By Ken Krayeske • 8:05 AM EST
Inside the walls of the booth - are voters ostriches when they bend over to fill out the form? Do those walls for privacy actually serve to disconnect the process of voting from the community at large?
Editor's Note: This column emerges from the archives. Published in Dead Tree Media, July 22, 2006. It never made the blogosphere. Based on the fact that this past election cost us $1.5 billion as a country, and the only thing I saw of community action was some Obama fans cleaning litter in New Haven one weekend, I think this still holds water.
Instead of reading Ned Lamont's name, think of the $600 million that Obama just spent to earn the title President-Elect. I have added some updates and changes in italics.
Additionally, I think that the election of Obama provides an opening for progressive third parties, because the Democratic Party is split between Blue Dog, pro-war Democrats and anti-war activisits. With the Republicans nearly extinct in certain places, this creates an opening worth exploring with a different type of politics as explored here. Thus, the question is:
Can the modern political party be a vehicle which transforms communities from the bottom up, instead of running from the top down?
What if the Willimantic Greens started a needle exchange program for the heroin addicts? The state won't provide needles. We have a solution to stop the spread of AIDS among heroin addicts - what if we raised funds to fix that?
What if Ned Lamont, instead of raising funds to buy airtime, decided to raise funds or give his own (like his Halliburton stock) to finance the middle school sports program in Windham? (which was recently cut when this was written). On Third Thursday, the parents, students and boosters were out selling candy to raise $30,000 to save the athletic teams cut by the Board of Education because of a budget crisis.
Nevermind the perversity of seventh graders having to sell junk food so they can participate in an activity that will teach them healthy exercise habits for the rest of their lives, but can we get a multi-millionaire to spend campaign funds on doing good in the community instead of running vanity commercials, like him singing karaoke?
The publicity he would get from doing that simple act of wealth redistribution would easily be worth the $30,000 in television ads (probably a dozen 30-second spots in prime time).
Or suppose that Fourth Congressional District Green nominee Richard Duffee used his campaign as a way of educating and organizing around complimentary currencies like Thread City Bread or Ithaca Hours?
The problems with a central Federal Reserve bank and the institutions it spawned are present, but our country needs leaders who can demonstrate the usefulness of rebuilding local economies through bartering and local scrip exchanges backed by community labor credit.
Voting is disconnected from community problem-solving. You give the candidate credit - your confidence - then you hope they act like they promise. What if you get them to act first, and then give their projects a thumbs-up?
The election season should be like a science fair, with parties showing how their programs have changed the community. I know it sounds naive, but imagine television commercials documenting real life successes, instead of ads featuring falsehoods like "My opponent is Godless." Politics can be so abstract, and this is an attempt to make it concrete.
People will know how to vote based on the successes the candidates have shown in solving issues. Voting should be the afterthought. Americans have given up their participation in the political process because no meaningful relationship exists between elections and social direction.
While Obama has excited the electorate to a significant degree, the appointment of right-wing, Blue Dog Democrat Rahm Emmanuel as his chief of staff should indicate to the world that he is same-old, same-old. In fact, when the masses who voted for him understand that his foreign policy is Bushian, the disenchantment and damage to democracy may be significant.
A politicians job should be able to articulate the message and the theory behind the community-building actions. Obama's community organizing is so far back he has little to show for it, thus elections are symbolic actions where people decide their leaders, but those leaders aren't providing the other prescriptions to social problems.
People are dying, literally (today was the hottest day in England in July ever - 97 degrees - it was 117 in the underground), to hear our message of sustainability and justice.
Thus, Greens must deliver it clearly and concisely. The public is ready for a message of universal health care and campaign finance reform. For so many issues too numerous to list here.
But are the third parties? Would you trust the Libertarians with $1.2 million? But what if instead of using it for buying tv ads, the legislature mandated that parties use it for problem-solving?
The Greens need to build themselves into an organization that could use that much money. A sudden infusion of that kind of cash just would destroy the Greens even further. Although, if we look at the October 2008 Ballot Access News chart tracking the number of Congressional candidates run nationwide, the Connecticut Greens, having run five candidates, are among the top seven Green organizations in the country.
But the CT Greens are not prepared for millions of dollars, and he had harsh words for the lawsuit, calling it the worst move he has seen come from the progressive community in Connecticut in a long time.
Political parties started as genuine organizations that existed to foster communication and solve problems within the community. People had shared values and if they didn't like what other people said, they formed new associations to deal with the problems. For example, the Populist party and the Grange movement in the midwest were the results of the farmers' rebellion against monopolistic shipping charges by the railroad industry.
During the past 50 years of corporate rule, external pressure has transformed the organizations into symbolic problem solving vehicles. Electing Ned Lamont eliminates Lieberman, but it doesn't solve anything on an immediate, local level.
And it probably won't change a hell of a lot on the ground in Hartford. Lamont is a symbol, representing an idea, the American dream. He offers no immediate, concrete solutions. His organizing is for the sake of organizing against the war, but the action of voting itself doesn't end the war.
Our challenge is to build an organization where voting is a by-product of community organizing. The modern political party must evolve into a platform for personal action that leads to individual sovereignty and independence from fascist, corporatist, mercantilist rule.
On a theoretical level, the idea to use mass transit as our tool for campaigning fits in this vein, the-become-the-change-you-want-to-see school of leadership.
So in this vein, the Green Party uses its funds to build commuting networks for people so they don't rely on cars so much. Greens help raise the funds to save the middle school soccer team. Greens help build the gardens in the urban core to help feed people and sell local produce. As we build these community services, people trust us and we get votes as a reaction to our success campaigning.
Perhaps this is a radical approach to the ideas - but one based on observation.