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.