kucinich2Are you ready for this?:

  • Elimination of environmental & labour protections; total deregulation of business, and the selling off of most remaining public land and resources for commercial purposes
  • Encouragement as ‘natural and inevitable’ the outsourcing and offshoring of millions of jobs
  • Indemnification of corporations against citizen litigation for misconduct
  • Launching of pre-emptive attacks on Iran, then Syria, and then, when the House of Saud is overthrown, Saudi Arabia
  • Elimination and privatization of government social services
  • Instituting of a flat tax, repeal of the estate tax, and other subsidies for the rich
  • Re-introduction of Patriot Act II
  • Ban on abortion, after replacement of retiring Supreme Court members with religious zealots
  • Erosion or dismantling the separation of church and state
  • Substantive withdrawal of the US from the UN in favour of unilateralism

And are you ready for absolutely no action on this?:

  • The right to universal quality health care and education
  • Election and campaign finance reform
  • The right to clean, healthy air, water and food
  • Millions of hard-working Americans unable to get decent-paying, meaningful jobs to provide for their families

I’m not either. But I’m surprised at the number of liberals, both moderate and radical, who are passively waiting for Bush to ‘bring it on’. The logic seems to be that the pendulum has to swing all the way, and if we nip this in the bud now we’ll prevent Americans from seeing just how heinous the neocon agenda is, and risk the neocons being re-elected again in 2008. The radical liberals figure Bush now has enough rope to hang himself, and only when Bush brings on the next Great Depression, or when Americans see other Americans being slaughtered in the streets by right-wing law-and-order stormtroopers, will the majority wake up and shake off their lethargy. If you buy these arguments, you might as well stop reading now, because the rest of this article is just going to make you tired.

We have the power to stop the machine now. There are eight levers, eight fronts of resistance, we can use to paralyze Bush before the ten-point agenda outlined above gets any further traction, and even start to roll back some of the damage of the last four years:

1. Political Organization Starting Now: MoveOn, MeetUp and ReachOut

The sad truth is that, so far, our message hasn’t touched enough people, face-to-face, one-on-one, while the neocons’ has. What’s worse, not enough people have been directly and incontrovertibly hurt by what Bush has done. The neocon indoctrination uses the same deceptive and coercive methods that orthodox religions and cults use to keep their members in line: The straw men for Patriot Act legislation and similar laws dismantling civil rights and freedoms are mysterious swarthy immigrants, foreign ‘aliens’ who perhaps take American jobs, date our daughters or even blow up the buildings where we work. The straw men are also abortion doctors, three-strikes criminals who by implication are deterred by nothing but capital punishment, gay couples perhaps bringing up their children to be gay. And the staggering harm that the rest of us suffer because of Bush’s actions — loss of jobs, inability to get medical care, loss of loved ones in imperialist wars, loss of civil liberties, loss of freedom over our own bodies, inability to get a decent education, the two-income trap, an environment so destroyed and poisoned that it is making us all sick — are conveniently blamed on others: terrorist attacks, hurricanes, welfare cheats, frivolous litigation, the axis of evil, drug addicts, sexual promiscuity and other immoral behaviour, or, even more cynically, on us ourselves: we’re not working hard enough, not trying hard enough, we’re weak, we’re not praying hard enough, we’re not taking enough personal responsibility for our situation. Neocons use established organizing mechanisms like the churches and talk radio to hammer home their message. These mechanisms reach people one-on-one, and their messages are therefore much more effective than anything broadcast. If a leader says X, that’s one thing. But if everyone around me is saying X, talking to me personally, that’s powerful.

I’m not suggesting we fight propaganda with propaganda. But I am saying we need to touch people one-on-one and face-to-face. That means we need to stop preaching to the choir and start reaching out to converts, one at a time. Both in the Dean campaign and in the Kerry presidency bid, supporters had surrounded themselves so effectively with like minds that they were stunned to found out they had lost. Our ReachOut program needs to de-program frightened conservatives by talking to them in ways they understand, re-framing the discussion on every one of the bulleted issues above. Lakoff can show us how to do that. The challenge will be reaching the largest bloc of conservatives — suburban commuters — one-on-one. If we’re not part of their churches, we need to ReachOut to them in the other places where both we and they gather and talk — the kids’ soccer fields and baseball diamonds, the rec centres, the malls. This will not be easy, but it’s the only chance we have.

MoveOn and MeetUp have done an admirable job organizing progressives, and they need to continue to mobilize us on many fronts. MoveOn needs to provide its new book, 50 Ways to Love Your Country, free online, and find progressive sponsors to underwrite the printing and free distribution of millions of copies across the country. And it needs to produce the ReachOut handbook, teaching progressives how and where to reach out to conservatives and find common cause. And we need a new, progressive group to spearhead grassroots projects around the issues bulleted above, and use tools like MeetUp to organize, lobby, educate, and get out the memes, get our people talking about them so we’re informed and prepared with positive, viable solutions, not just opposition to what Bush is doing. We can’t wait for midterm elections for this. We should, I believe, draft Dennis Kucinich, the only logical progressive standard-bearer, to lead this new progressive group, which should not be wedded to the Democratic Party. This group should be Organization Central, starting right now, to plan and orchestrate and coordinate intelligent, persuasive, positive-alternative opposition and resistance to everything Bush will be doing.

2. Street Demonstrations & Street Theatre: Wearing Opposition on Our Sleeves

The purpose of massive demonstrations is not to bring about change. Their audience is not the government in power. The audience is the people. Demonstrations are a show of strength and popular will. So it’s important that the political organization described above plan and manage demonstrations carefully. To be effective, they must be peaceful, even in the face of police and government provocation, intimidation and violence. They must be well-attended, orderly, and well-organized. They must be covered by the media, which means that we need to send our own camera crews out to cover them, and then send in the tapes to the mainstream media without charge. And they need to be focused — headed to one place where a progressive spokesman articulates logically and in an inclusive way the purpose of the opposition. That doesn’t mean they’re not spontaneous. It just means they need to be used to advantage, not held up by conservatives as evidence of an unruly mob’s disrespect for conservative values. And they need to be newsworthy, not because of the violence of the protesters, but because of the message, and possibly the violence with which its passive expression is suppressed.

Street theatre is different. It doesn’t need to be big. It can be quite intimate. Turn your Back on Bush is a great example. It needs to be clever, newsworthy, visual, non-confrontational, and fun. Get those creative juices flowing. Think like Ghandi. Be the Change.

Another effective quiet protest is wearing subtle symbols of resistance and opposition to the status quo. The little ribbons that people wear on their lapels to indicate their support for the fight against AIDS, or breast cancer, are very effective. Similar symbols should be used to indicate our support for the fight against oppression, outsourcing, environmental destruction and other Bush signature issues. The key is not to be in-your-face about them. They can be clever or ambiguous, but not disrespectful or confrontational (yes I know it’s more fun to be in-your-face and ironic, but we’re trying to change the world here). They invite either “what does that stand for” or “that’s very clever” comment, and that’s where the piËce de rÈsistance comes in — always have a bunch more on hand that you can give out to those that comment. It’s a physical meme.

3. International Sanctions and Ostracism

Those of us in other countries need to stand up to the bully, now. The passivity of Paul Martin in Canada, and most other Western leaders whose people overwhelmingly despise George Bush and everything he stands for, is simply unacceptable. We need to start lobbying our governments to openly criticize Bush, not for what he’s doing to America, but for what he’s doing to the world. His non-ratification of the Kyoto Accord, his rollback and non-enforcement of environmental protection laws, and his already-stated plan to further ease pollution standards for corporations, deserve a loud and united outcry of opposition and opprobrium, because he is poisoning our whole world. His unilateralism in foreign affairs is counter to the core principles of the United Nations and the greatest threat to world peace since the Cold War, and UN censure is not enough. We need to take actions to ostracize Bush — with sanctions against America, just like any other bully leader. We should tear up NAFTA and other trade agreements, and put a massive Environmental Tax on imports to our countries from the US, to raise funds to help combat the US portion (40%) of the global warming problem). We should suspend the US’s membership in the UN (they don’t pay their dues anyway) until they ratify the UN treaties and infrastructure (like the International Court of Justice) that are critical to the UN’s ability to function effectively. By these and other measures, we can and must isolate and embarrass the US government into being a responsible member of the international community. It’s long past time for the schoolyard bully to be sent to detention.

4. Unapologetic Alternative Media

We need to give up on the mainstream US media, which are in a hopeless conflict of interest, beholden as they are to their corporate owners who are in turn beholden to the government in which they invest millions of dollars and depend for their oligopoly rights. The US needs media that are free to report objectively, and that means they cannot be corporate-controlled. It is inevitable that NPR and PBS, the only media that aren’t corporate-controlled, will be privatized sooner or later. That’s part of the neocon agenda — they don’t like starkly alternative viewpoints and investigation of government and corporate wrongdoing, which obviously make them look bad. We need to build a network of television and radio stations and newspapers that are nation-wide and funded by an independent public foundation. Investigative reporting, not a progressive viewpoint, is what will bring these stations their audience and the influx of funding from average Americans of all political stripes. Blogs and the IndyMedia are the great foundation and a great source of programming content and talent for these new alternative media, but we need to reach the 80% of Americans who do not get the bulk of their news online, and we even need to reach those who get their online news exclusively from one extreme of the political spectrum or the other. Blinkers, even progressive blinkers, are no answer. We need objective, factual information, unrestricted investigation and fair and balanced analysis, not more Faux News. The truth needs to be told, and, as with Watergate and the Vietnam War reporting, it can change everything.

5. Court Challenges, Filibusters & Obstructionism

We can still block Bush nominations of religious zealots to the Supreme Court and other courts by filibuster, and we must do so. An unapologetic alternative media can play a key role in unearthing and communicating just why these wingnuts would be so dangerous in the court of final appeal. These new media can also play an educational role in explaining to the American public why even evangelicals benefit from separation of church and state, and why a balance between, and independence of, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary systems is so critical to any democracy. It is a bit ironic that we progressives need to use the judicial system, the ultimate defender of the status quo, to slow and block the passage of new repressive and regressive laws. But we do what we can.

There is a difference between passive resistance (obstructionism) to unfair, undemocratic and discriminatory laws, and taking the law into one’s own hands. As I’ve mentioned before, the US desperately needs new national usury laws to cap interest rates and hence prevent millions of unwitting Americans from losing their homes. Civil disobedience like refusing to accept or honour eviction notices, chaining yourself to your house, is a well-established way of obstructing bad laws. So is chaining yourself to trees marked for clear-cutting, and lying in the road in front of bulldozers, tanks, or trucks full of toxic waste. It is unlikely to do much more than delay the atrocity that the bad law allows, but it makes the point, and often garners lots of publicity. Once enough people are aware enough of an issue, they will take the time to learn more, and, if a reasonable alternative is presented, they will support it.

6. Consumer Power

I am always amazed that Consumer Reports isn’t the most subscribed magazine in America. It serves a vital function, informing the public objectively about the facts before they make buying decisions, and at least bringing attention to the most extreme corporatist abuses. If Americans want to reign in corporate power, punish polluters, curtail the outsourcing and offshoring that is destroying the American middle class, they have the power, simply by boycotting companies with deplorable social and environmental records, by buying local instead of imported products (even if that means they have to pay more and make do with less), by insisting on quality products and services and fighting corporations that don’t provide it with everything at their disposal. With enough consumer information and progressive mobilization, we could bring corporatism to its knees, bankrupt the very companies that bankroll Bush and the self-serving neocon agenda.

7. Campaign Finance and Electoral Reform

What more can I say? The US has an electoral system that is incapable of reliably reflecting the popular will, and that dumbs down the voting choices to the lesser of two evils, and which is therefore neither representative nor democratic. It has a campaign finance system that precludes those without money and power from any chance of attaining elected office, and which rewards corporations for buying politicians and politicians for doing what their corporate donors tell them. Clean-up of these horrendously damaged systems must be Job One on the progressive agenda.

8. Public Discourse

Conservatives talk. They yammer on the talk radio airwaves. They talk after church and around the barbecue and at family gatherings. They natter while they shop. They engage each other, they share ideas and hopes and fears. The expression of conservative ideas is a (often banal) conversation. Progressives, by contrast, write. They deliberate and then they rant. The expression of progressive ideas is like a performance. It’s too one-way.

Progressive need to start talking. Not in carefully rehearsed scripts, and not in negative terms, but about what they care about, what they’re hoping for, and why they’re afraid. They need to stop talking in principles and start telling stories, personal stories about people they know who have lost their jobs and their homes and their loved ones in war. This is how you ‘talk politics’ without getting people’s backs up. Talk about people who fought their way to America, escaping with only the clothes on their back to make a home in the US, who are now being harassed by US customs officials and police, whose children are being taunted because of their accent or the colour of their skin or the clothes they wear. Talk about the people like Cassie Stromer who worked their whole lives in service of the public and who now, in retirement, have to cut up their food into small bits because they can’t afford to get their dentures fixed.


This is a lot of hard work, I know. It’s tempting to just keep on writing rants, preaching to the choir, and blaming others for what has happened and will continue to happen in America. We’re going to have to pace ourselves, pick each other up when the going gets tough, and take turns being strong. But it’s worth the effort, not only because it can stop Bush dead in his tracks, but because it can lay the foundation for rebuilding what made America such a great country. The whole world is still watching, they’re behind you, cheering you on, and they’ll help out any way they can.

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  1. Raging Bee says:

    With Kucinich as your figurehead — or anywhere near your movement — you’ll lose on all fronts. He’s never been credible.

  2. Mambrina says:

    Hi Dave – many of your suggestions are eminently sensible. I particularly like the bit about international sanctions and ostracism. Canada, for example, can do nothing on its own, but if it were to partner up with European and other nations a lot to be accomplished. For all its power, the USA cannot survive long on its own. I also wish Paul Martin would lay off MPs who have the courage to speak out against the Bush war machine, especially given that her constituents just re-elected her despite the fact that she had made similar anti-Bush statements in the past. Shame on him!

  3. Richard Kahn says:

    thanks for this dave…i don’t know about kucinich never being credible; but i do agree that DK as a figurehead is problematical, for you mention that his leadership would be untethered from the DNC, but this appears to be the very thing Kucinich is unwilling to do. only if democrats suffer complete collapse and run a racist southern conservative can i imagine kucinich jumping ship and, for example, running green. part of the problem is that while he represents a liberal district in ohio, that is still his gig and if he wants to keep it, he has to deliver on some government payola; which he won’t be able to do as an outsider independent/alternative.other problem is that, even with all these tactics ennacted, it’s not clear how they overcome the particular US electoral problem — which has to be divorced from a populist problem. democrats said support them based on Anyone But Bush if you didn’t consider yourself a Dem True Believer; but this won’t happen again, especially to the degree that real independent politics takes hold. Now, while I always have disagreed with liberal pundits that Nader cost Gore the election in 2000, the fact of the matter is that he took all of what some 3-4%? Kerry lost ground this time, and so the more people who pull out and go indy make the ground to make up that much more for the DNC.Already Democrats are moving right, supposing that they will hold onto states like California and New York regardless, and that losses on the left will be outweighed by gains they make from crossover moderate-right. But as you can see from the percentages above, in order not to run a neck and neck ticket, they’ll need to move significantly right so as to grab close to 10% more in that direction than previously, if all this is true.So where does all this get us? Whether its fair or not, many people can’t be counted on to keep the political heat up through numerous elections. This one burned out a lot of people, especially a lot of first time voters,who are saying “Told you so — this whole thing is a crock of shit.” If they get fired up in 2008 and simply end up with another far-right Repug or an almost as far-right Republicrat, people will drop like flies, won’t they?Granted — same political outcome may happen if people don’t get all fired up now, but at least then people will be rested to fire them up again to put pressure on new candidate whomever that is….Now, don’t take this as a position I’m proffering — I haven’t thought about much of this until I’m writing it now. Simply some critical questions that arise from reading the platform…Best,Richard

  4. Gary says:

    Thank you for your insightful and eloquent call to purpose.

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Mambrina: Yes, you’ve got to wonder what he’s so afraid of. Do you suppose some Bushie took him aside and told him to shut up or face the consequences?Richard: I see your problem. I’m not proposing DK as a presidential candidate, but as the uncompromising and most visible true progressive, the guy that could pull together a team to coordinate these 8 (and other) projects. Counter to what I said last month, I think the middle-of-the-road strategy is a losing one — too logical, and that’s not what motivates people to vote. I think a passionate progressive leader (probably not DK, because he isn’t tall and handsome enough — not kidding, looks count — but maybe someone like RFK Jr.) would pull more moderate voters than a bland, compromising middle-of-the-road guy closer to their political POV.

  6. David Gross says:

    Might I suggest tax resistance as a tactic? You’ll have a hard time convincing me you’re part of the opposition if you’re funding Dubya and his Republicongress. Tax resistance is something everyone can do, it has a concrete effect, it is democratic and nonviolent, and it means putting your money where your mouth is (which has a way of making people take your mouth a little more seriously). http://www.sniggle.net/Experiment/ has a howto guide that demonstrates one of the many ways of conducting tax resistance.

  7. Mambrina says:

    Oh, duh, I forgot to name the MP. Carolyn Parrish of course.

  8. Cyndy says:

    As far as integrity and credibility go Kucinich is da man. I was just wistful for him right before I came here. He’s already got the groundwork for voting integrity laid out. Recall that he saved the Diebold memos on his site when Bev Harris was being harassed. He has foresight. He has vision and compassion. Perhaps the media will always toe the DNC line which was the main reason Kucinich was shut out. I prefer to hope that the DNC will undergo some changes and move where they have more leverage, back to the left. He may never be the candidate but he is a Leader. The DNC needs to recognize that. I think he, like many of us is still trying to sort this out, see where the early questions about voting integrity take us and will then address the small progressive democrats group he has formed. I have a list of the 25 top donors to the Republican party which is a beginning toward exercising consumer power. Banking, replaced by local credit unions is another simple but wise move. Yes, international help would be most welcome!This is very helpful Dave. It brings actions into focus. Thank you.

  9. Susan Hales says:

    Dave, your image of Dennis Kucinich is right on target, as he exemplifies the vision and the method by which we will be able to turn this situation around. Partly because of your profile of DK early on, I decided to run as a delegate for him, in Alabama, no less, and was consequently in a position to observe the skill with which he managed a small but growing movement, which survived well beyond any other save a couple of self-serving candidates. Dennis ran a completely positive campaign which energized and inspired, and he actually took on politically unpopular issues that are crucial to our survival on this planet – Depleted Uranium being only one of these, but surely one of the most courageous of all the stands he took. He was the only one who consistently remained against this war, and how much do we wish we had all followed his lead and spoken out even louder? The way that Dennis built his movement was precisely by doing what you suggest, by telling stories, in this case stories that illustrated the way the Bush administration is attempting to tear us apart –and look at what has actually occurred. We are, it seems, more divided than before. DK stands pretty tall in my book.

  10. Heather says:

    Richard: I agree that we need to deal with the electoral-way-of-things. I’ve proposed targeting particular counties in particular swing states: http://thoughtoffering.blogs.com/thoughts/2004/11/my_postelection.html.Dave: I think it’s important that the world boycotts, too. Like they did to South Africa.

  11. Raging Bee says:

    Richard: if anything causes voter burnout, it is your droning, unchanging (since the 1970s), terminally cynical “they’re all the same,” “no one is good enough” rhetoric. How many people are fired up by that droning? What do you expect it to accomplish? Whom do you expect it to inspire? Kerry, certainly, did not inspire record turnout for our side with that nonsense, and neither did Bush for his.Also, your total denial of the Nader factor in 2000, in spite of documented and widely-discussed poll numbers, does not enhance your credibility.PS: If the Democrats are really “moving right,” it could be because the far left have been flushing their credibility down the toilet since the 1960s, and have made themselves an embarrassment to anyone seen remotely near them.

  12. Raging Bee says:

    Moorlock: if “Tax resistsance” is a valid form of protest, then Dubya’s rich friends are the most effective anti-war protesters of all – which isn’t saying much. Have you noticed how the huge deficits created by Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans haven’t slowed the offensive one bit?Furthermore, refusing to pay one’s fair share to fund the operation of our elected government may be “nonviolent,” but it is NOT “democratic.” In fact, the far right and the rich advocate tax cuts as a means of preventing the government from doing what the majority want it to do, such as fund schools, protect the environment, and help the poor.Also, “tax resistance” doesn’t mean squat if you’re unemployed and don’t have any income to tax.

  13. Dave Pollard says:

    Another extraordinary comment thread — thank you all for your valuable and useful contribution. Special thanks to Cyndy for the Top 25 Republican Donors list, which correlates to an astonishing degree with my Boycott List of the most socially and environmentally irresponsible companies in America. Hard to imagine anyone being able to sleep at night knowing this bunch of goons is the head of your fan club, and you owe them big time for campaign financing.

  14. Rajiv says:

    You swhouls also look at what Conceptual Guerilla has to say

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