Of the many things that the Dean movement has done for me, bringing me to the attention of the great Paul Wellstone is one of them. I am about 70 pages into his book, and I am starting to see what the Dean movement (DFA/DFA) can do in order to keep the grassroots alive and help bring people back into the political process. In some cases, they can do a lot without leaving the comfort of their own homes.
As far as the here and now, there are certain things that we need to do. We pretty much need to continue with the same types of things that we did with Dean. I think that the most important thing is to help voter registration drive efforts. This is something that even people who hate John Kerry can get behind. We also need to continue the meetups, and we need to continue the house parties and Internet fundraising drives for Democratic congressional candidates, and, I can't believe I am saying this, the DNC and John Kerry. We pretty much need to do what we did during the Dean campaign, but for the Democratic Nominee and expand that to Democratic congressional candidates and even state representatives and local officials when we can. What's an extra piece of paper when you are canvassing going to hurt?
But I think that this is basic, and this does not get to the heart of our Democracy and grassroots organizing as Wellstone fully envisioned it. I believe, and I think that Wellstone would concur, that everyone who goes into politics truly wants to make a difference. Why else would they raise millions of dollars for a job that pays 100K a year? What happens when they get in is that they have to power broker in order to get things done. They are so used to power brokering that they forget what they need to do. They just concentrate on the power part, and the issues get pushed aside.
Wellstone believes that this power brokering is why things don't get done. Aside from the powerful interests, the people are never put in a position where they are inspired to demand action. He believed that the reason that Clinton's Healthcare proposal did not go through was because it was too little. It did not force the American people to demand it. Politicians are not going to go out on a limb when the people are not truly behind the plan.
Activists that I am aware of seem to fall into two categories, the "we want this now" category and the "stop this thing that will cause the world to come to an end" category. The problem is that if you want improvement in Healthcare, for example, what is one to do about legislation that is pending. Instead of saying "we want healthcare now", why not say, we as a people, support such and such bill, which is currently in Congress. Not only that, but we, as a people, will write our congressman and pledge to support him if he supports our initiative. Also, if he happens to be one of those guys who never has opposition who will strike down our bill, we, as a national organization, will pledge to support a progressive candidate that will run against him in the primary.
So, to a certain extent, this has to do with money, because money is important. We would hopefully substitute our money with the lost special interest money. But more importantly, by us writing out congressman, newspapers, friends, and family, we can let it be known that the people are behind the initiative, and this will allow our representatives to come out of the closet.
So through the power of the grassroots, people like me who love CSPAN but do not watch it 24/7, can be informed by bloggers from around the country about initiatives, and we as a whole can make sure that these initiatives get good press and our representatives know that people are behind them. Thus, we are the power brokers. The will not be able to slip a compromise that will damage the initiative, because we are fully evolved in pushing for it.
This is what the right does so well. There grassroots organizations make sure that their initiatives get national press and are heard by their representatives, and they put the fear of God into any one in the press or in congress who seems disloyal. I am not talking about death threats, the way they do it, but severe pressure nonetheless.
This will truly bring people back into the process, instead of just having them lick envelopes, give money, and canvass out in the cold every 2, 4, or 6 years.