Tuesday, September 19, 2006

misc and sundry: Ann Richards / The Activism Industry / 10 Nobel Peace Prize Winners Take Aim at US

Texas teacher and politician Ann Richards died from esophageal cancer at the age of 73 ~ September 13, 2006).

A wonderful quote from her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention ~ July 18, 1988:
"Poor George, he can't help it...He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."
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The Activism Industry
Progressive groups are outsourcing their grassroots canvassing to national organizations. What happens when paid employees replace committed activists?
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One of the largest of the progressive grassroots clearinghouses is the Fund for Public Interest Research*, which currently runs campaigns from numerous progressive groups simultaneously. In summer 2003, for example, the Fund ran campaigns for more than fifteen organizations around the United States, including the Sierra Club, the Human Rights Campaign, Save the Children, and Greenpeace. Their model of grassroots politics is very successful at recruiting members and raising funds. Sally Green Heaven, the deputy field director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), reported that their membership has grown from 200,000 to 600,000 members since the group started outsourcing to the Fund in the late 1990s. According to John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace USA: "[The Fund] helped us build our new financial base...It gave us a new base and it paid approximately 25 percent of our yearly income from monthly electronic donations, which is huge."

Canvassers at the Fund are expected to bounce from one campaign to another. In the words of HRC president Joe Solmonese, "The person who is out standing on the street corner trying to sign you up to join HRC... they honestly, like the next day, might be doing the same thing for [a different organization]." As a result of their short shelf lives and having to juggle multiple campaigns, most canvassers do not become particularly committed to the cause. (Turnover is notoriously high.)

Beyond raising money, it is unclear how effective canvassers can be at building grassroots support when they have such limited knowledge of and passion for the campaigns. One long-term canvasser I met in Portland spoke to me just before canvassing on behalf of Save the Children. When I asked him about the group, he replied: "Yeah I don't know too much...You probably know as much as I do."
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Indeed, progressive causes and progressive candidates have been losing out to conservative issues and candidates who use a very different model of organization. In contrast to the outsourced politics of the left, political groups on the right work through pre-existing civic associations formed by churches and other locally grounded networks to create lasting connections with its political base. Adopting more and more of the social conservative platform originally developed by the Christian Coalition, Republicans are able to tap into the extensive network of local groups that the Coalition developed since its creation in the late 1980s.
Read all of The Activism Industry by Dana R. Fisher ~ from The American Prospect ~ September 19, 2006

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Ten Nobel Peace Prize Winners Take Aim at US
DENVER, Colorado - Ten Nobel Peace Prize laureates called for world peace Saturday and took direct aim at the United States, asking an enthusiastic crowd of 7,000 youth to demand the U.S. pull back its military, spread its wealth and offer aid to developing countries.
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photo caption: 8 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates from around the world gathered for a picture at the University of Denver on Friday, Sept. 15, 2006 where they are participating in the PeaceJam conference that is scheduled to run through Sunday. From left back row: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Dalai Lama, Betty Williams; Front Row: Jody Williams, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Shirin Ebadi and Malread Corrigan Maguire. Missing from the picture are Oscar Arias and José Ramos Horta. Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest and was expected to speak to the group via video.
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One after the other Saturday night, the laureates thanked the crowd that rose to its feet before and after each speech, and then called on Americans to do something about their government's foreign policy. From efforts to close the border with Mexico, to Iraq, to arms exports, the Nobel laureates had words for the U.S. government.
Read all of Ten Nobel Peace Prize Winners Take Aim at US by Chase Squires ~ September 17, 2006 ~ Associated Press

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