Thoughts on yesterday's American Dream meeting

Like tens of thousands of other people across the country, I attended an American Dream meeting this weekend.   The meetings were organized by MoveOn.org and supported by dozens of other liberal advocacy groups as well, as you can see by viewing the icons of advocacy groups at the bottom of this MoveOn page.  If the Democratic Party did its job, we would not need all those advocacy groups.

I’ve been active in local politics for several years and I was happy to see lots of new faces.  About 25 people showed up. One thing I noticed was that almost everyone was new. Other than the host for the event, everyone was a new face, I think.  What happened to all the regulars?  Burnt out perhaps.

Everyone who showed up seemed deeply concerned about what is happening to the country. A few people seemed particularly smart and focussed. The average age was probably in the 60s.

The meeting agenda asked us to bring an object that had special meaning for us, introduce ourselves, tell personal stories,and then vote on the top three issues that concerned us. Examples of issues included overturning Citizens United, reversing the Bush tax cuts, establishing Medicare for all, supporting public workers, stopping the offshoring of jobs and profits, closing the revolving door for lobbyists, public financing of campaigns, supporting public education, supporting women’s rights, raising the Social Security contribution limit from $106,000. etc, etc, etc.  We broke into two groups and spent over an hour reading through the lists, discussing them, and voting.   This exercise had some value, I suppose, but people thought: we need to work on all these issues and all these issues are inter-related.  What’s the point of these votes?

Two issues that seemed not to be directly included on the list were (1) securing the integrity and transparency of elections, and (2) strengthening progressive media.  After some discussion, my group agreed to ask/petition MoveOn to include election integrity in its list of important issues.

During my self-introduction I said  that if angry progressives kicked out centrists and took over the Democratic Party the way Christian conservatives and Tea Partiers took over the GOP, then the Democratic Party would be more progressive.

American Dream House  Meeting

The meeting was useful as an introduction for new people, but I think almost everyone there was already pretty informed and pretty damn angry.  So, I think the meeting would have been a lot more productive if there had been a concrete action plan for participants to follow.  I didn’t come away with the feeling that anything much was accomplished. At work, every meeting has a clearly specified purpose. Nothing is more disheartening than a useless meeting.

Telling personal stories and bringing a meaningful object strike me as rather childish. Perhaps that’s overly judgmental.

Early in the meeting, one outspoken and eloquent woman said, “Let’s meet and discuss how to oppose the Tea Party.” That sounds like it could have been damn useful.  Some other guy mentioned that he’d attended the transit hearing in Kirkland the other week and that he was disturbed to hear angry, organized anti-tax people, including Tim Eyman. Why can’t progressives be powerful like that?  That’s the same point I made here, in my review of the Kirkland meeting.

MoveOn and the other organizers are planning additional American Dream meetings in the future.  Let’s hope that turnout continues to be high and that the agendas include work on  concrete action plans that participants can follow.

People are angry. How can the Left constructively mobilize that anger?

The organizer for my meeting, Jennie Petersen, allowed everyone to stay late.  The meeting included a pot luck, and the food sure was good!  Someone mentioned that right wingers often socialize through their church groups.  I said that for liberals, maybe politics is our way to socialize. So I guess it’s important to keep it fun.

The spokesman for the American Dream movement is Van Jones, the Obama  environmental adviser who was forced out by right wing distortions (and by Obama Administration spinelessness).  When I did a google search on “‘American Dream’ Jones”, the first relevant hit — the very first hit was irrelevant: a music album by Mike Jones — was a right winger’s attack piece on Van Jones and the American Dream movement.    Search engine optimization is important.  Messaging and building a left wing media are important.

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts on yesterday's American Dream meeting”

  1. Thanks for your review Don. I have a hard time attending these types of meetings for the very reasons you have mentioned. They just seem like instant replays of so many meetings in the past. Everyone has something to say about what is wrong. Everyone has ideas on how to fix things. Everyone goes home and the next meeting is an instant replay of the previous meeting. I end up frustrated more than I was before attending the meeting.
    I do agree with the premise that progressive groups should ban together and concentrate on a few agreed upon issues. But given they are generally without corporate funding, have much less mainstream media exposure and do not agree on many issues, it is going to be a hard slog. With I had answers. I am not giving up, just not wasting my time on endless meetings that seem to accomplish little. I would rather be on the street waving a sign while brainwashed people flip me off.

  2. I’d like to suggest as a concrete organizing plan, that somebody explain who are our choices in the early primary season, that we need to become familiar with. Politics is not about us. It’s about the candidates. Personally I want to figure out who are the pro war candidates who think they need to support Boeing and the bases, as do Cantwell and Murray. That is the cause of all these perpetual wars.

  3. And if all the people are new faces, where are all the people who set the table for the democratic caucuses last time? Be afraid. They’re still out there.

  4. Don,
    I think we should be aware that the ‘American Dream’ is an offensive idea to those people in other parts of the world who have been paying for it with their resources and their labor.
    I agree on the complete ineffectiveness of the ‘warm fuzzy’ American Dream story, telling scenario of Move On.
    Having listened to and talked to policiy makers in the organization (mostly 20 somethings) I have found them to be convinced that ‘this is a powerful tool. It’s a ridiculous idea in the face of the ruthless, overwhemingly powerful special interests who have co-opted our government and institutions.
    Move On are adrift and right now have no capacity for leadership.
    Even Ghandi whose strategy was forcing the British to violate their own moral codes did a great deal more.
    Our oppressors have even less concern about moral guidelines than the British Colonial Government in Inida.
    Amy Goodman’s interview with Julian Assange and Slavoj Zizek is the first thing I’ve seen in a long time that begins to outline how social change might happen and what needs to occur to bring that about. It’s well worth the hours it takes to watch and decipher (more than once).
    http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2011/7/5/watch_full_video_of_wikileaks_julian_assange_philosopher_slavoj_iek_with_amy_goodman

  5. An Alternative to Capitalism (which we need here in the USA)

    Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: “There is no alternative”. She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

    I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: “Home of the Brave?” which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

    http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/steinsvold.htm

    John Steinsvold

    Perhaps in time the so-called dark ages will be thought of as including our own.
    –Georg C. Lichtenberg

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