Don’t Mourn, Organize: Responding to the Elections (Nov 02)

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As many of you know,  I’ve had a somewhat checkered past. I’ve also been blessed with many colleagues with no lack of brilliant ideas for doing the seemingly impossible — some that worked out, and some that did not (at times, quite publicly).

My two favorite partners in bright (read, occasionally-bizarre-but-often-successful) ideas were Anne and Deb, two members of the finance committee of a state coalition of battered women’s organizations. We got pretty close — probably because they were the only ones crazed enough to take up that thankless task. Anyway, our meetings often ended in bad joke laugh fests. (I know you know what I’m talking about.) We generated a lot of offbeat ideas.

Part of the coalition’s job was organizing and implementing a statewide lobbying agenda for member groups. Deb and Anne (okay, me too) suggested a mock fashion show as an icebreaker at our annual women’s legislative breakfast. Women legislators were invited and asked to select and model bizarre articles of clothing donated to local women’s shelters–you know, like that orphaned chartreuse evening glove with missing wrist button. I think we were trying to make some obscure point about budget cuts.

We had a roomful of women legislators that morning (many of whom had agreed to be models), battered women advocates, and women who had been battered. Anyway, the participant mix was working and everything went well until one of the lady legislators entered the room wearing a particularly hideous outfit. The room erupted into paroxysms of laughter–until it was awkwardly conveyed (many elbows in many ribs) that this was actually the way the woman usually dressed.

What an embarrassing faux pas! Would we ever recover?

Thanks to our history of many trusted relationships with these women, that particular lawmaker took no offense, taking the good-humored jibes in stride. The coalition went on to have a great discussion of the proposed legislative agenda and, subsequently, to a great year of legislative accomplishments. But we agreed to retire the fashion police.

On the other hand, recovering from the appalling political setbacks of the last few weeks promises to be another matter entirely. But, as you doubtless know, this is not a time for despair. In fact, just the opposite: we’ve got to take this as a clarion call to get serious about creating politically protected spaces for rational, life-affirming domestic and foreign policies.

We are offering a broader range of resources with this issue than we typically do. You will find several practical sources of information here. We’ll follow this up shortly with a provocative call to create a new political agenda from Gar Alperovitz. Gar is director of the Institute for Economic and Security Alternatives and suggests what we think is a convincing alternative path.

So read up and get ready. There’s a lot to accomplish and we are the sector to lead the way!