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The Tea is in the Harbor

My recent book, “The Tea is in the Harbor: How the Democrats Can Restore Democracy in America,” discusses the fight for Democracy in America, the role of the Howard Dean Presidential Campaign, and how we can restore the role of citizens in the Democratic Party. Young people have an important role in this movement. Democrats must begin to fight in all 50 states, and discuss their moral values, and the deep conviction from which they make important decisions. We must restore a democracy that the people believe in. Like the first American Patriots did in 1773, we need to throw the tea into the harbor once again.

This summer I am working at Democracy for America Headquarters in Burlington, VT as the student organizer. I am building our new youth movement, Generation DFA. Generation DFA (www.generationdfa.com) is already on 75 campuses around the country and we have more than 110 student leaders on the ground. Generation DFA will work to recruit and train a new generation of progressives to be activists, campaign staffers, and even candidates.

We will engage in community service through DFA Campus Corps. 80 percent of college freshman have done community service in high school, which is the largest community service oriented generation ever! However, only 5 percent of those people have ever knocked on a door to help a political candidate, and only 1 percent has ever given to a political candidate. We have got to bridge the gap between community service and politics. If we can do that, we will build a new generation of progressives that don’t just vote with us now, but always will.

Generation DFA will also work to activate young people in supporting socially progressive and fiscally responsible candidates, and work with other like minded progressive student organizations to accomplish our goals.

I will be live blogging from 8-9 p.m. Feel free to leave a question about my book, Generation DFA, youth in politics, or anything you want in the comments and I will be sure to answer it. Thanks!

Posted by Scott Goldstein on June 27, 2005 at 07:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

How to Balance Activism with Your Life

I wasn't the only one at DemocracyFest waiting to hear what the secret was to Balancing Activism with the Rest of Your Life.  The workshop was packed with people anxiously awaiting the secret to getting their lives back or at least feeling like they had a life.  So we were pretty startled by the panelists, Robin Rather and Catherine Robb, when they announced that they probably weren't really qualified to tell us how to do it.  They admitted they weren't able to sit down together to discuss the workshop until 2:30 PM the day before.

Thank goodness their wonderful sense of humor and Robin's ability to moderate pulled us through the workshop anyways; but all weekend I kept wondering if they couldn't tell me how to get balance in my life who could. 

The good news is I stumbled into a great resource today.  The first step in any project is having good resources.  Let's not fool ourselves, it's a huge project to derail an activist long enough to break some habits and give them a life again.

One thing we need is to accept the fact that you cannot change the world by yourself.  That is obvious to most people; but I'm sensing that I'm not alone in the blame/guilt game amongst activists.  For instance, when a bill has passed that you didn't devote time to actively protesting, do you blame yourself?  When your Representative asks you to help on an event and you have to say no because you'll be attending another event that you organized, do you feel guilty?

If that sounds like you, then you're in good company.  This is why our progressive community needs to be there for each other, and let us know that it's ok to take a break.

Al of MViMV calls me a Border Collie (think he means workaholic) and worries that I'll burn myself out; he reminds me to take time for myself.  My husband says the same thing and gets a look from me that says "you just don't understand, I can't stop."  When you hear it from another activist, it seems to carry the weight that says "it's ok, go recharge."  Al's message is not one that you often hear amongst activists; we're always trying to recruit each other to help on yet another needy campaign.

Ok, enough from me.  If this topic is of true import to you, you don't have time to be reading this.  Here is the place I suggest we all start.

Start your own support group.  I don't want to hear the whining.  We're going to need checks in place if we want to keep that balance; afterall the founding fathers recognized a system needs checks and balances to succeed (*smile*).

I'm looking for people to be in my support group.  I need folks willing to check in and see that I am following my own advice.  I'm willing to do the same for you, so let me know.

Here's the resource that I hooked you in with at the beginning:

Good luck everyone!

Posted by Charlene Johnston on June 23, 2005 at 05:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Stone-Age Baptists that hate America

Last night I was at the bar and one of our Pro-life Republican friends I argue with all the time (but he is a good guy, former Marine) was talking about how this church in Kansas is celebrating Americans getting killed.  These same folks celebrated the Tsunami - as it was god killing Swedes - as well as gays getting killed, etc.

Here is where God talk creates a problem for many of us.  If a minister says "God said this...", then his flock often believes just that - as the minister speaks to god, right?  Don't even question this - as you should never question "god", right?  OK, so these folks in Kansas have gained traction with their Gay hating literature, and the Republican Party has catered to such extremists, while taking the "Born Rich" tax-cut Monarchists under their wing, and adding the War Mongering defense lobbyists.  It has worked so far, but now normal Republicans are seeing how this hard push to the Right has allowed these fringe groups to take control.  They are starting to see that hate begets hate.  That there is no end to where these people will stop - they are now attacking other Christians (they have attacked other religions for a long time), attacking our troops, innocent victims of disaster, celebrated Matthew Sheperd's murder, and are now working to devour their young.

But wait - you think you are safe in your home town from these Bible-Thumping Stone-Age Baptists?  Think again,  They are multiplying, finding common cause with other hate-mongering folks throughout the country.  The same ideas that brought us the Salem Witch Trials, World War 2, the conflict in Yugoslavia, Rwanda...and many other things that have brought darness upon our planet - are now festering in this country again - thanks to the latest hard push to the right.  History has shown that hard religious fundamentalism breeds ignorance, hatred, disease, war and false prosecution among other things.  America does not need a push back to the Dark ages of intolerence, but rather to proceed cautiously into the future with respect for one another - and an appreciation for the happiness of other that live in our towns, counties, states, country and world.  Cooperation, trust, hope, trust, (but verify) love and tolerance - these are the things I love about our world - not the hate monger, exclusion, unilateralism, fear and intolerance that seem to be so dominant in the world today.  We need to place ourself on that track - and create a more civil society - the type that norishes Democracy and openess, not quashes it under secrecy and suppression.

Keep your eyes open...as the mainstream Republicans should soon start flocking away from the extremists, as these folks will keep pushing to the Right, until they have a fascist, Christian country that has no tolerance of anyone else - though that will never happen, as the mainstream Republicans are starting to figure out there are some serious issues with the current folks in power - and that they do not like what they are seeing.  These are not just poll figures...these are things I see from talking with good Republicans - the folks that really do care about the country, but have been miss-lead to believe those now in power - have been led astray by their fear and hate-mongering ways...

Posted by Jessica Falker on June 23, 2005 at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Chimps at the pub

Last night had me at the Pub with Right Wingers off to my right…about 5 of them.  It appears the talk shows have all their chimps bleating out Dean every time they can now, in their attempt to make him into some type of extremist – and mock him.  This is what they did…but one of them also made a gay joke about Barney Frank right before he walked off to the bathroom. 

He came back with a did I get you upset…blah, blah…  I told him no, I’m not upset, as I have learned that a sense of humor is the best thing anyway.  The bottom line is that this is a place I always go…and I didn’t exactly need a fight here.  What is really good – is that I talked to him a bit – he apologized about the Frank comments…said he thought he was a good guy, etc.  His goal was to get me all upset and ranting…but I decided that a cool collected resolve was best for the situation…and a smile back.  This seemed to get me more respect than the ranting/biting back would have.  I guess the bottom line is I knew my chain was being yanked…and the best way to react when your chain is being yanked is to hold yourself above the fray and smile as if you don’t even feel it…  BTW, how did they know I was not on their side?  One of them started with a Democrats rant, so I gave them a “now watch out here boys…this is not a Republican only zone”.  The moral of the story is to hold your ground – and make sure they know their opinion is not the only one in the room.  I think they will speak a bit softer when they realize opinions vary…and that we are not all talk show chimps…  In addition, they tend to know when they are wrong - and apologize when we don't take the bait - or they just end up looking like a pile of elephant dung...  I have a similar bar story from Saturday Night - with a chimp that Charlie Grepski also had words with...but am saving it for later...

Posted by Jessica Falker on June 21, 2005 at 10:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Home from Democracyfest

Well, all good things must come to an end.  Sunday AM was a quest for coffee AND transportation from the hotel to the campus, but it all paid off.  A fellow activist gave myself and another activist a ride in...and one of the awesome GFA volunteers took me to an awesome coffee shop...with the high caffeine content I was desperately craving.  In addition, the coffee was so good, that I only needed a little cream.  I couldn't bring myslef to add any suger to it, as there was no bitterness at all.  I should have bought ten pounds of the coffee while I was there, but my lack of stimulation didn't allow me to even think about this...  BTW, next year, we HAVE to make sure there is more coffee at DF2006 - preferrably good stuff. 

This may seem to be a minor detail to some, but to us coffee addict activists, this is a major issue.  Just one of the little issues that are easily missed with an event of this scale.

I did not attend any of yesterday's sessions, as I had a flight out and wanted to attempt to have a good lunch - something that was not a taco or BBQ. 

Charlene picked out a restaurant with a non-BBQ/non-Mexican sounding name - and a group of us headed over there - DeAnn, Alta Price and a few other folks.  As soon as we left, Pam from Grassroots, DeAnn's partner, called about some materials that were in the truck, so we doubled back - so everyone else went there first...and yes, it was, of course, a Mexican restaurant!  We gave a brief consideration to being evli folks, and abandoning everyone - but decided to do the right thing and eat Mexican again... 

We had a good discussion on standing up to "Talk Show Monkeys" in public places and discussion issues in a civil fashion.  "Standing up as an activist" and discussion politics in a "civil manner" would probably be good forums for next year.  We nee to make sure we do not cede he debate to others due to intimidation of timidity.  I will write more about my thoughts on this later, but I have already had my walk on the beach with Sobe - and am now off to work... 


Posted by Jessica Falker on June 20, 2005 at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Democracyfest Day 3

I am flying out today - which will cause me to miss most of today's events.  Yesterday had some great events.  I sw Molly Ivan' speak up close, as well as Jim Hightower and a few other Texas veterans in "Veterans of Texas Politics".  Jim and Molly both spoke again later.  Classes were genearally pretty good yesterday - but I also spent some time talking to a number of candidates and activists from around the country to see what made them run for ofice, what they truly believed, etc.  It seems most of us have the same internal drive - and very similar beliefs as to what is good/bad as well as right/wrong.

At night, here was an event a Stubbs, with HowardDean, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Moll Ivans/Jim Hightower again.  Much of what Molly said was what she had said earlier - which was a let down for me. Howard was great - though he had had a long day which I could hear in his voice.  He still has "it" - he still believes, and he still has the strenght and conviction he had last year.  We all need to stand by him and help him as much as we can.  It is now "our party", but we need to support this... 


Speaking of supporting Howard, Jesse Jackson, Jr. was awesome.  He came onto stage with his white t-shirt, jeans and a belt buckle - looking more like "blade" than a politician.  He gave it to us straight - "I was the first congressional representative" to support Howard - and I will be the last if it comes to it.  He talked about the war, how the Republicans are trying to divide us - and how we need to rememer those that are not supporting Howard strongly - and bring them around.  I caught up with him after the speach and asked him if he was interested in submitting a proposal for Democracyfest 2006.  He was excited about the idea, so his folks took my information down and indicated they would contact me... 

While Jesse had been on stage, he had been handed a "backbone award" by Bill Moyer of the backbone campaign.  For whatever reason - Bill had not been able to get access to give Jesse the award - whch he has been trying to get to him for some time.  Afterwards, when I saw Jesse offstage, he was laughing about it - surprised...and excited.  He had never heard of the ward, and mentioned he had a few people he wanted to give one to...  I asked him if he knew about the award and that it came from a group in Washington State and he asked if I was part of this group.  I indicated I was not, but could probably find the person that was...and he asked me to do that.  At any rate, I left, found Bill Moyer and brought him back.  Bill was very excited - really thrilled.  He told me I had made his day - which was good, as he made mine as well...in fact, the whole week.  To me, this is what DF is all about, activists getting together, meeting others, and seeing the people that inspire them.  I was happy I could get someone like Bill - who has worked hard on his awards campaign - to see Jesse - as it was just the right thing to do - and the funny thing is how excited Jesse Jackson, Jr. was about it all.  This is  a man that is a real original.  He says what he believes, pulls no punches - and obviously loves life and this this country.  It was all over his face when he was talking to Bill - as well as when we were talking about DF 2006. 

We will see what comes out of it all.  I have to catch a plane in a bit, so it is off to breakfast - a quick stop to say bye to all - then back to Ipswich and home again...

Posted by Jessica Falker on June 19, 2005 at 11:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Democracyfest Day 2

Woke up, Met Liane, Charlene and Jess in the hotel lobby, talked a bit with Rich Kohler and then headed over to the campaus.  We setup our stand, sold a few t-shirts and then went off to a few forums.

9AM–10 AM

A fun slide show on what the group is – and what their ideas are for creating small groups and working together on select goals.

Idea is that small groups are more flexible, have tighter bonds – and can often be much more effective than larger organizations.

Three phases –

Formation – Creating of group based on being Connected, Conscious and Committed.

Action – Take decisive action on the item.

Reflection - See if goals are being met, if real progress is being made – and determine ways to make things better.

Class was good, but I decided to go over to "Balancing Activism with your Life".  This was a very good forum that had many different ways to balance your life.  The key seemed to be paying having a criteria for which issues/groups to get involved with.  Learn to say "no" in a nice way, limit the number of items you take on and have more of a life than politics.  A great group of folks in the audience as well as great hosts in Robin Rather and Catherine Brown.

More on DF2005 later if I get the chance...  ;-)

Attended Civic Action Network Forum

Posted by Jessica Falker on June 18, 2005 at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

DemocracyFest 2005 - Day 1

Greetings from Austin We are all gathered here for Democracyfest 2005. Over 900 people bought tickets to DF2005 - with over 2000 people buying tickets to the speaking engagement at Stubbs. Over 500 people are here from out of state. Many activists are here - including folks from DFA, Latinos for America, Grassroots for America, and a number of politicians and candidtes. It IS hot her - and is not a "dry" heat - maybe a wet dry, but not a dry, dry. ;-) At any rate, the sessions I have been in so far have been useful - especially the blogging section. There are many familiar faces. Tonight we gathered at Threadgills for some entertainment an beer. Fran from DFT (the hosting organization this year) - spoke for a bit, I had a chance to welcome everyone on behalf of MViMV - then Tom Hughes went on stage. After that, a long wait for fried pickels, chicken fried steak, good burgers, wings, banana pudding and cherry cobbler - an lots of talking. A good night - and I am looking forward to tomorrow. Until then...goodnight.

Posted by Jessica Falker on June 18, 2005 at 01:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)