And why do they fail?
Questions I've been thinking about a lot since seeing a recent panel for the Activist Graduate School, a program directed by Micah White (co-founder of Occupy Wall Street). The panel was very interesting but the thing that has stuck with me is a question that was posed by one of the panelists:
What does "revolution" even look like these days?
I won't speak for the panelists [who were incredible - Alicia Garza (co-founder of Black Lives Matter), South Calling Last (indigenous activist and all-around heartbreaker while listening to her talk about real struggles), and Dr. Lenora Fulani (first woman AND African American to be on the ballot for President in all 50 states - in 1988!)]. But Alicia Garza did mention that a regret she has in how BLM was started was that it did not focus or connect to electoral victories. And Dr. Fulani mentioned how we need to stop focusing on symptoms and instead treat the causes.
Obviously, since I am in DC, I think everything is about electoral change. That misses the mark, often. It feels hard to focus on achieving legislation when racism and sexism are running the world and have been forever. But a central message of the Real Citizens United is that to change all the bullshit, we need to focus on the causes of the bullshit instead of just getting wrapped up in the day-to-day outrage of it all. I am inspired by legislative change and how it causes low-key revolutions that don't happen right away, but plants seeds that may not sprout for decades or whose sprouts just sprout too damn slowly to notice.
For instance, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It allows everyone to request documents from government agencies and then sue if they refuse or delay. This is not a perfect tool and it does not solve everything, but it is astounding how powerful of a tool it is. And having that tool is such a blessing for journalist, activists, and people who want to make a difference. And the passage of it in 1967 (and the continual evolutions of it to be more powerful and allow for requests) WAS a revolution, whether or not we realize or appreciate it now.
These days, the revolution I think we need is electoral and voting reform. Our system is set up to keep politicians in power, discourage voting, and make it impossible for newer and poorer voices to have a say in politics. The concept of voter registration was put in place after the Civil War to add a barrier to newly freed slaves trying to exercise their new right to vote - we should make it so everyone is registered to vote instead of having to opt-in and wade through all the bureaucracy. We shouldn't let the DMV decide who gets to vote. And we should empower and represent the 4 Million people in DC and Puerto Rico together - get us a vote in Congress! We have a duty to make it illegal to suppress votes and restore integrity to the entire elections and voting process. That's what I'm inviting you to be a part of.