We live in turbulent and inventive political times. I write this on Election Day and you will read it after the American people have rendered their verdict on one of the most raucous, divisive, and perhaps policy-arid campaigns in our history. This intense battle has been described as tribal: masses in motion under the banners of The Blue and The Red.
The politics of top-down direction meet the energy of bottom-up organizing
These are not, as one might say, “Your father’s parties and campaigns.” In the vanishing world of traditional politics, small groups of men in smoke-filled rooms chose the candidates to offer up for election. That process embodied the notion of “top-down”.
Many factors have destroyed that model.
Campaign financing, excessive lobbying, and politics as career have each played a part in producing unprecedented Congressional gridlock. One result: powerful new ways of organizing and expressing ourselves challenge all these forces.
The Obama campaign and presidency represented the beginning of a break from the old pattern of coronation for the next in line. His team brought a community organizing and social media dexterity to the unlikely victory over Hillary Clinton. Her classic presidential resume and campaign did not prevail and her loss shocked the political class.
In the 2016 campaign, Clinton and her Republican counterparts faced an even deeper disruption: the issue-driven movements of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
On the left, massive, predominantly millennial crowds cheered the Bernie Sanders agenda of Free College and Medicare for All. This campaign was fueled not by “millionaires and billionaires” but by tens of millions of dollars given in an often-touted average amount of $27 at a time.
Far to Bernie’s right, Donald Trump bested the broad field of professional politicians with a campaign driven by endless arena events and an agenda of The Wall, America First, and Draining the Swamp. He too raised millions of dollars in small donations. Once again, Hillary lost.
2018 campaigns appear to have learned these lessons and have focused on 2016 issues and grassroots organizing in search of victory.
Trump’s victory fuels the emergence of #MeToo, Parkland—and Respectful Exits
Clearly traditional political campaigns have evolved, as has the power of massive issue-driven, grassroots-led and social media-enabled movements. Unlike the political parties which have failed to act on many deep, structural issues such as sexual harassment and gun violence, new cohorts of activists are taking matters into their own hands.
The emergence of #MeToo has had a rapid, dramatic, and highly visible impact on abusive behavior in the workplace. It is focused not on public policy, but on behavior in the private sphere. Its influence has spread across industries and has energized the 2018 campaigns.
In the wake of a horrific school shooting, the students of Parkland High School rose up to take on the long-simmering issue of gun control. They have inspired the broad population that filled the streets of Washington, D.C., and dozens of other cities in the March for Our Lives and have mobilized a major voter registration and get-out-the-vote effort in the election.
Respectful Exits: the voice and the vehicle for aging workers
In all this tumult and motion, where does one find an emerging cohort of aging workers who are taking their uncertain futures into their own hands? In this era of enhanced longevity, who champions the need for longer work and phased and flexible retirement? What organization insists on policies and practices that enhance the savings needed to support longer retirements?
Respectful Exits is that organization. Our growing supporter base and our popular and corporate campaigns will fill a void that has allowed other groups and issues to flourish while leaving aging workers behind.
Regardless of who won the national, state, and local campaigns, the lessons of the new politics are clear for all to see: grassroots self-organization is here to stay. It is time for aging workers to join Respectful Exits and embrace our hashtag: #MilkCurdlesPeopleDont.'It is time for aging workers to join Respectful Exits and embrace our hashtag: #MilkCurdlesPeopleDont.'Click To Tweet