"We don't need a new third party in America -- we need a new FIRST party."
-- Swami Beyondananda
There's that classic bumper sticker I saw again recently: "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention!"
I would take that sentiment and reframe it more positively: "If you are awake and aware, you know that now is the time for a movement to overgrow the current political and economic dysfunction."
That statement calls forth two questions: How do we launch such a movement, and how do we sustain and accelerate it?
Indeed many, many people are feeling frustrated -- and despair even -- at a political system that seems to be less and less responsive to the will of the people (unless, of course, those "people" happen to be corporations). Combine this with the burgeoning planetary "shituation" of global warming, and many folks would find sad truth in Stephen Colbert's tongue-in-cheek suggestion that we simply do nothing and run out the clock.
Of course there is the minor issue of what we tell our children and grandchildren.
In any case, my sense is there is a ripeness in both urgency and awareness -- which is why I am supporting my friend Marianne Williamson in her campaign for Congress as an Independent. You might ask, what difference would it make for one individual to be elected at a time when the moneyed forces seem to be occupying every seat of power?
The short answer has to do with an idea the great practical philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller pointed out decades ago -- the trim-tab. In a Playboy interview in 1972, Bucky said:
Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary -- the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there's a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.
It's a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trim Tab.
It may not be exactly as easy as Bucky suggests... and a small thing like one courageous and articulate Independent being elected to Congress, and an even smaller thing -- you mobilizing your friends and colleagues in California's 33rd District to register by May 19 and vote for Marianne on June 3 -- can likewise have an impact. Here are five reasons why:
1. A Coherent and Pertinent Message. Marianne and her campaign are addressing the two most fundamental and significant issues facing America and the world today -- and she is combining them in a unique and effective way. Those issues are the unchecked, unbalanced and unmitigated power of money to determine the rules of governance and public policy -- and the absence of the sacred in the public sphere. Think about it. Why do you imagine the power of money is so powerful, and why do we so easily accept that power? I say it's because we are so divided into religious vs. secular tribes that we don't recognize the virtues and values people from across the political and spiritual spectrum have in common. There is a sense of sacred that includes and transcends both religion and non-religion, and that is the unifying power and story that Marianne speaks to. In saying we need to take money out of politics, she is also saying we need to re-invite and insert the sacred in its place. She has the ability to articulate this distinction, and her campaign is doing just that.
2. She is running as an Independent. Marianne recognizes that the Democratic Party is just as firmly and dysfunctionally entrenched in pay-to-play politics as the Republicans are, and she is affirming what the American people are already seeing. A Gallup poll early this year found that a record 42 percent of Americans identify as "Independents" -- compared to 31 percent Democrats and 25 percent Republicans. I would suggest that most of those who identify as Democrats would even more fervently identify as "not Republicans," a sad indication that neither party holds a compelling vision for the future. Marianne does.
3. She Can Win. In the heavily Democratic 33rd Congressional District (which includes the cities of Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Calabasas, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Palos Verdes Estates, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, Topanga, Venice and Westwood), Marianne more closely represents the values of Democratic voters than the candidates the Democratic Party is running. Since voter turnout in off-year primaries can be as low as 20 percent of the eligible voters, a focused campaign of inspired voters could pull this off. Keep in mind that in California's open primaries, no party affiliation is required to vote... and the two top vote-getters regardless of party will face-off in November.
4. Her Being in the Race in November Will Make News. As Scoop Nisker famously said decades ago, "if you don't like the news make some of your own." One of the great benefits of the Occupy movement two years ago was that it broke the conversation about oligarchy through the "soundless barrier." Occupy became the news, and as participants were interviewed by mainstream media their message came through loudly and clearly. If Marianne becomes one of the two candidates running in November, she will automatically have a platform to speak to the press, locally and nationally. Should she be elected to Congress in November, she will be a voice perhaps more pertinent and articulate than either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
5. This is YOUR Chance to Participate. During the Kennedy years, more than 80 percent of Americans trusted their government. The latest figures show it's now more like 20 percent. Do the math. Do the aftermath. Voter apathy and disgust is at an all-time high. Yes, there was a spike in 2008 as an awakening electorate pinned their hopes on Obama. Now that the hopium has worn off, the liberating news is that more than ever, it is up to us. If you live in the 33rd District, this is your chance to cast a MEANINGFUL vote. If you don't, it's a chance to encourage your friends and family who do live there to cast THEIR meaningful vote. And you can support the campaign financially. As the Swami says, "It takes money to take the money out of politics!"
Here's how YOU can make a difference NOW:
1. If you live in the 33rd District, make sure you are registered (the deadline is May 19, and make sure you vote for Marianne on Tuesday, June 3.
2. If you don't live in the 33rd District, share this message with folks who do! Post the link on your Facebook page, post it on your blog, and CALL the people you know who live in that district. Do it now! The deadline to register is Monday, so this weekend is our window.
3. Donate money to Marianne's campaign, and consider volunteering. You can find out more at http://www.marianneforcongress.com/.
In these volatile and unpredictable times, one victory could be the trim tab to turn the ship of state around. A victory in June, and then again in November might just be the spark to jumpstart the heart of a once disheartened and now awakening body politic. This is your chance to be a part of it now.
Follow Steve Bhaerman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/swamibe