By ann summers
The millennials’ remake of “up from socialism” might be embodied in the call to “Abolish ICE”. The question is for whose cause is it more effective.
If one believed in the lessons of GOP marketing, “Abolish ICE” has a brand identity problem, except that it works better for the RWNJs, whose reactionary understanding tends to slogans rather than ruthless criticism, and whose manipulation of “free” media still dominates cultural hegemony.
The framing of Democrats as being in favor of “open borders” seems to provide yet another obstacle in the midterm campaign. Another unintended consequence of reactionary discourse. But what’s worse are the agents of such sloganeering, because it’s about the campaign not the slogan. Monikers are not movements and libertarianism is not “a phase”.
Remember how some progressives used to worry about how many CIs were in their organizations, dismissed as paranoid, and then discovered that they actually existed (see Black Panthers). One might worry that entire sects of the left had been manufactured by E. Howard Hunt narratives, so that the SLA and the RCP were created by what is now called the “deep state” as agents provocateurs, in the latter case, with better corporate identity graphics.
The new millennium’s Bob Avakian might be Sean McElwee if he were a bit less charismatic, but perhaps this BuzzFeed attention might be the thing he needs to achieve the same reframing power that repositions kneeling as an attack on superfluous anthem playing rather than racial injustice.
Ultimately the problem is that McElwee might consider that there is an artisianal phase in the manufacturing of consent.
It is amusing to think that the semantics of “abolish IRS” can be rendered identical to “abolish ICE”, but only if reactionary logic is at work, because the financing of an economy is not identical to immigration injustice.
OTOH McElwee has provided a Sherman-like statement about his political engagement: “He requested that BuzzFeed News put this on the record: If the Democrats do not flip the House, he will stop writing about or engaging with politics.”
Such ideological self-sacrifice, much like Trotsky opening up a taco truck in front of Trump’s Walk of Fame star. If only praxis really worked like that. We’ll see whether McElwee’s next gig is brand purity manager at antifa or Proud Boys.
Regardless, after the Democrats win the next two elections, there will be no ICE at least as a brand, because actual institutional change could occur..
..over the past few months, a broader progressive movement has solidified, improbably, under a seemingly radical “Abolish ICE” moniker popularized by a 25-year-old socialist researcher who gleefully tweets about ending capitalism.
McElwee is part of the construction, in real time and at lightning speed, of a new Democratic conversation that owes more to Noam Chomsky than to Bill Clinton, more to Twitter than to white papers, and that is providing the intellectual backbone for new establishment and ambitious existing establishment figures like Gillibrand — something that makes some of the radicals nervous.
Since McElwee first tweeted the phrase in February of last year, “Abolish ICE” has transformed into a rallying cry, an anti-Trump protest sign slogan, and an issue fomenting divisions inside the Democratic Party.
What seemed an impossible policy dream is now endorsed by some members of Congress, including likely 2020 contenders. Some pro-abolish ICE Democrats say that immigration should instead be enforced as a civil issue under a new, more humanitarian banner.
Sensing an opportunity, Republicans including President Trump have sought to falsely paint the Abolish ICE movement as an effort to open the nation’s borders. Last week, House Republicans forced a vote on a resolution expressing “continued support” for the agency. Eighteen Democrats, mostly moderates and two who are currently running for Senate, voted in favor, with 133 Democrats voting present in order to oppose what they view as a purely political maneuver. Those Democrats in support of abolishing ICE have struggled to articulate what the process would actually look like as they put forth what is, for now, dead-on-arrival legislation.
Even Democrats vocal about the horrors of family separation have been semantically hung up on saying the word “abolish.” McElwee said has seen adaptations that he feels are weaker but well-intentioned: “Defund,” “Break Up,” or even “Repeal and Replace” ICE. (McElwee’s tweet on Feb. 23, 2017, with 200 retweets, was the first on Twitter with the words “Abolish ICE” to take off. There are, to be sure, a handful of earlier barely-faved tweets that advocate for abolishing ICE.)
The prospect that Abolish ICE will continue to figure prominently during the midterms has lead to angst among Democrats over whether the stance will damage them with swing voters. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 69% of Republican voters viewed the agency positively, while 63% of Democrats viewed it negatively.
“These activists have become incredible effective in forcing their issues to become litmus tests,” said one Democratic strategist working on several races the party is hoping to turn from red to blue. “We are in a weird position. We are all so certain we’re going to win that they are willing to ask for things no matter the jeopardy it puts candidates in.”
A vandal used a pickaxe to destroy President Donald J. Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This is the second time Trump’s star has been vandalized. https://t.co/e9pxn5P4Gk
— WGNMorningNews (@WGNMorningNews) July 25, 2018