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(en) US, Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA) - writing your senator -> they crumple up your message and toss it in the garbage

Date Thu, 11 Oct 2018 09:37:33 +0300


"Except in very rare and specific circumstances, the only thing writing your senator is going to do is give one of their entry-level aides a slight arm workout while they crumple up your message and toss it in the garbage; if you are very, very lucky, the letter might be passed on to a more senior aide so they can crumple it up and toss it in the garbage with more authority behind the toss. ---- There's this depressingly common belief that the big problem in American politics is one of communication, that the reason people in power make bad decisions is because they don't understand that they're bad, that the reason they never seem to give a shit about the people's will is because they just don't know what it is. Positive political change is believed to come through convincing enough people in positions of power to personally believe that certain courses of action are correct or incorrect, and the primary function of social movements is seen as communicating with power in an attempt to make them listen to the movement's argument and hopefully sway their opinions through the power of logic and reason or a strong emotional appeal or what the fuck ever. It's the idealized theme-park version of American politics, where Martin Luther King Jr. saved America by politely but firmly telling everyone that racism is bad.

The problem with this is that it's completely wrong and badly misrepresents American history. Hardly anybody has ever won any concessions from power by politely asking the people in charge to do better. Politics is not a polite debate in an idealized free market of ideas where everyone presents their arguments and the most correct argument ultimately wins out. It is not about influencing opinions on an individual level or convincing 'our leaders' of the rightness of a cause. It's about power, dammit, it's all about power, power is all that matters. The people who have power make the rules, the people who don't have it get to suck it up and deal, and the only thing that can challenge or counter power is power.

For the sake of this discussion let's define power as 'the ability to compel someone by force to do something they would not otherwise voluntarily do', which is maybe not the best definition, but whatever, sue me, this is a Facebook post, not a peer-reviewed journal. This doesn't need to be literal violence and usually isn't - your landlord doesn't literally hold a gun to your head every time the rent comes due, for example - but the principle is the same regardless. It is the ability to make a demand, present consequences for failing to accede to that demand, and follow through on those consequences if the demand is not met.

If you want to convince the people in charge in the US to make a certain decision or take a certain action, the first thing you need to do, the very first fucking thing, once you've decided what you want them to do, is determine exactly what the consequences to them will be if they don't. If the answer to that question is 'absolutely nothing', you're wasting your time and effort, and you need to focus on broadening your support base and building strength. It can be whatever - maybe you're going to inconvenience them, annoy them, frustrate them, aggravate them, fundraise for their political opponents, vote them out, primary them out, generate negative publicity for them, impact their fundraising and revenue stream, or prevent them from conducting business and carrying out their duties. Maybe you're going to support and campaign for legislation and candidates they're opposed to - or withdraw expected support for legislation and candidates they favor. Maybe you're going to egg their house or shit on their petunias, I dunno, you do you. The point is, there has to be /something/. There has to be a reason for them to do it that isn't 'it's the correct decision' or 'it's the right thing to do' or 'your constituents want it'. Carrot-and-stick only works if you have a stick to periodically hit your legislator over the head with.

Fuck decorum, civility, politeness, the 'high road', and whatever shreds of respect for the American political process you've somehow managed to hold on to - the politicians elected to govern you care nothing for any of those things almost as a rule, and will freely adopt or discard them at will depending on what is most advantageous at any given moment. By forcing yourself to abide by a set of rules your opponents do not, you are allowing them to dictate the terms of the engagement, and starting any fight at a disadvantage. Be polite and civil, absolutely, when it is beneficial to do so. Be rude, hostile, and confrontational, when it is beneficial to do so. Disrupt their dinners and their social functions. Follow them home and demonstrate outside the gates. Make your attacks deeply personal if necessary. Appall them with your temerity.

The point here, the end goal, is to close off every available option except 'do what we demand', or make the other options so unpalatable that only the most spiteful diehards will choose them. When only one viable choice is presented, the personal beliefs or opinions of the leadership become irrelevant. If they want to keep their jobs, they'll cave. Do you honestly think every person who voted to pass the Civil Rights Act was a committed anti-racist, or that every person who voted the 8-hour day into law gave a shit about poor people, or that every person who ratified the 13th Amendment really thought black people were human? No, they did it because they felt like they had to, because they had been left no other option.

If you're concerned about being 'divisive', don't be, the country was divided already, and the people complaining about 'division' are just sad that they can't ignore it anymore.

"If a white man wants to lynch me, that's his problem. If he's got the power to lynch me, that's my problem. Racism is not a question of attitude; it's a question of power." - Kwame Ture"

- Mitch
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