What happenned to the Left in the US in this messy world?

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Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore. Flickr

The Left used to be a strong force in the politics of the US, right up to the end of the Vietnam War in the mid-1970s.

Some have argued that Henry Kissinger pulled the rug from below the feet of the Left when, as Secretary of State, he negotiated successfully in Paris with Le Duc Tho, his Vietnamese counterpart, to end the war.

On the other hand, the Left argued it is the US government that lost the war to both the Left and the Vietcong guerillas who, without the Left mobilising the American public against the war, would have fought a much longer battle to bring the US army to its knees.

History actually proves the Left to have been correct. Even Kissinger, in a 1985 debate with Le Duc Tho — during the 10th anniversary of the Vietcong victory — conceded this point. But where is the American Left today given the horrible things happening in Syria, Iran and Pakistan? Where is the American Left as South Sudan burns to ashes and President Donald Trump rolls back the war on climate change? Whose funeral are we mourning at: That of the Left or that of imperialism? Where is the labour movement and what happened to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations?

Having spent two weeks in the US this month, I am shocked at the very low-key politics of the Left. Anger is mounting on one issue: Anti-Trumpism. But anti-Trumpism seems a mishmash of all kinds of issues bringing together a broad section of Americans fed up with Trump’s violation of what they call “basic American values” and undermining “the trust in the presidency.” Here, the Left has no monopoly; It mingles happily with liberals, moral high grounders, decent Americans, people who call themselves progressives and those who have never trusted Trump anyway.

The Left missed an important opportunity. This was the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders for the presidency on the Democratic Party ticket. The Democratics have always been the party in which the Left most feels at home. When the Democrats came out in the industrial north and north east to fully support the Civil Rights movement and the African American cause in the 1960s, the party was rightfully the home of Left politics without necessarily embracing all the left issues. Hence the acrimony at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago. Such an acrimony could have occurred once more at the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2016, had Bernie Sanders mobilised his forces to strongly force a left agenda on the party platform; but he didn’t.

For more by Professor Peter Anyang' Nyong'o please see TheStar  

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