We’re here to talk about organizing on the ground. I actually wrote a book about that subject, which I’m going to plug shamelessly.1 I could talk about many, many different examples of organizing and how that builds and sustains social movements; I’m sure we’ll get into many more of them in the Q&A, and I’m happy to answer questions about anyone that you can think of.
Since we are here concerned with citizenship, I want to preface my brief remarks by signaling the relationship between citizenship and national memory, and how the concept of race, as we see in various historical examples, necessarily replaces that of citizenship.
In this essay I consider how reform activists use the United States Constitution as a tool of social movement mobilization. I focus in particular on situations in which activists advance a claim on the meaning of the Constitution that diverges from what the courts—and especially the court at the top of the American judicial hierarchy, the U.S. Supreme Court—say the Constitution means.
I am aware of the fact that the last German who stood here in a Hannah Arendt conference to speak to you about Germany was Marc Jongen, the so-called party philosopher of the AfD, the German extreme right-wing party. While I am not going to apologize for my bad English, one could easily get the impression that Jongen and I represent the two opposing and conflicting camps which these days challenge and strain the cohesion of German society...
What I’m going to do today is to talk about two remarkable upsurges of self-organized citizen activity that have spread across the United States in just the last decade. I’m going to be talking about the Tea Party from 2009 to 2011—although there are still some Tea Parties meeting—and the anti-Trump grassroots resistance that has self-organized across many communities in the country since the November 2016 election.
Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi Higher SS officer and member of the Gestapo during the Second World War. When the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem was adopted as German policy at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, it became Eichmann’s job to organize the destruction of millions of Jews.
The Hannah Arendt Center Conference “The Unmaking of Americans: Are There Still American Ideas Worth Fighting For?” posed a simple yet controversial question: Is America an exceptional country? In other words, Is there an American Idea? And if yes, what is the idea on which America is founded? Those of us who care about the collective American project— the idea of building a common constitutional democracy—have an imperative to ask: What is...