Okay, I know. Everybody’s sick of the politics already. The TV ads, the drama, the hyperbole. Ugh. But sooner or later that itch will come back and need to be scratched. And I feel the need to get up on my soapbox today.
I have been involved in/watching/hating politics ever since becoming a “Clean for Gene (McCarthy)” volunteer way back in the days (1968) before MTV and Comic-Con. And mostly I’ve been disappointed. This year’s election was different. “We” came close to running the table. The future, politically speaking, could very well be a progressive one.
But it ain’t over ‘till it’s over. This year’s elections were a shift in a good direction. History shows us that the reactionaries – those who would roll back the wheels of progress – are going to respond with fury and ferociousness. So I’m making my pitch today. Take a break, catch a deep breath and get ready to work even harder.
Maybe it will be your crazy uncle spouting off about Senator Elizabeth Warren (ooo, that sounds good to say!) at the Thanksgiving Dinner table. Maybe you’ll get trapped in an airport with nothing but Faux News on the omnipresent monitors. Or maybe you’ll realize that nothing has really changed that much.
Our side won. Big whoop. By themselves these electoral victories mean nothing. There’s big money out there lurking behind every legislative amendment just waiting to distort, deny or defer the best of intentions, regardless of ideological persuasion. And the far right is busy spinning their loses, seeking to denigrate the voters’ will by casting the majority as moochers, who simply voted for handouts.
Our post election strategy must be the same regardless of who “won” or “lost”. As historian Howard Zinn put it, “Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”
Our newly elected Mayor held a press conference yesterday, symbolically opting for a park in University Heights rather than a concrete and glass venue in downtown, to talk about the future. From CBS/8 News:
“We have a diversity in this city that has simply not been tapped by those who have had control and power,” he said.
“Whether it’s people of color, whether it’s neighborhoods that have been neglected in terms of their infrastructure, whether it’s women, whether it’s those who care about education, whether it’s those who care about the arts, whether it’s those who care about affordable housing and public transportation, they have not been asked to participate in the political and economic decisions of this city,” Filner said. “We’re going to ask them.”
He said there will be new faces on his mayoral staff, among his advisers, on municipal boards and commissions, and among those who receive city contracts.
On the level of municipal politics, Bob Filner has asked people to get involved in the governance of San Diego, an opportunity that should not be passed up by those with the will and the skills.
It’s Time to Take Back Those Words!
The right wing in this country (and especially in San Diego!) has cynically twisted the linguistics descriptive of citizen involvement to envelope their agenda of enabling the elite few at the expense of the many.
“Reform” has become a code word for disempowerment and exclusion. “Eliminating Red Tape” is the clarion call for deregulation of commerce regardless of the perils to public safety. “Special interests” has been used to describe those who dare to oppose the agendas of the plutocracy.
We must take those words away from the reactionaries. Reform must be used in the context of expanding opportunities; the goal of eliminating government must be supplanted by a drive to make government smarter and more efficient.
The same 20 people that have dominated the decision making process in San Diego need to be replaced by 200 citizens from all walks of life. It won’t be pretty. Making decisions in public is much harder than doing it behind closed doors with a wink and a nod.
Erin Niemela, writing for Common Dreams, described the post electoral challenges we face quite eloquently:
We needn’t subscribe to her politics to recognize a semblance of validity in famed-anarchist Emma Goldman’s quote: “If voting changed anything, it’d be illegal.”
While voting creates some change in certain settings, it is not our only and most important civic duty. Direct democracy is the work of enlightened, engaged citizens. Without the direct and intentional participation of an informed citizenry, American democracy is but a hollow shell filled with television advertisements and witty political memes.
Let’s pledge to make the next four years as important to democracy as yesterday’s election. Let’s pledge to create a dynamic American democratic process that doesn’t simply evaporate after Election Day.
There is more to this concept of citizen involvement than simply participating in governmental related activities. The interests of the emerging new majority of Americans need to be represented in every societal venue. It’s the job of those of us who have toiled to get voters to the polling place to continue to make it clear that engagement means much more than elections.
Where the San Diego Free Press Fits In
Just over a year ago a group of us (that eventually became the core of the San Diego Free Press) began discussions around the topic of tapping the potential of online and social media as an agent for progressive change. We all agreed that focusing our initial energies on the fall 2012 elections was a good first step. And we have been successful way beyond the expectations of even those hard core ‘dreamers’ in our midst.
Those who want to see this site (SDFP) as simply another media outlet fail to comprehend what we’re doing. This isn’t about commercial success (but we’re not allergic to money), a slick graphical interface or anybody’s (including me) ability to hone disparate facts into a cogent analysis.
Our vision is about creating a focused vehicle for communities of interest, whether defined by geography, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or care for the environment to share their good deeds, aspirations, visions and (most importantly) mistakes.
We want to be a voice that stands for accomplishments and against the forces that seek to keep us uninformed, divided against each other and feeling powerless. So, if you’re not so sure about the whole “sitting on a committee to save the neighborhood/city/state/world” deal, consider the possibility of using your talents with the San Diego Free Press.
Now that the electoral season is behind us, it’s our desire to reach out to the many communities of interest (and you are ALL ‘special’ to us) and grow our team. We don’t pay money and we aren’t run like a military organization. But we do learn from our mistakes and seek to nurture those that work with us. Send us an email. We’d love to chat.
Now I’m getting off my soapbox. Tomorrow I’ll be back to bringing you a window on San Diego and the world.
Tweet of the Day:
I’m sending Donald Trump those Obama college records. His ELECTORAL College records. #5MillionPlease
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) November 7, 2012
On This Day: In 1933 the Civil Works Administration was created by executive order by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The organization was designed to create jobs for more than 4 million unemployed people in the U.S. In 1979 U.S. Senators John Warner (R-VA) and Mac Mathias (R-MD) introduced legislation to provide a site on the National Mall for the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In 2005 the original “Guitar Hero” game was released in North America.
Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmer’s Markets: Carmel Valley (Canyon Crest Academy 5951 Village Center Loop Road) 3:30 – 7:00 pm, Chula Vista(Downtown, Center St. & Third Ave.) 3 –7 pm, Linda Vista (6900 Linda Vista Road Between Comstock & Ulric) 2 – 7 pm, North Park (CVSPharmacy parking lot 3151 University & 32nd St.) 3 – 7 pm, Oceanside Market & Faire (Pier View Way & Coast Hwy. 101) 9 am – 1 pm,Oceanside Sunset (Tremont & Pier View Way) 5 –9 pm, San Carlos (Pershing Middle School 8204 San Carlos Drive) 4 – 7 pm, SDSU Farmers’ Market (Campanile Walkway btw Hepner Hall & Love Library) 10 – 3 pm, University Town Center (Genesee Ave. at UTC Westfield Shopping Plaza) 3 – 7 pm.
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