The Lieberman defeat has electrified activists nationwide, showing them that the most powerful, entrenched establishment figures are not safe from people-power. Tuesday wasn't a morale boost, it was proof that we could accomplish the politically impossible.
Although I rarely wade into the commentary section on the old DailyKos anymore, and I find myself often skimming the front page for headlines, the man himself still has a good visionary sense for things, a sharp and refreshing take on a lot of issues, and can really turn a phrase to boot.
I think he's right on here: the Lamont campaign is proof that the concept which Dean rode out of the gate -- internally challenging the establishment in an effort to pull it around -- can in fact succeed. This is a slow and lengthy process, fraught with setbacks and disappointment, but it's not a waste of energy in my opinion.
Simply put, there is no conceivable social action that can rival the political process in terms of return on our investment of time and money. A presidential election costs $200M and 100s of 1,000s of volunteer hours. That's a lot of cash and effort, but at the same time, when you win, you're directing a budget that's about two thousand times as large. There are strings attached all along the way, but there's nothing like the State to take an idea to scale.
Credit for this concept really goes to my man Frank, who as far as I'm concerned coined the phrase: Investment Activism.
For those who are already engaged in their community though some existing apolitical service organization (e.g. clean the river, feed the hungry, teach the children) it's important to realize that:
- Political participation and direct-action community service are highly compatible. How you engage is not a zero-sum decision.
- If you truly care about your social-service objective, you're going to have to engage in the political process sooner or later. You can clean the river all you want, but picking up litter won't stop the timber mill from dumping sulfuric acid in the water.
- While a lot of the media narrative is national, the real action is at the community level. Organizing to improve your city council achieves a double impact both in that local government has a lot to do with your daily way of life, and because authentic local organizations are critical to winning national elections.
So there's no reason not to get hot and start juicing your scene. The actual number of committed participants that are needed to change the balance of power in this country is surprisingly small. With the right message, a little savvy, and some hard work and perseverance, we can run this shit.
Having proof positive that local networks can defeat established institutions, the question really becomes "what will we do with this newfound power?"
Some back of the envelope political math tells us there's majority support already for the following Good Ideas™:
- Getting Out of Iraq (60%)
- Establishing National Health Care (62%)
- Breaking Our Dependence on Foreign Oil (92%!!!)
- Raising The Minimum Wage (83%)
- Checking Corporate Abuse and Greed (70%)
All of these ideas will make life better in the world. They also all have broad support. The only real opposition comes from fringe political groups and the fattest of corporate fatbacks. These issues fit together as a messaging piece pretty well, and as philosophy and policy too. It's a consensus in the wings, and the best the other team can do is call us "hippies," which won't work. If we fight, we win.
Unlike any of this insider-DC "Unity" daydreaming (McCain/Lieberman? What?!?) this kind of agenda is good governance and has broad public support. Imagine that: giving the people what they want, and having it work out. "Democracy, eh?"
The only thing that's really preventing this kind of agenda from being implemented is a lack of political will from the institutional leadership.
But that's now a solvable problem.
It's time to stop waiting for our feckless national political leaders to ride in like the calvary. They won't. But if momentum can build on these fronts, politicians who know what's good for them will get in front of the wave. Those who stand in the way are now proven to be replaceable.