I have been busting my ass in the trenches to make the Democratic party better for my entire adult life. I'm getting really tired of hearing people bitch and moan that the democratic party isn't getting any better. Or about how they're not voting, or how they can't compromise their principals and hold their nose to keep the republicans from torching everything we care about.
And the only reason that it's not getting better is because we aren't fucking working hard enough.
In 2000, I was 15. I manned phone banks for Gore in Broward County, Florida. I passed out "Seniors for Gore Lieberman" pins (obviously meant for retirees, but they were the only pins they had) to the 18 year old Seniors at my high school, registered them to vote, and made sure they went and voted.
In 2004, I was stuck in Rural Virginia as a college sophomore, and was really into Women and Video Games. I was convinced that GW Bush was so terrible that Kerry would automatically win, and I figured there wasn't much I could do.
My only political action in that campaign happened on the night I fell in love with my wife. All day I'd noticed that Young Republicans had grafitti'd the entire school with chalk, pro bush signs. I was busy spending time with my then-girlfriend, just walking and talking, until we came to the chapel.
"GOD BLESS BUSH" in chalk. Written by goddamned fundamentalists all over my school's beautiful Methodist chapel. It was the first time my wife ever saw me angry. In to the chapel we went, grabbing a garbage can. We took it to a dumpster, and dumped the bag. We walked it to the creek, and filled it with water. And we washed every single chalk mark off of that church. Then, we went to one of the science classrooms, and absconded with these giant balls of chalk preferred by the physics Professors. (If either of you are reading this, my sincerest apologies.)
Around the school we went, defacing the graffiti of the college republicans. Every large W was defaced with a slash and circle.
And across the four large brick square foundations for the Jeffersonian pillars of the administration building we wrote in 5-foot high letters:
"DOWN WITH KING GEORGE."
I fell in love with my Wife that night because she recognized the danger fundamentalists posed if they were allowed to act unopposed, she shared my values, and most importantly, she was willing to spend an hour filling an empty trash can with creek water and washing chalk off of a church, and then another four defacing the college republicans chalk campaign as a response to their attack on my church. Because it was important. And because it was important to me.
That loss was that a wake-up call. I joined the Young Democrats and started organizing.
In 2008, I helped turn Virginia blue for Barack Obama. I was doing canvassing way out in the rural Appalachians of Virginia's 9th district, driving into the middle of nowhere and hoping I wouldn't be shot because I was, to quote something that was screamed at me when someone saw an Obama pin in a parking lot: a "nigger loving demoncrat."
I wanted to design victory t-shirts for the college dems. On the front, Blue Virginia, Emblazoned with the Obama O. "Yes we did." On the back, A donkey kicking an elephant, with the motto of Virginia. "Sic Semper Tyrannis."
One of the other Young Dems said that while they loved the idea "We'd probably be shot."
In 2009, I volunteered for Creigh Deeds, and he got hammered. So I and some other local dems went to a school which had been a polling place at 3 AM on election night, and began collecting the opposition's political signs for a bonfire. The police stopped us, and asked what we was doing. I told them that I was collecting the political signs so that the janitorial staff for the school didn't have to do it themselves the next morning. The police officer said it was nice that some of us political types were actually cleaning up one of the messes we made our own selves for once, and left me to it.
We ended up with the bonfire ingredients, but we had about 100 "Deeds Country" signs I didn't know what to do with. So we drove to the local republican electoral HQ, and absolutely plastered their lawn with Deeds signs.
In 2010, I Fought to save the moderate democrat, Rick Boucher, whom I frequently disagreed with, from losing to a right wing tea party douchebag. Rick Boucher helped make sure Obamacare got passed, and voted for it even though the conservatives in his district were majorly pissed at him for it. There are plenty of places where I disagreed with the man, but he's certainly better than Morgan Griffith.
When Boucher came into office, there were areas of rural Virginia which did not have running water, and he supported unions in a right to work state. He made sure low income rural classrooms had state of the art technology, and he supported scholarships to get the low income kids in his districts into colleges. He wasn't some neoliberal hack, and he voted with us progressives when it was really, really important to do so. He was also very moderate and had ties to the coal industry. His final bumper sticker read "For Coal, For Jobs."
He's also the reason that Cap and Trade, which was woefully inadequate, even got out of the house. I'd rather have someone like him helping make baby steps in the right direction than a Republican like Griffith standing in the way.
We lost. My wife was sleeping so I sat in my car in our driveway with a case of beer and listened to the radio. I got absolutely plastered as I listened to the reports come in from around the country. (Good thing I was a white guy who knew all of the local cops! Otherwise I'd be arrested for DUI.) Kos tried to warn us that it was going to be ugly, but I didn't think it would touch Rick Boucher out in the coal-fields citadel of the Democratic Party that was the 9th district, with it's UMWA members and it's favored local son. I knew we were going to face some losses, but I had no idea they were going to be so steep.
I didn't really understand the kind of racism that had been kindled in the rural south, that would cause members of the UMWA to vote for a Right-to-Work Tea Partier. The Kochs aslo gave Griffith a nice monetary push. The biggest slap in the face was that Griffith didn't even live in the 9th district. We lost some good progressives too. Tom Perriello comes to mind.
I joined the occupy movement in New York City, where I'd moved. I and the group I was a part of did a lot of hard work disseminating information.
I had to work with Anarchists that I had numerous disagreements with, as well as revolutionary communists, and some Ron Paul Libertarians, all of whom shared the view of the Occupy movement that Wall Street had far, far too much power and influence.
I was routinely frustrated by the movements refusal to cooperate with folks within the Democratic party, including those who were the progressive caucus.
In the end, those of us who wanted electoral change left to work on electoral stuff. And the crowds went with us.
In 2012, I tried to find real work. I'd been self employed in Virginia, but my main focus became finding a job. Literally any job. New York City regulations and business laws are intentionally designed to squeeze out small firms for the sake of big companies. You basically have to lawyer up if you want to run something out of your own apartment.
And I couldn't find work.
It just didn't happen.
So I went back to volunteer politics.
In 2013, I helped elect Ben Kallos to the New York City Council. I did mostly policy work, and was part of a team that helped him score some major endorsements, including the New York Times. I learned a lot about running a field office, and I now know how to set up a campaign on a shoestring budget.
Now, I've recently moved to DC, and I'm trying to decide between Vince Gray and Jack Evans, both of whom I think are great guys. I'm going to head to some meet and greets and meet both of them, at which point I'll make my decision.
Though I think my main motivation may become stopping my own councilwoman, Muriel Bowser, because she voted against the Minimum Wage Increase.
So yes. Here's who I am: I have no stable income, and it's not for lack of trying, and as a result I have devoted most of my adult life to making the democratic party better. That is what I have done with my life.
To all of those who got mad at Denise Oliver Velez for her rant, I have one thing to say:
For the sake of our nation, for the sake of the future our world, please for the love of all that is good HELP ME.
I know some of you are.
I know some of you want to and don't know how.
I know how to help progressive candidates get a leg up in elections. I know the technology to use, the methods to use, the people to hire, and I know that we're not going to get better at this until we get out there and run some people for office. And yes, sometimes we'll lose, because we haven't had a trial by fire yet. Learning this stuff requires doing it.
The only problem is, if I post it all on the internet, then everyone knows what I know, including the people who we want to beat in primaries.
So for those of you who are upset about nothing changing, I know how we can fight back. I know some tricks. I can help us. Not dirty tricks, but smart techniques that no one really uses.
But I can't do it alone, and I can't support more than one candidate per election cycle.
But you? All of you? Well, not all, some of you have jobs.
All you retirees who know how to operate a keyboard? All you underemployed or unemployed Americans who understand technology?
We can, together, learn how to run elections, learn the hot button issues for our districts, learn how to get people we need elected to local, and then state, and then national office.
So lets just fucking do it already.
Because there are people here who can manage stuff. There are people here who can do HR. There are people here who can write stuff. There are people here who can code. There are people here who can sit at a keyboard and run a phone bank.
The power of this community to work as a para-political organization which floods the actual campaign staff of the people we want elected, and then gets them elected, is nearly unlimited.
I know the tech. I know the techniques. I know about marketing tools that almost no one is using.
WE CAN DO THIS.
Help me figure out how to organize a national system of volunteers and activists which helps us fix this problem.
We can be more than a giant wallet. We can be more than a vote farm.
We can be an organization that floods the offices of progressive candidates with experienced electoral know-how.
We can build a progressive political machine that turns progressive candidates into a national steamroller.
But I don't know how to manage something that big. Or grow it. Or fund it.
But I have an idea that some of you do.
So lets do it.
Let's put our knowledge and our skills together, and lets go kick some neoliberal, racist-collaborating, NSA-apologist, koch-brothers-funded, climate skeptic, charter-school supporting, economic-disaster-causing ass!
Because I can't change the wold by myself.
And that's why I'm here.
1:32 PM PT: I probably should have expected this, but this has turned into a forum on the success of the Occupy movement.
Occupy succeeded in changing the conversation.
Occupy failed to get money out of politics or to deliver many electoral changes. That conversation change allowed the 47% comment to have an impact. It is why Deblasio is Mayor in NYC. It will continue to pay dividends. But occupy could have achieved many national successes to tack on to the local ones it's already achieved. We are in the post-occupy era of American Politics.
And I would like to try to refocus on the POINT of this post:
Can we work together to build a progressive electoral machine?
One person has said they're interested.
Should I write a second diary on this topic that doesn't mention occupy or the current meta?