The Road Ahead After 2004: Building a Broad Nonpartisan Alliance Against Bush and the Far Right
By Carl Davidson & Marilyn Katz

And that’s just the national list. In cities throughout the nation, creative groups emerged, such as New York’s Sunday In the Park Without George, or Runners Against Bush or the Swing (state) Sisters in Chicago. These involved thousands of people, many for the first time, in political action where they work, study, live and play.

How did this play out for progressives on our local level?

In Chicago, as we went into this campaign, we were initially a largely spontaneous movement that had popped up all over the place. While focused on the invasion of Iraq, we were made up of all kinds of people--people who were upset about the war, people who were upset about the Patriot Act and its threat to civil liberties, people angered by the rise in chauvinism towards immigrants, and a range of other issues. We represented a wide span of political views--leftists, progressives, liberals, even a few moderate Republicans. Some of these people formed citywide groups, while others formed groups in neighborhoods. Our citywide group, CAWI, especially encouraged the formation of these neighborhood-based groups—in the city, in the suburbs and in the surrounding counties. Along with promoting mass action in the streets, we also utilized these groups to succeed in our city council resolution work. Thus the “grassroots base community” was an important concept, and it was the way we tried to grow.

That's where we stood when we started our ‘Regime Change Begins at Home’ voter registration campaign. We began by recruiting people to become deputy registrars. Each time CAWI activists, together with the city and county officials working with us, had a session of 50 or so people to train, we would ask how many people in the room had worked in an election. Maybe two or three hands would go up. The vast majority had never worked in an election before. They had never registered voters before; they had never gone into a precinct and worked it, but they were clearly fired up and militantly enthusiastic to do so now.

So where are we at now?

In the end, CAWI alone deputized and trained nearly 1000 registrars in Chicago and the suburbs; and, working with some close allies, brought in nearly 20,000 new voters. Hundreds of CAWI members and affiliates traveled and made phone banking calls to other states – gaining valuable skills and experience. Additionally, we were able to form strong alliances with other youth, Black and Latino activists—all new relationships that could be built on in the future.

All of these people now know how to go door to door on the issues; they know how to work their precincts and identify inclinations of the voters. They have thousands of new people on their mailing lists. They also know how to get out their voters and protect their votes, and know how to build alliances with new people and other groups. They found that they couldn’t mount a credible campaign alone; they had to go out and find other people and groups in their neighborhoods they hadn’t known before and make alliances with them, not only for this election, but for other struggles as well.

So look back at where we started from and where we are now. It is a very different world, in terms of how well organized we are and the experience that we have gained. We have moved some distance from all these small anti-war circles that we initially started with, to the kinds of experience, connections, alliances and the consciousness of the battle that we have now.

The level of political consciousness is also an important factor even if it’s harder to measure. One sign, for instance, following the election, is the discussion and activity on the internet and in other media, among hundreds of thousands of people outraged about how the election was stolen, or manipulated, or whatever.

There is a lot truth to it. Some of us older, more hardened hands, when we heard people say, "The Republicans did this! The Republicans did that!" we often replied, "Yes, well, so what else is new?" But for a lot of people, for whom this was the very first election they worked in, they were shocked by the shenanigans of business-as-usual elections.

CAWI sent hundreds of people out to Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, and Iowa. It was a radicalizing experience for them because they came up against Republican goons who were out there doing this ‘depress the vote’ stuff. They met up with the GOP intimidation of young, poor and minority voters first hand, and to counter it and protect the vote, they quickly had to learn the tactics of counter-intimidation. It was quite a learning experience.

So we are now in a very interesting political space.

These changes in consciousness and organization are the fruits of the struggle. Even though we narrowly lost removing Bush from the Presidency, we still have all these fruits. More >>


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