Jane McAlevey on Electoral Politics

Interview on KPFA’s Against the Grain.  Transcription lightly edited
“Here’s why I really obsess about leftists needing to embrace electoral politics: Because if you don’t get yourself into a contested fight where you win or lose something, you will never know if you’re winning. So part of my argument about local politics isn’t (just) that we need a bench, you have to have timelines and you have to have yes or no contests. Part of why the left has to embrace local elections is because you need to put yourself in a yes or no voting context to know if you’re really winning or building power.

“(E)very time I meet progressives of lefties who want to check out of the Democratic Party or check out of the electoral system, I’m like, ‘That’s cool. But if you can’t prove to me that you can win anything, that you can win demonstrable majorities and do something, how do you know if what you’re doing is winning anything?’ We have to win. And for our army to grow . . . first we have to raise the expectation among ordinary working folks that we can win again. And as soon as people sense that they can win again, they are off and running.

“(O)ne part is getting people way more involved in local races. Forget the congressional races, go for school boards, water boards, there’s all the commissions and committees that we just leave to the developers and the Donald Trumps and his kids and their ilk and the right and we should be taking all of them . . . Don’t just go to demonstrations . . . figure out what are the next set of local elections coming up. Then figure out what it would take for you to run-either you-or if you’re more like an organizer to go recruit a team of people in your neighborhood or your precinct. And it’s not because you’re entranced with the idea of electoral politics but because you need to figure out how you can build some power. Are you winning something? Did you win or lose by a lot or a little? Do you lose everything you’re doing.”

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