Episode 94 – Political Sobriety with Rohan Grey

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At Real Progressives, we get daily messages from people who are still recovering from Bernie’s trouncing in the primaries. They remain distraught, disillusioned, and discouraged – convinced that he was robbed. 

Last week Rohan Grey explained Rashida Tlaib and AOC’s Public Banking Act. This week we asked him to take off his MMT hat and talk to our wounded volunteers. To help them put the recent political past in perspective and move forward, they first must accept a sobering dose of reality. Rohan wasn’t surprised by Sanders’ loss.   

…I think at least for me, as someone who tries to be a committed leftist revolutionary, whatever, the odds are always extremely small. The odds are extremely small right up until the point that you win. And they continue to be very small the next day for the next thing you try to win. And I don’t think that the history of progress is the history of always inevitably having a good shot. It’s the history of very, very difficult things, somehow managing to eke through as much as it is.

The idea of continuity expressed above is repeated throughout the episode. He constantly suggests we ask ourselves what we’re going to do next. The social media battles for and against voting for Biden didn’t alter the need to fight for a Green New Deal and a job guarantee.

For those who may still be reeling, Rohan reminds us: political action neither begins nor ends at the ballot box. Electoral politics can play a role in a left agenda, but the size and scope of its importance will vary, and shouldn’t be exaggerated. We could use a more nuanced appreciation of it as a cultural and political institution among many, just as there are many legitimate roles and actions for any of us to undertake. 

And most importantly, hopefully, you can develop a nose where you can say, OK, this opportunity is coming down the line, and it’s one that has the potential to do something. Today we’re out in the streets, tomorrow we’re talking about a political candidate, the next day we’re in the labor unions, the next day we’re on social media, the next day we’re writing a fiction novel that’s going to spark a new social imagination. All of those are legitimate and valid. The only question is in what context and to what extent? 

To be effective, we need to be informed. Ideas don’t arise in a vacuum; they’re shaped by material conditions, but they also have an impact on those material forces. Rohan’s advice echoes that of some other podcast guests, like Esha Krishnaswamy, who suggested we read theory, especially Lenin. Rohan, unsurprisingly, thinks those who care about economic issues should understand the history of political economy, how it’s handled in academia, and how those ideas get refracted back through popular culture and media. We should work towards understanding human and social psychology. Armed with these tools we’re more adept at assessing the value of political resources and the usefulness of various strategies and tactics. 

The interview isn’t all advice and therapy, and it isn’t all Bernie. Steve asks about presidential politics because, well, we can’t help but be interested. Rohan calls it parlor gossip. After all, these are the celebrities of our time. He has an interesting take on the outcome of the election and suggests that a Biden presidency might be better for the left than the Obama years were or a Hillary Clinton victory would have been in 2016. His explanation might surprise you. 

Rohan Grey is an Assistant Professor of Law at Willamette University, the president of the Modern Money Network, and a director of the National Jobs for All Network, whose research focuses on the law of money in the internet society. 

rohangrey.net 

modernmoneynetwork.org 

@rohangrey on Twitter

At Real Progressives, we get daily messages from people who are still recovering from Bernie’s trouncing in the primaries. They remain distraught, disillusioned, and discouraged – convinced that he was robbed. 

Last week Rohan Grey explained Rashida Tlaib and AOC’s Public Banking Act. This week we asked him to take off his MMT hat and talk to our wounded volunteers. To help them put the recent political past in perspective and move forward, they first must accept a sobering dose of reality. Rohan wasn’t surprised by Sanders’ loss.   

…I think at least for me, as someone who tries to be a committed leftist revolutionary, whatever, the odds are always extremely small. The odds are extremely small right up until the point that you win. And they continue to be very small the next day for the next thing you try to win. And I don’t think that the history of progress is the history of always inevitably having a good shot. It’s the history of very, very difficult things, somehow managing to eke through as much as it is.

The idea of continuity expressed above is repeated throughout the episode. He constantly suggests we ask ourselves what we’re going to do next. The social media battles for and against voting for Biden didn’t alter the need to fight for a Green New Deal and a job guarantee.

For those who may still be reeling, Rohan reminds us: political action neither begins nor ends at the ballot box. Electoral politics can play a role in a left agenda, but the size and scope of its importance will vary, and shouldn’t be exaggerated. We could use a more nuanced appreciation of it as a cultural and political institution among many, just as there are many legitimate roles and actions for any of us to undertake. 

And most importantly, hopefully, you can develop a nose where you can say, OK, this opportunity is coming down the line, and it’s one that has the potential to do something. Today we’re out in the streets, tomorrow we’re talking about a political candidate, the next day we’re in the labor unions, the next day we’re on social media, the next day we’re writing a fiction novel that’s going to spark a new social imagination. All of those are legitimate and valid. The only question is in what context and to what extent? 

To be effective, we need to be informed. Ideas don’t arise in a vacuum; they’re shaped by material conditions, but they also have an impact on those material forces. Rohan’s advice echoes that of some other podcast guests, like Esha Krishnaswamy, who suggested we read theory, especially Lenin. Rohan, unsurprisingly, thinks those who care about economic issues should understand the history of political economy, how it’s handled in academia, and how those ideas get refracted back through popular culture and media. We should work towards understanding human and social psychology. Armed with these tools we’re more adept at assessing the value of political resources and the usefulness of various strategies and tactics. 

The interview isn’t all advice and therapy, and it isn’t all Bernie. Steve asks about presidential politics because, well, we can’t help but be interested. Rohan calls it parlor gossip. After all, these are the celebrities of our time. He has an interesting take on the outcome of the election and suggests that a Biden presidency might be better for the left than the Obama years were or a Hillary Clinton victory would have been in 2016. His explanation might surprise you. 

Rohan Grey is an Assistant Professor of Law at Willamette University, the president of the Modern Money Network, and a director of the National Jobs for All Network, whose research focuses on the law of money in the internet society. 

rohangrey.net 

modernmoneynetwork.org 

@rohangrey on Twitter

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