A Case Study in How the Left Cannot Work Together
If we want to change the world via local elections, it is important to put aside personal differences so we can work together to make a more just world, to create the change we want. It is in our interest to be pragmatic and to prioritize things, even, at times things one may not want to do.
I, like many, was hopeful that Bernie Sanders could become the Democratic nominee for President. I, like many, am completely disillusioned with the political process.
The following report may (or may not) provide insight, not only to my local efforts, but to organizing efforts in general.
It is a bit of a rant…
I was the Santa Cruz 4 Bernie (SC4B) University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) point person for the 2019 Bernie Campaign. As such I hired two campus organizers, A. and L. I also worked closely with H. who was hired by the No On Recall campaign to keep two Santa Cruz city councilors from being recalled from office. (These were two council members that SC4B had worked hard to elect.)
A. was organizing the Bernie campaign on campus with L when I met her. A. already had a group of people that she was working with. She was also working closely with the official Bernie-campaign point-person for campus organizers. A. was highly recommended by the national Bernie-campaign campus point-person and as well as by the leaders of the Cost Of Living for Adjustment (COLA) strike leaders.
Just before I hired A., I called E. who had been just recently hired by the official Bernie campaign to manage our county and an adjacent county. When I spoke to E. he said he did not want to work with A. for reasons that were unclear to me. After a long explanation of why he did not want to work with her, I asked him if he would give me the official Bernie campaign contacts for UCSC. He refused. He said he would not give them to me because he did not want to work with A.
Nor would E. work with A. after I hired her. He set up his own group.
I finally met some of the campus people who were working with E. The main point person for this was Es. When I finally met her, I asked her about A. She said she had never met A. but had heard negative things about her from E. From that point on I started working with Es. and the group she was working with as well as with A. and L.
A. and L. mainly did tabling in front of the different colleges, dorm storming, and voter registration. We provided them with materials. They had been trained by the national campaign and little oversight was needed.
I worked at the entrance to the UCSC campus with H., the No On Recall campus organizer. We set up our canopy and tables every morning around 7:30 am at the base of campus where the COLA strike was taking place. We would tear down around 3:30. The buses to campus were just around the corner from us. After setting up the tables we would drive around campus and poster all of the bus stops. This also included removing posters from the Recall Campaign (which was a smear campaign run by the Apartment Association among others). We only needed to poster once a week but had to make two or three extra trips a week to remove Recall posters. In the evening we would design new flyers and posters and plan for the next day. In the morning I would get the posters printed before picking up H.
While in the booth at the entrance to campus we worked on voter registration, discussed the campaign with people, handed out quarter page flyers to students getting on and off the bus, made sure that our campaign locker was well supplied for the students working with A., and managed people who came to volunteer at the booth. The last week of the campaign we offered a taxi service for students so they could vote early at the Santa Cruz County building.
Early in the campaign a meeting was called to coordinate the various voter registration efforts which included people from town, A. and L., a point person for the Adam Scow campaign, and several of the No On Recall organizers. I was invited by H. Just prior to the meeting I received a text from N. who told me not to go. I asked why and she said she could not be in a meeting with me. I told her that we needed to work together and suggested that we move forward together. (N. comes from a family of political organizers, was an active union organizer and is actively involved in the Peoples’ Democratic Club.) N. refused to work with me and did not come to the meeting. (N. and I had worked together in the past through SC4B and she continues to come to the SC4B meetings for which I am the Co-convenor. e.g. she attends monthly meetings with me.) I have absolutely no idea what the issue was for her.
Finally, there was another completely unconnected group that was working on the No On Recall campaign. They organized an art competition and exhibition in which a great number of people were involved and attended. They raised money for the No On Recall campaign and printed a number of half page postcards with images of the winning art pieces. It is my opinion even though this was a well-intended endeavor, the time and energy that was put into that effort would have been better spent working directly on the campus campaign both for the No On Recall effort and for Senator Bernie Sanders.
The UCSC campus vote is critical to winning our campaigns. Their vote was an important factor in winning the vote in Santa Cruz County for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and was critical in election of three progressive Santa Cruz city councilors the following year (two of which were being recalled. Our candidates would not have won the election if it were not for the UCSC vote.)
It would be worth considering hiring a person that specifically works to trouble shoot interpersonal problems and to proactively resolve them. An inordinate amount of energy was wasted because people were not able to resolve their personal issues.
The last day of the campaign I became sick and spent the last several hours sleeping in my car waiting for our final tear down. H. and Ar. and myself put everything that was left from the campaign in my station wagon. Ar. piled in the back seat on top of the canopy that took op the whole of it. She sat in a scrunched up ball on the ride home. I put the last box in on H.’s lap and closed the door and drove us home.
The next day I received a text from C. asking me if I had brought his chairs back. I did not know that he wanted me to do that or that they were even his chairs.
I said, no. He texted back that if it were him he would have brought them. Implying that I had somehow been irresponsible, that I had let him down. I was shocked. This was the second time I had volunteered to work in his behalf. He did not thank me for my work in that moment, though he did weeks later. It has left me with no desire to be involved in political organizing. (This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.)
My last two cents: Folks, I am so very done. I am so very disappointed. How can people indulge themselves in the face of these enormous tasks which we have on our hands, not only at a local level, but without question on a global level? Changing the world is, in my mind, paramount and is only deterred by personal preening and posturing.
There is no more time for interpersonal differences. It seems unlikely that we will put them aside and the consequences are grim.
I am focusing on what I can do in a positive context as I move forward. Peace.