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I was really put off by Ed Schultz' coverage of #OccupyWallStreet last night. He was insisting that the movement has to be about electoral politics, "This is the official beginning of the 2012 campaign season...." He was insisting, at another point, that the people in Liberty Square are probably Obama supporters, even as two people who had been there and inquiring were telling him that this wasn't true. That it's not about Obama. That's it's about a more profound change. But, Ed wants it to be about Obama.

Ed pooh-poohed that idea of profound change, "Well, their not going to change our form of government...."

Well, we may not change the form whole cloth right away, but even within the existing structure there is something we could demand which might have profound impacts.

The #occupy movement is not just about venting anger and frustration. It is about seeking justice and sustainability. It is also about offering a different modus operandi for working together and governing ourselves.

As I've become immersed in the Collective Thinking and consensus decision-making processes, it has occurred to me that this may be the method Obama has been trying to employ with the legislators in DC. Many see him as capitulating, but in the consensus building model you address a problem this way:

You identify a need. Someone makes a proposal to address that need. You then ask for objections and friendly amendments. You see if the original proposal maker will make any changes based on those inputs. You restate the proposal and you start again. You repeat until you reach consensus - 75% saying they like the proposal. Anyone can attempt to block adoption of the proposal, if she feels strongly enough that it would be so egregious to pass it that she would leave the community were it passed. The person trying to block can make her case. If 10% of the people agree with this block, the proposal is dropped.  (There is a secondary process with some more steps to it, but for the purposes of this diary, I won't go into it here.)

This process is a beautiful thing when everyone's voice is represented. This model allows room for all objections to be heard and considered and for all parties to offer creative solutions and for marginalized voices to have a chance at protecting themselves from egregious decisions by persuading just 10% of the participants to take their block seriously. This is the core of direct, participatory democracy.

Perhaps, Obama learned this method of problem solving in his community organizer days. Perhaps, he's been trying to employ it as president. If so, I applaud his effort, but I'd like to point out a glaring distinction between using consensus in, say, a community trying to work together to end gang violence or an organization of people all committed to a cause or production of a product.

In those organizations, all the participants in the process are united in a goal and all the perspectives of those effected have a way of being heard.

In Congress, there is a claim that there is the united goal of serving the American people, but in reality there is a power war between political parties. Also, our elected representatives are reflecting the perspectives of all their constituents. They are only representing the perspectives of those in their preferred political party and the monied elite who fill their campaign coffers -in reverse, priority of course.

This gets to the core complaint of the 99%. Our representatives aren't representing us.

But even if we didn't change anything else in our system, we could force them to represent us. Here is my proposal:

All congress people should be required to have assemblies where the constituents - regardless of political affiliation or alignment - work through consensus on the legislative issues at hand. They must be obligated to carry the solutions that are adopted by their District Assembly to Congress. Congress must then have a very public consensus process wherein a piece of legislation is proposed. If they reach a consensus, the resulting proposal must be posted for all constituents to see. If constituents of a congressperson have strong objections or blocks, the congress person must take that back to the floor.

Meanwhile, Senators must assemble their state's congresspeople and get them to consensus on the legislation. They must be obligated to take that proposal to the Senate process.

This is not a perfect proposal. It's a sketch, based on early thoughts. But, you get the idea. We are literally dealing with taxation without representation. The 99% are paying all the taxes and we're not being represented in Congress.

Yes, this would all be slow. Slow and careful and making sure that everyone feels it is fair or serves us all best would be such a nice change, don't you think? Maybe, in the beginning we only look at the really big issues of the day. Right now that would be: job creation, tax justice, financial reform, military actions, financial crimes and war crimes and breaches of our civil rights via the Patriot Act, etc. We prioritize and we process to consensus. When we're done, we know that everyone will feel better about it than any solution a non-representative government which pits us all against each other is going to come up with.

81% of the American people want to see the wealthy taxed more fairly. How hard would it be to get to consensus? I don't think we'd see 10% of our legislators able to block, if they were forced to vote as their districts told them to based on consensus.

We don't have to change much to get to this. We can force our representatives to represent us. If the #occupy movement wanted to make this happen we could. We could use our assemblies to generate proposals, work them out and then #OccupyCongress until our elected representatives agree to comply.

The floor is now open for strong objections and friendly amendments.

I was curious as to how this would go. An hour and a half ago, I posted a diary with a proposal. I closed the diary asking for objections and amendments to said proposal. Not one comment thus far addresses the proposal. I've reformatted the text to make the proposal stand out more.


My proposal has nothing to do with Obama. Whether he is a good guy or not doesn't matter. It has nothing to do with political parties. Whether Dems have let us down or now, doesn't matter. When it comes to this proposal, who gets elected doesn't matter.

So, in the #occupy movement, one of the foundational offerings is a new way of operating. Instead of arguing about abstracts. We create solutions to specific problems. Would love to see us try to focus on that. It's hard. We're not used to it. But, in the long run we'll all be better off if we can learn to make that shift.

Originally posted to UnaSpenser on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 02:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement and Occupy Wall Street.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thx for a description of decision-making process (5+ / 0-)

    of OWS.

  •  Ed is part of the problem (6+ / 0-)

    As is nearly every person serving in Washington.  We  have made the mistake of thinking that the people that the people we elected are there to serve the public.  They are not. They serve the big money that finances their campaigns and fear the money that may finance their opponents.

    So this is where Ed Schultz is so very wrong.  The electoral process has failed the overwhelming majority of people.  The people have not had a real voice in government for decades.  

    What we have seen in the General Assembly process is a form of pure democracy where everyone has a voice.  If that is the only thing we learn, #OWS has taught us a very valuable lesson.  

    Now if only those is power would listen, and that includes the President.  The people are speaking out loud and clear.  The question is will Washington listen.

    The United States is not just losing its capacity to do great things. It's losing its soul.--Bob Herbert. gulfgal98's corollary- We are fighting back to save our soul. Thank you, #OWS for empowering us all.

    by gulfgal98 on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 02:50:23 PM PDT

    •  I agree with you to an extent (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Polly Syllabic

      but if Obama loses next year, IT WILL NOT MATTER. With the repubs in power they will not give a shit about this movement. They have the money and the power to block us out.

    •  No, They Never Listen, They Have to Be Forced, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and much as I respect Occupy, moral protest by itself has never moved the ball.

      It has to evolve into denial of service.

      Gandhi was nonviolent but he also led a salt making strike.

      King gave speeches and led protest rallies but he was involved first and later in boycotts and strikes. Around him at times cities burned, and some minorities were calling for harsh militant action.

      The unions put far more people on the ground and earlier this year; Occupy is a much needed step; much more is going to be needed. There will be times for independent activity and times for coordination. And despite a century of history of populist action, we've got no clear roadmap for doing it in a globally owned territory and universal surveillance state.

      The road ahead could be VERY long.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:39:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is beyond mere politics (7+ / 0-)

    This is a protest against a system (media, government, you name it) that has been completely taken over by corporate interests to the point where there is not a single institution that is still uncorrupted. The termites have been eroding our country for a long time, but only now is the damage visible to all.

    Even the best Democrats in our country cannot change this by themselves.

    If the fall of the house of Murdoch is a tragedy, it is the feel-good tragedy of the century-James Wolcot

    by beltane on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:04:34 PM PDT

  •  Maybe this should be about changing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Our form of government.

    Maybe the problem isn't that the process has become corrupted.  Maybe the problem is that it was not that good to begin with.

  •  Ed is off the charts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UnaSpenser, Floande, shayes

    serving his own ego and stardom I think. That's what's fueling his hypercriticisms of OWS.  He wants to be the populist star, and he's in danger of being upstaged.

    God knows, he did great work for us in WI, but he's  waaaay out of line and/or doesn't get what OWS is doing.

    Just my opinion, of course.

    •  Doesn't Get. He's Got His Blind Spots But Don't (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      UnaSpenser, Floande, petral

      forget he's been a fierce advocate for single payer, for prosecution of Bush Admin and for impeachment of it earlier. Enough to get him blacklisted by elected Dems for a long time.

      Strengths and weaknesses. He's too establishment to grasp Occupy but Occupy is too non establishment to fix everything by itself. Popular resistance has to become broad and deep, take many forms, everybody can do something in ways they understand and forgive others for not understanding one piece or another.

      If this was the civil rights movement Occupy would equate in time maybe to the lunch counter sit-ins by a few kids in one and then a growing number of places. It'd be 5 years before voting and civil rights, more before Affirmative Action, 48 more for the first Black President, and half a century later economic justice for Blacks is not yet imaginable.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:45:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm going to have to disagree (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jalenth, Polly Syllabic

    This movement cannot happen if Obama loses next year. If Obama loses, and we lose the Senate, all this is going to moot. There will be no economic justice and the rich people will continue to get tax cuts, while the poor get benefit cuts. This is absolutely about Obama. We need him.

    •  Well we need to at least recognize (0+ / 0-)

      that he is and has always been on the side of the people.  The problem is people's mistake his strategy to getting what needs to be done to mean that it's his position.  Obama ran for his office because he saw where we were headed and wanted to change it.

      Unfortunately, many people who supported the president thought all they had to do was elect him and then sat down and watch. (as Van Jones said recently).  

      The movement to put Obama in office didn't continue to  have his back.  What OWS is doing now and WI Union before, should have been happening back when he wanted to pass a stimulus bill.  When he wanted to pass HCR, when he wanted to over turn DADT.  But instead people just thought if they "hold his feet to the fire" and complain and demand, they were doing their part.

      It took the Arab Spring with the people in the Middle East and Africa to show the US the way to hold their representative government accountable.  And that also includes the Corporations and Financial Institutions.

      •  The Movement to Put Obama In Was HIS Construction. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        HIS team built a huge mobilization machine.

        Obama was no Howard Dean, a single issue candidate energized and made into a contender by bloggers and activists.

        Obama built that machine and he let it idle in pursuit of conservative moderates.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:47:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Occupy is NOT About Obama. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      UnaSpenser, hyperstation, alizard

      You can't make other people be something for you. You can try to motivate them to do it, but you can't make them.

      It's not about Obama. It's not about Democrats. This kind of thing is people being pissed off about an entire system, it's happened many times in our past. They're out there to whatever extent they realize it because the Democratic administrations have left the people every time with at least a little less opportunity and protections, while leaving the rich and business with more, since the Beatles. Sure the Republicans have been much worse.

      And now the damage from almost half a century of injury is impossible for ordinary people to ignore.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:50:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  WE need him (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      for what ?

      more bipartisan BS or "shared sacrifice" lingoism ?

      In case you weren't paying attention,folks have moved beyond Obama.......see how many people in the streets.

  •  Una thank you so much for all of your (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Polly Syllabic, UnaSpenser, petral

    reporting and assessments.

    I hope you don't mind...but here is the live feed from Portland, Oregon. Estimates are 3000 - 5000 depending on which org has done the estimating.  They started on the waterfront, wound around downtown and are now at Pioneer Courthouse Square, known as Portland's Living Room also the studio for NBC affiliate Channel 8.

    Here is the livestream link
    Portland, Oregon 3:30pm

    AD alert, first few secs.

    There is aerial video from KGW, Channel 8 shot at 2:30pm, but can't find the link.  Raw feed

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:32:55 PM PDT

  •  I don't think a concensus building (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    decision process is conducive to solving large problems.
    I just moved my Mom into assisted living and out of a community where consensus building is how they reach decisions. It takes about an hour to make the most trivial decisions. It may give everyone a chance to speak but I value the limited time I have on earth.

    I prefer a Republic in which corporations don't have the rights of people and campaign contributions have been removed from the process. That would work.

  •  About your proposal (0+ / 0-)

    The problem is

    Anyone can attempt to block adoption of the proposal, if she feels strongly enough that it would be so egregious to pass it that she would leave the community were it passed.
    You can't leave being under the government.  (Also, 75% and 90% are not consensus and still invites factions and politicing.  There was a showdown in the Senate today about the 60% rule.)

    That's why I thought the "Hurts" confrontation was so significant (aside from the basic issue of caste privilege).  These people really did feel that, even though they had to stand up to terrific social pressure from the rest of the group, if they did not block the declaration as it was, they would have to separate from the group.  (SO REAL IT HURTS: Notes on Occupy Wall Street)

    It takes people who are really committed to the group and to consensus much more than to their own ideas to make it work in any meaningful way.  And since each must be prepared to separate if necessary, it's more likely to work if everyone feels  a basic trust of (and affinity for) the principles and intentions of all the others.

    Here's a page on Quaker Meeting for Business practice.

  •  Now may I comment on Obama? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think you are right that, in a general way, he is bringing his community organizer experience to bear on getting things done.

    The republicans were absolutely stunned when he got so many things through in the 2010 lame duck session.  Similarly, they were totally disarmed when they realized that every time they delayed Dodd-Frank, more strengthening amendments were added.  So, they stopped trying to obstruct it.

    When he attended his first joint summit he ended up with the French president (or is it premiere?) in one corner and the Chinese president (or chairman?) in another and he ran back and forth between them til he got some sort of statement out of the meeting.  I thought at the time "that comes from an awful lot of evenings spent in church basements."  Later, something similar happened at the Copenhagen environmental summit.

    He has often said he may not be [loud or argumentative or whatever], "but I am persistent."

    Nevertheless, none of that excuses his not making the banks eat their bad mortgages or prosecuting more whistle-blowers than any previous president or strengthening the legal basis for the Patriot act.  Those aren't consensus seeking.  Apparently, he just plain believes in them.

  •  This would be manageable if we went back to (0+ / 0-)

    the original concept of representation. We need to remove the cap on the number of representatives in Congress. It would mean having thousands of Representatives but it would mean they could actually meet with their constituents in a manageable forum.

    There have been a couple of different diaries on DKos about this concept. I think it would be worth looking into again.

    •  I agree. (0+ / 0-)

      I've been reading those diaries and thinking about that.  Congress is seriously not even remotely representative of "We The People."

      I'm really liking the idea of using tech to have more reps and having them work out of their "homes" rather than Washington.


  •  I think you have it right (0+ / 0-)
    This gets to the core complaint of the 99%. Our representatives aren't representing us.

    We are literally dealing with taxation without representation. The 99% are paying all the taxes and we're not being represented in Congress.

    My proposal is that congress should not go in person to dc at all. They can be represented in congress with an avatar or hologram or just a videophone.  They need not make the trek and relocate at all.  ALL of their business could be done from their home district or state. This would mean that they aren't subject to:
    1)Lobbyists as much since congress is spread out all over the county. AND constituents would have some visibility of the Lobbyist's presence since they would be in their home place.
    2)Group think from millionaires on the hill.
    3)Beltway media (the villagers would lose their influence while local papers and media would be able to gain more.)
    And they would be subject to:
    1)The reality of their constituents lives. No more bubble.
    2)Real time scrutiny by their constituents. People would be aware of their comings and goings and their associations.
    3)Less barriers between them and the public. People could actually demonstrate where they could be seen by the congresscritter.

    And all town halls should be done like the livestream at OWS, or just a chat screen, complete with comments from people connected on line (archived with any supporting info so that people could view both later) with a comment capability for those who view it later and a place for discussions of issues by citizens (might screen in someway to exclude outsiders - maybe use a login that allows some screening.

    Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. - Mark Twain

    by glitterscale on Thu Oct 13, 2011 at 06:26:25 AM PDT

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