July 12, 2007
Seeking Political Reform Through Solidarity
By Joel S. Hirschhorn
All over the Internet are sincere efforts to reform and improve America’s political-government system. The downside is fragmentation of the subpopulation that has escaped brainwashing, cultural distraction, and self-delusion. Strategy solidarity is missing, but is possible.
Millions of discontent, dissident and truly patriotic Americans see our federal government as corrupt and untrustworthy, disrespectful of our Constitution, under the grip of moneyed interests, subservient to corporate and globalization elites, unresponsive to the needs of ordinary people, and very much on the wrong track. But they are not united.
This subpopulation no longer believes that electing different Democrats or Republicans will turn around the nation. Many have stopped voting. Some believe violent revolution is necessary. Some think that only national economic disaster will produce necessary change. Most find hope in a particular reform strategy that has attracted their attention and respect. However, so many reform efforts reduce prospects for success.
I am talking about political-government reforms, not party reforms. Many successful websites often described as “progressive” seek changes in the Democratic Party. On the political right others hope to reform the Republican Party. Party reform is not the same as reversing the many declines in American democratic institutions. Devotees of popular sites like dailykos.com, moveon.org and huffingtonpost.com, for example, still believe that electing different Democrats is the solution, while true dissidents have given up on that. Being passionately anti-Bush/Cheney does not change their loyalty to the two-party system.
For the dissident subpopulation, fragmentation impedes building a critical mass that can precipitate a tipping point for revolutionary change that solves systemic national problems. Fragmentation results in large measure because of the ease of creating new groups with their own websites. Dissidents align with some web group (and sometimes several), hoping and perhaps praying for success, even if they admit the probability is low.
Admittedly, our monumentally negative and complex national situation will not receive some quick magic-bullet solution. And many will argue that we need multiple strategies and that many of them are complementary. Yet the fragmentation-critical mass issue must not be ignored any longer. Especially when we acknowledge the myriad, powerful forces supporting our ugly, oppressive status quo system and their demonstrated capability over many decades to beat back serious reform attempts. Success requires solidarity. If we do not take the fragmentation problem seriously, untold numbers of micro-reform groups will remain marginalized. Just what status quo forces want.
Realistically, reaching consensus will be resisted by many reform-groups that would not be selected as the priority, solidarity option. One cannot ignore the considerable egos of activists that have energetically created a web group, and that have attained supporters – though rarely in significant numbers. They sincerely believe that their strategy is the best one and having relatively few supporters does not deter them. Many are as opposed to alternative reform strategies as those in the status quo establishment, but not all. Most celebrate their long shot status with a religious zeal bordering on obsession. We need passion for a solidarity strategy.
This requires maturity and open-mindedness from entrepreneurial activists to acknowledge that some other strategy offers more promise of wide scale success. Joining together in common cause is necessary to save our nation.
Umbrella Strategy: What we can strive for is that many reform advocates can support another strategy that does not contradict or oppose their own one. In seeking a solidarity strategy, we want the capacity to serve as an umbrella movement that ultimately can assist others to succeed or at least fairly compete against each other for public support.
Unlikely Mass Action: The solidarity strategy should not be dependent on changing the behavior of enormous numbers of people. Many sincere groups believe that millions of converts will change more than their thinking or values – they will change their behavior. They trust that their information stimulus will produce their desired response. One group aims at convincing people to have only one child per couple as the planet-wide solution. Another preaches voting out incumbents. Another wants supporters for replacing our representative democracy with direct democracy – despite being antithetical to our constitutional republic framework. Such micro-movements hope that true believers will voluntarily choose to behave in the desired fashion. But how can one person confidently believe that millions of others will behave likewise? Such groups typically exist for years despite no objective evidence that their message is causing millions of people to behave similarly.
Unlikely Lawmaking: Many other groups, such as those pursuing specific electoral reforms, base success on Congress eventually passing the desired law. But if we are talking about profound reforms, passage is unlikely. Powerful moneyed interests spend whatever is necessary to preserve the status quo through lobbying and campaign funding. Getting dissidents to send letters to members of Congress, sign petitions and participate in street protests are tactics that rarely succeed against the corrupt power of money. Moreover, many of these groups pursue beneficial but narrow reforms that will not profoundly change our system. Note that I am not talking about worthy issue-specific actions that often mobilize large numbers, such as the recent success to kill the attempt to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants and as yet unsuccessful attempts to impeach Bush and Cheney, stop the Iraq war, and stop globalization.
It comes to this: Is there a solidarity strategy for achieving deep reforms? Yes. Some time ago I anguished over the decision to dedicate my time, energy and money to a movement that I had researched and concluded had the capacity to produce many major reforms. An Article V convention could be the successful solidarity strategy. The Framers of our Constitution created this option exactly because they anticipated the loss of public confidence in the federal government. That day has arrived.
This strategy is a clear constitutional right. An Article V convention, moreover, would provide a legal venue for consideration of many possible amendments. Indeed, when I examined countless reform groups, the clearer it became that many goals could be instituted through constitutional amendments – our ultimate lawmaking opportunity.
Why so many failed attempts to get an Article V convention? Powerful groups on the political left and right had opposed the convention. They wanted to retain their ability to greatly influence public policy and feared a convention that circumvented all three branches of the federal government. The great hypocrisy was that those professing to honor and love our Constitution opposed using exactly what our Constitution offers us.
I first wondered why Congress had not proposed an amendment to remove the convention option. But then I realized that Congress has chosen to conceal its opposition to a convention. But two of our greatest presidents backed it: Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I linked up with other conventionists and now we have a major web presence for Friends of the Article V Convention at www.foavc.org. We are nonpartisan and will not endorse specific amendments. We have shown the potential for wide scale success by achieving remarkable rapid growth in membership in just a few months and have begun building state chapters.
If you are a true dissident looking for major political-government reforms come with an open mind to our website. Access a wealth of information and analysis that refute any fears you may have about a convention (because of propaganda from anti-conventionists). If you have a reform group or are committed to one and can envision a constitutional amendment to reach your goal, consider affiliate membership for your group.
In solidarity there is strength. Much strength is needed to meet our common reform goal of restoring American democracy and rebuilding a trustworthy government.