Movement Politics

Attended a workshop last night put on by local organizers for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. It was entitled “Doing Politics Differently” and I found the whole evening encouraging. First of all, the leaders were all very young people as were approximately half the 35 to 40 of us who were in attendance. There was a a young woman who is a union organizer sitting in front of me, several one-time local politicians, and a contingent of “100 Grannies” a group of activists actually formed years ago by one of our Iowa Episcopal priests.

These folks are mostly left of Hugo Chavez on the issues. They were mostly Bernie Sanders’ supporters (but who harbor no desires for him to ever run again — “It’s time to move on”). They were openly critical of the Obama years (drones, support of the TPP, etc.) and were scathing in their disdain for the Clintons, seeing them as one more example of compromised baby boomers who are as much in the pocket of the 1% as Donald Trump.

Even though most of these folks have been involved in political campaigns in the past, they despair of the state of politics today and about the only thing they look back on with nostalgia was the “Occupy” movement which had such potential, but which failed to sustain itself because of a lack of an organizational strategy. The motto of this group is “We talk. We act. We get things done.” And they are clearly committed to make those more than words.

After opening introductions of ourselves and Iowa CCI, there was a fast-moving presentation of “the political moment we’re in.” The main takeaway here was the disastrous influence of big money in politics and the fact that Republicans and Democrats are equally guilty of this. We discussed how politics are currently being done in Iowa and how we want to do politics differently. The final segment was a definition of “movement politics as opposed to business-as-usual politics. A summary of that presentation follows. Forgive its length, but I believe every couplet is important.

Business-as-Usual Politics                                           Movement Politics

*Runs on  money power (corporate)                                    *Runs on people power, donations

*Top-down, bureaucratic structure                                      *Bottom-up, grassroots structure

*Candidates have access to big money                                 *Candidates are everyday people

*Campaign on issues, but don’t act on them                        *Govern as you campaign

*Define democracy as voting every 2 years                         * Organize day-in and day-out

*Winning is its own justification                                           *Winning is a way to move issues

*Focus on swing districts considered winnable                  *Don’t write off any areas

*Staff and consultant driven                                                   *Volunteer-driven

*All about the candidate                                                           *All about the issues

*Maintains political and economic status quo                     *Changes the establishment

*Reliant political party organization                                      *Reliant on people’s organizations


As one who made phone calls and knocked on doors in both the Obama campaigns and for Hillary Clinton and who is now almost completely disillusioned about party politics in this country, I find all this true and immensely appealing. I rejoined CCI because I wanted to focus on the issues rather than on partisan politics after being assured by our Democratic party bosses here in Iowa that Hillary Clinton could not possibly lose to Donald Trump and that, therefore, we needed only shore up her base and not bother phoning or visiting Republicans or even Independents. Right!

Next steps for us in Iowa CCI will be our 2017 Convention in Des Moines featuring keynoters Bernie Sanders and Alicia Garza (Black Lives Matter co-founder). Workshops will be led by Bree Carlson (People’s Action), Erika Andiola (Our Revolution), Judith LeBlanc (Native Organizers Alliance) and Michael Lighty (National Nurses United) as well as an Illinois State Representative and a Chicago Alderman.

It’s time to take our country back. It’s time for Movement Politics!




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