Politics and Social Movements

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A Review of MoveOn.org

An excellent review of what Moveon.org has been up to recently.
Part I
Part II

Classism in the Student Movement

I recently wrote up some research that I did in 2000 looking at how national student groups (USAS, YDS, SPAN, MDE) have more chapters in elite universities. I used the US and News World Report rankings for universities. For instance, USAS had 11 times more groups in the top quartile of schools than in the bottom quartile. It's just a short note - about a page long.

The most active groups (as evidenced in USAS by the inequality in the schools that had sit-ins which was greater than that of its membership), and probably the organizational leadership as well are even more stratified in terms of class.

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win (A Game): A Civilization Scenario for the US/Canadian Student Movement

This is a feasible idea that would be a lot of fun, but I don't have enough time or motivation to implement. I'd help if someone wanted to work on it.

Civilization III (Conquests version) provides a gaming platform which can be extensively modified to create realistic scenarios. You can recreate the fantasy world of Middle Earth, Star Trek, or the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Or you could create a game where different national student activist groups struggle for organizational supremacy!

I say this having been a member of one organization which challenged another organization to a mud-wrestling competition that was to be held at a big national conference.

Blogging and Internet Activism - the Patriarchy Remains In Tack

Ten years ago when I was studying computer science in college, our program was perhaps 80% men. Since then, I believe significantly more women have entered computer science and the computer field in general.

As an activist, I've learned that men hold disproportionate power in pretty much every progressive organization and probably hold a majority of the power in perhaps 80-90% of organizations that aren't explicity focussed on feminist issues. At least in the student movement, perhaps more so at the national and regional level (ex. at conferences) this gets a significant amount of attention. Not enough that things become magically ok, but at least it gets talked about.

2004 Election Anomalies

Firstly, I would argue that the election was corrupt from the start - as you cannot hold fair elections in a society with such high levels of inequality (class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc).

But since most people buy into the US electoral system - it is fascinating to observe all of its shortcomings.

CNN exit polls had Kerry winning by about 2.5% (if I recall correctly), whereas he officially lost by 3%. Here is a Research Paper on how likely that difference was to occur.

There is also another paper, more statistics-heavy in nature, that estimates that

False Political Polarization: What Happenned to Honesty on the Left?

The left has fallen for the trap. Everybody in the media is saying that the US is at an unpredecented level (in recent history) of political polarization, and we're buying in.

This polarization is especially comical because it is between two of the most similar candidates in recent history. While their temperaments differ, in terms of actual policy there is very little difference between Kerry and Bush.

The Democrats and Republicans rely upon false polarization to mobilize people to vote. They cannot afford to differ on serious issues, less they offend their corporate backers. That's how issues like Stem Cell research become more important than racism (or sexism, or heterosexism, or the environment, or...). The media buys into this polarization because it is also corporate and because it needs to create the illusion of a critical election.

Questions for Electoral Activists

If the candidate you are working/advocating/voting for wins the election now, how often will you end up opposing their policies (either ideologically or directly through campaigns)?

Do you feel that debating whether progressives should vote for Kerry, Nader, Greens, other, not voting, is distracting you from your other activist work? What effect is it having upon your relations with other progressive organizations?

How have progressives in other countries built progressive parties? What can we learn from them?

What examples can we learn from attempts to create progressive parties in the US? (eg read Democracy Unbound) And what can we learn from them?

Problems with Proportional Representation

If you want to democratize the electoral system proportional representation (PR) is a good idea, but not a perfect one. As everyone focuses on the advantages of PR, in the spirit of critical analysis I will give several reasons why it could fail to be adequate.

Poor People Vote Less
Poor people (and people of color) are less likely to register to vote, and less likely to vote. (Does anyone have statistics on this?) If representation is set so that each district has approximately the same number of people, and if the Census accurately counts poor people (not true for the US Census) then having a district with a poor majority can give them fairer representation than PR.

US Green Party is Not Running Nader

Most people do not realize that at its political convention the Green Party chose to run David Cobb for president. There are actually two progressive tickets running for office. Nader as an independent and Cobb as a Green.

The Greens choice was close. On an approximately 300 to 200 delegate vote, they went with Cobb over "none of the above" - the latter option was pushed by Nader supporters who wanted the Greens to endorse the Nader canidacy.

So progressives must decide between holding their nose and voting for Kerry, voting for Nader (who is running in all states), or voting for Camejo (who has an official strategy of only running in "safe-states" as he does not want to throw the election to Bush).

The Other Election

On June 28, Canada had a federal election and nobody in the US noticed.

The election was the closest race in over twenty years. The Liberals (a centrist party), who have been in power since 1993, were well in the lead in the polls when the called the election. The new Liberal leader, Paul Martin, wanted a mandate to govern and to hold an election before the newly formed Conservative Party (which was a merger of two rightwing parties) had its act together.

Well, just after he called the election the Liberal's support fell about 10 percent. The entire election campaign was a neck-in-neck race between the Liberals and Conservatives - both at about 33%. The (loosely social-democratic) New Democrats (NDP) were hoping to make some gains as they were polling at their highest levels (around 16%) in any national election campaign since 1988. The seperatist (and somewhat progressive) Bloc Quebecois was set to win an overwhelming majority of the seats in Quebec. And the Greens (at 3-5%) actually stood a chance at winning their first ever seat.

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