Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Real Work

Gary Snyder, whom I will name Poet Laureate in the last year of my second term as President when there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it, frequently uses the terms "the real work" or "the work that is to be done" when descibing the important thing in life.

A poster named Jim over at Bob Fertik's blog asked a question resonant of that phrase as part of a discussion over whether the term "Vichy" is acceptable, whether it's OK to go gunning for members of our own party, and other silly, politically correct nonsense like that. (BTW, Bob -- and Jim, for that matter -- are on the right side of those questions -- it's the people posing them, who are unsure whether they dare to eat a peach or call Joe Lieberman an accommodationist, that I'm calling silly.)

Jim asked, simply: What is the "real" work in electing progressives?

I posted a response to Jim's question over there, and am reposting it here for kicks:

My own angle of attack, on VichyDems, is Internet-enabled, DIRECT grassroots democracy.

The entrenched Democratic establishment is useless. Hell, Reid called the Alito vote as one of "conscience" and didn't even try to enforce party discipline. And the DLC crowd still has inappropriately overwhelming power; take, for example, the selection (never election!) of Bob Casey instead of Chuck Pennachio to challenge Santorum in Pennsylvania in November.

The grassroots organizations -- most notably MoveOn -- have done a great job, but since they're monolithic, they now get lumped in with all the other "special interests."

What cannot be considered a "special interest" is the spontaneous action of individuals acting as individuals, but in concert. The Alito filibuster was the beginning, in my mind: my site, which was 5 days old at the time, got 8,500 hits that day. Irrelevant, by Kos or Atrios standards, but if even 1,000 of those hits represented people who were there to download the contact information I had provided, and each of those made only 5 phone calls, that's 5,000 phone calls to senators. Enough to get their attention, and both Feinstein and Clinton -- Establishment Dems if there ever were ones -- actually changed their cloture votes in response (though Clinton denies it). And I think, based on comments and emails I received, that we generated a hell of a lot more calls than that.

So my "work" is:

1. Grow that base of people who will individually call politicians, write letters to the editor, make small campaign donations, etc. without ever hiring a lobbyist or being peggable as a "group" at all.

2. Keep up the phone calls etc. AFTER key votes, not just before: the "I know what you did last summer" approach patented by VichyDems.

3. Be foot soldiers in key, close primary races between Vichys and progressives, and then in general races between those progressives that win and their Republican opponents.

4. Most of all, stop being sissies. My God, even Kos refuses to use the word "Vichy." People think Godwin's Law is more important than winning our country back. We need to consistently, repeatedly, aggressively, loudly call spades spades. Lieberman is a Vichy and should be thrown out of the Democratic caucus!! Reid screwed up the Alito action and should be forced to apologize or face a leadership challenge by someone like Barbara Boxer!! Say it clearly and don't let anyone in the "establishment" -- even including guys like Kos, who is tremendously important and does great work but whom I fear is starting to see himself as a "player" and therefore starting to hedge his bets -- tell you what is or isn't wise or workable. Listen to good advice, examine your own motives, don't let purism drive out all practical considerations -- but then make up your own mind, and take your own action.

That's off the top of my head. Pass it on.

I hope to expand on these themes in the next day or two. Meanwhile, don't forget the MoveOn vigils tonight, and to keep making the necessary phone calls: one (scroll to the bottom for the Game Plan), two, and three.


Anonymous said...

FWIW, over at Fertik's, Jim responded to my post as follows:

I think you hit the nail on the head for the mechanical side of this work (which was not being done before).

As for the change in culture which I believe is the other half of our work: You summarized it well --- “call spades spades”.

I think the Democrats in our way truly do not know why its okay to be a Democrat. I think both paths above are needed to "explain" it to them.

Linda said...

I think the use of the word "Vichy"
was a stroke of your personal genius, Thersites2! I have used the word in contacting my Senator, Bill Nelson of Florida. He's voted for Alberto Gonzales, John Negroponte, John Roberts, and for cloture on the Alito nomination. To borrow adjectives from the Miami Herald : centrist, cautious, and (my personal choice), cowardly.
With no primary contender, Nelson will probably get my vote as the lesser of two evils. Here we go again.

Ellie Finlay said...

Hello, Thersites. Thanks for inviting me over and for stopping by Child of Illusion. Are you the same Thersites who posts comments on Eschaton? I lurk over there rather a lot.

Well, I must say I have to approve of anybody who knows who Gary Snyder is and who makes allusions to T.S. Eliot. That being said, I also agree with you about the Democrats. The Alito business is what prompted me to call the DNC and cancel my monthly pledge which had been automatically charged to my credit card. I simply will not support them financially until they start demonstrating some spine.

Now as far as your call to action is concerned - yes, but. I happen to live in a VERY red state: Oklahoma. We've got Inhofe and Coburn for senators - RABID right wingers. I assure you it does no good to write or call them. It's very disheartening living here. (You should just SEE the communications I get back in response to my letters.) And when I write to democrats in other states, I get back emails saying that they won't even read what I say because I'm not a constituent. So what's to be done about THAT dilemma? I would like to be able to take some action that will actually make a difference.

Anonymous said...


Do you have any insight into why there's no primary challenger to Nelson? If he were a well-connected moderate who brought home lots of pork I would understand, but he's a flat-out conservative, as best I can tell, in a state that's definitely half blue. I'd like to understand why no one's stepped up against him.

Of course, if we can beat Cuellar and Lieberman, that would be a tremendous boost to our cause -- all of a sudden progressives would be coming out of the woodwork to challenge Vichys.



Thanks for dropping by! I'm T2 over at Eschaton (there already was a Thersites there, who goes by Thers and is married to NYMary).

I don't agree with the tactic, expounded by some, of giving false address info to Congressional staffers to falsely appear like someone who lives in their district. On the other hand, it riles me when Senators and Congressmen refuse to acknowledge that when they're acting as party leaders or on committees (as distinguished from how they vote on the floor), they're acting in a national capacity. In other words, how Frist personally votes on the floor is between him and his home-state voters; but how he acts as Majority Leader affects everyone in the country, and he should be open to input from any state's citizens on those matters.

So, for example, I think every American has the right to contact every member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and demand hearings on the warrantless NSA surveillance program.

In those cases, there's an easy way to get around the "what state do you live in" question: call at night and on weekends, and leave a voicemail that doesn't mention where you live. And leave those voicemails both at their DC AND home-state (District) offices.

Every time there's a significant vote coming up, I post Game Plans here with full contact information on all the key players, including DC and District phone numbers, for that exact reason.

I hope this helps! If you like the site, please spread the word.


Linda said...

Thersites2-- probably Nelson of FL is not being challenged in the primary because his Republican opponent in the Nov. election is Katherine Harris. Yup, that same FL Secretary of State appointed by Jeb and responsible for much of the dirty work in FL surrounding the 2000 election.
Would you believe that after all of her scurrilous behavior at the state level, a district in Sarasota elected her to the U.S. House of Representatives?