I went to the Women’s March in Washington and despite everyone’s concern about the direction the country was going in, there was a lot of humor.
Outsiders are Engaging with the Political System
People outside the political mainstream are becoming involved in issues, initiatives and even politics.
During the 2016 presidential election, I went to Charlotte, North Carolina to do some get out the vote work. Granted, I could afford to do this on my own dime, and not everyone can go to a swing state. I determined that my work had to be nonpartisan. I wanted to help folks commit to voting and also to know a little bit about the records of the candidates who were running.
Charlotte is where the toilet gender issue blew up—I was not there because of that. What’s interesting is how much weight and importance those cultural and social issues have for people. People will vote against their own best interests if they agree with a candidate on toilets, abortion, gay rights or prayer in schools, for example. I carefully avoided engaging on those issues, mostly I just wanted folks to inform themselves and vote.
Ingrid Lafleur is an art curator who founded an organization called Afrotopia, and has worked here in NY and in a number of other places. She recently ran for mayor of Detroit. She didn’t win, but the point is, all kinds of people from all walks of life are becoming engaged.
DB goes to Washington
I went to Washington in 2015 to, well, lobby on behalf of a bill in the house called Fair Play Fair Pay. Everywhere in the world musicians and rights holders are paid when their works are played on commercial radio. But not in the U.S.—Aretha Franklin got nothing for all the times “Respect” was played on the radio. The U.S. is the only country in the world, besides China, Iran and North Korea that doesn’t pay artists and rights holders for radio play. Good company!
OK, that’s very self interested and slightly off topic, but what was interesting was that the trip gave me a peek into how our government works. I visited congress and people of both parties—some who were supportive, some open to the idea and some skeptical.
Getting a bill through is often like horse trading—I’ll support this initiative if you’ll help me with mine. If we assume that each representative is looking out for their constituents interests (something that doesn’t actually seem true anymore) then fine, nonpartisan trading seems it could work. The good part is it doesn’t always fall along party lines, I met with members of both parties.
Sadly though, many of the representatives do vote on party lines follow whatever their senior party congress members do. They are afraid to vote with their hearts and minds, they wait to see what their bosses support.
This bill, like many others, has the support of the American people, but it has stalled in the present climate. Although the midterms are coming up, so there could be a shift after that... maybe time to go back to Carolina.
Seattle - Citizen University
There has been a surge in civic organizations. I was in Seattle recently and a man named Eric Liu, a former assistant to President Clinton, now does a series of events called Citizen University. I went one weekend morning; people get together every couple of weeks. Someone gives a speech regarding what is inspiring them or what is important to them, someone offers some quotations, there is group singing; everybody sings together. I think that last part could be improved a little bit, ha ha.
It’s a little like a religious service in the social function—getting us together to think, talk and commune together—it provides, but without the dogmatic aspect of many religions. Citizen University is nonpartisan as well
This is Tishaura Jones, who ran for mayor of St. Louis. She did not win, but she came close—her campaign, in the wake of Ferguson, changed the discussion. Her platform dealt with racial and economic disparities, including criminal justice reforms, increasing the minimum wage and expanding transportation and laws to protect tenants. She’s currently Treasurer.