Entangled since the beginning of the year in a spiral of contagion by the new coronavirus, which does not stop – the tragic milestone of 150,000 deaths has just been registered -, the United States has been going through parallel to another unusual situation: the streets of large cities on fire, sometimes literally in conflicts between anti-racism protesters and security forces. The movement that began with marches at the end of May, after black George Loyd was asphyxiated by the knee of a white policeman around his neck, transmuted into constant clashes between smaller groups with the police in cities across the country. The mobilization has its roots in a series of dissatisfactions – with the government, with racism, with unemployment, with the pandemic that will not go away. But behind the persistence of the protests is also the stridency, more acute than ever, of a segment that rarely gains a prominent role in the country’s politics: the so-called ultraliberals, the closest to a left that the United States was able to produce .
The trigger for the latest conflicts was the sending of federal troops to end a camp in a Portland plaza in the peaceful state of Oregon on the West Coast, where about 150 protesters from the ultraliberal line set up camp to protest police violence. During the day, they shouted and waved signs. At night, stoked by the usual vandals, they left a trail of burnt-out cars, tarnished public buildings and clashes with the local police. The governor (Democrat) did not ask, neither did the Mayor (Democrat), but it was there that President Donald Trump, wearing the cape of “defender of law and order”, dispatched the riot police. Faced with the truculence of unsolicited reinforcement, the liberals (as the non-conservative Americans are called) in Portland were outraged and joined forces with the ultra – even a self-titled barrier Muro das Mães started to stand between the troops and the protests. “The ‘protesters’ are anarchists who hate our country. The line of innocent ‘mothers’ is a sham, ”shouted Trump on Twitter, adding fuel to the fire. After much talk, the feds agreed to leave on Thursday 30.
In addition to going to the street, this new American left is manifested in city halls and in the House of Representatives, where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, elected by New York in 2018, is the best-known face of a group of “radicals” who shiver the chiefs Democratic Party with their proposals and positions. AOC, as she is known, won 70% of the votes in the primary in her district and is running for reelection in November. “We are proving that the people’s movement in New York is not an accident,” he fired. In the Democratic pre-campaign for the presidency, she openly supported Bernie Sanders, a senator who defines himself as a socialist and who, for a moment, so excited young people that he even threatened Joe Biden, the party machine’s favorite.
A Pew Research Institute survey last year showed that 15% of Democrats defined themselves as ultra-liberal, a tiny percentage, but triple that of twenty years ago. It is a group that defends broad social reforms, such as public health care and free universal education, taxation of large fortunes and defense of the environment. They are mainly young people living in large centers, with higher education. “United with the liberals, they can hinder Trump in the November election,” predicts Darrell West, a political scientist at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
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Democrat Biden, leading the polls, courts leftists – without making too much commitment. He has just announced the plan to invest 2 trillion dollars in ecological economics, full plate for the group, and also pointed out Ocasio-Cortez, herself the author of a “Green New Deal” beyond radical (of which Biden did not take advantage of any item), for a future position of adviser on climate change. The influence of ultraliberals on the Democratic platform is restricted to peripheral issues, since the electorate remains mostly between the center and the right: 37% of Americans say they are conservative, 35% moderate and 24% liberal, according to the Gallup Institute. “The new left revitalizes the Democratic Party, bringing more women, blacks and Latinos, but it will not make the caption adhere to the socialism preached by Bernie Sanders,” says Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol. “This is, first of all, a reactionary move against Trump.”
Left-wingers surfaced in the USA (always with an unfriendly connotation for the average American) in rare situations, such as in the persecution of communists by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, which made victims mainly among artists and intellectuals, and in the anti-war movement from Vietnam, twenty years later. The current wave, stronger and more organized, gains some form in a decisive year: that of Trump’s re-election, which instilled antagonism between the conservative public and the liberal elite. Three months from a new vote, and going badly in the polls, the president will have a difficult dispute ahead of him. Interestingly, since voting is not mandatory, this tiny piece of the population can be decisive.
Published in VEJA of August 5, 2020, edition nº 2698