What the Wisconsin Recall Election Reveals
Way back in the mid 80's when I was still working in Iowa politics, top Dems were pontificating the idea that all we needed were the big donors to win elections. Just big donors, forget or at least minimize all this silly grassroots work. Slippery slope. And so a shift which had long been in the making flashed forward and Dems became Hollywood idols and made themselves with the CA money not to be ignored by the corporate sector. And here we are today with Dems competitive in the money raising.....and beholding to the donors as well.
And what happened to the grassroots? Dwindled, reached by ads, roto-calls, mass mail, email. Activists as they used to be. No. Easily rallied to the cause? No. Estranged? Yes, and mad too. But very ill informed overall.
On Tuesday, day of the election, I watched an interview with the Director of the WI Dem Party. All smiles, laid back, and overly confident he was. Really expressed no compelling message to potential left leaning voters. Then there was the new hero, Van of Rebuild America. Van and his group recently held meetings all over the US to write up their ideas for rebuilding America. Kinda like Gingrich did with the Contract bit some time back. But I digress. So Van sorted through all these written suggestions along with those from his supporting organizations and came up with 10 points - all good for sure. Now he says, they will get people to sign - oh, and please note the big red donate button on the website- and then the idea is to be to push these 10 written ideas in front of any elected or wanna be official and ask them to sign. That seems to be the action part.
Yes, I know I sound terribly cynical. And I am fully aware that getting masses of Democrats or lefties of any stripe to show any mass of strength no matter how dire the circumstances is a major challenge. So I concede that Van's idea may be a starting point to renewing activism and I really do hope it does succeed if that is the mission. But the worry is the years of non-grassroots politics, the disconnect most Americans have connecting their lives to those in office and what happens in legislatures and Congress.
Clearly, it is NOT just the lack of grassroots work and rallies at the Union Hall of the good old days, but a very deliberate and extremely well executed plan to dumb down America and make shopping robots out of whole families, even on Sundays after mega-church services and dinner at the local buffet. So now we have generations who have never been to a political rally who get their cues from the screaming ads on TV, meet their candidate at church or the mall, or hear them on the endless radio talk shows. And the message? Besides "God told me to run," the bottom line is Dems are going to take raise your taxes, teach secular humanism in your child's school, regulate this and that, kill jobs, and would you believe....feed the hungry AND at your expense! Something along those lines. The scary thing is that it works, has worked and will continue to work unless...
Picture this: Hundreds of thousands of Americans rallied on the Mall in Washington during the latest default wrangling in Congress. The people stayed. They made their point that they were voters and were watching, taking notes and demanding Van's 10 points be made policy...Now! More people joined the rally every day and their signs and voices and spokespeople made it clear that they were NOT leaving till their demands were recognized and met. Kinda like Tahrir Square, where the people's demands were met (and they are still watching and making it all happen.).
There is nothing that politicians fear more than losing. Voters really do matter and if they make themselves heard in mass, everywhere, with strength and elections results that show their strength and that it is building and won't go away....well, then voters will change the course we are currently on. Voters can have more power than money. That's my dream.