No one knows exactly how to create a social movement. It happens when good, solid organizing meets a certain social zeitgeist. We know movement is preceded by good organizing and leadership development, but we're not exactly sure when good organizing turns into movement.
We do, however, know many of the elements of movements: spontaneous, organic action , unengineered action; moral outrage and righteous indignation; a sense of moral superiority; broad acceptance of social change.
We are now just beginning to see these elements of movement in the right to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
This week Karl Rove is touring the Midwest speaking at small meetings of business leaders against the Employee Free Choice Act. I wonder how much Rove's speaking fees are to speak to 30 businessmen in Peoria, Ill. And everywhere he stops he is being met by demonstrations of rank and file union activists and leaders protesting Karl Rove and his position on the Employee Free Choice Act.
Those demonstrations in Peoria and St. Louis and other places were not called by the AFL-CIO in Washington. They arose organically, spontaneously, by local activist and leaders who know America needs the Employee Free Choice Act and who are willing to fight to pass it. Those demonstrations are fueled by moral outrage about the yawning and growing income and wealth inequality in America and the economic crisis created by 30 years of failed trickle-down economics.
The campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act has other elements of movement, too. Our country and our people are not only ready for change, we are demanding it. In 54 years of life I don't think I have seen the opponents of change quite so inept, incompetent, and out of step with the American people.
And I am certain that I have never seen corporate America and the radical right wing so deaf to the kitchen-table concerns of all Americans.
So there is ample moral outrage and demand for change, spontaneous action, and moral superiority.
Democrats must understand that they cannot engineer every solution, that the most important and useful thing they can do is to free American workers to act on their own behalf, to act spontaneously and organically, to act to organize and to act freely to form unions and bargains collectively, to act not through someone else and not waiting until 2010 and not vicariously through President Obama but right now, directly, in concert with fellow workers in everyone's interest to re-create an exit route from poverty, to attack inequality, to directly attack 30 years of failed trickle down economics, to rebuild the American middle class.
With the party change of Arlen Specter and the coming seating of Al Franken, President Obama and his Democratic Party have the power and the obligation to meet the grassroots movement and demand for change with the best kind of change -- change that invites average people to move and at on their own behalf, collectively, to organize on the job for a better standard of living and a better quality of life for their own kids and families -- and everyone else's too.
Just by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.