2011 was a bleak year for the left all over America. The Tea Party had gotten 60 new members of Congress elected nationally, and Citizens United was the law of the land. The power of big money was seen everywhere and liberals and leftists of all varieties were like fish flopping on a deck.
Tip O'Neill once said that all politics is local and at the local level, and Ecotopia was reeling under its own conservative juggernaut. The local 1% had a deep, profound hatred for the liberal majority on the Ecotopia County Commission. After all, this governmental body had been their playground and their property for decades. The timber beasts and real estate tycoons had put a key player who was vulnerable,and the libs got lucky.
Operating the way that only Republicans can, a conspiracy was organized. People played golf together at the country club, and they met for drinks at the Town Club. What was concocted was a plot to catch the liberal county commissioners in what could be constituted as a violation of an obscure state law. The conservative newspaper, TV, and radio boys were along for the ride. And a scandal was manufactured from almost thin air.
LIBERAL CORRUPTION! cried the newspaper. Suddenly, the TV stations began to cover the county courthouse in a way that they hadn't done in years. The sympathetic conservative moles in county government manipulated the situation, and a private "impartial" judge was retained from outside of the greater Ecotopia area to hear the case.
I read the judge's ruling and was astonished. According to his interpretation, any kind of legislative activity outside of public hearings was somehow ruled as illegal. Any political pro knows that a great deal of politicking goes on well before a public hearing meets. Surely, this idiotic decision could be appealed.
Unfortunately, the liberal commissioners were not wealthy the way their enemies were. The two defendants were in fact as poor as church mice -- unable to afford the quarter of a million that would be needed to fully appeal this cockamamie decision. People urged them to fight, but good liberals that they were -- the commissioners decided to swallow their bitter medicine. A quick settlement was made by the county government to the timber beast attorney bringing the case. And then the conservatives swept the elections in 2010 bringing very right wing commissioners into the majority for Ecotopia County.
The election was a classic case of Citizens United on a local scale. Liberal candidates were outgunned in fundraising by 8 to 1, but that's not all. This was the time of Occupy Ecotopia. Intelligence sources revealed that the conservatives were planning to billy club and tear gas the Occupy protesters. Memories of things like this fester for decades in small communities, and something needed to be done to put a lid on this.
Fortunately, earlier in the year a small group of unindicted co-conspirators began to meet monthly at a local union hall. This group was made up of highly competent, select progressives from labor, environmental, peace, and healthcare organizations. Several leftist branches of the local Democratic Party were also at the table. When someone at the table spilled the beans on the plans for Occupy bashing, the community circle reacted as if struck by lightning. Each of the groups went out to their constituents. And these groups made common cause with a wide spectrum of churches, non-profits, and relief agencies.
Large public meetings were held to strategize and finesse the situation. City officials (including the police) were not only lobbied, but they were co-opted. Decisions were made in Ecotopia City Council to publicly support the Occupiers. Major public and private housing agencies were turned around to meet the sudden awareness of the problem of the homeless in the community. After all, the homeless represented a huge portion of the Occupy demonstration. And now the city is talking about where to place a permanent homeless village.
To make a long story short, the local Occupy was one of the most successful in the entire country. But this was not the only thing that the community circle did. A ballot measure was placed up for local election that called for the repudiation of Citizens United. The Hispanic community was organized as it had never been before. There began to be closer co-operation and co-ordination between the unions, peace groups, Occupy and others. And the local Democratic Party suddenly became more organized and effective -- drawing in volunteers and activists that it hadn't seen since 2008.
Educational unions attended a community circle meeting where they were told how to field a replacement. And lo and behold, two teachers submitted their names to the city council as potential replacements.
All of this took place very quietly and without any publicity. Matter of fact, any publicity for this group would be considered detrimental -- as Republicans and the conservative powers that be would begin to strategize how to neutralize it. So perhaps for the first time in over 60 years or more, the progressive community has begun to organize -- taking the same tactics and strategies that the Repubicans have operated under for many years. Except that everyone at the meeting is too poor to be a member of either the country club or the Town Club.
Now the unindicted co-conspirators are going to increase their power. They are getting in more environmental and church groups to be represented at the table. The LGBT community will be sitting at the table in the union hall on a regular basis, as will be Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Not only that, but individual elected officials will be invited to attend the meeting on a rotating basis. The mayor will be invited to share his background information on the homeless situation. The local state legislators will be invited in during the session to advise the committee on the hot issues in the state capitol that need lobbying on a timely basis. Individual constellations of interest groups like the environmentalists will be setting up their own community circles so that the most cogent issues can have their hearing before the group.
I was very amused to see an email from Van Jones of Rebuild the American Dream. He invited people in local communities to hold a weekend brunch in a week or two to discuss local political strategies. I feel very good, knowing not only that Ecotopia is not the only city in America doing this activity.
But I get a warm feeling inside knowing that we are actually ahead of the game by a year or two. And if other communities do as we do, there will be indeed a quiet revolution in this country.
This is how we will hold the politicans' feet to the fire in Washington, DC.