Has the People’s Rebellion Begun?

“This is the beginning of a long, important fight for our Democracy. We have to keep fighting! Thanks to you the PEOPLE’S REBELLION has begun.”
-from an email to the Green Party

It’s nice to win a victory, even a relatively small victory in the overall scheme of things. And it was a victory on January 6th when Senator Barbara Boxer stepped forward to officially object to the approval of the Ohio electoral college votes. Her last-minute decision, combined with objections from progressive Representatives in the House, led to what the mushrooming pro-democracy movement was hoping would happen: a public, national spotlight shown on the issue of serious, continuing electoral disenfranchisement.

How did this happen? Sheryl Gay Stolberg and James Dao, writing in the January 7th New York Times, got it pretty accurate: “In many ways, the debate came about because of the relentless efforts of a small group of third-party activists, liberal lawyers, Internet muckrakers and civil rights groups, who have been arguing since Election Day that the Ohio vote was rigged for Mr. Bush.”

But it wasn’t a “small group.” Over the last few weeks, particularly since last weekend, the Democrats were put on notice that there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are not going to accept two-party business-as-usual. They learned that we can disrupt their daily routines on issues we feel strongly about via calls, faxes, emails and personal visits.

This is a lesson we in the progressive movement have to internalize and operate from as we build, yes, the “people’s rebellion” that is the only hope of preventing the ever-more-disastrous direction Bush/Cheney/the Republicans will take this country, in cooperation with timid Democrats, if we don’t stop them.

There are other lessons.

Many of the organizations and networks built over the course of 2003-2004 to try to get the Bushites out of power are still around and are still capable of rapidly mobilizing huge numbers of people around important, timely issues **even when the corporate media is virtually
silent.** This was the case on this issue as the “next generation voting rights movement,” as David Cobb has called it, used the internet as its primary means of mass communication.

A multi-cultural, critical mass of progressive Democrats and independent progressives is ready to work hard together on cutting-edge issues in a principled, democratic way. The newly-formed United Progressives for Democracy (www.ippn.org), in particular, manifested this fact through its on-going Winter Democracy Campaign, and especially the rally on the morning of January 6 across from the White House.

It was a strong rally, high energy, organized and determined. Speakers included NOW President Kim Gandy, Green Party leader David Cobb, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, George Friday of IPPN, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin, democracy activists from Ohio and D.C., and others. 400 people attended, pulled together for a weekday demonstration on one week’s notice. And following the rally a spirited march was held going in reverse order the route of the planned Jan. 20th inauguration parade. Despite not having a permit, the march proceeded on the street all the way down Pennsylvania Avenue without any problems from the police.

On January 20th many of us will be marching again in D.C. The next focus of the Winter Democracy Campaign is to help build the January 20th counter-inaugural actions in D.C. and in other localities around the country (www.counter-inaugural.org).

There is much discontent at the grassroots, not just among independents but also Democrats. As the Green Party’s David Cobb was quoted as saying in the January 7th New York Times, “I think we’re seeing a political realignment going on. The rank and file of the Democratic Party are far more progressive than the corporatist leaders of the party.” And fortunately, the vast bulk of the progressive third party movement, particularly but not only the Greens, understands this reality and is rejecting narrow, purist political approaches.

We should be under no illusions. We face a hard fight in the coming weeks and months as we fight on the pro-democracy and other fronts against the Bushites. We can expect attacks on our movement not just from the Republicans but from the corporatist Democrats who have got be nervous about what they see happening since the election. Indeed, an indication of the power of our movement is the letter sent out by John Kerry on January 5th to “nearly 3,000,000 of you.” In it he said:

“I urge you to join me in using this occasion to highlight our demand that Congress commit itself this year to reforming the electoral system. A Presidential election is a national federal election but we have different standards in different states for casting and counting votes. We need a national federal standard to solve the problems that occurred in the 2004 election. I will propose legislation to help achieve this. . .

“I want every vote counted because Americans have to know that the votes they stood in line for, fought for, and strived so hard to cast in an election, are counted. We must make sure there are no questions or doubts in future elections. It’s critical to our democracy that we investigate and act to prevent voting irregularities and voter intimidation across the country. We can’t stand still as Congressional leaders [meaning Republicans] seek to sweep well-founded voter concerns under the rug.”

It is a good thing that Kerry sent out this letter and that he said what he did. But it would be a very bad thing if our independent progressive movement got suckered into believing that the way to get the kind of electoral reform really needed is to depend upon Kerry or those like him.

Let’s not forget: despite a huge, business-stopping flood of calls, emails and faxes to the Democratic Senators, and although a dozen were willing to speak up publicly in support of electoral reform of some kind, **only one
Senator,** Barbara Boxer, ended up voting against acceptance of the Ohio electors.

Yes, what we need is a people’s rebellion. Let the rebellion continue and grow. Next stop, January 20th.