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Tue Oct 21, 2014, 05:42 PM

1984 [View all]

Get up, stand up, stand up for your right
Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight
Get up, stand up. Life is your right
So we can't give up the fight
-- Peter Tosh


In the 1980s, there was a general depression among members of the Democratic Left. Despite the advances that appeared to have been achieved in the late 1960s and ‘70s -- which included Richard Nixon’s being forced to resign the presidency -- the election of Ronald Reagan marked a low point in American society. Image became more influential than substance. And so while the Reagan administration was as corrupt as any in our nation’s history, the public -- hypnotized by fireworks, flags, and red, white and blue balloons -- would re-elect the Gipper in 1984.

I was one of those “Mourning in America” ….working to prevent the tides of reaganomics and the immoral majority. There were, not surprisingly, a large number of people who had become convinced that their votes were meaningless. Indeed, they had concluded that participating in electoral politics was worse than simply wasting the time taken by entering the voting booth: it was investing in a scam that created the image of democracy, while robbing it of substance.

I respectfully disagreed then, just as I do today.

I’ve always believed the old saying that “all politics are local.” Grass roots activism is the surest place to find democracy. Real change can only be instituted from the bottom up. More, “democracy” isn’t a goal to be achieved, and then enjoyed. Rather, it is constant struggle, a mind-set that translates into on-going action.

My friends and I started with school board elections. A couple of local women, both registered democrats, were running for seats on a board in an overwhelmingly republican town. At the time, people did not have to be registered voters to cast a ballot in a school board election. They merely had to be at least 18, and a resident of the town for at least ninety days. This meant that there was a reservoir of potential voters that normally did not partyicipate in the school board elections.

We focused on getting two general groups to vote: the town’s young adults, and the inhabitants of low-income neighborhoods. To be sure people actually voted, we set up car pools. By the third time we brought a large group into the school to vote, the powers-that-be began to panic. They knew that our two candidates would win. And even though they would maintain a 5 to 2 majority to control the board, the following year could very well mean we would take a 4 to 3 lead.

When people get anxious that way, they often do stupid things. So it was in this case. School officials began “campaigning” in front of the desk, near the voting booth. Then, they attempted -- without success -- to prevent our people from voting. A few days later, the Center for Constitutional Rights put them on notice that they had violated the law. But, because both of our candidates won, we did not need to take it further.

When any group, especially a “minority,” decides an election, others take notice. This was the case when our group began registering both young adults and those from low-income neighborhoods. In one of the three area counties, the board of elections attempted to discourage our efforts. We did not become discouraged -- quite the opposite. As Minister Malcolm X often said, when you make your opposition squeal, you know that you are doing the right thing. Soon, they began to ignore the completed forms we were mailing in. A letter from the ACLU proved useful in encouraging them to do their jobs correctly.

The effort to discourage people from participating in election contests has a long history in our country. Neither of these cases that I spoke of were big, in terms of state or national influence. Yet they were important in the context of the struggle to vote. They are part of the program, currently headed by republicans at state levels, to deny basic rights to those they believe should not have a say in government. And it’s not just non-white people, or females. It’s young people, especially college students, and poor people, no matter what color or sex they happen to be.

These two cases also illustrate a few very important factors when it comes to elections. First, it is essential that changes begin at that grass roots level. That’s the only foundation upon which to build a real movement. And real movements produce real leadership from within their ranks -- something that the state and national committees cannot currently do, even if they wanted to.

Second, a real movement to bring about change -- to institute social justice -- has to include both young adults and the poor. These are human resources that corporate partiers purposefully marginalize. It’s not a coincidence that, in general, it has been only the black community that has invested in organizing and registering the young and the poor. The Hispanic community appears to be prepared to do much the same. This dynamic alone makes the Washington elite take notice of them.

In closing, I’ll advocate that everyone vote in this election. I’m not concerned if you vote for only democratic candidates, or if you vote what some might consider a protest ballot. Just vote as your conscience dictates. Vote knowing that there are forces at play that would deny you the right to vote, if they can. Vote as a citizen who takes the responsibilities of citizenship seriously.

And then, in 2015, let’s work together, to organize and register those on society’s margins. It’s taken a long time for our country to become as dysfunctional as it currently is; it will take a long time, and a lot of hard work, to turn things around. But we can, and must, do so. Voting in November is just a first step.

Thank you,
H2O Man

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H2O Man Oct 2014 OP
malthaussen Oct 2014 #1
H2O Man Oct 2014 #14
malthaussen Oct 2014 #23
rhett o rick Oct 2014 #2
H2O Man Oct 2014 #15
Martin Eden Oct 2014 #3
H2O Man Oct 2014 #18
malthaussen Oct 2014 #24
Bluenorthwest Oct 2014 #4
H2O Man Oct 2014 #19
malthaussen Oct 2014 #25
Octafish Oct 2014 #5
H2O Man Oct 2014 #20
pscot Oct 2014 #6
H2O Man Oct 2014 #21
JEB Oct 2014 #7
H2O Man Oct 2014 #26
herding cats Oct 2014 #8
H2O Man Oct 2014 #27
cry baby Oct 2014 #9
H2O Man Oct 2014 #28
Spitfire of ATJ Oct 2014 #10
H2O Man Oct 2014 #30
Spitfire of ATJ Oct 2014 #42
FairWinds Oct 2014 #11
H2O Man Oct 2014 #31
Solly Mack Oct 2014 #12
H2O Man Oct 2014 #32
Scuba Oct 2014 #13
H2O Man Oct 2014 #33
G_j Oct 2014 #16
H2O Man Oct 2014 #34
G_j Oct 2014 #41
CanSocDem Oct 2014 #17
H2O Man Oct 2014 #35
Enthusiast Oct 2014 #22
H2O Man Oct 2014 #36
sabrina 1 Oct 2014 #29
H2O Man Oct 2014 #37
sabrina 1 Oct 2014 #39
H2O Man Oct 2014 #46
sabrina 1 Oct 2014 #47
Chathamization Oct 2014 #48
malaise Oct 2014 #38
H2O Man Oct 2014 #43
malaise Oct 2014 #44
hunter Oct 2014 #40
H2O Man Oct 2014 #45
Chathamization Oct 2014 #49