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Posted by meganmonkey in General Discussion (01/01/06 through 01/22/2007)
Thu Jun 08th 2006, 10:55 AM
As a preface, I would like to say that this post was inspired by a fantastic essay by H2O Man which can be found here.

A few posters suggested I give my reply (#5) its own thread, so here it is, with a few changes since it is in a different context.


I have an internal locus of control (at least, I think I do). For quite awhile, I was caught up in the idea that our politicians, particularly the Democratic ones, were the people who had the power to affect change in our government (I don't mean this in relation to which party is in power right now, I mean generally speaking). So I was thinking that trying to influence our current politians to 'do the right thing' on a particular bill or nominee or whatever was the power that I had.

Unfortunately, time and time again, I was struck by major disappointment when this didn't work, and being on DU a lot I knew I was not alone - in both trying to influence them (phone calls, letters, emails, petitions) and in being disappointed when it failed (as it has dozens of times in the last several years).

In some cases, this could be blamed on partisan imbalance/Republican control, like some of the judge and cabinet nominees that a unified Democratic party could still not defeat. But in other cases, there were bills that could have been defeated, that in fact the constituents of both parties seemed to want defeated, like CAFTA, that passed with bipartisan support. If the Dems had stood together on that one, it could have failed. But it didn't. And after watching a couple of these on C-Span and seeing it all happening before my eyes, I began to understand that in some cases (and some of the BIGGEST issues, IMO) it doesn't matter to most of them what their constituents want because they don't work for us. I know many here will disagree with me on that, and I also know there are several exceptions to this in the House and a couple in the Senate, but ultimately those who guide both parties are NOT beholden to the American people, they are beholden to the industries that fund their campaigns.

When the depth of that reality hit me over the last year or two, I did feel helpless, and hopeless, and a lot like giving up. So guess what?

I gave up. And boy do I feel better now.

To clarify, I gave up on the politicians. All of them. I expect nothing from them, and I am no longer disappointed. In fact, I don't really pay that much attention to the ins-and-outs of the daily grind on Capitol Hill.

Instead, I talk to the people. Not the online activists, not even the grassroots party leaders, but the regular everyday people.
The people who often get referred to here as "apathetic" or "ignorant" or whatever.
The people who don't vote because neither party represents them right now.
The people who are too busy working three jobs to give a shit who is running for what, because almost NONE of the condidates are running on their behalf.

They aren't stupid, they are ignored.

By the Dems, the Repubs, and quite frankly, most of the 'activists' in both parties. Sorry, but election year lip service does not count. The people I talk to don't care about gay marriage or abortion, those aren't political decisions for them. They care about health care and food and job security. And aside from election time, neither party seems to give a shit about those things (again, there are a few exceptions). Neither party makes these things a priority. Both parties passed CAFTA, and both parties passed the bankruptcy bill, and so on and so forth.

So anyway, back to the question of power. What I have been concluding lately is that our real power is NOT in electoral politics, because we can't possibly have much influence on them (and I won't go into the details why, we all know what I mean - and for those who don't, we'll start with voting machines and campaign financing and go from there). The only power we can have, IMO, is the power of the people - and the people are totally turned off by the kind of activism generally advocated here and other online discussion/activism sites. Because most of what gets discussed here falls into the 2-party framework of electoral politics, and they know it is a crock.

Most of you all know it is a crock too. So why keep banging our heads against the wall?

I am not going to imply that I know the solution. I just know that what we have been doing is NOT working, and I am sick of listening to this record skip. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. And expecting a different that insanity? I think so.

The power is in the people. Our gov't was built to be broken down when it gets out of control, when those in Washington get too much concentrated power. Well guess what? We are there.


So how are we going to use a broken system to fix itself? We can't. Yet people keep trying. And feeling hopeless. I say, give it up.

Give it up and get into the streets. RIGHT NOW.

I am out there 5 days a week (some weeks only 4, I do have some other things going on ). It's not that hard. And while you are out there, holding your signs and doing your thing, TALK TO PEOPLE. Even the people who drive pick-ups and wear camouflage. Don't tell them how important it is that they vote for this person or email that Senator; instead, ASK THEM WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO THEM. Don't go to them with an agenda; instead, ask them what they want from their government. You will be surprised at what you hear.

And you will feel a thousand times better.

And much, much more powerful.

I guess what it comes down to is recognizing what you can and cannot control. And we cannot control our politicians using the system as it is, no matter how hard we try, unless we become a wealthy industry leader, for example, and that would defeat the whole purpose, right? So by using process of elimination we get closer to determining what we can control, and we are one step closer to being effective, instead of wasting our energy on futile efforts.

It may sound like I am saying 'give up on the Dems'. To be totally honest, to some extent that is what I mean. But I mean it in the context of the current broken system, and that is really what I have given up on. We absolutely need to find new ways to harness the power of the people. And we need to do it now.

It's later than you think

Now for the requisite disclaimer, my futile attempt to reduce the inevitable flames...

I am not trying to tell everyone to stop emailing your Senators and signing petitions. Last time I wrote one of my Senators a real letter, he sent me a form letter about a completely different issue. And this is a generally reasonable Democratic Senator. So I am done with it. Finis. But these letters should make a difference, and I don't want to sound like I am belittling the efforts of those who choose this method.

Similarly, despite my nearly complete loss of faith in electoral politics, I am not advocating that people should stay home on election day, or stop campaigning for their candidates. If you believe in someone strongly enough to pound the pavement for them, by all means do it. Vote early and often. Do your thing. Again, it should make a difference, and on principle I will always vote, even if I have to write-in my mother's name (which I have done in the past - she'd be a great President ).


Megan Monkey

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