The World Can’t Wait anti-Bush administration campaign kicked off today around the country. According to the organizers, "On November 2, in 67 cities, 43 colleges and universities, and 90 high schools (at last count), people are walking out of school and work and demonstrating to drive out the Bush regime...The Miers withdrawal, Libby’s indictment, U.S. torture policy, the ongoing bloodbath in Iraq, Bush’s nomination of extreme-right wing Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. ('Scalito') to the Supreme Court, these rapidly cascading developments show this regime is determined to 'radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come,' as the World Can’t Wait Call says. All this underscores that there’s NEVER been a regime like this in the U.S. And World Can’t Wait is unprecedented in the U.S. and historic: a movement aimed – not at this or that policy – but directly at driving out a regime. November 2 is history in the making."
I hit the protest in New York's Union Square, where about 1,000 protesters cheered the usual anti-Bush diatribe. Bush is waging "genocide" on the people of Iraq. Bush "stole" both elections. A Latino priest even claimed God was against the administration.
Despite the hyperbole, I was feeling the cause. But I walked away perplexed. What's the point here? "Drive" them where exactly?
I fear this movement may have the same messaging problem that the “Bring Them Home Now” people have. When anti-war crusaders like Cindy Sheehan say “bring the soldiers back from Iraq now” they don’t actually mean “now,” as in tomorrow, because that, of course, is physically impossible. They usually mean bring them home as soon as possible, which, of course, isn’t what the bumpersticker says. The bumpersticker says "now." Your bumpersticker and your message should match. Second problem: I’ve often found that people who say they want to“bring them home now” mean different things by “now” than others in same movement. Some mean “now” as in stop all combat operations today and start packing so our sons and daughters are home for Christmas. Others mean set a timetable for withdrawal and stick to it, and hopefully we’ll have everyone out in a year. That's confusing.
Same thing here. What the hell does “drive out the regime” actually mean? Impeachment? That the administration should just call it quits? They have three years left. The 22nd Amendment will be doing the driving come 2008. As much as one may want to see Bush & Co. run out of town by torch-bearing townspeople, “drive them out” is just not an effective message.
I asked a teenaged protester at the protest what she thought it meant, and she said, it was a "kick in the ego" for Bush. Huh? We're out to hurt Bush's feelings?
Frankly, I’ve lost faith in the power of street protests to bring about change, especially ones with vague and, if taken literally, completely impossible goals. And that may be my problem here. I joined the mob in Union Square, as I’ve been at almost every major anti-war protest in NYC for the last three years. But I wish we had new ideas about how to fight the power.
I shared my concerns with Russ Baker, who has a much more positive piece about the World Can't Wait movement on Tompaine.com and he wrote back, “I think a general expression of massive concern is in and of itself something. IF it grows…”
He’s got the last part right at least.