Dead Trees Review Blog - April 1, 2011
Hope and change are all well and good in present-day politics, but the time has come for some old-fashioned anger in order to get things done. This book gives the details.
The author advocates that activists focus their attention on state-wide issues. Half the states allow citizen groups to put ballot initiatives on the state wide ballot. Visit your state's Secretary of the State to see if you live in one of those states. If you do, then go for it.
As an example, say that your proposed ballot initiative deals with the subject of health care. Exposing new information about your opponents, information that conflicts with their public image, shows how out of touch with public opinion they really are. Don't be afraid to confront your opponents. Eventually, they will make a mistake, even if it is just saying something dumb in public. Use that mistake to shame your opponents, and make that mistake the issue. If they don't adopt your ideas, keep forcing mistakes until they do concede. Last, but not least, don't let go.
The author, a veteran consumer activist, gives a number of other rules to consider in any campaign. Don't try to change everyone's opinion; target the little things and a few people. Even small victories are still victories. Keep your moral sentiments short, and to the point. Fight even if you can't win today, and someday you may win without fighting. Put people first; keep it human. Make it personal for decision makers. When the time comes, when your opponents make a mistake, seize the moment and have the goods. The bigger and more important an opponent is, the more afraid they are of falling. Use that fear to gain a win without combat. Some people, and some organizations, think that it is preferable to have a "seat at the table." The author asserts that it is more important to have a rock to throw through the window.
This book is full of real-life examples from the author's ballot campaigns in California. It is very highly recommended, especially if live in a ballot-friendly state. For those who don't live in such a state, it is full of ideas for any state-wide campaign, and is still well worth reading.
Read the original review.
Web Exclusive Review
The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell: How to Win Grassroots Campaigns, Pass Ballot Box Laws, and Get the Change We Voted for
Jamie Court, Chelsea Green, $14.95 trade paper (210p) ISBN 9781603582933
Americans angry about the state of their government or the fallout from the BP oil disaster might find in Court's persuasive manifesto a cause for action. As the president of Consumer Watchdog, the California-based consumer advocacy organization, Court has gone toe-to-toe with powerful politicians and corporations--and won. Without straying far from Advocacy 101, Court provides a how-to on taking a stand and making a difference. Following "10 rules of Populist Power," "Rousing Public Opinion in a New Media Age" explores the use of the Internet to rally and mobilize support. For instance, MoveOn, with over five million members, has become "one of the most successful Internet-based political groups in America." Court also outlines how to build a "Populist 2.0 Platform" using e-advocacy, blogging, social media, and other technologies. Other chapters serve as case studies for taking on energy companies (the author was once recruited into a California task force on gas prices), Wall Street, and Governor Schwarzenegger ("Taming Arnold"). With great accessibility and a fired-up attitude, Court brings his lessons in empowerment to the people. (Sept.)
Winning Progressive Blog - February 13, 2011
For this weekend’s reading list, we have an AP investigation of the lack of accountability at the CIA, a story of three young Egyptian protesters, a profile of the mayor of an old Pennsylvania steel town that is trying to struggle back to life, an analysis of how the portrayal of climate change issues in the Simpsons reflects the awareness and apathy of climate change in our society, and a recommendation for a good book on grassroots organizing. ...
The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell – A book by Jamie Court, the president of a consumer advocacy organization called Consumer Watchdog, about how to go toe-to-toe with powerful politicians and corporations–and win. Those readers wanting to join our fight to win America’s future should check out this book, which does a good job of laying out Advocacy 101 and provides a how-to on taking a stand and making a difference.
Read the original review.
By Ellen Snortland 09/30/2010
Whenever I think it can’t get any weirder in US politics and social progress, things always get weirder. Is it me? Am I over-dramatizing, or is this how some Germans felt as the Nazis began to garner popular support in the 1930s? Upton Sinclair, writer, muckraker and author of the novel “The Jungle,” which exposed the horrific conditions of the meat-packing industry, said, “When fascism comes to America, it’ll be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Sure enough, Christine O’Donnell — the winner of the Republican primary in Delaware — has her flag-and-cross street credentials. What’s a progressive to do in these upside-down, surreal times when Sarah Palin and Tea Bag Party support can get a flag-flapping, cross-carrying, Bible-thumper like O’Donnell on the national stage?
One thing we can do immediately is read Jamie Court’s latest book, The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell. (Jamie is the president of Consumer Watchdog.) The book’s subtitle is meaty: “How to Win Grassroots Campaigns, Pass Ballot Box Laws and Get the Change We Voted For,” and for good measure the subtitle has a subtitle, “a direct democracy toolkit.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I have been on the board of Consumer Watchdog since the insurance-rate rollback Proposition 103 days, when our nonprofit was called the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. Thank goodness we changed our name, because the name FTCR was the total opposite of social commentator Malcolm Gladwell’s term “sticky.” The name FTCR was so slippery I could barely remember it … and I sat on the board. “Consumer Watchdog” is not only sticky, it’s got teeth and we’ll bite you if you’re bad! Anyway, Jamie is a friend, colleague and committed activist.
Regardless of my association with the author, I would urge anyone who is serious about social change to read “Raising Hell” because we need all the help we can get to stop the Tea Bag Party from gutting the social progress we’ve considered to be in place since not only the New Deal but even from Upton Sinclair’s era: the robber baron days. It’s just mind-boggling to me how often well-meaning, patriotic people who proudly call themselves Tea Baggers can’t see or feel the big corporate puppeteers pulling their strings.
“Raising Hell” will give you not only historical perspective on the initiative or referendum process, but also empower you to see how important California is for the other 24 states (and District of Columbia) that also have initiative processes. As much of a pain in the butt all of our propositions can be — and I have occasionally cursed the process myself — it truly is one of the fastest, most direct ways to make an impact on important issues that legislators are either too timid or corrupt to tackle.
For example, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that Big Oil is going to fight tooth and nail to keep us addicted to oil and profits. (Read Alaine Lowell’s “Going Dutch” in the PW to understand why Big Oil wants to keep marijuana illegal. Hint: Hemp provides a sustainable fuel source.) Transforming an oil-based economy can’t be done by desire alone. We have to alter EVERYTHING, and Big Oil is going to make us afraid that we will suffer if we go green, as if we’re not already suffering, right?
Consumer Watchdog and Jamie Court come from the point of view that all of the Davids and Davitas together can take down the Goliaths, especially in an era of social media. That said, it’s no accident Consumer Watchdog and Court have their attention focused on Internet giants like Google and Yahoo, behemoths that are key in making communications more democratic but also have a giant potential for abuse.
Possibly one of the most important fights looming on the horizon — one that will directly impact our democracy — is the idea of dumping net neutrality for a “tiered Internet.” If you’re not familiar with these terms, if we lose net neutrality it would mean there’ll be different levels of Internet access based on pricing; the folks with the big bucks and big corporate Web sites will be able to offer faster access speeds to users, while those with less money — bloggers, activists, basically the rest of us — will be left on the side of the Internet superhighway with their messages slowed to a crawl and possibly side-tracked by having to fix digital flats and overheated engines. Then, the Web becomes another tool of the corporate elite, rather than the more level playing ground that it currently is.
One of the aspects of “Raising Hell” that is most moving to me is Court’s heart and humor. Indeed, he is a micro example of what social movements need for macro change; never give up and keep laughing and dancing until the others hear you. Consumer Watchdog has stayed as pure as it has because of my friend, Harvey Rosenfield, who is the “father” of Proposition 103 and also the friend and mentor of Jamie Court. Harvey is a mensch and his selection of board members reflects that. Harvey once said during a speech at a Consumer Watchdog Rage for Justice dinner that he wakes up every morning wondering how he can “get the bastards today.”
We can help get the bastards by reading Court’s book and helping it go viral. (Go to Robert Greenwald’s take on Jamie’s book: http://bit.ly/cLZ5RB.)
Ellen Snortland teaches writing and hell-raising in Altadena. snortland.com.
This article appeared originally in the Pasadena Weekly.
My Direct Democracy
By Jerome Armstrong
August 31, 2010
Jamie Court has a book just out called "A Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell" that is a good counter-point to the opinion raised in yesterday's post that Obama is fulfilling the populist position for the left. In the first chapter, while confronting the speaker of the California Assembly, Fabian Núñez, Court points out the fundamental problem with this assertion:
They believed in insider connections, political machinery, and the money that greased both. To them, it was just a question of which team, red or blue, would marshal its resources and get there firrst. They were the blue squad. For me, genuine change has always been born of an uncontainable populism that knew no party. Perhaps that’s why I was as frank as I was when my turn came.
... The back-and-forth turned to the governor’s plan for mandatory private health insurance purchases and Schwarzenegger’s refusal to regulate the industry to make sure that people could afford to pay the premiums. This turned out to be the very debate that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would have six months later in the heat of the primary. Obama won by opposing mandatory health insurance purchases, taking on the populist view, but later reversed himself during his first year in office. It was one of a series of betray- als on health care reform during Obama’s first year that undermined his support among his progressive base and independents.
... Barack Obama, whose campaign my colleagues and I never talked to, used our talking points, almost verbatim, to attack Clinton’s mandatory purchase plan. At the time no one in America was making the same arguments in the same way as Consumer Watchdog was. California was on the cutting edge of the debate, and some of my arguments in a Los Angeles Times op-ed about the parallel to mandatory auto insurance laws later became the basis for Obama campaign statements. Obama said, “The reason people don’t have health insurance isn’t because they don’t want it, it’s because they can’t afford it.” Obama had a platform. We had a populist message. The public had a strong opinion that turned out to be a defining difference in who became the Democratic nominee.
Barack Obama, whose campaign my colleagues and I never talked to, used our talking points, almost verbatim, to attack Clinton’s mandatory purchase plan. At the time no one in America was making the same arguments in the same way as Consumer Watchdog was. California was on the cutting edge of the debate, and some of my arguments in aLos Angeles Times op-ed about the parallel to manda- tory auto insurance laws later became the basis for Obama campaign statements. Obama said, “The reason people don’t have health insur- ance isn’t because they don’t want it, it’s because they can’t afford it.” Obama had a platform. We had a populist message. The public had a strong opinion that turned out to be a defining difference in who became the Democratic nominee.
Flash forward to January 2010, Obama’s one-year anniversary in the Oval Office. To win moderate Democratic support for health reform legislation, President Obama had months before agreed to mandatory health insurance purchases for every U.S. citizen, the very kind of “reality-based” politics he had criticized Hillary Clinton for. He also jettisoned from the legislation the so-called public option to the private health insurers, another key campaign plank. Even earlier in his presidency he had cut a deal with pharmaceutical companies not to subject them to new government bulk purchasing that would lower prescription drug costs in exchange for the industry’s support for health reform legislation. The populist campaigner had given in to every cash-rich industry in the health care reform debate so as not to incur their wrath. While he railed against the power of money in Washington on the campaign trial, he bowed to the big-money donors at pivotal moments once he occupied the Oval Office. These critical turning points not only guaranteed that health care reform, as written by Congress, would not be cost-effective, but confirmed for the watchful public that Obama was not an authentic reformer.
Quickly, the public bit back in Massachusetts on January 19, 2010, when the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy’s death suddenly turned into a referendum on Obama’s leadership. The Massachusetts electorate, which had more independents by 2010 than either Democrats or Republicans, took away the Democrats’ supposed flibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Obama Democrats stayed home, while a strong turnout of Republicans and a swing contingent of independents gave Scott Brown the edge.
Those who study politics look for such tipping points because they understand that momentum is the key force in politics. The GOP proved it could disguise itself as outsiders and retake power. The White House would have to get back in touch with the people or pay a price.
That last paragraph is key imo. I would only point earlier for the undermining that went on before this tipping point. First, back to the bank bailouts in the spring of 2009, as what undermined Obama's support among progressives, libertarians, and independents that he was real change. Second, later that year, by following through on his minimalist campaign pledge to send two additional brigades to Afghanistan, as a back-door means to send over 60,000 with his own surge of troops. And then, yes, the tipping point, where he caves to allow the betrayal of a multi-generational Democratic Party promise to deliver universal healthcare that is public, by instead making it an individual mandate to buy corporate insurance.
In the extended entry, I'll layout the formula that Court's book (available through Chelsea Green) has for making progressive change happen.
Here are the five steps necessary for any campaign to succeed at creating change.
Step 1: Expose. Exposing new information about opponents—facts that conflict with the image they put forth in public—shows how out of touch with public opinion those opponents are.
Step 2: Confront. Confronting our opponents on the battleground of our values creates a debate, an unfolding drama, over popular values through which a campaign can be won.
Step 3:Wait for the mistakes. The goal of all advocacy is to force our opponents’ mistakes, which gives us the ability to shame our opponents and force them to either do what we want or lose more power.
Step 4: Make the mistakes the issue. If your opponent is ashamed or sorry, he will adopt your proposals or negotiate in good faith. If not, repeat steps 1 to 3 to force more mistakes and gain more leverage.
Step 5: Don’t let go. Persistence often turns up the key lead, connection, or exposure that tips the campaign your way; keep your teeth in their tail until they agree to your terms.
Every successful campaign for change that I have been involved in or witnessed has boiled down to these basic steps. President Obama’s failure during his first year as president to lead a genuine populist movement for change is directly the result of his failure to follow this formula. I can count on two hands the elected officials in Washington, D.C., today who practice this art regularly. A lot of politicians’ efforts are geared toward credit and cameras, not creating the friction in the political establishments that’s necessary to catalyze change. In the near future, though, the fate of presidents, politicians, and parties will depend on whether they listen to the public when it speaks. The fate of change will depend upon how the public voices its opinion. Our opponents, as well as many of our allies, typically underestimate the great leveling force of public opinion. But change makers win by seizing upon popular opinion and forcing a confrontation with their opponents’ views from the high ground of populist values.
If President Obama had stood on the high ground of these values in his first year and confronted members of his own party who stood in the way of change, his public standing would be greater, and more progressive reform proposals would already be laws. The next gener- ation of progressive leaders, or a reborn Obama, will have to learn from such mistakes. The public will not have its thirst for change quenched until such confrontations occur.
But how does an outsider know the opportunities for real change on the inside so she can seize them? How does an outsider create a record of progress on his or her issue—an essential aspect to moving that issue forward—if insiders don’t want to listen? When and where is the best opportunity to catalyze change from the outside?
Read the original review here...