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On the morning of February 26, 1990, I watched a tired Daniel Ortega address a crowd of shocked supporters after enduring a rather crushing defeat to Violeta Chamorro in a bitter election battle for the presidency of Nicaragua.

The United States had played a significant role in his defeat, by funding the opposition and launching a menacing invasion of Panama just two months before. The Panama Invasion (called ironically “Operation Just Cause”) was an object lesson to the Nicaraguan population: This is what Uncle Sam can do to you if he does not like your leader. It also led to huge shortages of consumer goods, as planes bound for Managua’s “Dollar Store” were held up indefinitely in the Panama City airport.

For weeks, people of Nicaragua had told pollsters they were voting for “The Rooster”—as Ortega was nicknamed in some of his campaign ads. But in the privacy of the voting booth, they marked their ballots with the choice that they felt would end a nearly ten-year long crippling U.S. trade embargo and, more importantly, the U.S.-funded contra war that had already killed tens of thousands of Nicaraguans—mostly non-combatants.

In his concession speech, Ortega told the crowd that the Sandinistas would continue to govern desde abajo—from below—meaning that popular pressure, and a will to maintain a society that addressed the inequalities that had led to the 1979 Sandinista victory, would continue.

Speaking this morning from the ballroom of a New York hotel, Hillary Clinton told her supporters much the same thing. “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it,” she told the tearful crowd. “Keep up the fight now, and for the rest of your lives.”

The defeat of Daniel Ortega in February 1990 was devastating for many on the U.S. left who had supported the Sandinista revolution with their dollars—and even, in the case of murdered volunteer Ben Linder, their lives. But February 1990 was also the month that Nelson Mandela walked free from a South African prison after twenty-seven years. Mandela went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize and become president of the country he once sought to liberate from Apartheid.

We are often confronted with stunning setbacks, less often with astounding victories. Clinton’s loss at the polls was in many ways precipitated by the fact that she was indeed breaking glass ceilings, as her predecessor, the first African-American President, had done. The issues addressed by both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in attempting to make this a more just and equitable society will carry on beyond November 8, 2016.

Tomorrow we will continue our work.

Norman Stockwell is publisher of The Progressive.

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Comments

Although I understand and sympathize with your sentiments, I must take issue with the assertion that Clinton or Obama represented or espoused, in any meaningful way, Progressive policies or values. They were both middling, cautious, corporate Democrats. That doesn't ipso facto make them evil (as some would have), but it certainly doesn't make them Progressives. Bernie Sanders ran as a Progressive. Stein did, and Nader, and Jesse Jackson before them. George McGovern ran as a Progressive. It's important to make that clear and not forget it. Clinton's foreign policy positions were the most bellicose since Reagan in 1980. Her domestic agenda was palliative neoliberalism. That Trump is an awful person with a terrible agenda doesn't change that.
Clinton's chance to break the glass ceiling helped her. It was a net positive. But she couldn't inspire enthusiasm the way Obama did. Her downfall was her secret email server and her serial dishonesty. Progressives should have been more vocal in support of Jill Stein.
The New Democratic Party needs to have a solid progressive platform with a clearly defined ethics standard that applies to all elected officials and candidates for public office. The clearly defined ethics standard needs to stipulate that any violations of the spirit of the law or the letter of the law are a liability for the entire party, and therefore an injustice against all members, and must be punished by immediate removal from the party for a minimum of one year or longer depending on the severity of the injustice against all members. Right now there is not an ethics requirement for party membership. An ethics standard would enforce not only progressive values, but also the expectation that members will observe ethics at all times for the benefit of all. We need leaders who take responsibility and conduct themselves in a responsible way for the benefit of all. Blaming someone else does not solve this systemic problem about not taking responsibility for a history of deception and mistakes that have been made and which subsequently provided opportunities for the opposition, or for various legal inquiries.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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