering foreign policy, culture and politics. This is his latest guest essay.

Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo, via Redux

The first presidential election I witnessed as a member of the military was George W. Bush versus Al Gore in 2000. I was in college, as a naval R.O.T.C. midshipman, and on Election Day I remember asking a Marine lieutenant colonel who was a visiting fellow at my university whether he’d made it to the polls. In much the same way one might say “I don’t smoke” when offered a cigarette, he said, “Oh, I don’t vote.” His answer confused me at the time. He was a third-generation military officer, someone imbued with a strong sense of duty. He then explained that as a military officer he felt it was his obligation to remain apolitical. In his estimation, this included not casting a vote on who his commander in chief might be.

Although I don’t agree that one’s commitment to remain apolitical while in uniform extends to not voting, I would over the years come across others who abstained from voting on similar grounds. That interaction served as an early lesson on the lengths some in the military would go to steer clear of politics. It also illustrated that those in uniform have, by definition, a different relationship to the president than civilians do. As that lieutenant colonel saw it in 2000, he wouldn’t be voting for his president but rather for his commander in chief, and he didn’t feel it was appropriate to vote for anyone in his chain of command.

As it turned out, the result of that election was contested. Mr. Gore challenged the result after Florida was called for Mr. Bush, and the dispute went all the way to the Supreme Court between the election and the inauguration, by which point Mr. Gore had conceded.

There are many ways to contest an election, some of which are far more reckless and unseemly than others, but our last two presidential elections certainly qualify. In 2016, Democrats contested Donald Trump’s legitimacy based on collusion between his campaign and Russia. In 2020, Republicans significantly escalated the level of contestation around the election with widespread and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, which ultimately erupted in rioting on Jan. 6.

Little progress has been made to understand this cycle of contested elections we are trapped in, with the most recent attempt — the Jan. 6 commission — failing to pass in Congress. Today, dysfunction runs deep in our politics. While the images from Jan. 6 remain indelible, the images of entire cities in red and blue states boarded up in the days before last Nov. 3 should also concern us. If contested elections become the norm, then mass protests around elections become the norm, and if mass protests become the norm, then police and military responses to those protests will surely follow. This is a new normal we can ill afford.

This takes us back to that lieutenant colonel I knew in college and his conviction to stay out of politics. Increasingly, this view has seemed to fall out of favor, particularly among retired officers. In 2016, we saw large speaking roles doled out to prominent retired military leaders at both parties’ national conventions. This trend has accelerated in recent years, and in the 2020 elections we saw some retired flag officers (including the former heads of several high commands) writing and speaking out against Mr. Trump in prominent media outlets, and others organizing against Joe Biden’s agenda in groups like Flag Officers for America.

The United States military is one of the most trusted institutions in our society, and so support from its leaders has become an increasingly valuable political commodity. That trust exists partly because it is one of the few institutions that resists overt political bias. If this trend of increased military politicization seeps into the active-duty ranks, it could lead to dangerous outcomes, particularly around a contested presidential election.

Many commentators have already pointed out that it’s likely that in 2024 (or even 2022) the losing party will cry foul, and it is also likely that their supporters will fill the streets, with law enforcement, or even the military, called in to manage those protests. It is not hard to imagine, then, with half of the country claiming an elected leader is illegitimate, that certain military members who hold their own biases might begin to second guess their orders.

This might sound alarmist, but as long as political leaders continue to question the legitimacy of our president, some in our military might do the same.

After I served in Afghanistan and Iraq, I covered the war in Syria as a journalist. It’s often forgotten that the refusal of Sunnis in the military to follow the orders of Bashar al-Assad was a key factor in pushing that political crisis into a civil war. That’s because when the military splinters, the defecting elements take their tanks, their guns and their jets with them. Obviously, we are very far from that sort of instability. But cautious speculation has its uses; it can be critical in heading off conflict. My experience in the military and my understanding of past conflicts have convinced me that the forces our politicians are playing with when they contest elections are dangerous ones.

Last week, Senator Joe Manchin expressed his hopes of reviving the Jan. 6 commission with a second vote in Congress. Understandably, lawmakers crave answers and accountability, and perhaps he’ll find success in that effort. But the solution to our troubles isn’t in looking backward, it’s in looking forward: by passing bipartisan voting rights legislation like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which could create at least some consensus on the terms under which the next election takes place. Consensus on anything in Washington is hard to come by these days, but there is a common interest here. Both parties will certainly agree that if they win the next election, they won’t want the other side to contest it.

Elliot Ackerman, a contributing Opinion writer, is the author, most recently, of the novel “Red Dress in Black and White” and “2034.” He is a former Marine and intelligence officer who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. @elliotackerman

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Politics for the People Zoom Event
With Authors Elliot Ackerman
and Admiral James Stavridis
Thursday, August 12th at 2pm ET
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

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Politics and Prose with Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis

At a Politics and Prose event earlier this year, authors Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis were interviewed by Martha Raddatz. They had a rich conversation about their book, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War.

Watch the conversation below:

(Check out more from Politics and Prose here.)

Some Highlights From the Conversation:

Elliot Ackerman: “We were, very early on, in total alignment that we wanted this to be a character driven novel that was both global in its reach — you’re traveling everywhere — but intimate in that you’re traveling to all these places with a pretty well-developed set of characters.”

“Partisanship presents a national security threat.”


Admiral James Stavridis: “What we tried to do with this novel is to imagine our way into this future and talk realistically about where we think in 15 years the military term alert, correlation of forces will be. In other words, how will the two sides be balanced. The short answer is we don’t know, but my guess is that China will advance rapidly, in cyber, in quantum computing, in A.I. And therefore, will be able to leverage new stealth technologies, etc, etc, etc. I think the United States has some work to do to keep up. We’re still slightly ahead but if you kind of follow those threat lines along and you consider nationalism and look at demographics and polarization in this country it starts to look like there is a moment of real danger about 15 years from now…. If anything, we hope [2034] is a cautionary tale that allows us to reverse engineer what’s happening and think our way through how do we avoid it.”

“This is not predictive fiction. This is cautionary fiction.”

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Politics for the People Zoom Event
With Authors Elliot Ackerman
and Admiral James Stavridis
Thursday, August 12th at 2pm ET
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

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Summer Selection! 2034: A Novel of the Next World War


Kirkus Reviews on 2034: A Novel of the Next World War


“A frightening look at how a major-power showdown might race out of control.

It’s 2034, and the Chinese are sick and tired of the U.S. Navy violating their territorial waters with “freedom of navigation patrols.” Near the Spratly Islands and Mischief Reef, a Navy ship stops to aid the incapacitated trawler Wén Rui. But there’s something fishy about the boat (hint: electronics), so the Navy holds it. Thousands of miles away, an unknown force takes control of the F-35 piloted by Maj. Chris “Wedge” Mitchell over the Strait of Hormuz, and he becomes a prisoner in Iran. China will arrange for the F-35’s return in exchange for the trawler, but what they really want is a confrontation and uncontested control of the South China Sea. They put a cyber stranglehold on the U.S., cause a nationwide blackout, and sink several American naval vessels, believing the conflict will be limited and China’s victory will be total. But murder a few thousand people here and a few thousand there, and pretty soon you have a “needless war” in which the dead number in the millions. And this is only with tactical nukes. This novel starts out like a Tom Clancy thriller, but whether Wedge Mitchell is more like Jack Ryan or Dr. Strangelove is for the reader to decide. Maybe Wedge just wants to live up to the military legacy of his Pop and Pop-Pop and then go light up a celebratory Marlboro. Better that than lighting up the Chinese coast. Among the colorful cast of characters are a Chinese admiral with an American mother, an American security official with family in India, and a female U.S. president who, despite a fair number of references, is never named. Finally, an elegiac coda describes an aftermath wished for by no one. Unlike with the never-ending Clancy series, it’s hard to imagine a sequel to this dark warning about human folly and miscalculation.

This compelling thriller should be required reading for our national leaders and translated into Mandarin.”

***

Politics for the People Zoom Event
With Authors Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis
Thursday, August 12th at 2pm ET
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

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Is Good Governing No Longer Good Politics?

AN INVITATION for POLITICS FOR THE PEOPLE MEMBERS

Join Independent Voting and The People for the first in a series of Citizen Engagement Forums on Wednesday evening, March 10th at 8 pm ET. We will be hearing from FixUS Director Mike Murphy on the topic: Is Good Governing No Longer Good Politics?

Mike Murphy will be sharing the new Fix US report:

“Why is Governing No Longer Good Politics?: Reflections from a Thousand Years of Public Service”

FixUS brought together a group of public servants for their unique perspectives – including former members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, governors, and ambassadors – to shed some light on the severe polarization and bitterly divisive politics facing our country. The perspectives in this report represent nearly 1,000 years of public service, spanning every presidential administration from John F. Kennedy to Donald J. Trump, and evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. 

After Mike’s presentation, we will be having a lively discussion about how, as citizens, we see the issue of the erosion of good governance and our electoral process. 

Register for the event here.

In the Balance of Power – A Politics for the People Conversation with Author Omar H. Ali

On Sunday, February 21st, people from across the country joined Politics for the People host Cathy Stewart for a conversation with Dr. Omar H. Ali, author of In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third-Party Movements in the United States.

Click on the video below to watch the full conversation.

Reader’s Forum — David Cherry

Remembrances — Sunday, February 21st

David Cherry

On this date 56 years ago – Sunday, February 21, 1965 – Malcolm X was assassinated in Harlem in New York City.  My father was a member of Malcolm’s Organization of Afro-American Unity and regularly attended his Sunday afternoon rallies.  My father was at the Audubon Ballroom when Malcolm was shot and killed and often spoke about the real-life nightmare and tragedy which occurred that day.

Malcolm X was an independent Black leader. Rarely is he portrayed this way by most people who praise him today. During his lifetime, he was very controversial and frightened people by how he called out the Democratic Party for their inability or unwillingness to stop the violent suppression of the civil rights movement during the 1960s – despite controlling the presidency, the House and the Senate.  Malcolm excoriated the Democratic Party and the Republican Party for the horrendous conditions of racism and poverty suffered by Black people in America.

Lenora Fulani

When Dr. Lenora Fulani made history by becoming the first woman and the first African-American to get on the ballot in all 50 states for president in 1988, my father and I proudly voted for her in the general election that year.  Like Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer and other powerful leaders of the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Fulani is an independent Black leader. My father from South Carolina was an independent.  My mother from Alabama was an independent. I proudly follow in their footsteps as an independent. 

Malcom X

The horrendous conditions faced by Black people 50 and 60 years ago still exist today by all of those suffering with racism and poverty.  Many of us who are independents are committed to creating new political environments where we can finally engage and change these conditions instead of becoming political party partisans who enthusiastically divide people for the sole purpose of winning elections.

Thank you to Dr. Omar Ali for his excellent book which highlights the many principled people who have dedicated their lives to dismantling our toxic politics and creating a new America of democracy, liberty and justice for all.

David Cherry, Chicago, Illinois, is the City Leader of the All Stars Project of Chicago. For more than 25 years, Cherry, a seasoned community organizer and activist, has helped diverse communities develop around issues of democracy, social justice and inclusion. He is the founder of United Independents of Illinois and serves on Independent Voting’s Board of Directors.

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In the Balance of Power:
Independent Black Politics and
Third-Party Movements in the United States
By Omar H. Ali

Video of our Feb 21st Zoom conversation with Dr. Omar Ali will be available soon.

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Reader’s Forum — Tiani Coleman


Only by Breaking the Partisan Divides Can We Find True Equality


Tiani Coleman

Imagine if George Floyd had died, instead of less than six months before one of the most polarizing, rhetorically charged partisan elections in our history, it had been prior to a top-five nonpartisan/truly public primary?

A top-five primary, or any iteration thereof, greatly opens up our political process to give all voters and all candidates a level playing field. All candidates from all party preferences, including no party preference, appear on the same primary ballot, and the top five (or other iteration) of vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election, where voters use ranked choice voting to determine the final winner. Would his death, and the ensuing protests, have been viewed and responded to through a less partisan lens?

Although Omar Ali didn’t directly pose this question in his book In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third-Party Movements in the United States, I feel like he’s invited me to ask it.

Ali outlines the contributions and influences of Black outsider movements throughout our nation’s history, showing that the strength of the struggle for equality, justice and democratic reform has largely been found through independent politics among African Americans, and that true equality must be forged through a Black and independent alliance.

Unfortunately, the nature of our two-party system wields power in such a way as to heavily disadvantage and block those who try to work independent of the two major parties; it practically forces those trying to make a difference to wed themselves to a party.

In particular, Ali demonstrates how the Democratic party that has taken the Black vote for granted has both succeeded and failed. He points out that “there are over six times as many African Americans serving in Congress as there were in 1965. The number of elected African Americans serving in local, state and federal offices now exceed 8,000 – from less than 300 prior to 1965.” But, Ali asserts, “Despite the substantial number of Black Democrats serving in office (and some Black Republicans, including at the highest levels of office . .), the Black community – as a whole –remains politically marginalized and chronically poor.”

George Floyd’s death, and the ensuing protests, should have united our country to come together to make further advancements towards equality, and to make visible progress in obliterating systemic racism and disparate income inequality. But instead, his death further divided us.

Jackie Salit, in her Afterword to the book, eloquently quotes James Baldwin from his 1965 debate with conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. The topic being debated was, “The American Dream Is at the Expense of the American Negro.” Baldwin said,

[W]e the American people . . . have to accept . . . that on th[is] continent we are trying to forge a new identity for which we need each other, and that I am not a ward of America, I am not an object of missionary charity, I am one of the people who built this country. Until this moment, there is scarcely any hope for the American dream.”

Baldwin also said,

What is crucial here is that unless we can manage to establish some kind of dialogue between those people whom I pretend have paid for the American Dream, and those other people who have not achieved it, we will be in terrible trouble . . . .”

That is the problem with our partisan political structure. It doesn’t bring about true equality and it doesn’t foster dialogue. We need to forge a new identity to enliven the American Dream, and Omar Ali writes about those who have been working on that for years in the African American community.

I have countless friends and family on the Republican side who believe that there is no systemic racism, that we’ve already achieved “equal opportunity,” and now it’s just a matter of people “working hard.” They don’t believe that “victim mentality” serves anyone. Perhaps somewhat ironically, they also believe that the tables have now been turned against them. That racial minorities, buoyed by Democrats, seek disproportionate power to wield the state to advance themselves above THEM, to begin a new era of discrimination against THEM.

On the other hand, my Democratic friends have absolutely no sympathy for this mindset and are quick to label anyone on the right who doesn’t favor Democratic policies as racist, bigoted, fascist, uneducated, etc.

If our political system didn’t divide us into two competing teams, as well as along racial, class and ideological lines, we’d be able to see each other better and we’d be less apt to view a different viewpoint as the enemy, but simply as different. We’d work harder to incorporate various perspectives into policy rather than find ways to manipulate the system to marginalize the viewpoints we don’t like. We’d be able to see that politics doesn’t have to be about power and non-power, but it can be about empowerment, for everyone.

While it may appear like Black Americans are currently prospering with a home in the Democratic party, we need to create a political environment where they can move politically as freely as whites do, and not feel as though the Democratic party is “their only real home.”

I agree with Ali and Salit that to “transform an exploitative and divisive political and cultural system,” hope lies in a successful Black and independent alliance. We need to continue building coalitions that are cross-racial, cross-ideological, and that cross the class divides. Moving to nonpartisan / public primaries is a good way to press forward in the same spirit of many who went before, documented by Omar Ali. In fact, it seems our country, in my lifetime, has never been so in need of, and ready for, these changes.

Tiani Xochitl Coleman is a mother of five, a graduate of Cornell Law School, and President of New Hampshire Independent Voters and New Hampshire Ranked Choice Voting.

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In the Balance of Power:
Independent Black Politics and
Third-Party Movements in the United States
By Omar H. Ali

Video of our Feb 21st zoom conversation with Dr. Omar Ali will be available soon.

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