On Complexity and Coalitions: A Reply to Iris Young

On Complexity and Coalitions: A Reply to Iris Young

Iris Young (“The Complexities of Coalition,” Winter 1997) admits that the left is electorally feeble, but within her framework, it seems to me, she cannot explain the feebleness. Her enthusiasm for the remarkable Jesse Jackson efforts of the eighties may provide a key. She is enthusiastic about the fact that the 1988 Jackson campaign won more primary votes than Mondale won in 1984. As if the objective of politics ought to be scoring high in a losing cause rather than winning real results for real people! If the objective of the left is actually to change policy—to shrink class inequality, open up universal access to decent medical care and housing, control depredations of private power, and yes, redress the burdens of group oppressions—then the Rainbow efforts demonstrate how fragile was the sort of nominal coalition she advocates. Compiling a list of marginal groups does not a majority make. And even the groups she lists were more fragile than she acknowledges. The Rainbow Coalition was hostage to the moves of one gifted individual. Without his commitment, it crumbled.

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