Monday, October 31, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
I love to see examples of when HAVA (Help America Vote Act) does its job! I feel like I've spent a lot of time writing about taking away voting accessibility lately. It's uplifting to do the opposite. ADA accessibility is actually a pretty big deal. It's one of the reasons I hate caucuses (because you have to physically BE there, regardless of how hard getting there is).
A very short article,but an important one.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Booooring. Florida moved its primary up, so South Carolina moved its primary up and Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada are going to do the same.
Who could have predicted that? Everyone. Why? Because they did it last year. And they will do it again. States want the economic benefits of the circus coming to town. State party officials and electeds want the bargaining power in the national parties and the gratitude of their constituents. They all want their state's issues to be more important. Going early is a big bargaining chip. Ever wonder why the corn lobby is powerful? The first caucus state is Iowa.
We're a long, long way away from having a national primary (whether or not that's something we want is its own discussion) because nobody wants to be the guy who suggests or supports it and then gets punished in Iowa.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
You know what I hate? I hate the influence that money has in our political system. I hate that people in our country are dying because they can't afford adequate healthcare. I hate how obscenely rich or well connected you need to be to run for public office. I hate that where you're born and how much money you have has more to do with where you go to college than how smart and driven you are. You know what else I hate? Occupy Wall Street.
Let me explain. My pro-empowerment credentials are pretty bona fide. I'm going to school for civic engagement. But Occupy Wall Street is not about that. It's not about...anything. And I don't mean to say that it's about nothing. I literally mean it's not about any one thing.
'We meet every day to decide what our demands are,' said Hero Vincent, 21, an artist and singer from Charlotte, N.C., who has been here from the beginning. Not allowed to use amplified sound, the protesters have devised their own means of communication. Each speaker says a sentence, and then everyone else repeats it, so it ripples outward. Decisions must be by consensus. Hand signals convey responses. For instance, holding your palms upward and wiggling your fingers means approval, while holding them downward means disapproval. Level hands mean uncertainty. " Uhuh....People are angry, and I get that. They feel the government isn't listening and I get that too. That is a HUGE HUGE problem. It's one I plan on spending my life trying to solve. But what is the mission statement here? What are they hoping to gain? How will they know when they've won? Good community action involves goals and accountability. Even if your goal is public awareness, you have to know what you're making people aware of. NYT: "Not all of them can articulate exactly why they are here or what they want. Yet there is a conviction rippling through them that however the global economy works, it does not work for them." Well that's kind of broad...
President of the "make liberal activists seem irrational and annoying" movement, Michael Moore, thinks this lack of organization is a good thing.
"There's no organized group with dues behind this. This is literally an uprising of people who have had it. The great thing about what they're doing is that the work ahead is not as difficult of other movements. During the civil rights and other movements the majority of Americans were not with them. That's not true right now. The majority of Americans are really upset with Wall Street.You have already got an army of Americans who are just waiting for someone to do something and the something has started."The protest may be annoying but people who compare it to the Civil Right Movement or the Arab Spring are DISGUSTING. Our system is far from ideal, but nobody's shooting at us. We are free to practice or not practice our religions. Our government is not deliberately creating starvation or systematically killing its own people. Despite what these guys or the Tea Party might tell you, and however imperfect, we live in a liberal representative Democracy with civil rights and freedom of speech and expression. Note that the worst accusations of policy brutality involve pepper spray and are being investigated.
Occupy Wall Street reminds me less of an organized movement and more of my Freshman-year-of-college-liberal-angst. And as enjoyable as that self-righteousness was, when I started working at Gay Mens Health Crisis the summer after the 2004 election, and met real people who had actually been forgotten by the government, I got over it. My clients there had a disease that the government had known about and denied, or blamed them for. They couldn't afford both their medication and food. They couldn't legally recognize their relationships. Disenfranchisement isn't a hat you try on between classes. To wit:
"Another speaker, an African-American, let everyone know that the occupation has a lack of diversity and not many in the hood that he is from know what they are doing. He explained Mayor Bloomberg just cut funding for subsidized housing so 12,000 will be out on streets. Latinos, Asians and blacks are ready to mobilize if the people in Liberty Park just talk about issues they want to talk about, he said. 'Too little of us are here because we don’t understand what this is all about,' he added. Then he said, 'You all look like a bunch of white kids who just lost their trust funds.' He told the crowd that black people have been having problems with student loans since the civil rights movement."Here's how the Occupy Wall Street protesters are described in the New York Times:
"Most of the demonstrators are in their teens or 20s, but plenty are older. Many are students. Many are jobless. A few are well-worn anarchists. Others have put their normal lives on pause to try out protesting and see how it feels....'I’m angry because I don’t have millions of dollars to give to my representative, so my voice is invalidated,' said Amanda Clarke, 21, a student at the New School. 'And the fact that I’m graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in loans and there’s no job market'...Their politics zigzag wildly. An unemployed schoolteacher calls herself a fierce independent, while an employed teacher is a conservative. An anarchist photographer wants libertarianism to be reclaimed by the left. ..Sid Gurung, 22, a student at the New School who enlisted because he said he was 'extremely disappointed and angry that I have no future.'"Watch the video. This thing is like a holy pilgrimage for unhelpful whacktivists. You know, the kind that "helpfully" make their own literature and want to meet face to face with the candidate.Speaking of which, I'm tempted to go down there and take a poll. I wonder how many of these protesters voted in the last election... or plan to vote in the next one. Not that voting is a unilateral solution to the country's problems, but it belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the process and problem with the way our generation tries to mobilize that anyone would think this is more effective.
"We don't have one central argument," said Jed Brandt of Brooklyn. "We have a lot, but the basic issue is our democratic structures are broken in this country." No argument here. But standing in an FDR mask on Wall Street isn't going to do it. When you start a 'movement' with no end game, no accountability and no message other than "Look at me!!! I'm angry," you make those of us who have goals and have a point look bad. If this was what political action was, if this was what Democracy was, I wouldn't want to take part in it either.
And by the way...when was the last time I was this worked up over a crowd of knee jerk upper middle class liberals who were more interested in self-congratulating than in actually creating quantifiable change? I'll give you a hint.
“'I’ve got my sleeping bag and my pad. I was told not to bring a tent so I left that at home,” said activist Ben Green, who flew in from out of state to camp here day and night. He had a simple message for the US president: “He’s backed out of everything he promised in the campaign. It’s like he’s asking to lose the next election.'”If President Obama loses his base in the next election, it's not going to be Black people or Jewish people, it's going to be people like Ben who don't have an appreciation for the way things work and didn't understand what they were fighting for in the first place.