I see the past 12 days as a fascinating glimpse into the future. Email in this case has served almost as a form of telepathy. 10,000 people were all able to communicate to each other at the same time, "I want to go demonstrate, but I don't want to be the only one." Via email, thousands of people communicated to each other that they wanted to come. This solves the most fundamental problem of organizing: getting everyone who wants to take a step forward to all take it at the same time (because nobody wants to be the only one).
Again on 11/18 in dozens of cities and town, we registered our outrage over this unfair election. Even at rallies in smaller cities where only a handful of people showed up, local TV, radio and newspapers covered it. If it weren't for our efforts there would have been no noticeable public outcry outside of Palm Beach.
Though some cities' protests were much bigger on 11/18 than 11/11 (San Francisco, New York, Columbus, and others), most were a little smaller than last week. For a lot of us, this was disappointing because we thought that whole week of preparation was leading to something bigger than 11/11. Some of this must have had to do with a change in the mood among the general public on the issue. Maybe people are getting tired, or maybe they thought it looked like a just outcome was on the way because of Friday's ruling. Another possible explanation is that a couple of HUGE mailing lists which plugged the 11/11 rallies did not do so again for the 11/118 rallies. I'm not sure how big the effect of that was. But here is one possible indicator: countercoup.org got over 60,000 referrals from people's email boxes on 11/10, but only 6,000 on 11/17. For the sake of future actions like this one, we should all have a discussion somewhere (another group???) to analyze those nine days of online organizing leading to 11/18. We should figure out what worked, and what was great, but also try to figure out what we could have done to make it 10 times as big.
A few different ideas are floating around the message boards about what to do next. A representative, accountable steering committee is forming, and I think that it should take over this national list, and the website (counterocup.org). It doesn't make sense for one person to facilitate something that so many people are now involved in.
Many, many people have become politically active for the first time in organizing these rallies in their area. In our local message boards, we have created a structure for national grassroots action around pro-democracy issues. We have an opportunity to keep organizing and keep the pressure on for real democratic reforms on which we all agree. Ideas floating around about what's next include: a "million voter march" on Washington to abolish the electoral college, marches on state capitols to repeal the winner-take-all laws that govern electors, a movement to force the next Congress and President to pass meaningful campaign finance reform.
I see the past 12 days as a fascinating glimpse into the future. Email in this case has served almost as a form of telepathy. 10,000 people were all able to communicate to each other at the same time, "I want to go demonstrate, but I don't want to be the only one." Via email, thousands of people communicated to each other that they wanted to come. This solves the most fundamental problem of organizing: getting everyone who wants to take a step forward to all take it at the same time (because nobody wants to be the only one). For example, one of the hundreds of emails that was accidentally cced or fwded to me said: "Dear Amy, I'd want to participate if the crowd looks big. Where? When?" Millions of people felt the same way. And we were able to show 10,000 of them that the crowd WILL LOOK BIG. Thousands of emails like that one were sent around the country from friend to friend. When people got 800 emails in their box after subscribing to trustthepeople on 11/10, they saw that thousands of others wanted to protest--that they would not be alone. They all came out.
If we had been able to spread the word better--if EVERY progressive email list had thrown its weight behind the rallies--then we would have had a million people in the streets. We really would have. That many people would have wanted to protest, if only they had known that tons of other people were going to be out there. And by having that huge of a demonstration, we would have ended this whole crisis of democracy in an instant.
But let's look forward: how many people in this country want campaign finance reform (just to take one example)? Polls show the vast majority want it. How many people would be willing to take action (for example: visit their congress person's local office during a national lobbing day) IF THEY KNEW THAT MILLIONS OF OTHERS WERE DEFINITELY GOING TO DO THE SAME THING?
We're cynical in this country these days about people's willingness to take action. But I think our cynicism is a self-fulfilling expectation: we all expect that no one else would do it, so why should we. On Wednesday (11/8) morning I called a couple of big organizations and ask them if they were planning protests. They said they didn't think people were willing to do that kind of thing. But using email and a web site with a list of dozens of protest sites, we were able to prove that cynicism wrong and show people that thousands of others wanted to take action, just like they did.
Part of the reason our momentum may have started winding down after 11/11 might have been that we started getting concerned about making the demonstrations specific in some way: some wanted them to be partisan, some wanted them to be non-partisan. Some wanted to focus on the revote, some on fraud, some on the electoral college. But the one thing that hundreds of thousands of people all wanted to do was to simply protest in some public way against this violation of democracy.
If we were to organize for campaign finance reform (just to chose on possible example), maybe it would be best to pick the broadest, most uniting demand: "We want major campaign finance reform to clean up politics." That would get liberal and conservatives alike, radicals and moderates. On that lobbying day, some could push for McCain Feingold, and others could push for total pubic financing. But to have millions take part in such an action would forever change the face of American politics.
The media sits inside the television and repeats over an over, "American's are apathetic" until everyone believes it. But this new media, which is both two-way and horizontal -- the exact opposite of TV-- allows us to bypass the media and show each other that we're willing to take action, and to time it so that we all take action together.
I'm very optimistic. I was a skeptic about the internet's ability to help people organize. But it's won me over. Progressives have had the corporate media to blame for so long, but now we have a way around it. If we fail to use it to its full potential, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.
It's been a pleasure working with all of you, I've learned a lot, and from now on I'll be participating on the Boston group.
Zack -former national moderator of this list.
This is the last message I'll post to this list personally. I've asked the steering committee, which is still forming, to take the list over, as well as the countercoup.org website. They will keep volume down to two or three messages per week, which will summarize the organizing that's going on in the local groups. http://geocities.com/countercoup/lists.html