Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Will Dominate Election 2016? (ANSWER: ISIS and #BlackLivesMatter)

Peace and justice activists should be asking themselves the question: what's going to be taking up all the oxygen over the next 18 months?

Well, the short answer is that, of course, it will be the 2016 presidential election that will provide the main form of entertainment and distraction to the U.S. populace between now an the end of next year. An enormous amount of political fluff will fill our lives -- pushing aside, I suppose, vast amounts of sports fluff and shopping fluff and celebrity fluff and -- well, you get the point.

Many issues that I (and others) think are vital -- nuclear disarmament, anyone? -- will be lucky to see the light of day in the dark interlude that lies ahead of us.

At the same time, I think it is important to recognize that several issues that are vital to us will force their way into the election year discourse. We should anticipate their prominence, and plan to leverage that to make progress on them.

It seems clear to me that the #BlackLivesMatter discourse will remain prominent in the coming year. Candidates may very stand or fall based on how they engage with it.

It also seems clear that the flavor of international affairs that will impact the election is "ISIS and how to deal with it." This is especially important for people who hope to make progress with antiwar activism.

And then there's one issue that seems to have evaporated: surveillance.


I have been involved in the campaign to get a democratically-elected civilian police accountability council (CPAC) in Chicago. (See "Does a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) need to be part of a 'new plan of Chicago'?" )

#BlackLivesMatter protest in Chicago
(December, 2014 - Photo courtesy FJJ)
Last May I worked with others from around the country to convene the National Forum on Police Crimes here in Chicago. (This year's Community Forum on Police Accountability takes place on Saturday, June 13, at the Teamster Office Building, 300 S. Ashland in Chicago.)

It is heartening to see a movement -- the #BlackLivesMatter movement -- taking hold nationally.  It is sickening to see that what gives it life is murder after murder of (mostly young, mostly male) people of color at the hands of "law enforcement" officers.

One thing is for sure: no one who seriously aspires to be the U.S. president will fail to have something very, very, very impressive to contribute to this discourse. Any candidate who thinks he or she can wait until the next crisis and then improvise is a fool.

How about the #BlackLivesMatter movement? Are we preparing for the moment of truth during the election 2016 cycle? Or are we just going to "wing it" when the moment arrives?

(See "If elected . . . ." (The Election 2016 and #BlackLivesMatter Nexus) )


Maps of ISIS-controlled territory sell newspapers.
The general public couldn't be less interested in the massive problem of US militarism and imperialism. But the exploits of ISIS -- beheadings! ancient cities conquered! -- rouse it momentarily from its slumber.

"What to do about ISIS" is what passes for foreign affairs discourse in the US today. You can be sure that one or more candidates will try to steal a march on the opposition by having something very convincing to say about ISIS. (And the opposition will have no choice but to respond.)

And so again I ask: how about the antiwar movement? Are we preparing for the moment of truth during the election 2016 cycle? Or are we just going to "wing it" when the moment arrives?

(See "The way to respond to ISIS is not through violence." )

Wild card: Surveillance

I am writing this post in the aftermath of the Senate vote to curtail NSA surveillance -- legislation that The New York Times said "signaled a cultural turning point for the nation, almost 14 years after the Sept. 11 attacks heralded the construction of a powerful national security apparatus." (See "U.S. Surveillance in Place Since 9/11 Is Sharply Limited")

Does this mean the surveillance issue has gone away?

Or perhaps we're just getting started?

Related posts

We can't imagine that anti-racism work is just about specific police officers or even specific departments. Entire institutions of racist law enforcement need to be brought to heel in real time. It's a task worthy of a society-wide, national, federal effort. And it's top priority. No leader can ignore this reality . . . .

(See "If elected . . . ." (The Election 2016 and #BlackLivesMatter Nexus) )

A campaign exists to bring about a democratically-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) in Chicago. The campaign would involve the people in electing the watchers of the police, and put the ultimate control of (and responsibility for) the police in the hands of the citizens of Chicago.

(See Does a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) need to be part of a "new plan of Chicago"? )

Anyone who has had to write a speech knows that the hardest part is to land on the main idea. Once you've got that right, the rest practically writes itself.

(See "The way to respond to ISIS is not through violence." )

It's way too easy to launch U.S. missiles. (Maybe if it were a little more costly, challenging, or painful to carry out these attacks, they would at least require someone to give an explanation that makes sense first.)

(See AMERICANS: Happy As Long As They're Blowing Something Up )

Up until very recently, surveillance remained a key election issue.

(See The Surveillance Issue: The Fulcrum of the 2014 Election?)