A leader is someone who tells people where they’re going, and the people, agreeing with that goal, finding it worth the effort, work to go there too. That’s where we get the name leader.
In America we have people who set them selves up as legislators, or in executive roles as administrators. They know how to, what, sign papers, speak in public. But how few actually lead? Do they bother to go ahead of the people and bring them along?
In the wake of Dobbs, we need leadership. We need Biden and other Democrats to stand up and say, “We’re going to bring about an America where rights are protected as they’re supposed to be. And here’s how I think we get there, and here’s what I want you to do to help us get there.”
In general, we don’t get status updates from our parties. They don’t check-in with us in a meaningful way. They often shove thorns of reality into our flesh, in hopes we’ll wince and donate. But they don’t stop and say, “Okay, here’s how it’s going. Here’s why it’s not working. Here’s what we should do differently.”
But status updates are exactly what leaders do. If your team at work has a big smelly hairy project and you’re yak-shaving it away one step at a time, they want to make sure everyone’s doing the right thing, and if something goes wrong, they want to adjust quickly.
Finally, if a leader knows themselves incapable of the job, either they’re unwilling to go where they need to go, or they know the people will not follow, or they cannot imagine the path, or they think themselves inadequate to the journey, they quit and let someone else lead.
Obviously my go-to on abortion rights is an effort to amend the Constitution that joins with other movements that also seek constitutional memorialization of rights (equal rights amendment, gay marriage, gun safety, etc.). In Biden’s Dobbs speech, I was a little surprised he didn’t say that we should ultimately work to change the Constitution. But he didn’t say much of anything about where he wants us to go.
Democrats need to be leading. Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader. Jack Kennedy was a leader. He pointed up to the Moon and said, “Grab your shit. Let’s go.”
And it’s okay for a leader to be lost. It’s a bewildering country. Where should we go? How can we get there? It’s okay not to have the answer. But you have to tell us. You have to say, “If we get 60 in the Senate, then…” or “We’re going to need states to call for a constitutional convention.” Or whatever the lift is. People need to know where you want to try to go. Where do you foresee the mountains and rivers and perils of the journey? Maybe we can’t get there, but dissembling is a waste of time.
So where we are, unless Biden and the Democratic governors, legislators at all levels, step up and lead, give status updates on where we are, what we need to get there, is we’ll have to find some leaders. That means either other Democrats or third parties or whatever. But it’s going to take leadership, not just stump speeches and deafening silence when we need fireside chats with action items.
And it will be 2024 before most of the people who want a better response can build the machinery in most states. Names on the ballots, all that jazz. In most states it’s too late to do much for 2022 beyond what was already in the pipe. A few states have odd-year elections next year (Louisiana, Mississippi, plus legislative in Virginia and New Jersey, and gubernatorial in Kentucky).
The people will listen if you lead. If you just read some warmed over gibberish, we’ve heard it before. Tell it to Buncombe.
There are leaders in some organizations today doing whatever they can to help the vulnerable tied to the fucking tracks by five Repubs on the Supreme Court. (Oh, sorry, they handed the rope to the states to tie them to the tracks.) The good people are not going to stop pushing their missions. They’ll arrange transport, expand access to contraception, to anti-implantation drugs, and to medical abortion drugs. They know their missions and what they can do. But they and the folks on the tracks deserve leaders. Tell us how you want America to get to those tracks, and how we’ll cut those fucking binds and get them up. Lead your nation.