This week, however, this week directly after the most pivotal Get Out The Vote week, is the perfect week to start something new. Or perhaps to continue it.
Our GOTV efforts, the "thumping," as it were, saw many of us leave our typical comfort zones. We spoke up at work, argued with family members, canvassed, or picked up our phones. We became involved.
As Allen and Burns conceded, and our legislature's path became clear, our sighs of relief and dances of joy opened new doors for ourselves. We can seize those opportunities, or we can settle back into our comfort zones.
I've got something big in mind, and I need some help...
Is this too much too ask of our Media?
Obviously, it is *NOTtoo much to ask, but it is far too much to expect for anyone who has been paying attention with a critical eye. (2002 or 2003, anyone?) (The last ten years, anyone?) I'd like to think that we've come a long way since the times of ALCOA, CBS, and Senator McCarthy, but the NY TIMES connection to the White House Iraq Group (among a huge list of others) illustrate the fact that...
We can't trust the media to bring us important legislative information. (I know I'm preaching to the choir. Stick with me. I'm getting to my point.)
What does this have to do with our burgeoning congressional majority?
Well, I have basically no understanding (until this week, unless you count seventh grade civics) of the workings of the House and Senate. BooMan's excellent diaryabout the new heads of committees got me thinkingabout how we need to understand more of our legislature. That got user annan thinking
and that finally got me writing and researching this diary.
This diary (and your comment greenreflex) is making me think that I should adopt a committee or two and stay on top of what's happening with them.
Wouldn't it be cool to see dKos communities form around these committees to become their megaphones to the blogosphere?
Wonder how that could be done from a distance? How would we get information?
My idea (completely inspired by her comment) is that we arrange to divvy up the house and senate committees, so that we are ALL aware of what is happening at any time in our new congress. A spread out, amateur press is always superior to a centralized corporate one, right? Here's our chance to put the magnifying glass right over, and I mean directly over our elected representatives.
As I said, I have little to no experience with this sort of thing, but this is how you get it, I guess (insert gate crashing noise here...) To fill in some of our collective gaps in understanding, I decided to do some research.
According to the Wikipedia entry on Committees, there are 20 House standing committees. "Standing" basically means permanent, or used to treat ongoing issues, like agriculture. There is one permanent "Select" committee (select means impermanent, so this seems a little weird to me), and there are four "Joint" house and senate committees. (That just means there are members from both houses in them.)
The senate has 17 committees. When added with the Houses 25, that makes a total of forty-two assignments. I believe each has a webpage, and probably one of the twenty democratic staffers (the majority gets two-thirds of the thirty staff members for each subcommitte, I think) would be willing to occasionally commmunicate with us, if we were the self appointed netroots media liason, no?
If we became really ambitious, we could cover each committee and subcommittee (or at least monitor them for important or questionable votes--this is about action and awareness) and that would give us a total of 133 assignments (if I counted correctly).
We have quite some time to set this up, and should probably use the dailykosopedia to help organize who is going to volunteer to watch which committee or subcommittee. I have no experience with wikis, and submitted a probably unseen plea for help here. don't laugh. :)
So, what do you think? What have we got to lose? Let's see if we can organize ourselves into a body that is completetly aware of our new legislators. I want to enter into a relationship with them in good faith, and create a way for us to know what is coming, from all corners of our legislature.
Is that too much to ask?
Tom Robbins wrote, in "Skinny Legs and All" (which I'm not done with yet, so don't spoil it!)...
The thick veil that shields a being from the transformative and tricky light of liberty, from the dizzy incandescence of self-determination, that veil had been briefly parted for Can o' Beans. Obviously, freedom's glare is too bright for many. They panic when any sudden gust lifts the hem of the brocade. Eyes blinking frantically, they'll cling with their last broken nail to the protective folds of social control. A few, among them Can o' Beans, bask in the glow. It warms them in hidden and unexpected places that might have been forever dark and cold. (p. 111)
Inanimante objects, destined to spend their existence in outwardly passive and obedient behavior, understood perhaps more sharply than humans that true freedom was an internal condition not subject to the vagaries of politics. Freedom could not be owned. Therefore, it could not be appropriated. Or controlled. It could, however, be relinquised. (pp. 118-119)
Now that our election is over, and we've finally gotten our walking legs, let's use them! Together we can form the gap between the populace and the inner workings of our house and senate. Lets make our democracy a little more direct, and it starts with organization and awareness.
So I need some help!
Who is with me? Update: Noon on Sunday I just got online and am almost in tears to see where our idea has already gone! You all are fantastic. With so many people volunteering to help monitor committees, I'm sure we could easily get *every single* committee and subcommittee watched and monitored for interesting or breaking events. This could work as a model for anything that was traditionally hard to keep track of due to its size of complexity. We have a huge community full of expertise and spirit prepared to each adopt a small part of our government. The hardest part is going to be the organization! I'm going to get to work organizing the information about who has said they're interested, and in what, and try to get things running. I think we're over the hump, however, since you have all now seen the idea, and understand where I'm coming from. Thanks for all of your interest, and you'll be hearing more from me soon! Update number two, 5pm Sunday: I'm being inundated with emails and comments on several threads and on the wiki. This is really exciting! Please remember that I'm one person right now, thrust into an organizational position. I'm going to be going through my email and all of the comments on this thread to find people interested in helping to maintain a clear view of our legislators. This might take a day or two, since I am employed and this thread is /still active/. I'm fully committed to getting the assignments out so you all can start researching your committees, and perhaps make your own committee or subcommittee specific page on the dkosopedia to go along with the assignments chart. These things are under rapid construction right now. I feel almost like the sorcerer's apprentice, putting things together at the right time. It was a great feeling to be entering the information into the wiki chart and then to have it start fixing itself behind me as others decided to help! This whole day and a half feels like that... What an exciting project. Rather than emailing me, I'd prefer that you leave a comment here if you're interested, so I have things in one spot. After we get to that point, I'll start assigning committees and decide how upon procedures, contact information, guidelines, etc. I'm really proud to be a part of this community.