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.
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.