Demoralized on the West Coast

ACORN International Ideas and Issues Organizing Voting

May 18, 2022

            San Francisco      One of the consistent themes running through all of the conversations I have had with a variety of people from funders to organizers and friends has been troubling.  People in various ways make a simple request:  Is there any good news?  That’s a tough question.

I can answer about the great victory in France after a three-year campaign that will allow Muslim women wearing the hijab to accompany their children in public swimming pools in Grenoble.  I can mention the progress in Honduras as ACORN met with one of the new vice-presidents who pledged support for our work in Tegucigalpa.  I can share the ACORN International bulletin about all of the actions in Cameroon, the United Kingdom, and Canada ACORN.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the United States my associates aren’t looking to hear about good press for our report about the lack of diversity in co-ops in the South, we got in Arkansas papers, or the documentary about KABF, or our progress in finding radio locations in Colorado and New Mexico.  They are asking about the state of the nation here and the doom scrolling that has become the slog of reading the daily news.

As we gear up for the coming mid-term elections, my small survey sample from two days of meetings is that people are demoralized, not energized by current events.  Old pols once swore by a particular indication of political health to make their election predictions, and that was whether or not the public thought the government was “on the right track.”  My informal focus group of activists in the Bay Area finds a head scratching malaise.  People believe there is a disconnect.  The government they believe is on the right track, but the voters seem not to appreciate that fact.  Expectations for the Biden administration have exceeded best hopes for my colleagues, but they are mystified that the opposition seems still hardening, the general public is confused and misinformed, and even government successes are greeted with skepticism and derision.  Worse, this demoralization is happening just at the point when we would want people to be gearing up to go hard and dig deep for the coming elections.

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer here, but I don’t have a Dr. Feelgood bottle of pills or a one-liner to whisk away the clouds.  My best response has been that these are early days.  A lot can happen over the next six months.  Women might be galvanized around the impending Supreme Court decision.  Inflation might abate.  Unity might be found over blocking Russia in the Ukraine.  Workers are having a moment.  Hate crimes, weird legislation, election denial and suppression, gun violence, and the radical claims and conspiracies of the right could provoke a backlash tsunami.  We have to remember that Biden has been here before.  He’s been written off for dead and then finds his South Carolina and comes back to win.   Who knows?

One thing is clear.  Unless we shake it off and get moving, we’ll be in trouble.  By the end of many of these conversations, I hear commitments to hit the doors on the midterms, to write checks to stop voting shenanigans, and to dust ourselves off and go into the tight spots to organize.  It’s a bumpy road and a long one.  The only way we ever really lose is if we pull off the path, rather than continuing to go the distance to get there.