Thursday, August 25, 2016

Is Our Revolution a Step in the Right Direction--or an Aimless Lurch Meant to Dissipate Our Energy?

House parties for Our Revolution were held throughout the country last night. My wife and I hosted one such event attended by seven people:

From left: Liz, Michael, Marnia (hostess), Karina, Amanda, Paul, Amy, & Toni.

We gathered to watch a livestream from Vermont that featured Bernie Sanders and a number of other speakers.

None of us knew what to expect, but the livestream managed to disappoint expectations nevertheless.

Most of us had already heard about the resignations within Our Revolution following the appointment of Jeff Weaver as president of the organization. Weaver's commitment to raising revenue in traditional ways for spending on traditional television advertising troubles lots of folks for various reasons. From my own perspective, it is primarily objectionable because it fails to recognize that grassroots movements in the era of corporate media can only be successful to the extent that they subvert and defy that corporate media. The last thing we need to be doing is pouring millions of our own dollars into the very machine that is stifling our agenda.

Hours before the livestream even began, Debbie Lusignan put together a video in which she asked Our Revolution and Bernie Sanders to get out of the way of those of us who seek the large-scale changes that Sanders advocated throughout his campaign. I thought her video was unjustifiably harsh before the livestream aired.

Afterward, I could only conclude that Lusignan was prescient.

Some of the comments on the livestream from YouTube viewers reflected my own frustration as I watched Sanders rehash much of his stump speech. No one watching needed to be persuaded of the fact that we Americans must transform our nation from a marketplace into a society by seeking social, economic, racial, and environmental justice. We all share a sense of urgency concerning that task, and we need to discuss the best plans for achieving that goal.

Sanders could have explained why hiring Weaver (over the objections of the thirteen leading organizers who opposed Weaver's appointment) would help to achieve that goal. Instead, he told an aw-shucks story about how he had met Weaver.

Although Sanders never stooped to pleading for support of Hillary Clinton, he pointed to the non-binding platform document of the Democratic Party as evidence of some kind of progress. He even went so far as to assert that anyone who thinks that platform will simply gather dust in the coming years is "mistaken."

Color me mistaken.

I didn't need to hear about Republican governors who are suppressing the vote. I didn't need to hear about Democratic candidates who have agreed to advocate free tuition at state institutions of higher learning.

In fact, most Sanders supporters are sick of talking about the wrong things the GOP does and the right things the DNC says.

We're ready for a drastic departure from politics-as-usual. We're ready to knock on doors and pass out fliers. We're ready to phonebank, facebank, and textbank. We're ready to sacrifice our time and energy in the name of getting the right people elected. So what we needed to see from Sanders in the livestream was a demonstration of the vetting method that Our Revolution would be using to steer us towards supporting the right candidates in our local elections.

Instead, we got . . . it's not entirely clear what we got.

But whatever we got, it wasn't very helpful. Our guests stuck around for more than an hour after the livestream to discuss the practical steps we can take to make Austin as progressive as it pretends to be. Nothing that anyone said built on the livestream in any way. When the conversation stopped (a little before 11 p.m.), it was because people needed to get to bed--not because we were finished talking. 

If we had spent more time talking to each other and less time watching the livestream, we probably could have cobbled together a concrete plan of action before dispersing.

We hope to finish our conversation via email. And in fairness, even if the livestream from Our Revolution was largely a waste of time in terms of the content it provided, the house party did at least manage to put Marnia and me in touch with some knowledgeable and energetic people here in east Austin. 

But since it also put us in touch with some reluctant Hillary supporters who continue to bash Jill Stein as an "anti-science" candidate, I want to close this blog post by linking to an article from Counterpunch concerning "media as propaganda." Peter Lavenia's purpose in the article is to refute claims that Stein is "anti-vax" and "anti-wifi," but his larger claim about the propagandizing role of media only makes it harder for me to understand why people like Sanders and Weaver and even Stein herself continue to believe that the best way to reach people with their message is to give millions of dollars to the very organizations that are working overtime to distort and discredit that message.

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