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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

From Tucson to Cairo

It’s a long way from our national day of despair in Tucson to Egypt’s day of jubilation in Cairo. But it’s a distance worth thinking about as we try to understand how a great democracy like the U.S. can produce such sick young men as Jared Louchner, while an inspiring, nonviolent movement lead by tens of thousands of courageous young people can emerge in a nation ruled by a brutal dictatorship like Mubarak’s regime in Egypt.
Nonviolent movements are not well understood by America’s right-wingers. It’s an article of faith among second amendment fundamentalists that guns are necessary to maintain “freedom.” I guess the young Egyptians didn’t get that particular memo.
Instead they poured into the streets of Cairo, armed only with courage, determination and cell phones (service soon cut off by Mubarak) and brought down a tryranical regime without firing a shot. Had the youth of Cairo been stocked up with firearms, their blood would be flowing in the streets and Mubarak would still be in power, more secure than ever.
Give the youth of Cairo due credit for leading Egypt’s nonviolent revolution. But note that their revolution gained decisive momentum when the workers went on strike.
One of the casualties of their revolution is the western stereotype of Arabs as a violence-prone people. The protestors in Tahrir Square remained nonviolent and refused to be intimidated, even while Mubarak sent in his goon squads, who have now melted away in silence and shame.
The paranoiacs who brought guns to political rallies in the U.S. last year were scary to many at the time. Now they too look more like pathetic, fearful relics of the past, not so unlike Mubarak’s goons with their camels and clubs.
Another casualty of the Egyptian revolution is the terrorist movement based in Muslim nations. No, I’m not saying it is over. They will still be a force. But their argument that terror is the most effective form of resistance to oppression has been irrevocably damaged in the eyes of millions of young people they hoped to recruit. The new generation of Arab youth now have a dazzling example of the power of nonviolence to challenge political oppression.
Meanwhile in the U.S., conservatives are groping awkwardly for a credible response to Egypt’s revolution and to President Obama’s eloquent statement (transcript here, video here) congratulating Egypt’s nonviolent movement. No doubt, the conservatives will fall back on the old fear-filled arguments (like TimPaw here and Newt here) and stereotypes. And there may yet be setbacks to come, as Egypt charts its path to democracy. But Democrats can be optimistic that the leader of our party gets it that a new era of freedom and democracy is awakening in the middle east, one deserving of our respect and support.

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