Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Harnessing Working-Class Anger for Liberalism

Via Digby, the indispensable Rich Trumka beards the elitist lion in its Harvard den and explains how to return working-class anger to its roots as a force for liberal progress.

I am going to talk tonight about anger—and specifically the anger of working people. I want to explain why working people are right to be mad about what has happened to our economy and our country, and then I want to talk about why there is a difference between anger and hatred. There are forces in our country that are working hard to convert justifiable anger about an economy that only seems to work for a few of us into racist and homophobic hate and violence directed at our President and heroes like Congressman John Lewis. Most of all, those forces of hate seek to divide working people – to turn our anger against each other.

So I also want to talk to you tonight about what I believe is the only way to fight the forces of hatred—with a strong progressive tradition that includes working people in action, organizing unions and organizing to elect public officials committed to bold action to address economic suffering.

That progressive tradition has drawn its strength from an alliance of the poor and the middle class—everyone who works for a living. But the alliance between working people and public minded intellectuals is also crucial—it is all about standing up to entrenched economic power and the complacency of the affluent. It's an alliance that depends on intellectuals being critics, and not the servants, of economic privilege.

I am here tonight at the Kennedy School of Government to say that if you care about defending our country against the apostles of hate, you need to be part of the fight to rebuild a sustainable, high wage economy built on good jobs – the kind of economy that can only exist when working men and women have a real voice on the job.

Our republic must offer working people something other than the dead-end choice between the failed agenda of greed and the voices of hate and division and violence. Public intellectuals have a responsibility to offer a better way.

The stakes could not be higher. Mass unemployment and growing inequality threaten our democracy. We need to act—and act boldly—to strike at the roots of working people's anger and shut down the forces of hatred and racism.

Read the whole brilliant, inspiring thing.

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