New Orleans Reboot ACORN, hell yes! I almost didn’t care what the rest of the opinion piece by Jason Linkins in The New Republic might say, because the title alone was tailor made to make my day. As the classic movie line aptly says, he “had me from Hello!” My Google Alert for ACORN had easily found his piece, “An Idea for Democrats: Reboot ACORN.” Sure, I could quibble with the title. It’s actually an excellent idea for everyone who cares about our country, democracy, and justice for our people, but, hey, I’ll take this piece as a good start.
Linkins’ core arguments are that the Republican’s are beating the Democrats badly at the grassroots level of mobilizing activists to fight for votes in the streets and at the ballot box. In his opinion, ACORN and its hundreds of thousands of members in low- and moderate-income communities were the antidote to such mischief and thereby the shock troops for protecting democracy through participation, often benefiting the Democrats. Of course, he’s not wrong. ACORN is a nonpartisan membership organization, but given their policies the Democrats and others, like the Working Families Party that we cofounded, benefited the most. Progressive initiatives that we put on the ballot also helped any allies who were willing to align with progressive causes, although some did not, famously John Kerry with what turned out to be the wildly popular Florida minimum wage increase ballot proposition, that might have made him president if he had stepped up.
But, I digress, this is about Linkins’ “organize or die” piece. Linkins takes Democratic politicians to task for not defending ACORN against the scurrilous attack by O’Keefe’s video scams. Tellingly, he bells the cows, writing that many of them claim now to not remember how they voted against ACORN in the absurd defunding resolution. Sadly, that’s the core crisis for liberals. They are with you on sunny days and gone when it rains. Tragically, such desertion of ACORN was even more pronounced among our long-time allies with labor and other nonprofits, especially funders, who hid behind rocks claiming they were investigating the situation and weirdly seeking to replace ACORN’s elected membership board. I can’t defend the politicians, but I can at least understand their problem, because they have to be accountable to voters, who they fear, but for others, accountable to no one really, what could possibly have been their rationale, much of which persists to this day?
Linkins does a good job researching the story and citing the signature pieces that have sought to get the facts on the ACORN hatchet job right. Speaking for ACORN and my fifty-two years with the organization from founding to one form or another still, we continue to do the work every day, both around the world and here in the good ol’ USA, but, frankly, we do so against all odds. We would love to call all of this just yesterday’s bygones, but despite Linkins’ plea that the Democrats – or somebody – should either revive ACORN or something just like it, either of which would be a huge job, and needs to start, as he argues, yesterday, I’m not holding my breath. Nonetheless, we’re easy to find, our sign is on the door, our phones are ready to ring, and our emails and websites are fired up. We continue to stand always ready to work in the vineyards.
In the meantime, while we’re working – and waiting – we’ll settle for vindication, even if somewhere in our hearts we might have liked vengeance as well.