Monday, June 20, 2011

Canvassing (Part II) and Stumping

We thought we were close to being done with the canvas to get a 2nd candidate on the ballot for my district, so we could actually have democracy in my neighborhood. The election board has been incredibly helpful in keeping us informed about what they are accepting and what they aren't. Unfortunately, of the 180-ish signatures we collected, they are only accepting 111, meaning about 40% of the community we tried to include into the political process, have been disenfranchised. Granted some of those citizens should legitimately have been excluded, since they are outside of my district. But our estimate was that accounted for less than 10% of our signatures after we went back to our district map to check the addresses.

Today I started again in my area. My helpers from last week gave all they were able, and I can't believe how much help I had. The total work was about 50 hours, coming up to about 2 valid signatures per hour. Hopefully I had better luck today, since the income levels in the neighborhood I canvassed today is greater than Hovey, Ralston, Caroline and Guilford streets from last week. It's a shame when I can feel safe in assuming greater political voice of a citizen based solely on income level. Then again, data indicates this is the case, when the median net worth of a US citizen is $95k, for a US house representative it is $800k, and the median net worth of a U.S. senator is $1.7M (2008).

I don't get them often, but I occasionally run into the cautious person who won't sign because they want to "investigate who I am" first. I've been trying to decide if they really believe this line, since certainly they won't do any "investigation," or if they believe it's a polite way to say "no thanks." It's certainly any person's human right not to sign a document that grants them voting rights, and given our 35% voter turnout, that sentiment seems to be normative for our culture. I suppose I shouldn't complain since I was a voting protester for 20 years, but in this case it seems like a very different kind of decision. In my case, I consciously decided that I could foster democracy and humanitarianism in ways that did not lend support to power-politics. In the case of these folks who are refusing to sign the petition, they either like the current candidate and don't want him to have competition, or they don't want to be bothered and I suppose they are too polite to just tell me to go away. I have had several of the "get off my property"-type folks, who I have grown to respect more than these other types of citizens.

Yesterday I gave my first public "stump speech" to a small group, which won me my first political endorsement. Here is the speech that I read:

"Government and business are fundamentally different social structures. Especially in the United States where our laws and culture have developed to prioritize the individual consolidation of wealth, even when it harms the public good. This unification of culture and legislation has ramped up since the 1980s, such that both Republicans and Democrats have succumbed to the mythology of neoliberalism, that low taxes on the wealthy will allow them to invest in business, and cutting benefits for the poor will encourage them to go work. But neoliberalism ignores fundamental patterns of human behavior. First, humans derive fulfillment from work. Both Democrats and Republicans seem to assume that the poor are inherently lazy and inclined to criminal behavior, and that the wealthy are inherently inclined to invest in employment. However, 30 years of data, beginning with the 1980s, confirms that the wealthy tend to hoard wealth, and the poor will work if jobs are available. The tragedy is that the number of jobs has been plummeting, since corporations are more willing to send those jobs overseas where workers are little more than slaves and are far cheaper than U.S. workers. Similarly, corporations, rather than investing in the common good, invest primarily in projects that benefit their board and their investors, even if it means dangerous working conditions for miners or oil riggers, or dangerous products for U.S. consumers. Rather than increasing funding and transparency for public safety, neoliberals in both parties prefer to strip this function of government, assuming falsely that corporations are inherently incentivized to maximize worker, consumer and public good, when in fact, the record shows they are incentivized only to maximize profit at any cost.

What the record shows us, whether Reagan, the Bushes, Clinton, or Obama, is that government does not need to be stripped of power as such, but the government needs to be returned to a social structure that is by and for the people, one that protects public safety, worker compensation, and the re-enfranchisement of the poor. This can only occur with an educated, empowered population who have the capacity to affect public policy. Locally, both Democrats and Republicans have been voting to sell public goods to private entities, and to disenfranchise women, racial minorities, sexual minorities and the poor. Our response to this must be to empower third party candidates and remember , when voting, that the wealthy and corporations already have far more power than they need, both of which have been consistently empowered by the current two-party system, while stripping the poor and middle class of political voice."

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