Paul Booth ’64 Talks Political Revolution

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Departments of Economics, Political Science, Sociology/Anthropology, and the Forum for Free Speech sponsored a unique speaking event this past Monday.  Paul Booth, class of 1964, delivered a talk titled “Pushing the Envelope in American Politics.”  

Drawing upon Senator Bernie Sanders’ concept of a political revolution, Booth underscored the crucial nature of this election. According to him, Republicans in Congress have actively opposed a Democratic presidency, and will continue to do so until they leave office. In addition, Booth referenced entities and individuals, such as the Koch Brothers, who donate vast sums of money (in the Koch’s case $900 million) in order to push forward agendas that favor big business or corporations hurt by progressive policies, such as climate change measures.

Booth’s time as a Swarthmorean (there was no such thing as a “Swattie” in his era) was marked in Students for a Democratic Society.  This organization’s activity in the Philadelphia/Chester area mirrored that of civil rights groups in the Deep South and sought “political realignment”, or the mass enfranchisement of Black Americans.

In the words of Booth, “we were confident that our righteousness would prevail.” Along with fifty other authors, they drafted the Manifesto of Students for a Democratic society.  With this prelude of his staunch devotion to progressive causes, Booth dove right into the stakes of this election.

According to Booth, the gridlock exhibited by today’s Congress closely parallels the efforts of Richard Nixon to undermine the left in the early days of his presidency.  Along with refusing to sign into law any sort of legislation generated by Democrats, the Republican-led House and Senate have refused to approve Obama’s nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat left by the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

Aside from actions from political leaders today, Booth emphasized that, regardless of the progressive cause, be it equality, gun safety, workers’ rights, etc., the opposition is profound and prevailing, and it is up to our generation to reverse such opposition.

How do we go about this? Booth calls upon the words of Senator Bernie Sanders and answers with, “substantive change and disruption.” He goes on to add how the grassroots influence that has pushed the progressive agenda in this election must continue to achieve electoral victories. Regardless of the skepticism of the two-party system, the strategy for the left to win is very partisan.

Booth leaves the audience, consisting of Swatties and local residents, with a three-pronged strategy in order to push the envelope, so to speak.  First, progressive movements need tangible wins in elections.  Not only this, but these movements must be the instruments of such wins. Lastly, progressives must shift balance of power in today’s political system.


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