A Slideshow of The American Political Cycle

The off-year state and federal elections were meant to make these elections non-partisan. But such an approach doesn’t take into effect two things: the supposedly “non-partisan” elections get their candidates from partisan organizations, and instead of firing up interest in local elections, also make them low interest and low turnout.

Now the pendulum is starting to move back to making state and local elections coincide with federal elections. The reform saves money by eliminating the sheer number of low-turnout elections that hardly anyone votes in and the associated costs. Not to mention that giving time off from all normal politics would allow people a chance to chill out completely before re-engaging.

My reform would mean that the only political activity in odd-numbered year would be: intra-party (conventions, caucuses, organizational meetings) causes (think of a whole year available where causes would not have to share news cycles with votes) and pure civic stuff (voter registration, canvassing, and the like) and the rare Special Election.

Cuba Revision

Cuba Revision
Sunday, December 21, 2014
11:36 PM
There’s a movement in the wake of opening up diplomatic relations with Cuba that to me combines nostalgia with arrogance. That is the “oh noes, Starbucks is coming!, poverty-stricken Cuba will lose its shabby charm and embrace that crass capitalism that America has!” Some of it is by Canadians and Europeans who fear being crowded out of Cuba by fanny pack America and Spring Break America. Others are by people who fear that the “last pure bastion of Socialism” will somehow be spoiled.
Never mind what Cubans deprived of those things may actually want. Why can’t they have a choice of local or fast-food cuisine, steak or Spam? And yes, this stuff isn’t healthy, but neither is a lot of local cuisines around the world which can be fat-laden or worse.
Sometimes the fear is extended to the Cuban environment-a fear that Hiltons and such would erode the cultural heritage of certain spots. Yes, there’s a certain time in being a time capsule, but unless major investment is made, some of the spots may wind up crumbling away due to lack of cash. If Cuba becomes an American tourist destination again, many of these places may become trendy enough for serious rehabbing-even if it means having a Walgreen’s or Starbucks on the main floor. Many world treasures have been spared because people come to see them, and the old Cuban buildings would be no different. And if they are profitable to boot, there’s more of a local incentive to keep them rather than bulldoze them for things that seem better at the time.
Sometimes the fear goes to the right-that everything will go to the Cuban government and nothing to the people. That opening up Cuba will “reward” the Castros and their government. Trade is supposed to be mutually beneficial, and to expect the Castro family not to have a share of it is as ridiculous as demanding the same of the Chinese Communist Party when it was China’s turn to open up to the capitalist devils.
Rather we should be insisting on paying workers enough so that even after the government takes its cut, there’s plenty left over for the average Cuban worker. Perhaps we should be making sure (in a civil society way) that labor contracts and agreements with Cubans, and by extension the Cuban Government, have things such as a minimum wage, worker safety and freedom to organize and worker training. Perhaps we should partner with Cubans for environmental standards and incentives to preserve the cultural heritage while allowing Cubans to actually profit from doing so.
One thing we seem to forget in the lessons of the Arab Spring/Russia where democracy has at least temporarily failed: democracy is fine, but it doesn’t last unless it helps raise both living standards for everyone as well as open up avenues for political participation. When Russia stopped being communist, the safety net for millions was shredded and many dropped through the cracks. Here comes Putin with promises to better living conditions. Hence, Putin instead of the next batch of Gorbachevs.
On the other hand, Chinese can now travel overseas and take lessons in the United States, and buy homes here too. Chinese are learning lessons in business, in art, and making contacts with a much freer and much more sophisticated world. While the Party is still repressive, at least Chinese can develop lives that are not dependent on party largesse for everything, and learn the skills that create a critical mass of people who can eventually govern themselves without it.

A Problem Solving Convention and Conversation

US Capitol Building at night Jan 2006

One thing that has been going through my mind throughout all of this is that we need a way to brainstorm reform. There are so many ideas floating around, but they need to be discussed, analyzed and enumerated. Not as a manifesto, but as an action plan that can be prioritized and strategized and ultimately be worked on.

Having definite plans and a list of demands that can be worked on with specifics would insure some progress and some persistence.

How to get there brainstorming:

1) A virtual convention of activists doing a Google hangout. Virtual conventions make it possible to far-flung activists to meet without great expense and (something that needs to be considered) potential harassment.

2) #BlackAgenda. Twitter-driven solicitation of ideas from non-activists as well.

Now you are wondering what can we do now?

First, everyone who is minority in some way should register to vote. One hundred percent registration even if people don’t actually vote would wake up politicians in a hurry. That’s something that can be done now-registration can be done up to so many days before an election. I’m already registered and vote in every election-even city elections. I

Secondly, educate yourself about the basic structure of American politics. You can’t reform unless you know who you need to talk to-or move to action.

As for me, I also am going to provide a flowchart of American Politics so that people understand some basics. We have neglected even basic civic education, so people don’t even know which level to deal with or when elections take place.

Where do we go from here?

Mary Landrieu lost, which was expected. Maybe it’s the optimist in me, but I think it’s temporary. In two years, there will be a comeback. (Dunno why I think that way-I didn’t consult my stars-not yet, anyway)

Where do we go from here, and what do we do?

Build the support structure in the Democratic Party for the growing liberal issue groups-the minimum wage increases, pot legalization, the environment-gay rights and much more. Get some activists to run. And btw, stop bashing those who choose to run as “corporatist”. Some compromises have to be made, and I would rather have some progress than none at all.

I think some of this attitude is the left over from the 1960’s radicals that were more interested in overthrowing the system than actually working to improve it-or who had a disdain for politics because it was reformist and not revolutionary.

So noting that there has been progress, that things have improved is seen as reactionary or “hopey-changey”. Tell that to the women who now can get credit in their name, effectively run for office, at least be heard, get jobs other than secretary and nurse and teacher.

Tell that to black folks who now at least go to college in numbers that are unprecedented and now live in those once red-lined suburbs. Black professionals are no longer a novelty, someone who at least has a college degree not a rarity.

When I grew up, black people only were on tv as entertainers. Now I get to mock the clueless Don Lemon playing at being reporter, see black mayors and a governor and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. And the rest of us on YouTube and Twitter and god knows how many more.

Tell that to the millions who now have health insurance through a “corporatist” compromise system that the new medicine and treatment they are getting is a bad thing.

Tell gay people and even some trans people that the freedom to simply be themselves without fear, the freedom to marry is not good enough to tell that story. I grew up when the world “gay” was enough to put a book under the counter, when there wasn’t even attention paid to these issues. I was a young adult when Harvey Milk created a political earthquake, when books that blamed the activist lesbians for “derailing” the women’s movement came out.

Yes, many people are despairing at the non-indictment of the killer cops. But what I find heartening is the protests. Back in 1967, 1968, only a few whites even dared to stand by us-and the riots scared even sympathetic whites away. This time, there have been mostly peaceful protests that have been astonishingly integrated. The “race war” the racist morons wanted isn’t happening anytime soon. They have been dining out and getting points on those riots for decades-and expected the same to happen here. It didn’t-and won’t-due to better communication, better political representation and dare I say it-more integrated leadership. And unlike 1967-1968, there are people talking about practical solutions like cameras, independent prosecutors, and telling their stories. And we have people who know about all these matters in both elected and appointed positions with the skills and power to implement those solutions.

And btw, it’s been worth every vote cast, every dollar spent to have Obama there now. Some folks may not have liked some of his response-they wanted that swagger. But he has convened people together to implement what solutions he can-and he is in position to do some things by executive order. Beats the Kerner Commission report any day. (Not the original, but a second look)

And that’s something else I’ve noticed that may be the right’s weakness. They are facing the world of 2014 using the mindset that hasn’t changed since 1967. I realized that in my Twitter war with Peggy Noonan-she blamed ‘leftists” for leading this stuff. Earth to Peggy: there is no “leftist” group anymore. Just us, looking for justice. Because they don’t even begin to comprehend this era, they can’t really manage what’s going on here.

It’s like the obsession with Soros funding this. Soros sends a little money to some folks. But the vast majority for justice is funded by just us-sometimes it’s even unpaid stuff. The reason? The internet makes it possible to spread the word for free-and for little ventures to be funded by little donations.

Don’t let them get away with blaming “the culture”. It isn’t the culture-it’s toxic right wing talk on and offline They want to stop you from thinking about why it is that we can’t be open about our ideas without fearing violence, and why 600 radio stations feature nothing but retrograde talk all day and all night.

Don’t let them get away with false equivalence. There is no left equivalent to the blowhards on the right who are courted-and feared-by the legislators. The left crazies have at the most a blog or website somewhere and a podcast that is listened to by 50. The right crazies have networks and 600 stations and get tv time.

In the immortal words of Joe Hill: “Don’t Mourn-Organize!”

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