This morning’s post-election aftermath compelled a short bout of soul-searching on my part, as well as on the part of so many of us frustrated by the politics of today. Yet today, on Facebook of all places, I found a post written by Davey D Cook from my hometown of Oakland, CA that has so resonated with my thoughts that I want to share it with our readers. It provides a vivid moment of clarity during this post-midterm shit storm. — Fe-911
By Davey “D” Cook
Well folks, the people have spoken with their choice of candidate or their willingness to sit it out and make a statement of how unhappy they are with the system or the electoral process. The agendas of those who are now in control of both houses has been made crystal clear for a number of years. Hence look for them to carry it out full steam.
The privatization of schools, medicare, social security and the elimination of safety net programs are all on the menu. Look for them to go full steam ahead with pushing forth Keystone XL and TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership aka NAFTA on steroids). Both of those projects, this current President strongly supports.
Look for them to dismantle any progress legislatively made around Climate Change. Look for non-profits to come under close scrutiny and to be investigated by folks who are now heading up ethics and judicial committees who felt such orgs were thorns in the side. We all knew this going into last night’s election when we made our choices.
Some will say that it doesn’t matter. Bending to the will of the rich and powerful is what all elected officials do. ‘They were gonna jack up common folks anyway’ is what some will claim.
Perhaps. But the bottom line is this. The person you vote into office is done to give your MOVEMENT more time to build itself up with the goal of being an unavoidable, unbreakable factor…There was and should always be push-back on those who are in power until you get everything you want and need sans being severely compromised. In many parts of the country what will unfold is the strength or weaknesses in our movements. What will be made clear in the months to come is how and what ways do movements need to define and redefine themselves. And by movement we are talking about a group of people who are able to galvanize folks around an idea or vision and see it to fruition.
In terms of yesterday’s outcome, many will put analysis and all types of spin on the results. Was this the result of low voter turn-out? In some places one might make that claim. Was it voter suppression? In some places you could definitely see how. But to be honest, neither of these factors are excusable.
In places where there was low voter turn-out, including here in Oakland, those on the losing side of an issue or candidate will have to answer some hard questions honestly: Why didn’t neighbors, friends and family support your cause/candidate??
The easy answer is to say it was all about the money. That’s too simplistic and really doesn’t address the issue at hand. Money is here to stay. What will matter most is our ability to out-think and out-maneuver those with money. It’ll require creativity, thinking outside the box and a strong resistance to the seduction those in power will use to lure you into inescapable traps. It’ll require community-building.
If there (is) any solace, we have lots of examples where folks show up en masse without the aid of thousands of TV ads. We also have lots of examples where folks have been bombarded with ads and mailers and it didn’t work. Have folks forgotten when billionaire Meg Whitman got clobbered?? Have we forgotten how folks will spend the night online to buy a new pair of Jordans, iPhones or concert tickets without all the TV and radio ads?
We need to ask ourselves, why did our neighbors show up to buy the latest iPhone which cost them money and even put them in debt, but didn’t show up for a particular candidate or issue? It may be a hard pill to swallow, but honest answers will inform our next moves.
Was enough investment made into motivating folks? Did we rely too much on personalities and pundits who claim to have a pulse of the people? Did those personalities and pundits deliver? If not, why not?
We have to be honest in answering the question as to whether or not people were feeling or not feeling what was being offered? In looking at races all over the country it was clear in far too many cases the candidate was not connecting to the masses needed to propel them into office. It doesn’t mean they needed to be a great speech-maker or buy another ad, but it did mean finding key threads amongst various communities to connect and engage people. It meant building a solid team of folks who could enhance the message.
And to be brutally honest, we have to come to terms with the fact that many of these candidates had no interests whatsoever in courting us. They had no interests whatsoever in inviting us to the party. Sad but true, in many cases the disconnect was deliberate vs. one being ignorant and not having good oversight.
What do I mean by this? In some political circles, it’s a strategy to hyper-focus on one or two particular groups (sometimes dubbed likely or swing voters) and discard everyone else. This strategy works perfectly if it’s known that the folks who are discarded will cede ground, walk away in frustration and not enter into the electoral arena for any number of reasons. In short if we were to break this down to the metaphor of relationships, it’s the suitor courting someone, having his or her way and never courting them again until they want their way again.
This is important to note because emotions are used to excite people around particular issues. Even if the person is friendly, likeable or of the same race and gender, the goal of the movement is what needs to be fulfilled and if a candidate can’t or won’t do it, they are to be pressured or replaced. Politics is not a game.
As KRS-One once famously said when referencing President Obama: ‘He is not your man. He’s not your homie. He’s the President. he is ‘Power’ and you need to engage him as such.’ That goes for any of these folks holding office.
We should also keep in mind both Dems and Repubs spent over 1.5 Billion each on this past election. It’s not like in some of these battleground states folks were without resources. In places where there was low voter turn-out, folks may want to ask, what did all that money actually do? Remember the low turn-out applied to all parties and candidates involved. A worthwhile goal is how do we get numbers up?
The other excuse people like to use is that this was a midterm election and there was no Presidential ticket so people stayed home. That is complete and utter BS. That may have been the case in the past, but there is more than enough information and history for folks who know that could and should change. If folks didn’t come out it’s not because it was a midterm. It was because you didn’t do enough to excite and engage voters. Period.
Not to mention there were many races where Democrats were handed their asses and opted not to stand alongside Obama during their campaigns. You see what good that did them? It didn’t work for Gore when he abandoned Clinton, and it didn’t work for folks like Alison Grimes when she abandoned Obama in her bid for Senate in Kentucky. But again the real weakness here is the fact that respective candidates could not excite voters to show up in large numbers even with so much on the line.
We also have to take into account that there were many groups who were simply fed up and opted not to show up. In Florida, Black voters stayed home in Broward County around this governor’s race. This was on top of the polls being jacked up and opening late. How many times is this type of BS gonna happen before the issue is eradicated once and for all?
For those who wish to detach themselves from voting, recognize their right to not partake and build with those who are open. Some folks feel the system is too far gone and have checked out. If you’re not convincing tea party folks to be liberals, why convince folks who say no to voting to vote. What will change minds is your success. What will change minds is the strength and vibrancy of your movement.
Did people see Black folks in Florida excited and ready to ride hard for candidates like Charlie Crist in Florida? What was he offering other than scary stories of ‘how bad things will be if he’s not elected’? The narrative has got to change. Folks wanna ride hard for someone. They don’t wanna always be acting on fright and running scared. I would suggest that folks take a long, hard look at Richmond, California, where Chevron poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of hand-picked leaders… You know what happened? Richmond Whup they azz.
We have to come to terms with the fact that other groups sat this one out or as the spin doctors call it ‘Underperformed’. For example, Latinos in many places, angered by mass deportations of family and friends, checked out. Many women for a variety of reasons sat it out. Instead of pointing a finger and bemoaning what they should’ve done, it’s best to figure out why and how candidates resonated or didn’t resonate with them in various races.
With respect to voter suppression, that’s been going on forever. In many of our lifetimes we can point to the 2000 election and see that attempts to suppress the vote never stopped. When it came down to it, Black folks showed up and made things happen. Other groups not so much. So for example, in places like Wisconsin and Texas we saw college students disenfranchised. That means many who organized around this didn’t see beyond their own circles and take into account the laws impacting us could very well impact others.
For a better understanding of voter suppression I would encourage folks to listen to this interview with folks from Ferguson about why they had low turn-out historically. It’s disturbing, sobering and true.
Here’s the bottom line: Politics is a rough and tumble endeavor because it’s about power. It’s about maintaining it or yielding it and exercising control over communities and resources. The mistake many make is engaging this arena around election time versus preparing all year round. Having a strong political presence amongst friends and family is something that should be ongoing. Political education has got to be year round. It’s got to be built into the fabric of any vibrant movement. If the community is connected and educated on key issues and people seeking their vote, no amount of TV ads and dark money for mailers will sway them. It won’t take a lot to get people to the polls; it’ll be one of the many activities folks partake in, in their quest to fulfill a goal.
With that being said, folks although disappointed with the results of last night’s election, should clear their heads and know that even in victory there are lots of glaring weaknesses within those running things. How you capitalize off that is on you. The weakness exploited after 2008 and 2012 was many saw the election and re-election of Obama as the end-goal and not a stepping stone and continuation of a movement that Can’t Stop and Should’ve Never Stopped.
Many made the mistake of thinking that because a politician compromised, a movement pushing core values and seeking justice and freedom needed to compromise. Politicians compromise, movements should not.
For example, if the goal was single-payer and the politicians compromised and gave us Obamacare, the movement for single-payer should’ve never ever stopped. Yes, you could enjoy Obamacare. Yes you could take advantage of it, but as long as it had flaws, the push for what was an ideal goal should’ve never stopped.
Not that the GOP/Tea Party should be the standard-bearer, but there is a lesson to be learned from them. They never stopped pushing for their goals even after there was compromise. One clear goal is to educate and strengthen the community and make social justice a front-and-center issue. That should’ve never ever stopped, no matter who was in office. In two years Obama will be gone and what will be left is a movement and a clear indication of its strengths and weaknesses.
What will also be left is a group of people who right now seem massive like Goliath. If history shows. It’s just a matter of time before they over-reach. My suggestion to all is get your stones ready. And thank you, Richmond, Cali, for throwing the first of many stones…
Thank you, Fe, for posting this. An thanks to “D” Cook for what truly is a good deal of clarity (as well as a challenge to raise the level of our political game)
Exactly right, Len.
I am tired of us feeling pawned and feeling powerless. We are NOT. The antiwar movement of the 1960s made great inroads in Washington, as did the Civil Rights Movement. This is how we need to campaign from here on out. As a group, as a nation. Because, after all, isn’t it coming quite clear what the agenda is in this country now?
Fe: Thank you for the good examples to examine now. As Eric has implied several times lately, US voters are generally better at voting against something than for for anything. The movement against the military-industrial atrocities of the US in Vietnam was a movement against something, and it caught on because the corporate media had not yet been compromised to the extent it has been today. Also, opposition to the war in Vietnam accumulated a host of proverbial strange bedfellows along the way, which eventually resulted in a national sentiment to disengage. The true miracle of the sixties was the civil rights movement, which of necessity was more “for” than “against” in its approach. The key to what success the Civil Rights Movement had was making (as “D” put it) “social justice a front and center issue.” What made it possible for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to get through to all but the hardest heads and hearts? It was his appeal to values his movement clearly had not only talked about, but acted on and became identified with – values nearly everybody wants to be on the side of. It became unconscionable for anybody with a conscience to oppose what Dr. King championed. Hence, his fate was sealed, but he left us with a model to emulate now. IF (as “D” and Eric both emphasized today) taking personal responsibility is not a lost cause, that is. Admittedly, the established order has gotten better and better at throwing a bone or two (as in “D’s” example of how the push for Single-Payer could have, but did not continue after the Affordable Care Act was adopted). There is also now the second layer of challenge (after figuring out how to be effectively “for” again) – raising the general level of political consciousness beyond a vulnerability to simplistic manipulation. What happened to make US voters less capable than ever before of governing themselves is very tough and discouraging question to address.
The question we need to answer at the end of your comment is indeed the one we need to face. Critical thinking, discussion and agreement on consequences, particularly the consequences of selfishness and greed needs to be faced.
Indeed, alot of what the 1% have is what most of us still think we’re capable of getting . We are not. But the carrot of that possibility, still dangling, still makes fever rise in desire for it, makes the lack of possibility for it a seething cauldron of resentment. The distraction of that resentment fever is used to divert blame for the sins of greed by others. This means those who have the least voice to defend themselves — people of color, new immigrants — remain scapegoated and separated as The Others. Fear of the other keeps us separate as the world is sold off in convenient chunks.