Against all odds, Bernie Sanders still has a chance to become president. Why do i say “against all odds”? Well, it starts with the media.
Way back in December, the Sanders staff did an analysis of the mainstream media (MSM) and found that ABC’s World News Tonight had spent 81 minutes on Trump and 20 seconds on Sanders. Other MSM outlets were similarly uninterested in the popular Jewish socialist running for the country’s top office. Even the NY Times can’t bring itself to report on this anti-establishment candidate, while it rails endlessly on the establishment ills.
Conventional wisdom would claim that Trump is saying more outrageous and newsworthy things. I would be hard pressed to disagree on the outrageous part. But someone advocating for free college tuition and expansion of the ever controversial Obamacare program to cover all US Americans with free health care is saying some pretty newsworthy stuff. Despite Sanders being remarkable, the MSM is still owned and controlled by a class which finds his radical views unacceptable.
As a political candidate for president in the US you need to have exposure. What i found canvassing for Sanders in Virginia was lots of people had not heard of him. So if you can’t get the MSM to cover you, then you need to pay for ads, but these are crazy expensive. Here is where Sanders is again running against all odds.
Sanders raised $140 million from individual contributions through the end of February. Clinton raised $160 from people over the same period. But add to this $60 million in Super PAC money for Clinton and you can see how things are harder for Sanders.
Sanders does not take money from Super PACs. [For a reality check Republicans have raised almost twice as much money as Democrats and over half for the GOP money is from Super PACs, contrasted to 15% for Democrats.]
The thing about long shots is you need to know when to double down and when to walk away. I don’t generally give money to politicians. Despite voting, i am still an anarchist and find most of the personality politics repugnant. I am giving Sanders $27, which is the average amount he has received and feels like a good number to me.
The reason you double down on the right long shot is not because you are going to win, but it is to be part of the springboard of hope. Sanders has amazing momentum. Consider helping the campaign in non-monetary ways if you can, especially if you have friends in NY or California.
After the recent set of landslide victories in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska (which were largely ignored by the MSM), it is time to double down. The odds are still against us, but the odds are always going to be against us. I am sending my $27. I hope you will too.
Generally, I am not excited about personality politics, it rubs my anarchist roots the wrong way. But I have to confess that Bernie is different. Besides having a long history of doing the right thing, he is running on a platform that is basically about re-orienting American priorities to take care of the majority of the people in the country, and especially those who are disadvantaged.
Hillary’s platform says she will do a similar thing, as do many conventional politicians. The differences is Bernie has decades of elected experience doing and trying to do exactly this.
The thing which tilted it for me, the thing which got me out of my chair and had me spend a couple of days campaigning for Sanders leading into the Virginia primary, was his position on nuclear power. It is simply a reasonable position, cutting government subsidies for nuclear development and liability insurance.
It does not take much to satisfy me on this issue. Sadly, not a single major political candidate for president has had this position in my lifetime, not Carter, not Clinton (either one) not Obama. Certainly not any of the Republican candidates for president.
Sanders on Vermont Yankee and more nuclear issues
And it is worth pointing out that this simple, reasonable position would mean the rapid phase out of nuclear power in the US and the complete abandonment of new nuclear development. Without serious subsidy and open ended liability insurance covered by tax payers, nuclear power is economically nonviable.
So after I took some Acorners to a construction job I went to the Sanders campaign office in Charlottesville on the day before the Virginia primary. I said I was at their disposal for the rest of the day and election day. When I said I would make phone calls or go door to door, they told me the face to face personal touch was more important. When I told them I lived in Louisa County, they asked me if I could go back home, because due to some delegate math that I did not quite understand, Louisa County was more important than Charlottesville County. I happily returned to Louisa.
I was given 13 regions inside Louisa County to canvas. I was told that we were only looking to talk with people who were already leaning strongly towards Bernie. This is a real “Get out the Vote” effort (called GPTV by the folks who live this stuff.) “Don’t talk with Hillary supporters, and quickly disengage from Trump fans, despite the temptation to argue with them,” I was told by the Sanders campaign staff.
Our conversations with prospective voters were to be mostly about logistics. “What time were you planning on voting?” “Do you need a ride?” “Did you know your polling place is the Moss Nuckalos Elementary School?” “You know the polls are open until 7pm?”
I wanted to spend some time doing it myself before I went back to the communes and got other people involved. Partially this was because I wanted to know if it made sense to send teams of two people. It did.
We were not hitting every house on the block. This is the age of big data and there is all kinds of information about people out there. When I talked with the folks at the Sanders office about where the data about the houses I was visiting came from I was impressed by the answer. “We have address data on everyone who has given Sanders money, we know who is registered to vote as a democrat and most of the addresses in your packets come from modeling.” Computer models are forecasting who you will vote for. They were right a surprising fraction of the time.
Because there is distance between houses and all manner of circuitous driveways, I decided that I would try to assemble two person teams to hit each canvassing areas (which typically had 25 to 30 houses in it.) One person would drive, the other person would talk to people or leave fliers if no one was home. Both would try to navigate, which despite the well designed turfs was often the most complex part of the job.
Shal and I partnered. He was happy to drive me and preferred not to be talking to lots of strangers. And he, like a half dozen other communards, was excited at the prospect of doing something for this election. Even on just a day’s notice, mobilizing folks was surprisingly easy, and I wish I had started a week earlier.
The eight canvassers covered about half the territories we were given, which was the only effort in the county. I had some interesting and insightful conversations with people. At least one couple said they were going to the polls because of my visit. Several people were secretive about their plans for voting. The nuclear power plant technician said he was unable to vote because of the planned shut down of the reactor which would have him busy all day. I suppressed my happiness with his apathy and encouraged him to pay attention to the safety of the North Anna reactor complex.
Despite the instructions to stick with logistics conversations, some folks wanted to talk about politics. Fortunately, Sanders’ views are more populist than mine. I talked with a family of vets, where Sanders’ record is strong. I spoke with folks who were worried about jobs and minimum wage, here again Sanders’ positions are popular and his record stronger than Clinton’s.
If the Sanders campaign is going to succeed, it is going to have to learn from the Trump campaign and break through the media’s disinterest in Bernie’s radical agenda. Theoretically, this should not be hard. The Sanders campaign is full of cultural creatives who should be able to come up with the progressive equivalent of ‘Mexicans are rapists,’ ‘Let’s ban all Muslims, and ‘End birthright citizenship.’
Belladonna, who occasionally writes for this blog and equally often hacks in for some of the wilder posts, has done her part. Below is her clever video parody of Lorde’s haunting tune ‘Royals,’ slamming the former secretary of state. Please share widely.
We did not win in Virginia, not even close (though Kristen points out we did win the Yanceyville precinct, which is where we campaigned). But this game is hardly over. Almost regardless of your issue, if you are a progressive or radical, it might be two decades before you get a better presidential candidate with a better record (okay, he is off on drones and Israel) and a better chance of winning.
Once upon a time, i taught a class on revolution. It was not a history class, it was a design class. What we discovered was that you could only be a revolutionary in a field that you were passionate about, thus part of the class was about focusing on what the students cared most deeply about.
Another part of the class was about looking at power relations and disassembling them where possible, including the power relationship between teachers and students. Part of what we did to rebalance the power relationship was practice having the students in the first class yell “bullshit!” at the teachers.
This was not just a one-off cutesy exercise, it was an invitation for the entirety of the class. Whenever what the teachers were doing was boring or irrelevant to a student, we asked them to yell this at us. In response we would change the trajectory of the class. Sometimes the yelling student would take over leading the class (my favorite). Sometimes the teachers would listen to their critique, offer something different and if was acceptable we would do that instead. A few times we went out and played capture the flag in downtown Charlottesville where the class was held. A couple times we ended class early.
Perhaps every fourth or fifth class someone would yell bullshit at us. We never ignored it.
Students grow up. Ruth was one of my favorites. She was upbeat and clever despite having an impossible home situation. After she graduated she became a teacher of the class for a while.
She joined a spiritual community and found herself critical of the teachings of the spiritual leader of the group. One day during the daily teachings of the master, when the students were supposed to be quietly listening, she realized that what he was saying was nonsense. She yelled “Bullshit” at the guru and left the group.
There is no greater reward to being a teacher than feeling your “lessons” were applied.
Validation Day at Twin Oaks is a mostly internal affair. Unlike some of our larger events (like Anniversary or New Years Eve) we don’t invite that many folks from outside to this event, because we prefer to know people better for this more intimate party. I think there were fewer than half a dozen non-Oakers at this event (if you also exclude the Acorners, ex-members, and the handful of East Winders who are currently helping out at Acorn.)
The important piece of this party for me was that there was such a seamless range between kids and adults. This was helped significantly by the former member kids who joined our current group of teens and early 20s, many of whom are members. An ex-member pointed out that this was the first party she had seen where the kids really felt like it was their party too, like they were not just running through Tupelo, but were on the dance floor, with adults and other youth.
There are very few really integrated inter-generational parties. Think of the last time when 7- and 70-year olds were both on the dance floor enjoying themselves. I think many people have no experience of this. We are building the better party.
Having lots of kids at the event did not dampen the energy of the adults, though I think it does make the adults somewhat more discreet about their amorous attractions. Members got their results from the 6 creatures game and many were excited to find out their (perhaps formerly secret) attractions were shared.
Another indicator that it was a positive event for the participants was that I could not get shuttles to Acorn filled. As is my way at these events, I ran around checking in with people about when they wanted to catch a ride home to Acorn. I checked at 11 PM, no one wanted to leave, I checked at midnight, another failure. At 1 AM a small car went home but it was not even full. Finally at 3 AM I was able to fill the 15 seat passenger van.
The party was not perfect. Unusually, it was held in Tupelo, which is a very large and somewhat rambling space, and the party had several focuses, which made the dance floor seem sparse for much of the night. The kissing booth was a bit too dark and too close to the dance floor, so this funological long lever was barely used.
But even with these minor design flaws, we were clearly doing something right. Participants were praising the event the next day, many having slept in from the late night of celebration.
“Will you write about this party in your blog?” an excited visitor asked me at the recent Mardi Gras party in Aurora, the building that 3 week Twin Oaks visitors stay in.
“If you tell me how Twin Oaks changed your life I might,” I replied in a cagey way, always looking for content to feed my hungry blog and my pet theory that this type of lifestyle can improve people’s situation.
Visitor Clive was clear that it had. He talked about coming to Twin Oaks with low expectations and an open mind. He did not want to assume much about this place at all. But he was pretty clear that membership was not what he wanted. His visitor period changed that. He was leaving excited about this lifestyle as an alternative to his straight job. He had things to wrap up before he returned to the commune, but his three weeks had altered the trajectory of his future, he would return again, perhaps in a year, he would apply and if accepted he thought it was quite likely he would live with us.
I was pleased and flattered and I encouraged him to look at other communities as well. The visitor period at Twin Oaks, especially if you have an engaged and thoughtful visitor group, can be quite enchanting. Clive wanted a large community and a secular one, and sadly there are few choices of this type in the US. Smart money is on Clive coming back.
Lisa told her circuitous story of being a refugee from the entertainment industry. When she came to the eventual conclusion that Hollywood was not her cup of tea, she started looking for a simpler and more wholesome way of living. She began by Googling ”Atheist Nunnery,” knowing that one probably didn’t exist, but still feeling that the phrase described the spirit of the kind of place she wanted to find. Initial searches pulled up suggestions for her to try a Buddhist nunnery, which seemed too austere to match her nature, but got her inspired to continue researching other real life communal environments. Her search lead her to communities and her intense curiosity about Twin Oaks connected her to this blog, something which always makes me smile.
Lisa will not apply for membership now. Just before her visit to Twin Oaks, she fell in love with a socialist plumber in Austin, TX and began working on a new business venture in the field of neurological rehabilitation therapy. But there is no doubt in her mind, even having research the place thoroughly before she arrived, the experience of being in community has changed her life and she will return.
I don’t know it the party deserved an A grade, but certainly the visitor period which happened in the same building gets the top grade.
It is my personal desire to tangle work and play so completely that the things which I do for fun or inspiration are the things which are my vocation. So when my lover Abigail came to visit before New Years, I asked her if she was willing to do a workshop on Bystander Intervention at Twin Oaks and at the newly formed income sharing community in Richmond, Quercus. Abigail agreed to the workshops, not knowing what she was getting herself into.
Abigail does interactive theater. This means, among other things, that she creates workshops with role plays of problematic scenarios where participants are given the opportunity to practice intervening in the scenes and experience how they work. By practicing interventions, and receiving real time feedback about what works and what doesn’t, participants get the lived experience of stepping in as a bystander, and are more likely to actually intervene the next time they are faced with a situation where someone is potentially being harmed.
Bystander intervention is the idea that it is not enough to chat about how to create healthy and safe culture. When you see someone oppressing or threatening someone else, you have to do something about it.
The problem is, unlike physics or history classes, bystander intervention almost never has one right answer. Those willing to stand up to bad behavior have to evaluate the losses and gains associated with various strategies. It is never all gains.
I learned the three general strategies for addressing situations where a bystander should intervene. These are called the “3 Ds” and were originally outlined by Dorothy Edwards, Executive Director of Green Dot:
- Direct Intervention
Direct Intervention is where you take on the oppression straight on. There are lots of different ways to do this. In one role play, a guy at a party was trying to have sex with a gal who was intoxicated. He knew she did not like him sober, but was hoping “she would be frisky when she was drunk.” Ash from Quercus intervened by asking him if it would not be better for him to look for someone who really wanted to have sex with him. A question so obvious it was completely disarming.
Some of the most powerful interventions of the workshops were shocking. In a role play where people were betting on the gender of a new barista, Jillian intervened by asking the perpetrator, “Do you have a penis in those pants? You want to show us?” The shocked perp wanted to know why she was asking. She calmly replied, “You were so interested in what was happening in the barista’s pants, that I was curious about yours.”
Hawina, in the workshop done at Twin Oaks, did the slut shamers one better. After they had spoken briefly about how terrible one woman was who had been involved in multiple romantic interactions, Hawina stepped into the role play and said, “Yeah, well, it says in the Bible that whores should be stoned to death!” When the shocked slut shamers said this might go too far, Hawina replied that they seemed to be completely on board with the belief that women who were ‘too sexual’ ought to be shamed and punished. It was another brilliant and disarming example of a comment that made the perpetrators re-evaluate their own behavior.
Perhaps appropriately, during the workshop in Richmond, I actually had to do an intervention. There was a transient person who was hanging out at Quercus who was extremely drunk. His name was Glib. It was clear from even before the workshop that Glib was in no state to be a workshop participant and would be interrupting the event if we did not discuss his involvement. He was quiet for the first few moments of the workshop and then started his non-stop talking. I asked him to step outside with me and chat. It was not an easy conversation. He was occasionally defensive, he resented being singled out and being talked to. At moments our talk got heated, but we did agree in the end that if he could respect that people were there to attend the workshop and not listen to him, then he could participate. Mostly he stayed out of the event, but for the last 20 minutes or so, he attended and was respectful of what was happening.
Distraction has many forms. Often it is fast and simple. The intoxicated gal who the creepy guy was trying to seduce was rescued by one bystander who came in and said “It is time to go,” grabbed her hand and pulled her away. This is classic distraction. The perp is left without the person they are coming on to. It interrupts the problematic behavior, but not by directly confronting it.
The advantage of this format often is that there is fairly little risk, unless the target of the abuse does not cooperate (or desire the intervention). The intervener said that she has done this before with people she does not know. The danger here is if there is some interest on the part of the target in the perpetrator, you can end up in a tug of war with the perp.
Unlike direct intervention, distraction often leaves the perp without any strong message that their behavior was problematic. There is no “educational moment.”. And here the trade off can be, “Do I get my friend out of this jam?” versus “Do I try to take care of my community which has this problematic person in it currently?” Again, there are more trade offs. Getting your friend away may be all you feel like you have energy for. If you are in a bar or other public setting, it can be quite difficult to confront the perp in any meaningful way that takes care of others. And the risk of direct confrontation goes way up when you are sticking around to discuss or negotiate with the prospective assailant.
Delegation is the final tool and perhaps the hardest one to use in these anarchist identified communities.
During the role play of the drunk person at a party, someone jumped into the action and said, “I am her brother” (referring to the intoxicated woman). This was a lie, but it still might be an effective technique. Other possible persons for delegation are hosts of the party, or friends of the guest who is a possible threat. Just because you could confront someone, does not mean you should, and there are often more effective people to confront them.
One problem with delegation is that it disempowers the prospective victim. In the role play, when this technique was used, the target person did not feel comfortable having to depend on some external man to take care of her. Contacting the police may raise similar issues. Many communities are reluctant to call the police on their own membership, especially for minor violations. (That said, none of the communities I work with take the rights of survivors away, so the survivors can always choose to bring in law enforcement if they think this is best.) Adding to the complications of this work, you may not easily find a solution which works for all parties.
Both workshops went well, despite one needing an intervention. The role plays were entertaining, informative and got at key issues both times they were offered. What we found over the 90 minutes of discussion and theater was that people got more animated and daring as the problems became more deeply examined. And daring is definitely what is needed.