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View Diary: Where Are The Activists? I'm Only Getting Petition-Signing Emails (86 comments)

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  •  It's the conundrum of the left since... (10+ / 0-)

    ...well, since the 1930s, and especially the 1970s when everything got split on issue lines, with this group of good people working for specific issue and that group working for another and not enough intersectional action being taken except sporadically.

    We have differences of opinion on the broad left about what the most important issues even are, much less what should be done about them. Some people say we have to demolish capitalism before anything else can be achieved that is worthwhile—I've heard that all my adult life. Others say that until we have gender and transgender equity, nothing else matters.

    Putting together a strategic, cohesive, coordinated approach (one that isn't just a single project or single protest march) requires massive work. And gawd knows we need to engage in that work. But we can't go from where we are to coordinated, cohesive efforts across a broad range of issues in one big leap. There are intermediate steps required, one of the most important ones being to motivate people to take some kind of positive action. For some people, just writing that first two-paragraph letter to the newspaper is a big deal. For others, until there are 250 simultaneous protests against Wall Street machinations followed by a continuing mass movement to make the lives of the plutocrats miserable, it won't count as activism.

    We need both.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sat May 11, 2013 at 02:26:19 PM PDT

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    •  I think we need to focus on global warming (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Free Jazz at High Noon, Lujane

      it's hard to have issues when dirt napping.

      All else is a luxury IMO, and the fallout from successes in saving the planet will automatically eradicate some of our problems.

      •  And many, many people agree with you. But some... (9+ / 0-)

        ...who agree say that, first, the focus has to be on toppling the existing power structure before anything can be done about global warming because the p-t-b are resisting any change on the score. And those groups that want to go after the power structure first, are themselves split by what is meant by "topple."

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Sat May 11, 2013 at 03:01:15 PM PDT

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        •  This is a major discussion in itself. (1+ / 0-)
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          Free Jazz at High Noon

          Have you written on this?

          The power structure is going to topple anyway if we don't get ahead of the droughts and floods and warmer temps.

          We all need to eat.

          •  Reason and reality support your view (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ray Pensador

            but there are political and economic realities as well that conflict.

            The problem with placing global warming ahead of all else is that it can't be addressed without dealing with the contradicting political and economic questions. Our current economic system is based on a model of expanding, unlimited consumption driven by the unrestrained pursuit of profit above all else. Our official politics reflect and defend these values. Global warming can't be addressed without a fundamental transformation in our economics and politics.

            The RW and corporate reactionaries have understood this all too well. For the last 30 years they have worked tirelessly to render such a transformation impossible. The attacks on Global warming science as stealth socialism, the mania for deregulation and the deification of market forces are all part of a piece. The caricature of all public interest as the incursion of government tyranny is a cynical manipulation intended to insure that nothing can be done to interfere with the status quo.

            In short, we don't have the option of dodging these fundamental political and economic debates. If we do not break the power of the corporate kleptocracy, we will never effectively address Global warming, or the myriad related environmental challenges.

            The struggle against corporate despotism and for the survival of humanity in a sustainable world are one in the same.

            Nothing human is alien to me.

            by WB Reeves on Sun May 12, 2013 at 12:12:48 PM PDT

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    •  Where are the frameworks for effective action? (6+ / 0-)

      I may dare to ask.  

      What I hear you saying here, MB, is:  'Well, herding cats and all that, so --

      we can't go from where we are to coordinated, cohesive efforts across a broad range of issues in one big leap. There are intermediate steps required, one of the most important ones being to motivate people to take some kind of positive action.
      IMO, engaging in a myriad of unconnected 'positive actions' is , well, pissing in the wind.  Can an action be politically 'positive'  unless it is also effective -- having an effect in the real world?  And how can an action be effective unless it is part of a "coordinated, cohesive" effort "across a broad range of issues"?

      In other words, a platform.  Like a political party is supposed to have.  And the 'planks' of that platform are (to switch analogies) the issues of the 'cats' in the herd.

      And to stretch that analogy a bit further, I'll say that the issue-splintered group of 'Democrats' or 'Progressives', however wedded to their issues they may be, comprise (stick with me here!) an Itteh Bitteh Kitteh Committee that will become intensely focused when they hear the can opener.

      And what will be the sound of the can opener, the scent of the tuna?  I think it will be the kind of organizing for effective action that Ray writes about in his diaries.

      I believe that when Someone(s) Somewhere -- at dKos, in the Democratic party, in the Occupy/99% movements -- take(s) a stand and say(s):  'These are our values -- our American values -- and these values are the basis for our political actions.  We will work for effective change by doing x,y,z until these values have become part of American political life.  Here is how you can act with us . . . .' then people will act.

      People are, and have been, taking whatever actions they can for some time.  But many (like me) have become discouraged as they have come to understand that issues-centric whack-a-mole actions do not contribute to a change in the political atmosphere (even when individual battles may be won).

      •  That was a very impressive post. n/t (1+ / 0-)
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      •  That would require everyone agree what (1+ / 0-)
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        these values are and possibly abandon their favorite issues.

        •  Not 'abandon' issues, incorporate them (1+ / 0-)
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          The 'issues' become part of the 'platform'.

          The 'issues' are already, in a loose, unsatisfactory de facto way, part of the Dem political configuration.  Practical-minded, realpolitik-leaning 'issues' people know that (as a general way of speaking) voting for Dems provides the only (sometimes slim) hope that their issue will make political headway.

          Ultra-purists on an will sniff haughtily and put themselves above the fray by either not voting at all or making a protest vote for this season's cool kid.  In their own way, they are as unreachable as hardcore RightWingers.

      •  I'm all for coordinated, cohesive strategic... (6+ / 0-)

        ...action. It is essential.

        But I have been hearing this same call since my SDS days, which began 48 years ago. Numerous groups on the left have said in all that time what their values are, and consequently, some have taken action in light of those values. Several left political parties have started up in that time, though most of them croaked soon enough.

        The missing element in all those years? Critical mass.

        I want to be absolutely clear here. I am not counseling despair. I detest that approach because it argues for doing nothing. But I always find the idea that all-we-have-to-do-to-get-from-here-to-there-is-[insert choice here] frustrating since whatever one inserts in those brackets has been tried at one time or another.

        I've spent much of my life as an advocate-activist, combining amplified talk (via various media) with organizing. All I can say for sure based on decades of that approach is that it ain't easy to overcome both mass inertia and pushback from what we once dared to call the ruling case. And no matter what we can't stop trying to achieve both.

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Sat May 11, 2013 at 09:57:49 PM PDT

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        •  The ruling class (not "case"). Sheesh. n/t (1+ / 0-)
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          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Sat May 11, 2013 at 10:27:57 PM PDT

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        •  Not 'counselling despair', naming the 'stuck spot' (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Meteor Blades, Ray Pensador, willyr

          I didn't read you as 'counseling despair', MB, and I apologize if I gave that impression.  What you are doing (imo) is 'naming the stuck spot'.  (And I see that between you comment and mine, an 'issue' has inserted itself, just to remind both of us of issues-thinking's ubiquitous persistence.  Cute.)

          'If you always do what you've always done you'll always get what you've always gotten' -- a bit of wisdom from the originators of NeuroLinguistic Programming, back in the day.  NLP originated as a way of doing therapeutic intervention, and when a client/patient got to the point of repeating the 'stuck spot' verbiage, was to ask:  'What can you do differently?'  This is the question that I see Ray asking in his work.

          In NLP therapy, the response to 'What can you do differently?' is brainstorming.  So I'm going to toss out a couple of broad, not-thought-out-yet ideas.  And I'm going to focus on

          The missing element in all those years? Critical mass.
          I'm going to begin with a broad claim:  That many, many Americans, regardless of their political orientation, want Good Governance.  I'm going to posit (as a thought experiment) that 70% of Americans share similar basic notions of what Good Governance is.  

          I'm deriving this loose 70% from the fact that, in general, the Coalition of the Far Right Wing Positions comes out to between 2-%-30% in polls (unless an issue is being highly publicized, when those number sometimes go up to the 40's).  Ovefr and over again through the years, I have seen well-supported front-page reporting here on various issues, in which support for the Not-Far-Right position reaches into the 70% (often 62%-73%, with lows among the 40's).

          Why, look:  a Critical Mass.  Sharing  concepts of Good Governance at a rate of 50%-70% of All Americans, not just leftists.  Planks.  (Suggested Initial Action Step:  Survey dKos sites for this reporting for last two presidential cycles, including two-year elections and 'issues moments' like background checks.  Compile results into preliminary platform.)

          Another broad concept, and one which would make the above suggestion into an effective tool, is to build tools that would empower citizens to work toward turning these broadly-held Ideas of Good Governance into political realities.  Going into ideas about this tool-building  now would make this already-long comment way too long, and I'k like to think them through more.  But one thing would be absolutely essential, once a suggested preliminary platform has been derived from The 70% Ideas of Good Governance:

          We, as The People, must insist that the Democratic party must commit to not just a 50-state strategy, but to a 435-district strategy (if that's the right number; 437?).  The Democratic party must commit to a Good Governance platform, derived from the Will of The People (as expressed in valid polls).  The Democratic party must also commit to raising up 'Good Governance' candidates in every single congressional district, yea, even unto the god-forgotten wastes of IN-09.  And the Democratic party must commit to raising up Good Governance candidates for each and every district in every state.

          Why states?  Because ALEC.  And because of stealth-legislation (possibly non-ALEC, but strongly GOP) such the bills in 3-4 states under which food-stamp users will be required to buy only from a list of (GOP) government-approved foods.  (And here, in the states, you will find much latitude for issues-voters to) have at it.

          Why do I say 'raised up' candidates?  Because I mean exactly that.  If I were Queen (and in this thought-experiment I am), I would establish that the Democratic party raise up candidates who are NOT part of the existing political structure, not 'on the bench' as it were.  From whence would I draw candidates?  From Teachers -- especially those who fought for their union rights and lost their jobs.  From Nurses, because nurses are great.  From mid-range union folks who have exercised leadership -- not from the executive levels, but from among the leaders of workers, who do the gruntwork to keep the union going.

          What I would be asking the Democratic party to do, at the state level, is to reach way up into their soft and goopy parts, grab hard, and pull --  turning themselves inside out.  They may not be willing to do this.  But this is one place where The People can use Their Power:  The People can bring their own candidates to the party and say:  we'll vote for them.  (Action step, distributed among states & their subdivisions:  Research requirements for raising up candidates to self-declare; make procedures available online;  consider house-party (and other) venues for discussion of Good Governance, wherein suggested candidates may arise.  And oh, goody:  Petitions!)

          I'm going to sop soon, I promise, after just a few more notes, tossed out.  

          -- ALEC should be battled at the state-legislature level; this would require researching the online databases of their legislative plan, identifying which of their laws have been passed or introduced, who introduced and/or voted for them and using that information as a --yes, I'll say it -- at a litmus test for candidates.

          -- Candidates for Congress/Senate must swear/pledge to take certain actions immediately:  (1) to rescind all existing Campaign Finance laws and replace them with a Fair Campaign Finance law, under which any and all monetary donations are channeled into one general fund, which is equally distributed among candidates; (2) to overturn the Citizens United decision by amending the Constitution say that a 'person' is defined as a 'living, breathing human being'.

          And here's a note for you all, as you begin organizing, whether you use my ideas or not.  You're going to need women.  In particular, you're going to need women of the ages of, say, 40 and upward.  Why?  Women in general-- because we think differently than men,  not having the y-chromosome-generated brain damages that prevents males from thinking wholisitcally.  Women 'of a certain age'?  Because we now how to get work done.  Individually, and in groups, we know how to discern multiple simultaneous critical paths and take the actions steps to get them done.  There are many other aspects of Women's Brains that will be vital if the goal is a Unified Whole composed of many parts that work together smoothly.  So you will have to work at including them.  And you will have to L.I.S.T.E.N to them, and incorporate their ideas.  (I know; I understand.  But Suck It Up.)

          Finally, in closing:  MB (if you're still reading this), there's another way dKos can support " intersectional action" for Good Governance.  In addition to reviewing past articles for the 'Good Governance Ideas', you (all) can take a look at the silo-ization of dKos' 'Groups' function (as kos said you all were planning, anyway) to see which Groups are acting (on various issues) in ways that result in effective action.  If several groups are working on aspects of one issue, they should be brought together (not 'merged', but brought together to meet & discuss online).  And any groups which have developed Effective Means for coordinated action (whatever the issue) should be asked to outline the how-tos of how they do their work.

          Okay, I'm done.  I'm not going to proofread, so my apologies for typos etc.  There are dishes to be done today, and trash to be carried out.

          And PS:  please consider this whole post to be notes scratched on the back of a paper placemat at the diner, over coffee; not a formal presentation, but a think-piece.

        •  If I may be so bold (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ray Pensador, CroneWit

          what has been missing is an overarching, unifying vision or articulated set of principles that knits together the diversity of the 99% against the relatively monolithic 1%. It was this short coming that led to the unraveling of OWS after its initial success in seizing the public imagination.

          The last time we seemed to be close to anything approaching this was in 1968. The murders of Dr. King and, to a lesser extent, RFK robbed us of that opportunity.

          In the decades since, the left has wander in the wilderness of particularism and single issue politics. The result has been fragmentation and the fetishizing of alienation as the sine qua non of the "radical" perspective. In this we have done the work of the corporate oligarchs for them.

          I  certainly don't claim to have the absolute solution for this but I think I know where to begin. We must think less in terms of the issue(s) that most concern us personally and shift to focus on broad appeals that can speak across the divisions between constituencies. That means breaking out of our social and political comfort zones and doing a great deal more listening  than lecturing.  


          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Sun May 12, 2013 at 12:40:13 PM PDT

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