The day after Howie Hawkins lost his bid to become the 4th District representative on the city’s Common Council, his 15th unsuccessful run for political office, he got arrested at a direct action protest in favor of a single-payer health insurance system.
All I can say is, “Welcome home to direct action protest, brother!”
During the past month I have been involved in helping to organize a large national protest against the American Banker’s Association, while simultaneously volunteering for the Stephanie Miner campaign for Mayor of Syracuse. My contributions to each function were relatively small, but each gave me a glimpse at how activists and politicians view the social change biz. I realize that I belong with the activists.
Since I’ve become an organizer I’ve shied away from involvement in political campaigns–mainly because my free time is limited what with the odd hours and evening meetings that organizing requires. As much as I wanted (and needed) Barack Obama to win last November, my contributions to that campaign were limited to a lawn sign, signing up for the website and casting my vote.
I got involved with the Miner campaign for selfish reasons–I know her and I know that she understands the housing, crime and development issues that I confront in my work life as an organizer. If Stephanie won this election, my job would perhaps become easier–Syracuse would have a mayor that is on our side. So I signed up as a volunteer–nothing fancy, making phone calls every week and being a phone bank captain on election day. But, I was on board.
I’m very happy that Stephanie won and I am hopeful that our city will embark on a new and more intelligent course–systematically dealing with the issues I care about. But I am under no illusions. Change doesn’t come at the ballot box, it comes from the pressure put on the politicians by everyday citizens. That’s why I organize. It might be easier to get a meeting now and the new folks at City Hall will undoubtedly be brighter and more responsive. But it doesn’t guarantee change.
In a Republic, we elect politicians we think will do what we want them to do. But there is no contract and most politicians face a fractured electorate with conflicting viewpoints. If I want something accomplished, I stand a much greater chance of seeing it happen by organizing people to fight for it, rather than hoping that the politician I voted for (and maybe even volunteered for) agrees with me.