The only way to replace or even abolish ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, is to elect Democrats this November.
In order to do this, we need to pull in the same direction.
For Occupy ICE, if that means blocking elevators at immigration courts and building encampments in public parks, that’s OK. It’s OK as long as it does not get in the way of registering more voters and turning out more voters… but, most important, it cannot prevent the election of more Democrats.
The same goes for other activist groups and movements that are bringing their messages to the streets, such as Black Lives Matter Louisville, Louisville SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), Bernie Bros. and even the Democratic Party.
These groups and individuals have done necessary, effective work keeping crucial issues in front of Louisville since Donald Trump’s election.
But it cannot come at the expense of electing Democrats.
We need to stabilize our institutions before we can change the world.
In other words, all of the hard work that’s been done organizing, protesting — resisting — won’t be worth anything if it poisons the well.
The Democrat Party as an institution is flawed, but the alternative is worse. See: election of 2016.
We cannot tolerate half-victories when it comes to social justice and equality. As a fortunate, blessed white male, I’m the last person to suggest anyone else settle for less than they deserve. But the country got it wrong during the last election. Voters felt like they could lodge protest votes for an independent, or not vote for someone because they didn’t like Her — and still be safe from Trump. Wrong.
A Washington Post article last week based on a Pew Research Center report concluded that “New data makes it clear: Nonvoters handed Trump the presidency.”
We can’t afford to make the same mistake.
Personally, it’s been cathartic to air my grievances with Republicans and Democrats for the last 22 months. I have repeatedly criticized Mayor Greg Fischer for not declaring Louisville a sanctuary city. I criticized the Metro City Council for its largely-symbolic ordinance that accomplished some sanctuary concepts.
But does anyone believe Councilwoman Angela Leet, Fischer’s opponent for the Mayor’s Office, would be better for immigrants than Fischer has been? Absolutely not — and if you think it can’t get worse for immigrants and refugees, are you really willing to risk it? I have yet to see an elected Republican (who isn’t retiring) stand up to Trump and other party leaders.
Leet will work with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE. She may fulfill her campaign promise to replace the police chief, which could lead police to work directly with ICE, targeting immigrants and refugees in our community. And from the party of “Just Say No” and getting tough on crime, Leet’s answer to Louisville gun violence and/or drug problems will assuredly be a sledgehammer… not a helping hand.
Or what about Republican Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, a former cabinet member of Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration who is running against my father, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth? Would she represent your views in Washington, D.C.?
When the Courier Journal asked my dad about protests and calls to abolish ICE, he said: “We can yell at anybody we want to, we can make every rational argument but until we change control of Congress nothing is going to stop these people.”
Protesting, rallying and holding elected officials accountable are all essential in a democracy, always. That is how movements move our government.
Occupy ICE must continue its work.
But in doing so, its work must not damage the political prospects of the people who are on your side and can make differences in Washington, D.C., and here in Kentucky.
There are about 80 days left before we go back to the polls. The political climate looks positive for change, with the possibility of a new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, possibly the Senate — and a check on the dunce in the Oval Office. The only way to get there is to register and vote Democrat, even if you wish that person were more progressive.
Voting may not be as satisfying in the moment as occupying or rallying, and it may not bring about the change as expeditiously as we want, but it is the only way to win in the end.
It’s time to pull in the same direction.