Building the People’s Party

100 days of Donald Trump in the White House, 100 days of Democrats in the wilderness, 100 dumbfounded days of dismay at the New York Times, 100 days for a lot of white America to see their government with a certain black American disbelief.  But it can seem that the people pretty much know what to do when the political order is coming apart: and not ‘run in circles, scream and shout,’ but meet a dazed immigrant at the airport, march for science, run for something, drop the Ivanka line from your shoe store, just declare a divided country ‘indivisible’ and go about acting as if a People’s Party might be possible, if not necessary, to speak some strong common sense about who we are and where we’re hurting.

For some trenchant liberals, the goal might just be to reform the Democratic Party and open up a bigger tent; to retain the same old message of hope, and saber rattle against the meddling Kremlin and other forms of foreign interference. But for many Americans, something more may be needed.

What if the greatest accomplishment of President Trump’s first 100 days happens to be our dawning awareness that a new kind of politics is needed — one that unites in a chorus the many voices of protest. To help us imagine just such a scenario, we’ve assembled an all-star panel of activist guests.

Marshall Ganz, a player-coach in the big leagues of organizing since he dropped out of Harvard in the 1960s offers us a primer on what it takes to mobilize effective social movements. He tells us that: “Protests are not enough. Protests need to change into power.”

Clint Smith—teacher, New Yorker contributor, and slam poetry champgives us his an angle on Black Lives Matter and the broader movements reshaping our demonstration-driven politics.

Listen to an excerpt of Smith’s poetry here:

And Lisa Randall, the most cited theoretical physicist in the wide world of science, fill us in on her view of the stakes in a changing universe. According to Randall, scientists are “by nature not marchers” but she finds public demonstrations in support of science to be essential when held in regions of our country where science is under attack.   

Guest List
Marshall Ganz
longtime organizer and senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School
Lisa Randall
theoretical physicist and professor of science at Harvard University
Clint Smith
teacher, New Yorker contributor, and author of the poetry collection, Counting Descent
Mike Connolly
is a Democratic member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, representing the Twenty-sixth Middlesex District

Related Content


  • Cam Wilder

    Calvin McCraben (sorry if incorrect spelling), Christopher’s technologist friend from Birmingham, says “Donald Trump is the x-ray image of white America”, and that this is not just the perception of some African Americans, but an objective fact, like the cell phone footage of police brutality against minorities which has come to light in recent times.
    African Americans already knew about racist police violence, and already perceive that inside all white Americans are
    essentially Donald Trump, or at least are collectively so. So, just as with the police brutality footage, which African Americans saw as no surprise, the conversation about how white America is essentially the stuff of which Trump’s
    personality is made is a conversation for Whites to have.

    Am I the only white, or African-American listener to be repulsed and exasperated by this observation? The sanctimonious couching of the Calvin’s argument in the suggestion that this is a conversation “we” should have among ourselves is part and parcel with the proposition of a monolithic white America. I don’t believe in the term
    “reverse racism”, but I believe political correctness is real, and prevents this kind of hurtful, dubious, and divisive
    claim to remain unchallenged, and that it has driven impressionable people to the right, often young people who are informed they evidently carry a kind of original sin which makes their very thoughts worthless.

    • Potter

      No, but people should examine themselves for what they have been handed down subconsciously if not blatantly.

  • It’s like my Grampy used to say: Once the genie is out of the bottle it can’t be put back.

    At times I feel RoS is moving towards something and then, a show like this, we lose traction. Maybe it is preparatory, getting us ready for something or maybe “Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing.”

    Gee the educational system is bad? No kidding?
    Everything is transactional? Did we forget how the Sumerians funded the temple?
    CRISPR is a bad idea – would Lisa Randall march against CRISPR? Scientists cannot make that judgment because they aren’t going to rub shoulders with the ignorant, the lumpen minions, and the unwashed.

    The problem isn’t economics or ummm…. a specific type of economics…. the problem is rationality – push back comes from students because they become irrational in their prolonged liminality.

    What people need from academia is irrational stuff like this:
    E.O. Wilson – incorporate ecology into religion. Didn’t sell – swell heads renounced him.
    E.F. Schumacher – simple and understandable. Can’t get grant money for it – lose status for supporting simple ideas dumb people can understand.
    Susanne K. Langer: wrote about feelings – an academic career killer. (Wiki – people influenced: 1
    Karl Popper was a very rational person. Wiki – people influenced: 30+)

    Huge rational ideas are neither.

  • Cal McCrevan

    Cam Wilder this is Calvin McCrevan . I’m sorry that it seems that I was saying that all whites are evil. They are not. Nevertheless, the ‘white perspective ‘ is something that white people alone should discuss. Unfortunately my comments were extremely limited due to editing decisions of the ROS staff. Thanks for your comment.

    • Cal, can you unpackage that for us?
      A group of people having a perspective is gonna amount to maintaining the status quo, even if it is only by default.

      • Cal McCrevan

        Robert Peabody III , I will detail my views on this for you but this forum is not the proper place for it. Shoot me an email address and I will gladly respond to your request at length. Thanks for your thoughts and interest.

      • Cal McCrevan

        Robert, I decided to do a FB video on this topic . I will let you know, probably a day or two.

        • Pretty sure RoS would not mind if you posted a link here.
          I’ll look for it.

    • Lesley McLaughlin

      Cal, please read my comment – in error posted as a new comment instead of a reply.

  • WoozyCanary

    Another fine show. RoS continues to give space to a more progressively framed viewpoint on issues than can be found in much of the rest of NPR-Land O’ Nooz. Still not enough so for some, but i’ll take it. Witness other dismal venues like On Point which tilts relentlessly toward establishment power.

    Chris briefly noted that, for the New York Times, being invisible was something new to them (presumably referring to the Orange Plague’s declaration of “the media” as a public enemy.

    It should be noted that President Puzzy Grabber did meet with Times staff later last November after he was elected installed by an archaic Electoral College.

    Consorting with the enemy, by Orange logic.

  • Lesley McLaughlin

    Cal McCrevan – The edited version of your words did not make it sound as though you felt that all whites are evil. Not having heard your full comment does not take away from what we DID hear setting up the conversation that ensued. Your comments were a catalyst, a benefit. Thank you.

    • Cal McCrevan

      Thanks Lesley,
      I appreciate that understanding.

  • Gordon Adams

    Matt Patrick was a Democratic outsider in the Massachusetts General Court for the Upper Cape (Cod) and ran into a maelstrom from his own Party. Will Mike Connelly be able to survive his own Party’s obstruction? I’d love to hear from him towards the end of this term regarding lessons learned.

  • A in Sharon

    Progressives are ill-prepared to gain power because of the self-defeating obsession to avoid any commitment to a unifying ideology. There is no will to sacrifice individual interest to the collective interest. They realize this and come up with clever ideas like intersectionality. It sounds good in meetings but does no good when you have to select a leader to lead. Instead, you end up with executive committees and platforms 20 pages long. When every person’s interest in a political movement has equal weight then you have NO movement. America is a land where few want serious political change. Instead, they are fighting for individual recognition in the current system which rewards personal satisfaction over collective good. That is THE American Way. Just one such example: The way in which people create personal branding through their avatar.

  • Pete Crangle

    Nine Discourses on ‘America’: “Overlook Hotel” Edition

    IIIIIV: Where’s Joaquin Phoenix?

    Cy Twombly, Nine Discourses on Commodus, 1963

    I: How’s that Hopey, Changey Thing working out for ya?

    “Change is not always a wonderful experience” — Marshall Ganz

    “It can always get worse” — Conventional Cynicism

    “It’ll get worse, before it gets even more worse.” — Pete Crangle

    II: We carry what we can carry

    What thou lovest well remains,
    the rest is dross
    What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
    What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
    Whose world, or mine or theirs
    or is it of none?
    First came the seen, then thus the palpable
    Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
    What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
    What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee.
    — Ezra Pound, Canto LXXXI

    III: The poetry of a hammer and a feather

    Mr. Galileo was correct.

    Feather & Hammer Drop on Moon

    IV: Forty Acres and a Mule, or, Plan B, or, let’s not get lynched

    “There’s Always Work at the Post Office.” — Robert Townsend, “Hollywood Shuffle”

    V: The Power Works

    “Christ was crucified because he would have nothing to do with the crowd (even though he addressed himself to all). He did not want to form a party, an interest group, a mass movement, but wanted to be what he was, the truth, which is related to the single individual. Therefore everyone who will genuinely serve the truth is by that very fact a martyr. To win a crowd is no art; for that only untruth is needed, nonsense, and a little knowledge of human passions. But no witness to the truth dares to get involved with the crowd.” — Søren Kierkegaard

    VI: The Ghost in the Bureaucracy

    “Budgets are moral documents, and how we reduce future deficits are historic and defining moral choices. As Christian leaders, we urge Congress and the administration to give moral priority to programs that protect the life and dignity of poor and vulnerable people in these difficult times, our broken economy, and our wounded world. It is the vocation and obligation of the church to speak and act on behalf of those Jesus called “the least of these.”” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

    VII: Neoliberalism and the Rat Race

    “[Alienation] is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of the great mass of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision making. It’s the feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with every justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies… If automation and technology is accompanied as it must be with full employment, then the leisure time available to man will be enormously increased. This being so, then our whole concept of education must change. The object must be to equip and educate people for life, not for work… A rat race is for rats. We are not rats. We are human beings. And people insult us when they talk about our participation in a rat race. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you. That would caution silence in the face of injustice, lest you jeopardize your chances of promotion and self-advancement. Because this is how it starts. And if you start before you know where you are, you are a fully paid up member of the rat pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or, as Christ put it: What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul.”

    Jimmy Reid – Rectorial Address at University of Glasgow, 1972

    VIII: We should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across fields of gardenias

    “Horror has a face, and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.”

    Apocalypse Now

    IX: Cynicism, Realism, Irony … Brokeback Democracy

    Democracy Simply Doesn’t Work

    * * * * *

    “And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.” — Joseph Conrad “Heart of Darkness”

  • Potter

    The show weaves together very well and gives real hope that change, positive change, will come. It’s usually about communication, education, realization ( after some pain), that brings people around, call it what you will.. or maybe don’t call it”progressive”. People are so stuck in labels. It just does not feel good the other way. But that takes time to ferment. The nubbin of folks that is left can stand their tiny ground. It’s great that people want to get involved more. It’s doable! I’ll wait until he is gone from the scene to thank that madman. I loved what all your guests were saying–all, including Cal McCreven! Thank you.