Suggestions for the Anti-Inaugural

just some of the protests

Puerto Aventuras   Charles Blow, Louisiana native, New York Times columnist, and committed Trump resistor, wrote a piece on the Anti-Inauguration, as he called it. Blow made sure to point out that everyone needed to keep it positive, etc, etc, so that he could keep his day job, and you could keep yours in the uncertainty of regime change, but he threw a laundry list out there: protest, volunteer, donate, subscribe, read, watch, write, and connect.

Ok, some of this is a bit lame and spitting-in-the-wind, but his heart is good and his anger is real. Subscribe is about keeping the press alive. Read was a mild antidote to fake news. Watch was really just donate under another subhead and involved a California telethon or some such. Write is old school sending letters or emails to your local Congressperson, although between the lines Blow seems to be advocating a bit of hounding and stalking in this area, since he says, “Make them remember your name,” and that involves some persistence if you’re not sending them a big check. Connect is about lobbying your close friends and family, so good luck with that, but I would add that you should make sure you keep the paths cleared and the bridges in good repair so that you can make more progress once some smoke clears and the Trump body count builds and comes closer to home.

Now, protest, well that’s an opportunity worth a look in DC and closer to home, but frankly it’s not really enough, and I have to be honest with you, I’m not sure it’s effective right this minute. Take the Women’s March which is projected at one-hundred to two-hundred thousand, which is great, but from all reports, no demands, which makes it something of a “I am Woman, Watch me Roar” thing. That’s not bad of course, and certainly appropriate, but…there’s no way to get around the fact that protests, to be something more than symbolic, need real targets, real issues, where we can point out the rightness, and even morality of our cause, and where we are committed to hanging in until we win. There will be plenty of opportunities to come. In fact more than any of us – and our organizations – can handle.

Which brings me to “volunteer.” With tongue in cheek I’ve been talking about ACORN and our “volunteer army” for years, but I think there’s a lot that is real in that. My work in the Netherlands over the last quarter of 2016 convinced me of how much can be done when you can put up to 1000 volunteers to work on a campaign. ACORN’s own work around hospital accountability in the USA, electric cooperatives in the rural South, analysis of Bollere scandals in Africa, and banking practices in the United Kingdom has all been done 100% by volunteers. We are finding in our tenant organizing in Scotland and England that volunteers are able to organize new chapters all around the country and take action. I’ve touted the new book by Zack Exley and Betsy Bond on their experience with the Sanders’ campaign which points real directions in this area. If a couple of hundred to a thousand people would agree to volunteer even 20 hours a month, we could organize something different in this country, so, hey, call me maybe!

And, on the “donate” suggestion, I’m all for that, too, go directly to ACORN International  and it will show you how, and muchas gracias!

But, some things not on Blow’s list that anyone can do should include speaking out and reaching out.

Speaking out is hard, but it can’t be someone else’s job. It must be everyone’s responsibility now, and can’t be left to the victims. Injustice must be confronted and can’t be ignored, particularly when it is expressed as racism and misogyny. It’s time for no more Mr. or Ms. Nice on this. When it shows its face, it has to be named, shamed, and stopped.

Reaching out is going to be necessary for everyone as well. There will be millions of victims hit by the train wrecks coming our way from Washington soon. People are going to need help. It’s going to be complicated, obfuscated, and confusing. People are going to need a hand navigating the future for themselves and their families. Reaching out, you could make a difference. Find a way.

There’s no disagreement with Charles Blow on one count. There’s plenty to be done, and the time is now.

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Green Papers and the Value of the Volunteer Research Army

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 12.52.32 PMNew Orleans   One of the constant dark holes of US politics is the arcane art of understanding delegate selection for the existing political parties, since all of these rules lie in the mysterious workings of the various fifty odd states and outlier territories. In fact the same is true of voter registration procedures, party formation and balloting rules, and any number of other things in our loosey-goosey federated system of sorts, but I don’t want to get off the subject. The reason I raise the issue of delegate selection is not to praise or condemn Caesar, but to give props to the eccentric and invaluable volunteer army that sometimes obsessively dives into the quicksand and keeps flaying at it until they hit solid ground.

Well-deserved props were given to a couple of fellows who, essentially for the love of it, have watched, and better, studied, the process for years for their own interest and posted the results on the internet at Green Papers. In so doing they have become the go-to site for journalist, political junkies, academics, data crunchers and even political campaigns in getting their arms around the process and putting the information on hard rock and real time. They have been at it for decades, make no money from the site, take no ads, and, according to the New York Times, haven’t even sat down and visited with each other since 1999. They got the bug as college roommates and became their own two-person geek squad. They won’t pose for pictures, and only respond by email, or at least one of them does, and just keep their feet on the ground and keep on keeping on.

I love stories like this. I can remember decades ago reading some book or another about politics that made the off-hand comment that one of the peculiarities of American politics and life is that we had more information than we could analyze and use. And, that was then, pre-internet. What we have now between search engines and endless data is so many factors more that it is way past my mathematical ability. Around the world people and organizations are too often blocked from information, and though that happens in the US as well, we’re still drowning in it.

I thought about this the other day as ACORN released a lengthy report on the lack of democracy and diversity in Southern rural electric cooperatives. These fellows have gotten away with stopping time, because, hey, who really, really cares about what happens out there in the rurals? But, it matters for so many reasons. Would anyone fund such research, much less organizing about this mess? Heck, no! But it has to be done, and that’s one of the beauties of the “volunteer” army, if it can be deployed effectively. We’ll keep at it with more reports to come. Add to that, another crew we have crunching the numbers on all kinds of loans in the United Kingdom. ACORN thinks there are discriminatory patterns, but we won’t know until we look at what’s available and try to connect the dots from one to another. Same thing for the requirement that tax exempt, nonprofit hospitals are required to provide charity care. Who wants to pull those IRS 990s apart? Well, we do, if we have enough volunteers willing to spend some time pulling it together in at least some states.

ACORN has volunteers from Ottawa, Edinburgh, New Orleans, Paris, London, Vancouver, and places far and near. None of our work would be possible without them!

Will any of this make change? Of course not, just like the Green Papers duo can’t elect a single delegate no matter how much they know about the system. To make change you need organizations, campaigns, even political parties, but all of these efforts can still help straighten out the path so the work runs true.

Anyone who wants to help out, give a holler, we’ll hear you!

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