Archive - Jul 2006
(Cross-posted at Greater Democracy.)
Today, rumors of new polls spread claiming that Ned Lamont is pulling ahead in the Democratic Primary in Connecticut. Nancy Skinner blogged about how Dick Cheney has come in to raise money for her opponent at a $1,000 a plate fundraiser and she has lost her voice dialing for dollars.
Last week, I was at DemocracyFest in San Diego, and had some great discussions with Christine Cegelis about the lessons learned from her campaigns. The key message is that we will not bring about change by doing the same thing that the incumbents have been doing for the past couple decades.
We must stop focusing on raising lots of money to do big media buys. Yes, it is important to be on the air, but that isn’t what makes democracy strong, or will help bring about a change in the balance of power. We must use emerging technologies to help bring us back to the retail politics that made democracy strong in our country.
First, let’s think about the importance of volunteers. I don’t know how many hours a typical volunteer puts in on a campaign, but Christine spoke of volunteers that would put in twenty hours a week for a couple months leading up to the election. Let’s say that you needed to pay these people to do the work they are doing, and you paid $10/hour. A thousand volunteers, doing a hundred hours of work at ten dollars an hour is the equivalent of a million dollars. We should be focusing more on this sort of ‘fundraising’. It helps rebuild democracy.
At the Lamont campaign, their advertisements have been viewed on YouTube alone more than 150,000 times and volunteers are out making their own advertisements. We’re not talking about an advertisement that is shown on broadcast television that people with Tivo’s skip over. We’re talking about advertisements that people go out of their way to watch. Meanwhile, Nielsen is reporting new record lows for the least-watched week in the history of their ratings of broadcast networks.
Back to Nancy Skinner’s campaign, I hope she gets her voice back soon. I hope she raises the money she needs. But, even more so, I hope that she raises an army of volunteers that will spread her message effectively around her district and online.
For my birthday, Kim gave me a copy of the “essays of e. b. white”. They are providing a useful framework for me to gather my thoughts as the long hours of the plane trip home from DemocracyFest drag on. The other day, a local journalist back in Connecticut complained about the self-indulgence of bloggers. It seems as if certain bloggers are asking questions that put the journalist’s favorite candidate in a negative light. He seems to overlook that it is supposed to be the role of journalists to ask questions and apparently the role of bloggers to express opinions.
Yet e. b. white’s foreward has another way at looking at the self-indulgence of bloggers. I often tell wanna-be great bloggers that a good starting place is the writing of e. b. white. In his forward, he writes, “The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest.” We need more self-liberated, self-absorbed, and self-indulgent writers, whether they are writing blogs, essays, or even op-ed columns. Too few people seem to think for themselves today and a little celebration and encouragement of individual thinking might go along way to address some of the issues with our current media consumption.
Yesterday, after long sessions of talking about the political issues of the day, I went to the beach with Christine Cegelis and the treasurer from her latest campaign. A local had suggested going to Torrey Pines beach, a little further drive from downtown San Diego than other beaches, but worth it. Christine and I bobbed in the surf while Judy sat on the beach and watch a baby discover the ocean. We talked about life; jobs, family, swimming in the ocean as kids. I am tempted to say we didn’t talk about politics, since we didn’t spend much time talking about campaigns or advocacy, but we did talk about politics, because politics ultimately boils down to how we live our lives and what we are doing to make other people’s lives better.
After the trip to the beach, we headed into the Gaslight District, where we met others from DemocracyFest for dinner and drinks. The trip from the beach to downtown was quite a transition; from the natural beauty of the waves, the sand, the cactuses and flowers on the trail up the cliff to where we had parked, to the overwhelming glow of corporate logos cluttering the sides of highways named after companies.
It was a raucous evening, again, only touching on politics that way Christine, Judy and I had talked politics at the beach. Afterwards, some of us gathered by the pool at the university to say our goodbyes.
In the morning, Christine and Judy gave me a ride to the airport. On the way, we stopped at the mission church of San Diego. It was striking to walk quietly and reverently in a sacred space and reflect on the lives of others who had sought to bring some sort of truth, love, and peacefulness to other people’s lives.
Now, I am thirty-nine thousand feet above our country. I still have a few hours to go before I get home. I look out the window at a line across the land. Ahead of us, the land has turned blue from the shadows of the evening. Behind me, the land has a reddish tint where the last of the sunlight still falls. Looking at things from thirty nine thousand feet, you don’t see the overwhelming corporate logos, nor the struggles of people trying to get by. It is like the snow that White describes in “Homecoming” quickly erasing the worst mistakes of man.
After we had stopped at the mission, we talked a little bit about idealism. Christine spoke about how perhaps all the idealism of the sixties and seventies didn’t really amount to much in the end. I suggested that the cynicism of our present day may be accounting to even less, and if I am going to err on the side of idealism or cynicism, perhaps idealism is the better way to go.
So, I look out the window of the plane, I long to get home, and maybe, just maybe, it will be clouds illusions I’ll recall.