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20 January 2010 @ 01:03 pm
Fertilizing the Grass Roots  
Okay, kids. Politics time.

First: On Elections.

rodant_kapoor just said everything that needs to be said about yesterday's special election in Massachusetts.

Second:On Activism.

I've heard some comments that there's more to participating in democracy than just saying, "I voted; now it's their turn to sort things out."

I really want to do things. I really want to make my voice heard. I really want to do that activism thing.

Unlike Billy Joel's "Angry Young Man", I haven't "passed the age / of consciousness and rightous rage". I just don't know what to do with it.

The only leads I've found in that direction have been canvassing, either door-to-door, on the phone, or stuffing envelopes.

You cannot convince me that this is significant or effective.

I don't treat political solicitors any differently than I do commercial or religious ones. At the door, on my phone or in my mailbox, they are an uninvited intrusion on the sanctity and privacy of my home.

I will politely turn away a political canvasser on my doorstep. I will rather less politely inform an unsolicited caller that I am "not interested". I will briefly glance at political mail to see if the candidate in question expresses views that coincide with my own, and if so, I'll put their name on my list of candidates to consider.

I almost always assume that the claims being made for or against Proposition X or Candidate Y are unreliable, at best, and flat-out lies, at worst. When election time rolls around, I troll the web looking for independent analyses and recommendations, but I don't trust unsolicited opinions.

And this is my reaction for the canvassers that I agree with. I have a hard time believing that this kind of activity is actually going to change anybody's mind.

Am I just stubborn? Am I too cynical to believe that J. Random Doorbell might be swayed by the presentation of reasonable arguments and evidence-based debunkings of misinformation? Or, despite my adherence to Colbert's memorable statement that "Reality has a well-known liberal bias", am I too cynical to believe that "my side" will provide me that kind of good, solid data to present?

Am I just an antisocial jerk who likes to hang up on people and slam doors in their face?

Really, are independent voters any more eager to have zealots idealists concerned citizens pounding on their door or ringing them up in the middle of dinner or the latest episode of Supernatural than Your Obedient Serpent is?

Heck, if I were an "independent" rather than a liberal technocrat, I'd probably wind up voting for the party that bothered me the least.

I suppose this boils down to two questions:

One, are my door-slamming habits atypical?

Two, what kinds of "grass-roots activity" are out there that don't include pestering the neighbors?


 
 
Where am I?: On the cusp
I feel: frustratedfrustrated
I hear: Billy Joel - "Angry Young Man"
 
 
 
Yasha-tauryasha_taur on January 20th, 2010 10:01 pm (UTC)
One of the reasons that the Republicans have been on a winning streak over the last few decades has been that they have done a much better job of 'organizing their base'. And sometimes, this does mean doing the door-to-door and phone calls. Sometimes, by doing this, you can break through some of the other sides distortions. Like any other organizing like this, there will be a 90-percent-plus 'failure' rate, but the few that you 'get to' can make a difference.
leonard_arlotteleonard_arlotte on January 20th, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC)
I've considered similar things, and this is what I've come up with.

If you want to influence politics, you have to get involved with it. To get started, try the ground floor. Look to attend city or county council meetings. Go to town hall meetings that are actually representative of the town, rather than just being a political stunt. Find out what the local issues are and speak your voice on them.

After a while of particpation, you may look into getting elected into a position in local government. Frequently these positions are 'part time', as in you aren't expected to be spending all your time in the office, but rather attend the council meetings, and attend official functions.

Once in the door like that, you can start looking at moving up the food change. Local --> state --> federal. Congresscritters often have humble beginnings in local government. Alternately, if you have gained the attention of a recently elected official, you might get an appointment to an office in which you have expertise.

Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on January 20th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
I heard the Republicans won in MA because the Democratic candidate was a fucking idiot. When asked about why she wasn't more aggressively campaigning she said something to the effect that she didn't want to stand outside of Fenway Par in the cold shaking hands. Which, in MA, means you don't really want to win anything.

As to the second issue . . . I struggle with that one, myself. I want to participate but all the avenues of participation are pretty vapid.

However, door-to-door stuff works. It won't convince anyone dead set against you, or probably very many on the fences, but what it does is remind voters in the base that you exist and it's important to go out there and get 'em! It does help to energize the base, as they say.

But, as was said, if you want to participate more, go down to your party neighborhood meetings (odds are, there's a party meeting within a few blocks of where you live about once a month - no, really!) and contribute. Go down to the city hall and make yourself heard! They often have public hearings where informed people (and just about anyone else) can make their "point". The best way to influence a politician is to *know them*, and party participation can easily lead to that, etc., etc.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on January 20th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
Tho' I will further add if you get involved in party politics, prepare to be disappointed. Even at the most local of levels, things tend to be dominated by wealthy prima donnas and it gets WORSE the higher up you go.
Your Obedient Serpent: His Master's Voiceathelind on January 20th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here.
That's one reason why I was thinking more in terms of influencing the way the wind blows, rather than trying to get myself in a position where I can blow harder myself. There are enough blowhards in politics already, and always have been.

Maybe I don't want to be an activist. I want to be an AGITATOR!

On the other claw, maybe I'd find party politics more tolerable if I signed up with the GREENS, rather than the Democrats. Even door-to-door/phone work might seem less repugnant if it's informing people that they have more options than TweedleDem and TweedleGOP.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on January 20th, 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here.
The problem with the Internet is that EVERYONE can agitate. There's so much agitation that it forms this background noise! Finding a way to agitate that raises you above the pack is hard, at least for me. (The irony of Internet agitation is you've got be an asskisser for it work, ugh, hehe. Not that I'm bitter.)

But I responded to write about the Greens. I can't say for the ones in California, but I couldn't work with the ones in Maine. And I tried. There, in the group I was part of, things were dominated by this one crazy old organic farmer who would drive out anyone who didn't fit her bizarro world fucked up ideology. I mean, I know I'm crazy but she was just off her rocker. I actually preferred working with the Democrats in South Carolina because they were generally sane, even when I didn't agree with them.

That said, if you're gonna get involved in politics, yeah, it should be something you believe in.
Your Obedient Serpent: GRINathelind on January 20th, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here.
That said, if you're gonna get involved in politics, yeah, it should be something you believe in.

Yea, but I don't think the voters in this country are quite ready for "Sacrifice The Wealthy To The Dragon Gods" platform yet.

YET.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on January 21st, 2010 12:00 am (UTC)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here.
It'd be a slight compromise solution for me, but if you find the dragon, I'll find the wealthy. ;)
The Weasel Kingtheweaselking on January 21st, 2010 02:11 am (UTC)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here.
Except you don't have those options. You're in an inevitable and inescapable two-party system, and third-parties are nothing but a trap that cause your vote to be wasted - and thus, help the election of the party *furthest* from your ideals.

If you like the Democrats more than the Republicans, and you decide to vote Green because they're FURTHER from the Republicans, you're an idiot who is helping the Republicans (your least-favourite party, remember) beat the only people who can compete with them.

The same happens if you think the Republicans aren't fascist or racist enough and you vote Constitution Party or Libertarian Party to get even further away from the Democrats: You're an idiot, and you're helping the people you disagree with most get elected by voting *against* the people who most closely match your position.

The USA is a two-party system. You can vote for one party, for the other party, or for "favour my enemies but don't support my friends".
Your Obedient Serpent: His Master's Voiceathelind on January 21st, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
See Icon.
Thank you for making my point for me.

My vote's been wasted for most of my adult life, as "the center" has gotten pulled farther and farther to the Right.
The Weasel Kingtheweaselking on January 21st, 2010 02:53 am (UTC)
Re: See Icon.
Not "wasted". You're just stuck with the choice of "bad" and "worse", and the important thing is to always, always, always vote "bad" in that case.

There is no "good". You're told there is "good" by people who are either bad at math or deliberately misleading you to help "worse". "Bad" or "worse", your only two choices, and you need to never, ever, ever forget it.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on January 21st, 2010 06:26 am (UTC)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here.
Actually, you DO have that option. If you vote for a major party because you're scared of the other party, you're a coward. I know of no other way to say it. The only way democracy works is if people vote their conscience, if they vote for the person they thing is really best. If you vote on any other grounds, you're the victim of blackmail.
The Weasel Kingtheweaselking on January 21st, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here.
The third party cannot win. It's a mathematically inevitable consequence of your backwards-ass poorly-designed system. By voting for the third party, all you're doing is denying a vote to the *REAL* party who most closely matches you, and thus aiding the REAL party that you like less to win.

You might want to do that from time to time, and it's slightly more pointed than simply staying home, but don't kid yourself by thinking your third party *can* win. They can't. You're in America, that's by design, and in order to change it, a party that wasn't benefitting from it (which is to say, a third party) would have to win. And they can't.
leonard_arlotteleonard_arlotte on January 21st, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here.
Actually, a third party CAN win. However, it requires one of the two predominant parties to completely piss off its contituent base, and for someone very popular to come along who is willing to push the agenda of the third party, and isn't a nutball.

Unfortunately the last person to do this successfully was Abraham Lincoln, with the Republican party.
Your Obedient Serpent: Constitutionathelind on January 21st, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
That two-party division is only as impregnable as you claim at the national, Executive level, because of the peculiarities of the electoral College. At the Legislative level, and the state and local levels, independents and third parties can and do win seats.
Grauph. - theweaselking on January 21st, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Grauph. - athelind on January 21st, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Let's quote a Canadian band instead of a British one: - athelind on January 21st, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - cpxbrex on January 21st, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - theweaselking on January 21st, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - cpxbrex on January 21st, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - athelind on January 21st, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - cpxbrex on January 21st, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - athelind on January 21st, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - cpxbrex on January 21st, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Grauph. - theweaselking on January 21st, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - cpxbrex on January 21st, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - theweaselking on January 21st, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - theweaselking on January 21st, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - athelind on January 21st, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - athelind on January 21st, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - theweaselking on January 21st, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Quote from Bohemian Rhapsody Here. - cpxbrex on January 21st, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)