Friday, November 05, 2004

A Butterfly Explains the Absence of the Hurricane (This is a Reference to Chaos Theory. If You Don't Get It, Call Me at Home.)

A friend of mine went to Florida to get out the Democratic vote. Here's his email describing the experience. How to describe it? Disquieting is good.

There are some things y'all may find interesting (albeit also unsettling) -- and some personal thoughts that are perhaps licensed from my commitment and work to defeat the Slimeball Bush.

I don't believe I've ever experienced -- EVER -- the spectacular
ignorance, pandemic disorganization and profligate incompetence that I found
in the Kerry campaign offices in Tallahassee. (And remember that I've been
in entertainment and the performing arts -- where occasional spectacular
stupidity is a given -- all my life. This was much worse than the worst of
that.) Before we went, (a friend) who was part of the contingent which went to Columbus Ohio, and I attempted to prepare each other for the probable disorganization and ineptitude that we would each encounter. And we determined to not let that anticipated eventuality deter us from simply integrating ourselves to best ability -- whatever the obstacles -- from our intense desire to change the course in Washington. I was not at ALL interested in "showing someone up," coming on strong or self-importantly, or otherwise disrupting what was going on. Coming in during the last ten days precluded doing anything more than quickly analyzing where I might contribute the most good and figuring out what I could do to accomplish that expeditiously and efficiently. And if someone else was sent over to help out, oversee or even "clip my wings" -- well, fine. We were intent on NOT allowing anything to be irksome or any petty difference to interfere -- if need be I would pull back, kiss this or that ass, and simply be a soldier.

Or lemming, as it were...

If you who are my friends read my every-couple-of-days, intended-to-be-humorous email dispatches critically, however, you probably sensed that organization was sorely lacking in Tallahassee. And that was indeed profoundly the case. And so I took on Suwannee County. Indeed I wasn't kidding in the email dispatch: they really DIDN'T know that Suwannee County -- the fourth largest in population of the 14 counties in the Tallahassee district -- was theirs until just two days before I arrived. Meaning that it wasn't until just nine days before the election that anyone (me) had even set foot in the county or telephoned a single partisan there. The only "contact info" they could supply was just one
name -- that of the former deputy-chair of the Demo party there. No one knew the name of the actual departed county chair, nor did they have even a phone number for the departed number two -- all they had was her name. On my second day -- after my friend from NYC ... and I realized that poll observing was really a kind of make-work assignment, albeit indeed a necessary one -- I struck out to connect with someone, ANYONE, who might help bring in Kerry voters. When I returned to Tallahassee to report that
I'd found the leadership in the African-American churches, a locally developed voter registration organization, and the local NAACP, I was met with looks of perplexed amusement and cocked-head interest. Turns out no one had ever -- in all the many weeks and months preceding my arrival -- ever thought of making such contacts in ANY county outside of the immediate Tallahassee area! There was not a single Spanish-language K-E piece in the Tallahassee HQ -- while the Repubs had bi-lingual pieces in all four Suwannee County hispanic churches.


Now folks, this ain't rocket science, and I ain't either Karl Rove nor
James Carville. Connecting with the black churches ain't all that
innovative an idea, and I know it. But it apparently WAS to the Kerry staff in Florida's capital city. I spent days and days begging, cajoling and lobbying to get just $250 to
spread out among those churches to help finance gas for church vans to pick up and deliver voters on election day. And despite the fact that Terry McAuliffe himself (the Demo Party National Chairman -- you've seen him on CNN and Nightline, etc) came through to speak to everyone, and I heard him brag that this election was different than every other presidential election in history, "because we have matched the Republicans, dollar for dollar. We can do anything and everything we've ever wanted to do!" -- and this is a direct verbatim quote -- I just couldn't get that money! After knocking myself out for four days, each evening pulling the sleeves of whoever I could, and each day phoning back and forth from Live Oak, I was finally and VERY begrudgingly given two $50 Shell credit cards. That was it. (If any of you had seen the wall-to-wall TV advertising by both campaigns in Florida, and experienced the negligible impact these efforts were by then reduced to having, you'd have agreed that it would've made FAR more sense to simply pull ONE SINGLE SUCH AIRING -- and take that money to finance gas for every single church van from Jacksonville all the way across the panhandle to Pensacola! Sure, the vans would've been out ferrying people anyway. But just THINK of the difference in motivation and actuality if we'd added a full tank of gas to each one -- along with the esprit involved in being directly tied to the candidate's presidential campaign!) I personally raised another $120 in donations from friends in Tallahassee.

And -- if Dick Cheney can draw 16,000 people in Lake City (mid-way
between Jax and Pensacola) as he did -- and Bush draw 25,000 in Gainesville
25 miles farther south -- WHY was there never a single one day whistle-stop
bus tour done by, say, fellow Southerner John Edwards -- or even John
Edwards wife? Or Kerry's kids? Or ANYONE connected with the ticket across
the panhandle of Florida? You think there's no votes there? Well, sure, it
was going to go to Bush anyway -- but NOT by 100%!!! Ignoring the panhandle ENTIRELY (excepting only for Tallahassee/Leon County and adjacent black-majority Gadsden County) was just plain stupid. Arrogantly myopic. Incompetent.

Lest anyone reading this think I'm scapegoating, understand that I was
saying this days BEFORE the election, when I thought we were going to WIN.
AFTER the election -- in the Tallahassee, Charlotte and finally San Francisco airports, and on the planes between them -- I ran into many other volunteers, and I asked for their experiences in Florida. Not one of the 12-15 I spoke with -- NOT ONE -- had a single word of praise -- a SINGLE word of praise -- for the Kerry-Demo offices in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Lake Worth, Orlando, Delray Beach or Tallahassee where they had worked. Now maybe some of these people WERE scapegoating at this point -- but certainly not ALL of them!

Apparently, most Kerry offices were run by 21 and 22-year old poli-sci
majors taking a flyer -- people who were well-intentioned, surely, and
WANTED to do good work -- but who were near-totally inexperienced in ANY
kind of organizing work. The main room-slash-bullpen in Tallahassee was a
mad house. I STILL don't know -- and again I was effectively The Guy for
the fourth largest county in the district -- precisely WHO was responsible
for what there.

With my own shows and projects, the VERY first thing I will do is print
up two general sheets: one with the names, job-responsibility-slash-title
and contact info for whoever has been assigned at that point, and a general
time-line sheet of important dates and coming events, obstacles, deadlines,
etc. Both these sheets will change and need to be updated, modified, added to and refined PROFOUNDLY over coming weeks. And they ARE. At K-E HQ, there was nothing. Volunteers would walk in, wander and hang for several hours -- and maybe or maybe not find something to do. Something "last minute" that should've been done days before.

And in a big room like we had it's also a good idea to have signs --
magic marker on cardboard is fine -- of who gathers where, and who is
working UNDER this or that sign. Canvassers gather here, drivers here,
outlying county early vote observers here, Leon-Gadsden observers here --
etc, etc. We worked out of what more-closely resembled a downtown
intersection that had the traffic lights and street signs removed. A pen
for scores of chickens without heads.

ALL political campaigns must be cluster fucks that get worse as election
day approaches and new people arrive. That's gotta be a given. But simply
packing bags for election day "poll greeters" was an on-again, off-again job
that sat UN-done many times when I walked past that "area."
(BTW, I myself am also Absolutely Determined that every single piece of
promotional printing is gone -- distributed -- by "show-day", in this case
meaning election day. We, however, had boxes and BOXES of door hangers --
hyping early voting with the location address in this or that particular
county -- sitting in the back room. It was Friday -- six days after I got
there and with just a day and a half of early voting to go -- that someone
gave me ours. But boxes and boxes for other counties just sat there until
the end, NEVER issued, NEVER used. Wasted.)

The above is SIMPLE stuff! OBVIOUS stuff! Producing 101 -- or perhaps
"Campaigning 101" -- kinda stuff. And totally not understood in Kerry Tallahassee HQ.
In short the Kerry campaign in Tallahassee -- and apparently all across Florida -- was a trainwreck of incompetence and bureaucratic ineptitude.... I'm sorry to have to report it.

Since Tuesday, many people I've talked with have tried to paint a better
face on the Tuesday election loss. I've received emails and talked with
folks who say we'll win in the end, the pendulum swings both ways, there's
this or that "silver lining", etc, etc, etc. (One assertion is that,
historically, second terms are more difficult for a president. Well, Bush
may PERSONALLY have a difficult second term -- but so what? And who
cares? -- because the Republicans will have a fucking FIELD DAY politically!
There is NOTHING to stop the extreme right wing now!)

Prepare ourselves for Chief Justice Scalia, and two or even three more
Clarence Thomases. (I'm one who's thought it frankly doubtful Rowe v Wade
would ever be over-turned. I don't think myself alarmist -- or at ALL
conspiracy-inclined, for that matter. But getting rid of R v Wade IS,
indeed number one on Scalia's agenda -- he's criticized it countless times.
And with Bush probably naming two or three new Supremes, I'm now no longer
so calm.) It's the end for all time of the estate tax, meaning a permanent
"aristocracy" and the end of even a semblance or attempt at a level economic
playing field. National health insurance postponed at LEAST four years
more -- and "mine fielded" against that eventual initiation. The end of
Amtrak. Assault weapons on the street everywhere. Time-and-a-half overtime
pay taken from countless working people. Media consolidated so profoundly
that no matter WHAT laws are later passed to dilute them, the monopolies
will be grandfathered in. (Unless one somehow believes we'll get actual
trust-busters into office one day -- because that's the kind of Teddy
Roosevelt-ish indignant crusading it would require to dismantle them. And
how likely is THAT?.... "Grandfathering" existing inequities on the other
hand, and "sunsetting" laws the right wing can't just prevent (like the
assault weapons ban and media ownership caps) is the "politic" gentleman's
way of our era -- though nothing really gets accomplished....) A possible
draft, a possible end of the NEA, except as a shell so they can't be accused
of actually killing it. (Not that I personally mind gutting the NEA, but
99% of all liberals WOULD.) Worsening and widening the gap between public
schools (the schools for poor folks, single moms and minorities) -- and the
rich, parent-donation funded suburban white schools, who additionally will
get vouchers for their so-called "Christian schools".... Head Start
programs and after-school programs left as empty rooms -- again, so they
can't be accused of actually killing them -- without any resources

The list goes on and on -- AND ON. This ISN'T just Slimeball Bush
getting a mandate, this is 55 Republican senators -- in a senate that was
ALREADY a hollow shell of toadies on the left and zealots on the right.
This is a right-wing steamroller!

It is a true disaster. A spectacular, indeed -- and this is NOT
hyperbole -- an earth-shaking, historically-pivotal CATASTROPHE....
It's so FAR beyond Reagan. So far beyond what these truly MEAN and --
to use the following term with all deliberate intent -- EVIL people were
able to accomplish in their first four years.

And in the above litany we haven't even MENTIONED the environment, or
the spectacular recruiting "gift" a Bush second term gives outfits like Al
Qaeda, all the millions of jobs that will be shipped overseas, and disabled
access and job safety programs that will be gutted. No, I can't at all see anything here allowing me many moments of lightness or gaiety. What's happened is a literal, incontestable and unstoppable catastrophe for America and the world.

Yet, indeed, "on the plus side" -- and here even I myself will indulge
in a bit of perverse silver lining -- the Bush re-election will mean a more
rapid decline of the American empire. This is kind of "the worse things
get, the better things get" arrogant and elitist thinking, admittedly. But
it IS true that with Bush and his arrogantly incompetent co-conspirators in
control, American power will over-extend and all remaining international
political capital and goodwill will be thrown out the window. Good -- in
the long, LONG run -- for the rest of the world.

But at home where I live -- in the country I love -- we will have the
further institutionalization of mean-ness and greed as legitimate social
values. The rich WILL get much, much richer -- and the poor will become
less and less able to rise above veritable servitude. Those of us in the
working and middle classes will rely more and more on dual incomes to remain

In short, we get the continued demise of the American Empire -- but also
the continued decline in the American Dream, the American Ideal...
Slimeball Bush, Scumbag Cheney and Sleazebucket Ashcroft or his
replacement: now strengthened with a "mandate"....

No, not good. Not good at all....

We must not accept any of it, can not "compromise" on what is right, be
"good losers" in the fight for what is just, fair and compassionate.

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