Campaign countdown retrospective
Campaign Countdown started on May 1, 2012 and continued through November 6. I posted 6 days a week, except for Saturday. There are 135 posts in all. Here are a few brief reflections, with more to come.
The central conceit of a countdown -- "D - xand counting," followed by "T + x" after launch, with the Democratic National Convention as the point of ignition and lift off -- turned out to be not especially useful. I had envisioned the convention as some sort of inflection point, a la Chicago 1968, given the fealty to the banksters demonstrated by the Democrats in selecting BoA's corporate home for their site, and given the continuing presence of Occupy, for whom I thought that the NATO protests in Chicago might have acted as some sort of tune-up. As things turned out, I was wrong. I don't think it was the massive police state presence; I think that Occupy's activist core just isn't interested in electoral politics*, and who's to say they're wrong? The vacuum of Occupy's absence** could not be filled by residual vertical cause-driven splinter groups, who held marches. It's never a bad thing, on a personal level, to witness, but as a tactic of non-violent protest and persuasion, I don't think the march holds a central place any more. Marches don't make movements, movements make marches.
So what I ended up covering was three separate tracks of political activity: Two of them, Occupy and Campaign 2012, did not converge. The third track didn't converge the other two either***, but I didn't know it existed before I started doing CC!
Fracking! All across the country, there is a great wave of civic engagement on fracking (which, as one might expect [lambert blushes modestly] was foreshadowed by these posts from PA Lady back in 2010). During the course of CC, I accumulated around 134 fracking "incident reports," consolidated on this map (WARNING: Only tested on FireFox and may be slow to load the first time). At some point soon I'll write more about the impllcations of this movement, but, as the map shows, it's nationwide, and its big. It's also locally organized and driven, and so very different from the sponsored efforts from the metropolitan centers of Washington, DC and New York.
Other themes that emerged were "police state," "charters," "corruption," and "unions," along with major state- and local-level stories that blew up, like the UVa governance crisis, the Chicago teacher's strike, the Walmart strikes, and Hurricane Sandy. The themes sound a bit negative -- what's positive about "police state," after all -- but consider: I filtered my stories and curated sources very heavily, and rather conservatively. Most of the stories quoted made it through the media such that an ordinary citizen talking in a coffee shop or at the barber's would have been aware of them, and what that means is that the good guys pushed a narrative, and won!
Finally on content, there was one HUGE story that got very little coverage on the mainstream, but a ton of coverage in CC: The Carré Rouge student movement in Quebec, which toppled a government and seems to have won many of its demands (on tuition (debt)) at least. I do understand the general low grade depression and sense of learned helplessness that our sociopathic elites so carefully induce in those they rule, but I often feel that we on the left transform Gramsci's famous saying: "Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will" into "Pessimism of the intelligence, pessimism of the will" when in fact the correct saying is "Optimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will." I never imagined Tahrir Square, the indignados, the Capitol occupations, Occupy, or the Carré Rouge -- a huge movement, on our own continent!
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In terms of process, preparing CC took a ton of work; by the time I was done, I'd curated around 200 sources that I checked every night. I finished with under four hours of writing a few times, but the norm was six hours, and sometimes eight or more, especially when a major story was breaking. Doing CC was like having a real job (and my life isn't really structured around having a job anymore). Then too I have been spending another four or more hours a day building the new site... All in all, I didn't have time to do much more, and that includes the regular posting that people have rightly come to expect of me. (I'm very grateful that others have stepped up and it's a good thing that my voice is not the only voice.) Basically, the whole rhythm of my life ended up being dominated by CC, with knock-on effects on my sleep cycle (bad), my personal space (now a hideous man cave) and my weight (I need to lose the twenty pounds I gained).
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Nevertheless, I'm very glad I did it. I fought my way through to a new style of writing -- much more data driven -- that I'd like to do more of, and learned a tremendous amount about the sheer scale and variety of political activity on our continent. It is incredibly variegated and dynamic.
So, again, optimism!
NOTE * Or representative democracy, but that is another discussion.
NOTE ** Not trashing the efforts of local Occupiers at all, or the Occupations that traveled across the country to the conventions. It's all good! Nevertheless, the effort as a whole never had the same intensity or scale as Zucotti Park, and that's what it would have taken to through the conventions off course; to abort the launch, or impact the lift-off, as it were.
NOTE *** Even though fracking is a big issue in both CO and OH, major swing states, with activism in WI and PA, near swing states, the issue received no attention from either legacy party or presidential candidates, who were agreed in supporting it.