This year's crazy-hyped election--and it's really not all hype, peoples, this is truly a high-stakes election, with a disastrous war, our economy, affordable healthcare, LGBT rights, access to legal abortion and many other issues up for grab both locally and nationally--has turned out thousands, if not tens or even hundreds of thousands, of people who have never done much more than shrug at the TV news into out-in-the-streets or in-front-of-the-computers activists. And even though a large number of these may be folks on the far right, overall I think it's a beautiful thing, because Movement, dear friends, is what it's all about.
I wrote a post a while back about how we don't live in a real democracy, and our historically low voting population is part of the reason I believe that's true. The other part of it is that folks living in the US--not just citizens/voters, either, but the general populace--don't participate in any form of civic action in general, and that civic action (whether it's voting or getting involved with your child's schooling or being a union member or whatever) is a crucial ingredient to a vibrant and healthy democracy. So is dissent, which is where the corporate-ruled media comes in, squashing any possibility for a mass media that encourages healthy debate that includes more than just the two parties.
Movement--getting folks out talking to their neighbors about how their city is run, getting high school students on the phones to get out the vote in poor communities, etc.--is essential. And I finally got my own butt moving these past two weekends helping to coordinate some get out the vote (GOTV) efforts with my organization, Californians for Justice.
H., V. and I (and about 10 other volunteers who came out at 10am on a Saturday morning to do their civic duty) had a grand old time, dropping literature for the 'Yes on Prop 72' and 'Yes on Prop. 66' campaigns in five precincts in Oakland's Fruitvale district. It's always good to get out into a different community, to talk to folks who are often deeply impacted by policies that they have no real say over, except perhaps through their vote. And it's always important to help dispel the myths about voting and the issues that TV commercials and confusing ballot language help create.
Being out 'in the field', trying to use my busted-up but earnest Spanish to conversate with the occasional talker (we weren't trying to talk to folks, just dropping literature, unless they had questions for us), showed me again how strong we could be on the left if we truly engaged all the dispossessed, marginalized and disenfranchised peeps out there whose values are in line with ours. They don't want to see their sons and daughters go to war against other poor people, they want affordable health care and less violence, they don't trust cops who don't come from their communities and they are tired of politicians lying to them. It was also great for me to be able to work on this election without having to posture as if I actually like John Kerry (although I am going to vote for him--whilst pinching my nose of course), but at the same time knowing that getting out voters for Props 66 and 72 would also get out the Kerry vote.
On the Western side of the bay, I'll be walking my precinct today for Norman Yee's school board bid. I met Norman salsa dancing and then through my work at the Youth Empowerment Center, and I'm glad to know he's got a good shot at winning. If you live in Frisco, also make sure to vote for stalwart progressives Mark Sanchez and Eric Mar for school board as well.
On a less positive note, however, I got this article in my email today from the League of Pissed Off Voters--which is putting Eminem's sick Mosh video into real-time action by turning out thousands of young voters to the polls tomorrow (St. Petersburg is in Florida, btw):
DIRTY TRICKS LITTER PATH TO ELECTION (excerpt)
Elections supervisors are warning voters: Be alert for attempts at fraud and
by David Karp, Michael Sandler and Tamara Lush, St. Petersburg Times
Published October 29, 2004
When Dolores Cuellar of Orlando opened her door and saw a woman with a clipboard, she didn't hesitate to say which candidate she preferred.
"Not Bush," said Cuellar, 42. "The other one."
The woman told Cuellar she didn't need to bother going to the polls. She would mark Cuellar's vote on a piece of paper right there. And while she was at it, she also would record a vote for Cuellar's 18-year-old daughter.
Cuellar, who had never voted before, said she mistakenly thought she had just voted.
It's hella deep, folks, and it's still not too late to get out there and do something to help build a true democracy in this country--my buddy Oscarchoy is in Ohio right now and offered to pay for my ticket out there but I decided to stay home and fight the good fight here. I may be a jaded activist, but I'm not without hope. Go to: League of Pissed Off Voters, Election Protection, Count Every Vote or Moveon.org.
In Peace and Justice--DON'T FORGET TO VOTE TOMORROW!