Though I share people’s sadness for our country, I’m not depressed about the election results. I’m not any more disappointed in President Obama than I’ve been since he chose his advisers two years ago. I’m not even mad at the Tea Party. I’m fact, I am kind of psyched and ready do the work that needs to be done.
Change was never going to originate in Washington, D.C. Change is always catalyzed by social movements. The legitimate anger that animates the Tea Partiers may be misplaced and polluted with racism and fear, but most of us share their outrage at the system we find ourselves participants in and victimized by. If anyone is to blame for the Tea Party, it is the Beltway Democratic Party affiliated progressive organizations and foundations who failed to create and fund a populist left flank.
The strategic response to Tuesday’s election results is not to fight to defend private mandates or toothless financial reforms. The strategic response is to refocus and redouble our efforts to build a nationally-networked, community-based progressive populist movement that makes a real difference in the people’s lives.
After the polls closed, Backbone Campaign and the Coffee Party announced a summit for strategic dialogue and action on January 21, 2011, the first anniversary of the Citizens United vs. F.E.C. Supreme Court decision. Together, we must build a movement capable of wining the long-term prize of a Constitutional amendment that strips corporations of their illegitimate claim to the inalienable rights of humans, and topples the corrosive equation of money with speech.
With affection and respect for our creative friends at agit-pop, the issue is not RepubliCorp. Wall Street’s money is polluting Democratic coffers and its people are embedded in the current administration. What unites progressives, most Americans, and some in the Tea Party is a gut instinct that the real enemy is the corruption of our system by the top 0.1 percent to whom wealth and power flow, and for whom wars are waged against countries and classes. Maybe Oligarchy Inc. or Empire Unlimited are more accurate, evenhanded labels. Regardless, reversing the direction that power and money/equity flows requires a real movement with a national and local strategy to build economic and political power.
Many who’ve landed new jobs in D.C. will likely be revealed to be defenders of Wall Street or Oligarchy Inc. rather than Main Street. Progressives should seize this as an opportunity to lock arms with principled, reality-based conservatives on the big issues we agree on. For instance, we should make “Too big to fail” synonymous with “Too big to exist!” We should unite behind challenging the Federal Reserve’s unaccountable and incestuous relationship with Wall Street banks. When the Federal Reserve provides TRILLIONS of dollars in 0 percent loans to mega-banks, so they can buy US Treasury Bonds, it’s taxpayers who pay the interest on those bonds. When the Fed “weak dollar theory” cash machine kicks into gear it’s everyone’s home equity, wages, and pensions that are devalued in order to prop up and fuel the Wall Street casino economy.
There is also some potential for a right-left coalition to dismantle empire and challenge the military-industrial-congressional-complex. Budgetary accountability is a universal value. Deficits are infinitely more impacted by wars and occupations than Social Security (which in fact adds not one penny to the deficit). And localization ideas such as community-based financial institutions and local systems of exchange also transcend ideological divides.
But ultimately, none of the national goals can be achieved unless built on the foundation of local community-based organizing. And that will take more than one election cycle. What we really need is a 20+ year strategy to divest from Wall Street and build equity — economic, social, and environmental — in our communities. Together, a progressive populist movement with its allies can build a movement that offers what the Tea Party never will, i.e. SOLUTIONS!
Here are some local & national populist organizing ideas that really excite me:
Organizing Community Credit Unions (learn about what we are doing in our community), Community Solar Projects, Community Supported Organizer (CSO) positions, establishing Coal Free Zone to grow green weatherization jobs, Local Currencies, local Transition Town projects, Foreclosure Defense efforts, Mortgage Strikes, Land Trust Housing, Associations for the Unemployed, Depositors Unions, Farm-to-School Programs, Agricultural Coops, Human Rights Zones is low-wage worker areas, and Clean Elections campaigns. Here’s a recent publication from the Alliance for Democracy with other great ideas.
How is Backbone Campaign going to contribute to building this movement?
The Backbone Campaign is already working on many of the above ideas or supporting allies who are leading the way. The Credit Union is of particular value to organizers, as we have discovered a model that others could easily emulate. (Story here.) Our Coal Free Zone project is up and going, and hopefully our Community Solar project will evolve into model others can emulate as well.
Our 2011 Artful Activism trainings will deliver strategic tools to community activists that transcend spectacle for spectacle sake. We will prioritize collaboration with organizations that combine a global and national critique with local organizing. This year we will augment our Artful Activism trainings with best practices from old fashion community organizing. For example, in LA we are collaborating with foreclosure defense and peace groups to produce a local training that combines creative tactics with door-to-door organizing. Our summer Localize This! Action Camp will be expanded to include a Community Supported Organizer training. And we are working with the Coffee Party to design a CSO template, to help create positions in communities around the country.
January 20-22, 2010 events to mark the Citizens United anniversary have the potential to be a powerful pivot point. Backbone’s collaboration with the Coffee Party, MovetoAmend, the Transpartisan Alliance, PDA and hopefully many others is an exciting expansion of our reach and a broad acknowledgment that Beltway-Centric, mouse-click activism is not paying off and people are ready looking for more effective engagement.
If you’d like to take part in the January 20-22 effort, please contact the Backbone Campaign.