I have questions about the deeper workings of democracy, and I intend to find out.
How much of a difference can one person make? Is democracy dead? What can one achieve with citizen participation? What size group constitutes a critical mass? How does one run for office? Are local/state/national politics too overwhelmed by establishment inertia and corporate money to affect change? How do we do this? How will I be stymied as an out transwoman? I want to know how possible it is to make one’s voice heard, and especially as a marked minority.
First off, I have to make everyone angry at me. I’m an odd combination of cynic and optimist that comes from working with impoverished preschoolers. I am utterly disgusted with the corporatization of the Democrats, rapidly losing faith in the wonderful platform and political ineffectiveness of the Green Party, and desperately hoping that this moment of political awakening can make a difference. Can we? I hope so, and I intend on finding out.
Although I am an unabashed progressive, I have decided to enter the Democratic Party. My goal is not to serve them, but to nudge them to the left. If such a thing is possible. The progressives in my area are a bit jaded about working with Democrats, saying that they are a monolith of control with their own agenda. I know progressives have been blocked and stymied by the local Democratic Party in the past, and I suspect they are right. However, after some thirty years, the Green Party has failed to achieve much or grow. Under a political climate rigged against third-party participation, it seems unlikely that they will gain much direct influence in the future, regardless of how right they are on so many issues.
This leaves the Democrats. Unfortunately, triangulation has left us with a Democratic Party which is beholden to Wall Street and the ‘Third Way,’ basically taking stances that are socially liberal when convenient, but corporate-friendly all the way down. There is a not-so-quiet battle going on in the party about whether to continue sucking at the corporate teat or whether to actually respond to the economic needs of working-class and middle-class citizens, as well as being culturally progressive. I am in the latter group, and am hoping there are enough of us to finally make a difference. I’m skeptical, but I want to find out.
Over the next few months, years, etc – this is a decidedly long-term project – I plan on insinuating myself into local and state politics at deeper levels than just activism and phone calls. These will certainly continue! But I want to know what it looks like behind the scenes. I will be lobbying in the state capitol, getting active in local politics. I will sit in town committees, help others run for office, and possibly run, myself. I will try to get active in the DNC to see how policy is decided at that level.
The first thing I’ve noticed are the obstacles. It’s hard to figure out where to go to find out this information. Many people directed me to the town website to sign up for committees, for example, but when I did so, all I could find were dates, not how to join. I will be attending an energy commission meeting tonight to see if I can find out more. In a somewhat opaque system, the first question is, how do I find out where to go next? All I have is persistence, time, and a passion to make a difference. Let’s see how far that takes me.
Some of these goals, I’ve done before. I’ve done a little lobbying at the state level. I’ve gone to a town meeting or two. Now, I’m hoping to ramp it up.
Yes, I am hoping to #resist the current regime. My big goal is, and always has been, to shift the conversation to the left. In my mind, this means dragging the Democrats, kicking and screaming, if necessary, along with me. I believe the numbers show the public is ready for such a political revolution – although ‘liberal’ is a dirty word, most people in the U.S. actually support liberal causes when broken down by issue. Single-payer health care, equal rights for minorities, breaking up the big banks, real action against anthropomorphic climate disruption are all big issues supported by a majority of citizens of the U.S. Trust me, when more people support bathroom access for transsexuals than are against it, the public is ready for everything else.
Yes, I am tilting at windmills, and I make no apologies for doing so. Honestly, I can’t seem to stop myself if I tried. If there has been a losing cause, I have probably supported it and worked for it at one point or another. From divestment from South Africa, to anti-war efforts, marriage equality and transgender rights (state level both), environmental issues and union work, I have been there, championing the right as I see it.
Here’s the dirty little secret about losing causes, however: when you stick with them, they become winning causes.