To show their disgust with George W. Bush's re-election, on
Inauguration Day, his opponents will turn their back on his motorcade, "refuse
to spend one dime," black out their Web sites, stage mock jazz funerals, wear
black armbands and stage demonstrations from Palo Alto to Atlanta.
But four years of such Bush-bashing theatrics didn't produce a change in
November. And with Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, some
of the president's most vocal critics have spent the past two post-election
months making plans on how to begin preaching beyond the choir box, starting
Bottom line: less emphasis on mass demonstrations -- which Bush
famously dismissed as "focus groups" -- and more on reaching out to
Americans who oppose the war but haven't publicly shown it.
"We've got to start reaching out to people who don't agree with us," said
Leslie Cagan, United for Peace's national coordinator. In its recent short-
term plan, the 850-organization umbrella behind many of the nation's larger
protests over the past few years conceded that "the anti-war movement must
reshape its work."
While the Inauguration Day protest coverage will undoubtedly focus on
made-for-TV flourishes and mad-as-hell gestures, some of the larger anti-war
and progressive organizations say they have realized that just being against
Bush isn't enough anymore.
"The resistance has to be issue-based," said Aimara Lin, national
coordinator of Not in Our Name, another major anti-war organization that has
done a lot of soul-searching since the election. "The movement needs to reach
outside the normal groups of people we usually touch and bring in people who
feel the same way, but are too fearful to say so."
That includes corralling the energy of the people behind the Inauguration
"If they're going to go beyond the personal satisfaction of, 'I dissed
the president and it made me feel good,' they're going to have to talk to many
more people and give them something different to think about," said Shaun
Bowler, professor of political science at UC Riverside and an expert on direct
"You can listen to Pacifica Radio, check out the Bay Area papers or the
(British) Guardian, and watch 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and 'The Daily Show,' and
that's great," Bowler said. "But after everyone whips themselves up into an
outrage, all they have talked to is their fellow travelers."
In the most detailed way in its three-year history, United for Peace is
committing to paper its organizing plans, using neighbor-to-neighbor
connections reminiscent of how Republicans turned out their base in the
presidential election. Its "Winter/Spring Organizing Drive" plan encourages
its smaller member groups to "make three new relationships" with organizations
and communities not previously involved in anti-war work. Big-city
organizations should connect with a dozen.
The group just hired the Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, a Pentecostal minister in
New York, to lead its outreach effort to places United for Peace believes will
be critical to reaching a wider audience: the nation's churches, synagogues
In the next few weeks, Sekou will release what he calls a kit to help
religious leaders craft Sunday sermons against the war, form anti-war groups
among their followers and preach to children.
"We need to break the monopoly on 'God talk' the religious right has in
this country," Sekou said.
After the election, national organizers from Not in Our Name, an anti-war
group with offices in Oakland, convened for a postmortem. Afterward, they
acknowledged to members that "surely, the goal expressed by all was the need
of resistance to break outside the anti-war 'movement.' "
The challenge: Of Not in Our Name's 10 chapters, only two are located in
states that went for Bush in November.
"We've talked about getting into more of the red states, but right now,
we don't have a lot of people on the ground there," said Lin of Not in Our
Name. "But we've been hearing a lot more from them since the election. And
when people from the red states call, they get special attention."
Two other constituencies will be actively courted, said United for
Peace's Cagan and other anti-war leaders: returning Iraq war veterans and
military families. Activists will help returning vets speak to military
support groups, as well as to the media.
"They are key," University of San Francisco political science Professor
Stephen Zunes, an expert on social movements, said of veterans and their
families. "They can go into a lot of places where many activists can't go."
To expand the number of anti-war supporters, Zunes and other progressive
writers suggest that activists make inroads to sympathetic politicians,
Writing in the progressive Web site Alternet, Erik Leaver, policy
director at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, urged activists to
"work with (anti-war) folks across the political spectrum, including Rep.
Howard Coble." The conservative North Carolina Republican recently said it was
time to start pondering a phased U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
But Coble might not be a totally sympathetic ear.
"The congressman never said he was against the war or that it was a bad
idea to invade," said Coble's chief of staff Ed McDonald. "Sure, he'd be
willing to sit down and talk with anybody, but he's not interested in working
with any of the groups who are coming to Washington to say things against the
Some anti-war activists, however, such as San Francisco resident Marvin
Feldman, have little time for politicians -- even liberal ones.
"We're not going to be working with the Democrats anymore," said Feldman,
a coordinator with United for Peace and Justice Bay Area. "We feel let down
that the Democrats ran such a wimpy campaign" and didn't more forcefully
oppose the war, he said.
Instead, the organization will concentrate on reaching out to unions,
religious congregations and organizations in communities of color.
Such disagreement among left-leaning organizations and interest groups
Richard Becker, an organizer with International ANSWER, which is
organizing an Inauguration Day rally in San Francisco's Civic Center, said,
"The question is, can we find a way to look at each other and see that each of
our particular issues is really deeply connected?''
As some progressives ponder how to unify their message during Bush's
second term, others will begin the sniping on Inauguration Day.
Progressive leaders acknowledge that to some on the left, there is a
cathartic benefit from such gestures as Turn Your Back on Bush, in which
protesters will turn away from the president along the motorcade route.
One of the organizers of Not One Damn Dime Day, which urges people not to
spend any money Thursday, acknowledged that there's no way to measure its
Jesse Gordon, an activist in Cambridge, Mass., who has assumed the role
of spokesman for the Internet-spread campaign even though he doesn't know who
started it, said seeing a one-day dip on the country's economic output isn't
necessarily the campaign's primary goal.
"People want a way to make their voices heard," Gordon said. He plans to
use the thousands of e-mails he's received to begin a mailing list of like-
minded souls that he can tap into for future political mobilizations.
Similar plans have been laid by the Detroit-based organizer of Black-
Thursday.com, which is touting a no-work-on-Inauguration Day campaign, and
Citizens Take Charge, which is organizing a one-day gasoline boycott out of
"When people go out and do something like this, it feels good," said
Elizabeth Morgan, co-founder of Citizens Take Charge. However, of the 10
boycott captains lined up for Thursday's inaugural boycott, only two are in
"But after this, look," Morgan said, "we've got to reach out beyond where
© 2005 San Francisco Chronicle