We the people have only been playing with half our team. We are now bringing in the full-rested half that have not been voting; not voting because they thought there was no point. There is now a point. This time no one will be saying that a few votes don't matter. No one will be saying that there is no difference between candidates. Not this time, my friends.
Until we change ourselves, we cannot change the world. Until we find a moral center within ourselves, we cannot articulate a moral vision at the center of a new, emerging world. Yet once we do find that center, there is no force that can stand against it.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
Perhaps it took the blatant arrogance and supreme self-righteousness of the Bush Administration to wake us from our slumber. Perhaps it took the Asheville City Council’s shameless pandering to a Texas corporation to move us into action. But regardless of the motivation, transformation is afoot, my friends. For politicians who have come to believe in their own entitlement, marketing themselves as though we’re mere consumers of their pre-recorded sound bites, the time of reckoning is fast approaching.
The Howard Dean phenomenon is a case in point. In one year’s time Dean has become the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in part because of growing public disenchantment with the Washington elite. Dean’s surge in the polls is due not only to his opposition to Bush’s war without end (mini-nukes included), no-bid contracts to big campaign donors, support of corporations that display their patriotism by moving offshore and shipping American jobs overseas, ravaging of the environment for short-term gain and implementing the so-called Patriot Act. His emergence is also a powerful rebuff to the spineless, ineffectual Democrats, especially those who were too terrified to stand up to the Bush juggernaut when it seemed perilous to do so.
Moreover, Howard Dean believes in empowerment, stating that this campaign is really about his supporters, not about him. "The power to take this country back is in your hands, not mine,” he declared at a recent rally. The result: thousands of people are heeding the call, becoming accountable for the political process and getting involved, many for the first time. The Dean campaign’s database of active citizens is reputed to contain approximately half a million names.
Regardless of the outcome of Dean’s campaign (and I think he stands an excellent chance of being elected), his use of technology to get the message out, create a cadre of volunteers nationwide and raise campaign funds is revolutionizing politics in America. This month grassroots meetings will take place in more than 700 cities, organized through meetup.com and the Dean website (www.deanforamerica.com). During the third quarter of 2003 the Dean campaign raised almost $15 million, most of it through Internet donations that averaged approximately $77 each. What we’re witnessing is how grassroots organizing, with the aid of the Internet, can trump conventional candidates who rely on large donors for campaign funds with which they market themselves like deodorant or Old Navy cargo pants.
Here in Asheville, a few candidates in the November 4 city council election and at least one political action group (www.matchourmountains.org) are using approaches similar to Dean’s—grassroots involvement via websites, e-mail newsletters, word of mouth and house parties. The primary issue here is the proposed sale of city land to the Sammons Corporation (aka the Grove Park Inn) for a luxury high-rise building in an area of our downtown where such a project doesn’t fit the landscape. This course of action seems to be opposed by everyone I’ve talked with, and seemingly supported only by those with vested interests in the outcome. Those current and future council members who persist in this folly will ultimately pay a political price for doing so.
So thanks, at least in part, to the unacceptable actions of patriarchal politicians, we are now awakened. And as important as that is, it is only the first step. To make a difference, to reclaim our community and our nation, we must become engaged in the political process, taking personal responsibility for our current state of affairs. This responsibility includes a pledge to stay informed; to get involved in local, state and national political races; to register and vote; to monitor what our elected officials do in our name and to speak out whenever called to do so.
Never has there been a time in history when standing up for what we truly value has been more important. We owe it to ourselves, to our children and to our world.
Bruce Mulkey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out where supporters of your preferred presidential candidate are meeting locally, visit www.meetup.com.
To learn more about the Grove Park Inn project visit www.ashevilleparc.org.
The following resources are from “The 2004 Survival Guide: How you can get involved in transforming U.S. politics” published in the fall 2003 issue of Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures. Buy a copy of the magazine or visit www.futurenet.org/27government/survivalelection2004.htm.
Copyright 2003 Bruce R. Mulkey, Asheville, North Carolina