Jonathan Smucker Profile picture
By union what we will can be accomplished still - organizer co-founder @lancstandsup @PAstandsup author @hegemonyhowto soc PhD student @UCBerkeley mmbr @UAW2865
1 Oct
It is irresponsible journalism to refer to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema as "moderates."

Words have meanings! They also have positive and negative associations that have an effect on readers and viewers.

Have an ed board meeting about it or whatever, but please make it stop.
The labels "moderate" and "centrist" are associated with the idea of the "median voter." The implication is that "moderates" are closer to the position of most voters who are "in the middle" and alienated from the extreme poles of either political party...
Political elites have been wrapping themselves in the label "moderate" for decades to push agendas that are highly unpopular with working-class people (e.g., "free trade" deals and deregulation of Wall Street).
Read 4 tweets
15 Aug
What depresses the hell out of me when listening to Democratic politicians, liberal advocacy groups, and unapologetic leftists alike, is how rarely I hear people even try to speak in popular/majoritarian language.
And I'm primarily talking about spokespeople here—folks who are presumably trained or prepared to be connecting with popular or particular social bases in order to activate them or win their sympathy.
A Matt Karp interview earlier this year hits on some of this and is really worth reading: niskanencenter.org/how-democrats-… @karpmj
Read 13 tweets
6 Mar
Senator @kyrstensinema’s history and psychology is as fascinating as it is depressing. She seems motivated by a somewhat personal resentment of “the Left” and her own experience of its ineffectiveness and naval-gazing (in a particular time period)…
She and I are roughly the same age. I also came of age with the same backdrop of a weak, dysfunctional Left. It often felt like we didn't have anything big enough to really accurately call a "movement"; it might sound harsh, but we had residue from when there had been a movement.
I too became disillusioned with the pathologies of what I too often experienced as a small and insular Left—a little clubhouse that often seemed completely uninterested in building or wielding real political power. I've written a lot about this experience in @hegemonyhowto
Read 23 tweets
8 Jan
If we want a future that is not run (/run into the ground) by literal Nazis, we will have to fight for it. There is no "back to brunch."
If we want to defeat authoritarianism, we will need to do a lot better than condemning its most heinous visible acts.

We have to confront the underlying crisis of runaway inequality that has created conditions where authoritarian demagogues and movements flourish.
If the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress fail to deliver big for working class people (urban and rural, young and old, of every race), then the next consolidation of authoritarian power will likely be far worse than the one we have just endured.
Read 5 tweets
4 Dec 20
Insurgent strategy must always be grounded in a sober assessment of the present balance of forces.

But it must also be grounded in a visionary imagining of how forces can favorably shift when insurgents capture the momentum.

The real trick is to hold both things at once.
Don't let people who aren't accountable to an organized base set the strategy.
Don’t demonize your opponents to the point that you neglect to study them.
Read 7 tweets
9 Nov 20
The story of who was key in defeating Trump is a critical contest in framing Biden’s popular mandate.

A message strategy thread:
Trump’s defeat is the result of a massive multiracial working class movement fighting back—as opposed to an intervention of elite forces, former GOP operatives, or of conservative “swing” voters.
A core challenge in this narrative contest is cutting through the noise and the bunk “common sense” of the dominant narrative asserted by the political class.
Read 48 tweets
6 Nov 20
If you appreciate Pennsylvania delivering Trump a historic defeat, please support the people-powered grassroots organizations that made a plan to win and have been working their asses off for four years to bring it home.

Organizations (with links) in thread:
Lancaster Stands Up. @lancstandsup

The original Stands Up! We started 10 days after Trump won in 2016, with an emergency community meeting of 300 Lancaster residents. We've been in the streets and on the doors for four solid years.

Donate here: LancasterStandsUp.org/donate
Reclaim Philadelphia. @reclaimphila

A crew of Bernie 2016 staffers decided to dig in and build big. They've won some incredible uphill races since then, including this year winning it for @NikilSaval and @rick4westphilly

Donate here: secure.actblue.com/donate/reclaim…
Read 16 tweets
4 Nov 20
We’ve been organizing a broad base in Pennsylvania since the 2016 election. Today we’re mobilizing our community to rally for democracy and to count every vote.

My patience for this kind of bullshit from national organizations that are not accountable to a base has run out.
We held actions in cities and towns all across Pennsylvania. They were disciplined with strategic popular messaging, tight visuals, and joyous crowds. Our actions generated good media coverage and helped shape the story.
I do think it was of utmost importance that our actions were disciplined and well-planned in this dangerous and precarious moment. But that’s exactly why so many of our organizations on the ground had been planning for strategic and disciplined actions for weeks.
Read 5 tweets
22 Oct 20
Honest thread. I find myself being more snarky and sarcastic the past few weeks. And I realize it's because it's hard to hold the heaviness of this moment. We're in a very serious situation as a nation—a crossroads with huge stakes.
I am both hopeful and terrified to think about the range of possibilities for what might transpire over the next two or more weeks in our country. No one knows what will happen. But we know that we can't be passive. No one is coming to save us. It's on people like us to step up.
I feel so blessed to be able to be in a struggle for a better world with so many amazing people. I feel as proud of what we have done together as I feel discouraged by what we have not been able to do.
Read 13 tweets
22 Oct 20
I want Joe Biden to be the kind of President who hands this back to Amtrak and says, “Ok good start, now give me a proposal with twice as many lines built in half the time.”
“How we gonna pay for it? C’mon man, we’re gonna make Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk pay their fucking taxes.”
“That’s OUR money they’re hoarding, you know that, don’t you? Workers produced that wealth and they’re just sucking it up like blood-thirsty mosquitos. Well, that’s not gonna continue—not under a Joe Biden Presidency.”
Read 5 tweets
21 Oct 20
What if from now on we called it crapitalism?
You know, like a rebrand. Capitalism... sounds so lofty. But Crapitalism? Yuck! Nobody wants it! Get that shit outta here it stinky. Just one letter folks.
I'm like an expert in branding so
Read 4 tweets
19 Aug 20
The US Green Party is completely unserious about winning or building working-class political power and should not be encouraged by serious leftists. Don't @ me
I understand the appeal for people who, like me, are deeply disillusioned—if we ever harbored illusions—with the Democratic Party in its current state. I voted Green in the past. More thoughts:
You want to get to a destination.

You see a van full of folks who say they're going there too.

But you lift the hood and there's no engine.

That's what I see when I look at the US Green Party.

I'm not questioning the commitment of the folks in the van. The van is the problem.
Read 4 tweets
30 May 20
There are moments when all the organizing experience in the world doesn't matter much. There are moments that are much bigger than the organizations we've labored to build. There are moments when people who have never been involved pour into the streets, seemingly from nowhere.
I always remember something my mentor Max Elbaum told me (not an exact quote here, but this is the gist of it):

If you can fully control the political force that you're helping to unleash, then it is far too small.
Seeing Gen Zers, black, brown, and white, turn out in the hundreds today in Lancaster City—having spread the word organically through social media—showing up with righteous anger and ready to take the streets, is one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen in my hometown.
Read 4 tweets
16 May 20
It’s tempting to cling to a narrative about the formidable power & consolidation of the Establishment, the bias of the punditry, the stacking of the deck—because it’s all true.

But the truth is the Sanders campaign came within reach—within the ground gained or lost by maneuver.
The lessons to be gleaned from Bernie 2020 have very little to do with the power, consolidation, and shittiness of the Dem Party’s old guard. We already knew that, there’s little more to learn.

The big lessons pertain to our own ability and capacity to persuade and to maneuver.
The Democratic Party Establishment isn’t going to get less shitty on its own. The factor that can change in the months and years ahead is the subjective factor: the leaders, organizations, and movements we build to challenge them and wrest the helm.
Read 13 tweets
29 Feb 20
"Activism" is a relatively new word. Its rise in usage corresponded with the rise of neoliberalism and its ethos of individualism. Activism tends to be an activity of individual self-selectors, usually from the top 10-20% of the economic spectrum.

Activism ≠ organizing. Image
The lesson is never “The forces we’re up against are just too powerful.”

Facing tough odds against formidably powerful opponents is the nature of insurgent struggle.

It is the duty of insurgent leaders to study the terrain and learn how to win.
The question is not whether or not to polarize, but how to polarize strategically. Political challengers strategically polarize along a "bottom vs top" axis that frames their forces as majoritarian, their agenda as common sense, and their opponents as greedy elites at the top.
Read 13 tweets
16 Jan 20
Friends, it is a true and obvious fact that only one candidate will become the nominee. Eventually one of these candidates will have to drop out of the race.

When that happens, we want that candidate and their base of supporters to support the other. politico.com/news/2020/01/1…
We especially need the delegates of the candidate who concedes to consolidate behind the other. We want it to be obvious to everyone that they will do so when the time comes.

Souring each's camp on the other candidate is not a smart move, if we're serious about winning.
Does this mean you can never criticize or debate the points of the other candidate? Of course not. It means that in everything you're keeping in mind that, in the long-term, your candidate's victory depends on us courting the other candidate's base.
Read 5 tweets
6 Jan 20
Excited to knock some more doors in Iowa today. #Bernie2020 #NotMeUs
Been finding that some of the electability arguments I made in this article are working quite well at the door... thenation.com/article/occupy…
Been encountering a lot of folks who love Bernie but their main concern—understandably—is defeating Trump. To varying extents they've internalized the Establishment narrative that you can't go "too far left" & be viable. It's not too difficult to get many of these folks to shift.
Read 16 tweets
8 Dec 19
Would be great if people's thinking about political insurgency and political unity were a little more complex...
Calls for unity most often mean unity under the hegemony of those calling for unity.
Insurgency within a given institution or party—let's say, for example, the Democratic Party—will predictably be framed by the old guard leadership as disunity, disloyalty, self-sabotage, infighting, civil war, etc.

Example: "Not even a real Democrat."
Read 16 tweets
4 Oct 19
There is a mistaken idea in some pockets of the Left that you shift the Overton Window by saying things that sound extreme to most people.

You shift the Overton Window by framing bold demands as popular demands; by framing your values and agenda as common sense.
There's nothing inherently progressive about insurgency and nothing inherently reactionary about hegemony.

Insurgent politics can be rightwing or leftwing.

Elites can be hegemonic, but so can workers.

It depends on the agenda of those at the helm & the agenda of the mutineers.
Through the course of insurgency, the insurgents must learn also to govern. It’s the only opportunity we get to practice beforehand.
Read 5 tweets
12 Aug 19
The old guard of the Democratic Party seems to have no grasp of the monumental historical opportunity they have with @BernieSanders, who is uniquely positioned to bring tens of millions of disaffected voters and young low-propensity voters out to vote in 2020.
@BernieSanders Bernie's has shown an unparalleled ability to engage with disaffected voters, to win over persuadable conservative voters, and to organize an enormous base of dedicated volunteers and small donors. These are exactly the ingredients we need to defeat Trump.
@BernieSanders But the reality is you can't have Bernie—and the vision he represents—ascend in the Democratic Party without huge changes that will adversely impact the career politicians and operatives who comprise the corporate-friendly old guard of the Democratic Party.
Read 10 tweets
26 May 19
It would really warm my heart if these concepts were more popular in the left:
Being right wins you exactly nothing if you have no power.
If you don't choose your battles, your opponents will choose them for you.
Read 22 tweets