What happened on election day and what should happen in the days after.

A thought piece shared by the Rural Organizing Project. 
Crafted by ROP Leader Mike Edera.
What Happened on Tuesday November 2?
 A man finds a rattlesnake that has been run over on a road.  The snake is barely alive, and the man takes it home. He puts the snake in a box, gives it food and water, keeps it warm. Slowly the snake recovers. One day the man opens the box to give the snake some food and gets bit!
“How can you do this to me?” the man screams. “I took you in, and saved your life!”
“What do you expect?” the snake said. “I’m a snake!”
Since 2009, Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in the House and Senate have taken in snake after flattened snake.
The banking system was the obvious one. When the Democrats found the dying bankers, they were in the position of beggars willing to agree to anything the government proposed. They were nursed back to health while millions of regular people were destroyed by the economic collapse. Likewise for the discredited, ruinous Republican wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democrats adopted the wars as their own, continued to vote for almost a trillion dollars per year in so-called ‘defense’ related spending, despite the fact that most Americans had voted twice for an end to these miserable conflicts. In late April, the BP oil catastrophe was the third leg of collapse in the American Empire’s three legged stool – finance, militarism, energy. The administration hired out the Coast Guard, the Interior Department, and the EPA to act as PR flacks for the criminal BP oil conglomerate. Big oil was let off the hook in the same way as big banks and the military industrial complex. 

Last Tuesday, the Democrats experienced their snake- bite moment. Having found themselves at the mercy of the US people and their government, and having slipped the noose, the finance, defense, and energy industries resolved to never put themselves in that position again. They pumped the most money in history into an electoral campaign. They used the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to hide the origins of the massive contributions, but already the influence of energy, finance, and ‘defense’ industries is being tied to the Republican campaign. 

That’s pretty much the story of the 2010 elections, barring the gory, boring, and predictable details. Two commentaries from election night are worth repeating. Michael Moore put things this way: You rent your house out to a bunch of frat boys, who trash it for eight years. You throw them out and hire a contractor to fix up the damage. Two years later, nothing is really fixed. Who are you going to be pissed off at?
 Thom Hartmann had a more chilling observation. He called 2010 an experiment. The Republican strategists and their financial patrons were trying to see just what level of media noise, manipulation, distortion, and lying would work to confuse and panic the large so-called ‘independent’ and clueless voter block – the people who tend to throw a dart at the board and go with the most emotional voices.  What extreme of imbecilic, dishonest candidate will be palatable to the majority of people who bother to vote? They got their data out of this one.
What Should Happen After November 3?
The Human Dignity groups in the ROP network could make a big contribution in the next two years. Why?  Most progressive organizations are designed to participate in elections or work at the legislative centers of power. Human Dignity groups are designed to influence their neighbors in the out-of-the-way communities of rural Oregon. We do our best work in the time between elections, when the noise level is lower, and there is a greater chance to tell the stories of real people trying to cope with our new, very difficult reality. In order to be effective, here are two strategies that people in Human Dignity Groups should consider:
Do our homework.
We need to make sure that we ‘religiously’ do the basic political work of engaged citizens. Groups should make sure that each month we get together for letter writing to our local, state, and federal representatives – no matter what else is going on. We should seek to contact and get to know our local legislative staff people and build some kind of relationship with them – even an adversarial one. Every week we should get letters and opinion pieces in local press. We need to use whatever on-line social media we engage with to get out our message of community building, human rights, peace, and economic justice. And most importantly, we need to get our friends involved in our groups.
If we just do these basic, simple acts as a group, we will have a collective voice that is one hundred times more powerful than if we face the times as isolated individuals. And that’s the message we need to bring to our friends –  work together to break isolation and amplify our voices.
Tell the story of rural Oregon.
The Republicans have figured out that people are so hungry for their own stories to be heard during these tough times that some will even settle for the patently fake act of Sarah Palin playing the role of just-plain-folks.
Our own stories, and the stories of our neighbors, are far more compelling, because they are real. Over the next two years, through living room conversations, community meetings and other strategies, we can create spaces for our neighbors to share what they are going through. We can make these stories be heard by the larger progressive movement. It is out of these stories and experiences that local community is built, and also that future electoral and political victories are organized. A movement that is built on real neighbor-to-neighbor caring, is a movement that can counter the assault on our democracy by  powerful, wounded, and dangerous corporate forces .
Circulated by the Rural Organizing Project: www.rop.org, cara@rop.org, 503-543-8417
Join us on Saturday, Dec. 4th for an election debrief and program on the Right with national movement leaders:  Community and Resilience in the Face of the Right at 1pm.  Followed by ROP’s Roots & Wings Celebration that evening. Click here for more details and to RSVP now.


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