In a comment to the last post, Laura asks that and it’s a fair question.
What do you think WE can do? I realize optimism isn’t your strong suit, but since you write, I’ll assume you hope. Any strategies you might recommend…?
Of course. I’ve been sort of making tactical suggestions all along, piecemeal as it were, but maybe it’s time to put it all together and fill in the gaps.
First, I need to stress that there’s nothing magical about what needs to be done. It’s all obvious, fundamental shit, and it’s called “being a citizen”. Second, “hope” has nothing to do with it. I’m an analyst, basically. That’s how I think. As a reasonably capable analyst, I can assure you these tactics/strategies will almost certainly work – barring a military response that turns the US from a virtual dictatorship into an overt dictatorship, which is unfortunately possible but fortunately unlikely for a variety of reasons.
“Hope” has to do with a single question: Will enough people get off their asses to make a difference? My cynicism tells me they won’t, but I hope they will. eRobin, an activist and expert optimist thinks different.
The thing that gets me about us is that we as a nation do respond when challenged by our leaders. FDR did it. Kennedy did it. Even History’s Greatest Monster, Carter, did it and we set peak oil back a decade.
With the right leader, (our greatest sin is that we are dependent upon being led) we would rise to the challenge of universal single payer health care, global warming and the need to remake our economy and go green instead of turning into a nation of service workers.
Well, we don’t have real political leaders any more. We have, in both parties, corporate employees who are beholden to the corporatocracy that buys them with campaign money because of the way we insist on funding elections with private bucks, so the leaders are going to have to come from the bottom. From us. As I’ve said time and again lately, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. We’re on our own.
The steps aren’t hard to enumerate and they’re mostly self-explanatory, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to follow them or that results are guaranteed. It won’t and they aren’t. The very first step will tell you why.
Start talking – and listening – to the people around you. Unless you live in an unusually educated community, you will discover (if you haven’t already) that most people are abysmally ignorant about what’s going on and have been for years. It has taken a majority of the population 4 years of a disastrous war to wake up to the disaster, and there’s still a sizable chunk of the citizenry that either refuses to believe it’s as bad as it is or is just plain ignorant of the extent of the catastrophe. I suspect that you will at this point find a lot of anti-war sympathy (finally) but here’s the rub:
That’s as far as it goes. Most people know nothing about FISA, nothing about the illegal wiretapping or the mess at the DoJ or the Constitutional power grab by the executive branch or the Democratic collusion or the sell-off of our environment to business interests or…or…or….
So our first responsibility is to educate them. It won’t be easy. Too many of them watch Fox and read – if they read at all – mainstream newspapers with Bush-friendly, war-friendly narratives, or local papers with little national news in them, most of it truncated to pander to short attention spans and a 6th-grade reading comprehension. The Bad News is you’ll be going against the flow of incessant propaganda from the conservative media that dominates our discourse. The Good News is that people are more or less ready to hear what you have to say. I live in a heavily Republican section of Mass, and I’ve been astonished at the turnaround in the last year or so as the occupation of Iraq and the corruption of the Republican Congress combined to make dyed-in-the-wool Pubs into “independents” disgusted with what their ex-party has been up to. Even the attraction of no-tax govt has lost its luster since the infrastructure started to fall apart.
A WARNING: Don’t hit anybody with too much in one go. I’ve noticed that there’s a point when their eyes start to glaze over because you’re forcing them to process too much information and initially they’re resistant to finding out just how bad it really is. Give them a couple of facts they don’t know about something they care about and let them digest it for awhile. Send them to places where they can begin to catch up: Olbermann if they’ve got cable, and, of course, blogs if they’re online. Crooks and Liars is a good place to start.
Get active. Go to town meetings and speak up. Go to party meetings – especially local Democratic meetings. As Michael Moore pointed out, in many if not most localities, you could bring 10 friends with you and wind up owning the local Democratic party machinery.
Start reading eRobin’s Fact-esque (if you’re not). I know of no better site for down-to-earth info on how to organize and which are the most important issues to organize around. She always has contact information for various activist groups and summaries of what’s going on in Pennsylvania that could easily be transferred to wherever you live. It’s a gold mine for citizen (as opposed to political) activists.
Don’t be shy about contacting your reps, local, state, and national. By email, phone, or – better yet – attendance at their public appearances. The first step in taking control of the Democratic party back from the conservative BD/DLC Alliance is scaring the bejesus out of Dem candidates and pols. Remember Brian Baird from yesterday? Here’s what happened to him after he reversed his position on the war (via C&L):
For more than three hours Monday night, Rep. Brian Baird was verbally flogged by hundreds of his constituents for no longer supporting the quick withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
More than 500 people packed a high school auditorium in Vancouver while another 175 or so were unable to get inside. And virtually everyone who got a chance to address the Vancouver Democrat were harshly critical – including several who said they had been long-time supporters and friends.
“You have just broken my heart,” said Phil Massey, a Vancouver ship’s pilot who wasn’t swayed by Baird’s explanation that the U.S. was finally starting to make some progress in bringing peace to Iraq. “You have screwed up, my friend. You have screwed up and you have to change course.”
One woman told him the blood of the troops was now on his hands, and several said he was violating the wishes of his constituents.
“We don’t care what your convictions are,” said Jan Lustig of Vancouver. “You are here to represent us.”
Democratic candidates and office-holders need to hear A LOT more of that before it sinks in that they’re in danger from their own constituency. It didn’t work on Baird (he insisted he was right and planned to vote for the surge despite all that vocal opposition and even though “It could well cost me the next election”).
He doesn’t really believe that, you see, for two reasons:
- The Dem leadership, taking a leaf from Karl Rove’s book, doesn’t think it has to listen to us because, after all, where else are we gonna go? To the Pubs? Right now they believe they can use the threat of Republican wins to scare us into holding our noses and voting for them even if we’re pissed at them.
- The Dems have a long history of buying voter allegiance by working with special interest groups and giving everybody a little something if not everything they want. They have been given no reason to think that might not work any more.
There are two ways to attack #1 but only one way to attack #2:
#1a: Refuse to contribute, volunteer, or even vote for Dem candidates and let them know why. Be prepared for Republicans to win elections. I know that’s scary but it’s ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY or we’ll lose the Democratic party forever.
#1b: Give to, support, volunteer for and vote for another party. Make the Greens, for example, a legitimate alternative. That’s what major parties respond to: in order to keep a third party from stealing their votes, they will be forced to incorporate whatever is beefing up their opposition. Historically, this works. For instance, Democrats became the party of the working man, immigrants, women, and the rest of the dispossessed in the 30’s because of the threat from populist parties after WW I. If we had not had Eugene Debs making noise on the left, we would most likely never have had FDR.
#2: It is VITAL that, for the sake of the democracy, we end politics-as-usual. We MUST stand firm for our Constitution and not let ourselves be bought off with local goodies. We have to remember that our democracy is more important than more money for schools or roads or our pet projects whatever they may be. At this point, protecting and defending the Constitution trumps all other concerns, and we MUST make sure candidates we vote for understand that OR WE WON’T VOTE FOR THEM WHATEVER THE CONSEQUENCES.
That’ll do for a start, but these are all micro-issues for day-to-day activities, and there are two macro-issues I want to touch on before I end this.
The first is voting. None of the above means a damn thing if our voting system continues to be hijackable. Electronic voting without a verifiable paper trail is an invitation to stolen elections. That MUST BE fixed or we’re wasting our time.
The second is impeachment. A strong, nationwide, grass-roots movement demanding impeachment for the crimes of the Bush Administration, especially the shredding of the Constitution, would set the tone of our dissent, define what it’s about in no uncertain terms, and at the same time threaten retribution if anyone EVER tries this again. EVERY politician needs to understand that a price will be paid by anyone who violates the foundations of American democracy. If there are no drastic consequences, they have no motivation to reverse course.
Thanks, Laura. Hope this answers your question.
Update: There was another anti-war meeting like the one Baird suffered through, this time in Eugene, Oregon. Kevin Hayden at The American Street tells how it went.
At the rally, several spoke of the possibility that even the liberal DeFazio would have to go if he approved another war funding bill. That’s akin to Massachusetts residents talking about dumping Teddy Kennedy.
I sense a corner’s been turned in the populace. Party loyalties are being stripped away because people are sick of the killing. The oldest and the youngest know. If elected officials don’t get it, they’re going to see these crowds grow from now till Election Day 2008. And then they’ll get their walking papers.
Maybe. If they’re running against an anti-war candidate in the primary, yes. But if there is no primary or both candidates are pro-war? Then what? Will they be prepared to stay home and let a Pub win? Because that is truly what it’s going to take if there isn’t an anti-war candidate in every single Democratic primary so voters have an actual choice.