Occupy has seemed to be in a bit of a winter hibernation. There are still encampments, meetings, decisions, protests, and so on, but it seems like there has been a relative lull in its activity level. This is fine; you can’t stay cranked all the way up to 10 all the time. A little pause to regroup, rethink and recharge is a good thing. There is a chance that the some occupations that emerge might have a very different character than the one that began to recede from public consciousness towards the end of last year, though.
Some recent developments have prompted me to refer back to my experience with the No on SB5/Issue 2 campaign in Ohio last year. For instance, there was tremendous outreach by supporters and organizers to the general population, and the umbrella group We Are Ohio went to great lengths to accommodate anyone who showed an interest in being part of the effort. Those who could only participate on a limited basis were given the opportunity. Whether it was a walk list for education or phone banking for those who couldn’t get around so easily, anyone who wanted to help was found a way to do so in whatever capacity they could. A low barrier to entry is very mass movement friendly.
The fact that SB5 centered around an issue and not a candidate made it very different from the usual election year political campaign, too. On the surface it might not have looked much different from a Vote For Me effort; the logistics of mounting it, connecting with voters, and turning out support were all probably lifted from some strategist’s playbook. But the spirit animating it was very different. It SB5 was driven by those who cared most about the issue, with elected officials generally falling in behind. As a direct democracy action it gave citizens the chance to work for an issue they cared about and, if successful, vote on the issue in the next election.
Putting together an effort like that (and winning, of course – which we did) is far more satisfying than working to elect someone who, given the labyrinth any proposal usually must travel to become enacted, will at best be able to offer the change and whip up support for it. That kind of open, issue-oriented campaign is not just a template for other direct ballot actions like tax hikes on the rich or card check for union membership (to name just two issues that have been paid extravagant lip service by politicians and somehow – darn the luck! – continue to resist being enacted anywhere). It is something activists in general could learn a lot from. Read the rest of this entry →