Plan or perish: If you don't, your adversary will

Recently I spoke with someone who suggested that Democrats should boycott working at polling places in 2014. That is, let the GOP screw up the election so royally that people will throw them out in 2016. This was the same sort of liberal who thought the left should express its displeasure with Obama and the Democrats by staying home in November 2010. That worked out well in North Carolina. For Art Pope.

Once again, that sort of liberal was recommending that we express our displeasure with the North Carolina Republicans by staying home in 2014.

Right.

So when will you actually show up?, I thought. When will you stand up and fight for the constitutional rights and interests of the people you think you represent? When do we show them that liberals are leaders worthy of their support, and good for doing something besides doing nothing?

Hullabaloo's David Atkins has heard similar suggestions out in Ventura County, CA. He had this on Wednesday:

As a blogger and Democratic activist, I often receive incredulous and angry messages about the futility of electoral organizing. Don't I see how useless it is, they say, when the one percent runs roughshod over the rest of us, when the government spies on its citizens at will, and when the corporate sector has its way with the public sector as it pleases? Don't I see, they say, that focusing on winning elections is a waste of time?

No matter how often I respond that it does in fact matter who and which party holds power (consider the fate of reproductive choice in Texas and North Carolina, the economic decline in Wisconsin since Scott Walker took office, the resurgence of California since Republicans were disempowered, the difference between even a weak Democratic approach to Wall Street such as Dodd-Frank and the deregulation on steroids championed by Republicans, or any number of other examples), these people are unswayed. It does little good to point out that the John Birch society types didn't take power by force of arms or popular revolt, but by methodical organizing over the course of decades beginning at the local level. That's too slow, they say, too much work (the true common denominator for most armchair anarchists, I fear), and too impossible given the force of oligarchic money at play against us.

Atkins goes on to note that protest -- if it succeeds -- tends to have limited long-term effects.

... if protests rather than politics are to be the change agent, then it's critically important to organize for what comes after. Protest is not a magic bullet. It is an angry expression of dissatisfaction with what is. It is not a blueprint for what will be. Power lies in the hands of those who create blueprints, not in the hands of those who protest. More often than not, the idealism of protesters is used as a tool for those who plan ahead. And the cure is often worse than the disease.

See: Egypt. Real (rather than seeming) victories go to those who organize and plan over time. Without that, the elites never really lose power.

Writing for the Guardian, Seumas Milne concurs:

In the era of neoliberalism, when the ruling elite has hollowed out democracy and ensured that whoever you vote for you get the same, politically inchoate protest movements are bound to flourish. They have crucial strengths: they can change moods, ditch policies and topple governments. But without socially rooted organisation and clear political agendas, they can flare and fizzle, or be vulnerable to hijacking or diversion by more entrenched and powerful forces.

Whether party structures can still produce visionary blueprints is in question, as co-opted as the upper echelons seem by elite power and wealth. One can say this: While their best actors sometimes go through the motions and fail, they at least try to lead. They try, take their knocks, and suffer defeat (and often the scorn of their own would-be allies) rather than holding themselves aloof and expecting some kind of political Santa to leave a better world neatly wrapped in a bow beside the hearth.

(Cross-posted from Scrutiny Hooligans.)

Comments

Precisely

This is precisely where I find myself today, having spent years being an armchair activist on the sidelines I'm sick to death of seeing us get pushed further and further toward the margins by the knuckle-dragging howlers on the right. The only thing they have going for their party is organizing skills and tenacity. It's time to stop berating our leaders when we fail. That's when we need to dig in even deeper, rally the troops and fight that much harder.

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"...the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be."

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

Vote, Democrats,

I have always been opposed to calls to boycott the vote.

When you don't vote, you don't count, pure and simple. There is no way your issue can win if you aren't willing to get off the bench and into the game. Boycotting the vote gains you NOTHING.

Too often, we (Dems and Liberals) want to get all of what we want and we disparage leadership that does not get that for us. We are unwilling to forgive those we elect, we allow them to lose their office and then bitch that we can't get anything done. We want compromise in Washington, but personally, we don't want to compromise at all. If we are not willing to compromise, then nothing will be accomplished at all. We have seen that all too vividly for the past 5 years in Washington.

While I never liked the idea of voting for a party rather than a person, it has come to be a necessity. For liberals and Democrats, Republicans have made it a necessity. They meet, leave their 'tent' arm in arm, marching in lockstep. When Dems leave their tent, they wander aimlessly out of a dozen different exits, muttering, I don't care what was said, I'm going to do it my way. I would not have it any other way but perfection for liberals does not exist, will not exist, until we have a system of public financing for political campaigns. In the meantime, we have to vote.

We need to focus on attaining small goals toward a greater goal.
And there is nothing wrong with that. Take the long view. Take what you can get now. One step at a time. Plan for the world your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live in, not just the world of today. We need more Dems working the polls, not less. We need the handouts and sample ballots. We need to make sure we don't lose any more than we have already lost. The current General Assembly is a moving train wreck of destruction. We need to work to make sure every voter has an ID because that is coming. We need to take people to the polls to vote, and be prepared to stand in long lines if necessary. (Perhaps we can plan entertainment or wifi or something...)

Never give up your right to vote. All opinions are supposed to count in America. We know that money buys the stupid. Make sure you vote. It is the only way to counter the mass amounts of Money the right puts into elections.

Yes. Vote.

There's nothing magic about it. Here's the formula for success in 2014.

  1. Continue to build awareness of the outrageous Republican agenda. Prepare for the uprising.
  2. Document the swift decline in our state's economy, national rankings, and reputation. Make sure everyone knows.
  3. Call on friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to step up and become political activists.
  4. Execute a record-breaking voter registration drive.
  5. Turn out twice as many Democratic voters (independents & registered Dems) in May and November.

Challenging? Hell yes. Doable? We have no choice.

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We are not amused.