It was very heartening to be on the streets of Manhattan yesterday with upwards of half a million people marching past the Republican Convention site. And the generally positive press coverage wasn’t an accident. The organizers of United for Peace and Justice did an excellent job as far as work with the press and setting a positive tone throughout the months of organizing. Good politics combined with decades of experience on the part of many of its day-to-day leaders paid off very handsomely.
Hopefully, the on-going actions throughout this week will continue to lift the curtain on the Republican Party’s camouflage act in Madison Square Garden, ripping off the veil to expose the brutality and inhumanity of their policies.
But August 29th and the actions this week will count for very little if they are not used as a springboard for intensive and well-organized grassroots organizing all over the country on the part of those of us who understand that getting the Bushites out of office and maximizing the overall progressive vote must be the top political priority of all of us for the next two months.
Kind-of like, “All Out to Get Everybody Out!”
How are we going to do this? There are, of course, many ways to do so. UFPJ listed many of them in a broadside circulated yesterday: visibly wearing anti-Bush buttons and T-shirts; being present and vocal at candidate events; putting up signs and flags in our windows, yards and/or cars; letters to the editor, calls to radio shows, work with the press; and general outreach and organizing wherever we are.
We need to expose potentially progressive voters (a majority of the population!) to a “vote progressive” message in many different ways. Experienced electoral activists talk about wanting to have individual voters hear about a candidate 6-7 times over the course of a campaign so that the name and the message begin to sink in. Personal contact with the candidate, direct mail, a news story, the internet, word of mouth from a neighbor or friend, ads: these are the major ways that messages and name recognition spread. It’s the same with what we need to do as a progressive movement until November: widespread visibility with our progressive, Bush-must-go message.
There’s a particular objective which we must set for ourselves: mobilizing the “sleeping giant,” that 50% of the potential electorate that doesn’t vote because they are turned off to the political system and whose life experience leads them to believe that substituting a Democrat for a Republican is not going to make much difference. And they’re right!!! However, a defeat of Bush will send an important message to people around the world that the Bushites’ overtly militaristic and repressive policies are not supported by the U.S. American people.
Note that those part of the “sleeping giant” are the people both parties, not just Republicans but also Democrats, absolutely do NOT want to get involved in the political system to any significant degree. They both know the potentially revolutionary implications of such a development.
That’s where massive demonstrations like yesterday’s, and other local actions and events over the next couple of months, can come into play. These visible manifestations of an in-the-streets alternative to both the Republicans and the Democrats can give disempowered people a sense of hope that something new is rising up, a movement that is truly about addressing the issues most important to them.
Progressive third party campaigns can have the same effect, as long as the candidates speak and write in popular language and don’t turn people off with unrealistic claims about an imminent takeover of the government. Some of those turned on by contact with someone like David Cobb or Ralph Nader, for example, will end up voting for them; others, motivated by that contact, will vote for less-progressive candidates like Kerry to prevent a Bush victory but also some third party candidates lower down on the ballot.
People who have been beaten down by the system—and most of those who don’t vote are very much in that category—need hope. They need to feel that taking the action of registering to vote or, if they are registered, taking the time to come out and cast a ballot, might lead to some real change for the better.
Frederick Douglas was asked near the end of his life, a life full of much suffering and many disappointments but also victories, what advice he would give to a young person. His response, “Agitate, agitate, agitate!”
We all need to be big-time agitators for justice and peace in these next 60 days, going door to door or being out on the streets wherever there are large numbers of working class, low-income people, especially people of color, those who make up the bulk of the sleeping giant, with issue-oriented, popularly-written literature. We need to talk, raise our voices, carry cough drops and bottles of water for our throats, so we can keep doing so in public spaces. People draw strength from hearing others say the things they are thinking and/or saying themselves. Then they are more likely to speak up more often within their church, or union, or school, or when talking to friends.
Let’s all be out there as we go through our daily lives talking it up that Bush must go!
If we’re not already working with others planning outreach with popular literature or other ways of reaching masses of people, let’s do so!
As we chanted in front of Madison Square Garden yesterday, “Four More Months!”