On what streets do they live?


David Crosby and Graham Nash play Occupy Wall Street on Nov. 8, 2011,. By David Shankbone (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Why doesn’t somebody do something?” has become something of a joke question in my house. It’s one of those questions we ask when exasperated over whatever daily outrage comes over the radio, TV, or Web. After hearing the question one too many times, it finally dawned on me that I was somebody. Look at the trouble that’s gotten me into.

A variant of that question is “Why don’t they do something?” That’s an even bigger joke line here, mostly because it evokes that old song from David Crosby. The now-standard rejoinder is, “Who are They? And on what streets do They live?” Maybe we can ask them.

Many people find it easier to just bay at the social media moon. There’s a lot of that going on regarding the process of the presidential primaries, and serious discussion about changing it too from organizers who might have shot at affecting change. Martin Longman believes how it works in practice is “you have to get involved.” Longman writes:

Maybe it’s my background as an organizer, but I want a system built by organizers rather than people who just write checks or show up once every two years for however long it takes them to cast a single vote.

And I don’t think this system disfavors outsiders if the outsiders are good (and early) organizers. I do think it disfavors anyone who thinks they can take over an entire power structure without winning over a substantial part of that power structure to their side, but that’s part of what organizing is all about. Without that kind of organizing, you’re relying on magic, and I don’t believe in magicians.

If our system is really profoundly broken, it’s largely because one side of it has abandoned reason and is now actively working to break it. But it’s also because, even though we will always have elites and elites will always run the government no matter who wins an election, our elites have been doing a terrible job in recent years.

It makes no sense to try to devise a system where politically disorganized and uncommitted people will run our federal government just so we can say that The Establishment has been pushed out. What we need is a better Establishment. Personally, I’ve seen advances in this respect on the left and in the media since I started blogging eleven years ago, but it’s hard to notice when the right has basically put on a suicide vest and is constantly threatening to blow the whole thing up.

You can support candidates working to build a better government at Blue America.

Longman’s experience aligns pretty closely both with my experience and my time frame. Now having a modicum of success after a dozen years. A lot of that is just showing up consistently. Best part is I stopped feeling like political roadkill even when I get run over. But to add to Longman’s observations, what kills advances more than opposition is lack of staying power.

An ultramarathoner I once knew was asked how he got into running such long distances. He said it was because he wasn’t that fast, so he just kept running longer and longer races until he found distances at which he could win. Movement conservatives learned that long before I did.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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