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June 17, 2003

Kos's Bizarre Definition of Grassroots

I love Kos's attention to the details of politics, but his hyping of Net activists as the true "grassroots" is just kind of bizarre. He writes:

The AFL/CIO and Sierra Club will always have their place at the table, but we need to give the party's true grassroots a seat as well. And this, the blogosphere, is the place to do it.
On one hand you have organizations with millions of members, who apparently don't count as a real "grassroots" as compared to a few smart, technologically privileged bloggers who somehow get a metaphysical cred to speak for the people.

He then argues:

I dream of a Democratic Party bolstered by a Dean-like activist community. If our party is to survive against the GOP's financial onslaught, it will need to rally the troops beyond the shrinking labor community.
Now, no one argues more than the present labor leadership that real coalitions need far broader participation than those in the unions themselves, but the unions themselves are the ones most likely to build that broader force, as they already are doing.

But let's get real. The unions start with 16 million members paying monthly dues, a financial base unparalleled on the progressive side on taking on the rightwing. And their membership exists at the grassroots in cities and towns across the country. Any sane person looking at the assets of the Democrats would be arguing not to bypass the unions but concentrating on maximizing the underutilized resource of those 16 million members who, if they talk to just ten non-member neighbors, can mobilize 160 million people across the country.

The Internet is nice. It can spread information to activists and dilettantes. But real political change happens in one-to-one conversations at the local bar, on the playground watching the kids, and in the workplace. That is the real grassroots.

And anyone who does not recognize the key role of unions in building the grassroots of the Democratic Party on just that basis ignores the history and even present day reality, since no other groups (except for the AARP) are even in the same league as the AFL-CIO in mass numbers.

Unions ARE the grassroots. Us in the electronic peanut gallery are just coasting on their historic effort in building every brick of the modern economy, from the minimum wage law to Social Security to civil rights to Medicaid and Medicare.

Posted by Nathan at June 17, 2003 05:17 PM