Tuesday Sep 22

Publisher’s Note: Summer 2020

For months we were in our own bubbles and pods, working remotely if we were lucky and collecting unemployment if we weren’t, confused and uncertain about a pandemic and an economic depression, and then suddenly uplifted as we saw social distancing smashed on the streets in an uprising in the US and around the world over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Justice now, virus later. Finally, a real confrontation with the cancer of racism and the brutal violence, impunity, and militarization of the police. In the background, even if for a moment, we could all watch President Trump self-destructing in front of our various eyes. Every step he seemed to take blew up in his face from the fascist clearing of Lafayette Park for a hypocritical bible thumping moment for his base, alienating both the military and the evangelicals, to his slap down of LGBT right and his repudiation by the Supreme Court only days later. No one alive now will ever forget the spring of 2020!

It seems impossible to keep up, but still Social Policy, even in our 50th year, is trying to do so, as you read in this issue. We’re in the run-up to the election that some of us have been waiting four years to see. There are efforts to suppress the vote in Wisconsin, Georgia, and other states. In a recent issue we discussed the Voter Purge Project. We lead with a deeper dive into the law that both allows purges and provides some handles to deal with them by Pooja Shivaprasad and Amanda Miller from the Haas Law Center at the University of California at Berkeley. We welcome back long-time contributors Moshe ben Asher and Khulda Bat Sarah reckoning point by point with the downright dive of Trump and his administration, and their call for more local democracy as the antidote. Both Mike Miller in his analysis of the Sanders campaign and what its legacy might be and Bruce Boccardy’s critique of current, capitalist economics are trying to open the doors to a future, perhaps near, but possibly far away.

For our 50th anniversary, we have a two-for-one of sorts, that I found irresistible. While reviewing the ACORN archives in the Social Change Collection of the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison almost a year ago, I stumbled onto a piece I had written in February, 1974, when ACORN was 3 ½ years old that was later published in Social Policy in volume four. I was 25 at the time. Both organizations are celebrating their 50th year. ACORN was founded June 18, 1970 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Some of the piece shows its age with talk of mimeograph machines, mail, and the like, but other parts seem evergreen, or at least still part of what ACORN believes and does to this day, as the organization expands around the world. Persistence plus time counts for quite a lot on both of these great milestone anniversaries.

We include excerpts on fair trade and coffee growing cooperatives that emerged in Chiapas, Mexico that also seem current still, thanks to Lindsay Naylor and Fair Trade Rebels. Former labor organizer Shaun Richman is willing to tread where others might step more gingerly and shares his analysis of why unions are failing to do large scale organizing in these times that seem to demand it, from his book, Tell the Bosses We’re Coming. James Mumm’s book review seemed, coincidentally, to anticipate these excerpts as he melds together another former organizer, Jane McAlevey’s perspectives in A Collective Burden, with the observations and analysis of Steven Greenhouse, the dean of labor reporters from his tenure on that diminishing beat at the New York Times from his book last year, Beaten Down, Worked Up.

Our columnists were all on the coronavirus watch. Phil Mattera asks the obvious question many of us have about why OSHA has not stepped up to protect workers and guarantee health and safety in workplaces, which actually is their only real job. Drummond Pike looks through the window at the craps game that Trump is playing with the virus and about everything else and documents his losings. John Anderson looks at the fact that the hot spots and death counts in nursing homes in Canada (and the United States) were predictable after years of government malfeasance and underfunding. Who can argue with that? In Backstory, I look with respect at the moment that is rising out of the tragedy of George Floyd’s death and find myself on my knees hoping and praying that we are seeing a movement that will not end without finally winning victory.

We are all living in historic times. Let’s hope as we look back fifty years and forward fifty more, that we are able to prove the measure of these times.


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