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How Nader made me an anarchist

The August 4 Nader Rally: a critique of process and product, with an emphasis on the dangers of authority.

I believe it is very important for those of us who are seeking positive change in the world to discuss our efforts as thoroughly and transparently as we can so we may best repeat our successes and avoid our failures. It is in that spirit that I share my thoughts here on the August 4 Ralph Nader rally at the Rose Garden. I was on the steering committee for this event, and was also lucky enough to spend some time on the road during the Nader campaign last fall, helping to set up some of the super rallies that took place then.

That over 7000 people attended the August 4 Ralph Nader rally at the Rose Garden is impressive. The 150 or so volunteers who dedicated so much of their time and energy to promoting and putting on the event should feel proud of their accomplishment. However, the event was marred by avoidable mistakes that are worth discussing. Let me stress that no volunteer should feel that her/his time or effort was wasted; any fault falls squarely on a very small number of individuals who placed themselves above the rank and file that made this event happen. The self-elevation of these individuals was not merely unpleasant but in fact disruptive and destructive, and offers by its example a methodology and set of motivations to be avoided within the activist community.

If there is any place where people should not have to suffer from degrading treatment, it is within progressive activism. Unfortunately many volunteers for the event did receive such abuse during the August 4 preparations from one of the aforementioned self-elevating individuals, who was sent here from D.C. These volunteers were patronized, ordered around, and generally treated insensitively, especially if they were women. It is true that this individual was receiving a lot of pressure "from above", but that is no excuse. He was informed of his ineffective tactics repeatedly and showed little significant improvement. That he was heralded on the front page of the Tribune and from the stage as the one solely responsible for the event's success will likely put off further his day of self-aware reckoning, unfortunately for him. To make matters worse, if this one-nighter at the Rose Garden turns into a tour, he will be the one "in charge" of it.

For five weeks before the August 4 event here, residents of Portland saw innumerable flyers and posters for the Rose Garden rally, and the photo selection -- Nader beaming with his arms held up -- was quite appropriate for pushing the star-studded event. The photo was taken in August 2000 in Seattle the day after Nader's sell-out night at Memorial Coliseum in Portland. According to some who are close to him, he was so thrilled because he had just appeared in front of such a large crowd. I will not begrudge Nader his pleasure at having filled an auditorium but I see in his beam, in his words and behavior since, and -- most significantly, in some of the people with whom he surrounds himself -- a spotlight-loving vanity that threatens his effectiveness as a well-known figure in the anti-corporate globalization movement.

Cults of personality are dangerous. We shouldn't look to D.C. or Hollywood or to rock stars for validation of our beliefs. If we are to have a legitimate "people's movement" (to use a favorite phrase of one of the rally organizers) we need to look to ourselves, our neighbors, and our brothers and sisters in struggle around the world. It is with millions of souls working for change in our daily lives -- not thousands of seats filled, hundreds of dollars fundraised, or a few famous people taking the stage -- that we will overcome the corporate colonialism of our age, if it is possible for us to do so at all. Stars cannot save us. Egotistical leadership can destroy us. If the Sixties taught us nothing else, it should be that an over-reliance on leadership and personality endangers a movement because it allows a dream to be taken out by one bullet. Infighting leaders jostling for the spotlight is also a dangerous and all-too-common tendency. To quote a Green Party organizer in Minnesota, who was explaining why she is an activist, and why she avoids the spotlight: "This isn't about fame or glory or ego -- it's about my f***ing grandchildren!"

And that's the heart of it, in my opinion: You can be an activist fighting for change, or an individual seeking personal glory, but you cannot be both. The first calling will always suffer from effort lost to the latter. Aspects of the August 4 rally proved this point.

One problem was the choice of venue. Almost no one thought we could actually sell 15,000 tickets at $10 to the Rose Garden. This is not an election year, August is vacation month with no students around, and some of the people who attended last year's rally are mad at Nader now. Many of us pushed for a smaller and less-expensive venue such as the Convention Center, where we could more easily set-up teach-ins and workshops and thus concentrate on local organizing efforts with other groups. This advice was ignored, and the Rose Garden pushed on us in a dictatorial fashion. It is not clear if Nader himself was behind this decision, but it was presented that way by those who were communicating with him and passing the word down to us. In any case, the choice of venue seems to have been motivated less by a sincere desire to make positive change in the world than by a desire by certain people to bask in the hot glare of the stage lights and enjoy the flash of corporate press cameras. The resultant pressure on volunteers and organizers to sell tickets sell tickets sell tickets detracted from our ability to work at the grassroots level with other activists. Nonetheless, a successful Progressive Action Conference emerged in the afternoon before the rally which did involve many organizations and individuals from the vibrant community in these parts. The fight to secure this vital component was not pleasant, though.

August 4's rally was organized by many of the same people who helped put on the "super rallies" of last year's Nader campaign. Those rallies were instructive for many of those involved; they were effective in some ways in some cities, and ineffective or even destructive in other ways in other cities. In other words, lessons were learned. Unfortunately, some important lessons were ignored and not allowed to be applied, due to a top-down, authoritarian command structure, and the August 4 rally suffered because of it.

First, a little history on last year's super rallies: Portland's 10,579 sell-out in August was truly significant. Not since Henry Wallace's 1948 run as a progressive candidate had there been so many people paying to go see a politician speak. A month later, in Minneapolis, a little over 8000 people attended a Nader rally in the Target Center there. The rally left behind an energized volunteer base, and an office with phones. Nader ended up with 5.25% of the vote in that state, which gave the Greens "major party status" there. It is arguable that the boost given the campaign by the super rally helped put Nader over the 5% they needed to gain this status. A Chicago rally, with a comparable attendence a couple weeks later, also gave the campaign their a shot-in-the-arm, though a few hundred people left after Eddie Vedder's performance and before Nader's speech. We are also speaking of the city where one volunteer collected 12,000 signatures single-handedly to get Nader on the ballot; Chicago volunteers were among the hardest-working and most dedicated in the country, and didn't need a super rally to get them motivated. Still, it didn't seem to hurt them.

As election day drew nearer, though, the super rallies had a different effect. In the Bay Area and Los Angeles they were clearly a distraction from what were already well-organized campaigns, and sucked almost all the local volunteers into manic preparation and promotion. In those two cities, the super rallies might have actually decreased Nader's share of the vote, as canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts were set aside in the interest of filling halls. Filling halls was not even accomplished well, however. In the Bay Area, where 70,000 people are registered with the Green Party, only about 6000 people came to the Henry J. Kaiser Arena. Attendance at the Los Angeles rally barely kissed 3000, and with only three days remaining until the election at that point, the local campaign structure had little time to salvage their grassroots efforts.

The "Nader rocks the Rose Garden" posters and flyers for August 4's Portland rally were based on the design used to promote NYC's Madison Square Garden rally in October 2000, which was the only super rally besides Portland's that filled every seat. However, that event was of a different type than the other rallies; top-heavy with musical stars like Ani DiFranco and Ben Harper, it resembled an under-priced ($20 admission) rock show more than a political rally. Attendees at this rally have testified that many people there didn't listen to Nader's speech, and took that time to get refreshments or use the bathroom in between music. According to the campaign grapevine, the intense, one-week preparation for this event basically destroyed the local campaign structure, and left it largely ineffectual. This was done through the application of top-down managerial techniques by outsiders who descended on the city to put on the event. The Madison Square Garden rally, then, was not a model that smart organizers should want to repeat in any way, in either its format or its execution. Unfortunately, the August 4 rally here was an attempt to do just that by a small number of individuals. Fortunately, these people represented a minority. Unfortunately, they wielded the most influence due to their personal connections with Nader, and thus to the pursestrings for the event.

The biggest lesson learned from the super rallies was that big events do not in and of themselves create positive change. They excite attendees and can raise money and help train organizers, but do not appear to be significantly useful over the long-term unless there is follow-up. So, you fill an arena with 8000 people, get them all pumped up, and then what? The "action centers" at August 4's event attempted to address this concern. As originally envisioned, the action centers were meant to function as quick stopping-points where departing audience members could learn about current local campaigns and get equipped with a list of solid actions they could take, whether it was letter-writing, phone-banking, canvassing, going to a rally, or volunteering in any of a number of different ways. The action centers, then, were designed to give people something to do here and now. Many of us who had seen the shortcomings of the super rallies last year believed that these action centers were a great idea, and that they were our best shot at attempting to bring real action out of the energy that the rally would produce.

Unfortunately, there were two obstacles to the success of the action centers, and they both played out on August 4. The first was their timing. After a longish evening rally, who wants to stick around? The original plan as presented to Nader put his rally in the afternoon, with the action centers, workshops, and teach-ins afterwards. This might well have resulted in a lower turn-out, but would have made real, effective follow-up much easier. Secondly, the action centers needed to be properly called out in the Arena that night, and they were not. Despite specific coaching, Nader did not make clear to the 7000+ people there that the action centers existed and could be utilized at that very moment. A last minute attempt by one of the organizers to announce them from stage was valiant, but too late. Most people left the arena without knowing about the action center option that had been six weeks in the making, which involved representatives from a score of Oregonian activist organizations, and which had the potential to make hundreds of uninvolved people into more active citizens. An opportunity was lost, and much of the value of assembling so many people was piddled away. The fault here lies clearly with those who place themselves on top, and illustrates the danger of letting them place themselves there.

The local Green Party leaders and volunteers involved with the August 4 rally were some of the most dedicated, hardest working, smartest, well-organized, and all-around-best people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They took a bad situation -- a star-centered rally in a too-big of venue -- and made the best of it. They pushed hard for, and won, important concessions for local organizing. The Progressive Action Conference in the afternoon before the rally was indeed a great success. It involved dozens of progressive organizations -- some of whom had been angry at the Greens in the recent past due to misplaced resentments over the 2000 election -- and attracted hundreds of attendees. The workshops and teach-ins offered not just a wealth of information on a variety of important issues, but also solid ways to get involved here at the local level with trying to do something about them. This part of the day was the heart of the event from an organizing perspective, and will likely yield deeper and longer-lasting results than the rally that night. Had there not been such a focus on selling tickets to a too-big venue, perhaps the conference could have been even better.

The one thing that sticks with me most from my experience in the Nader campaign last fall, and with the organizing of the August 4 event, is that volunteers are the salt of the earth. Folks who offer their time and energy to a cause without monetary renumeration out of a desire to save the world (or at least one small part of it) are the most admirable people I have ever met. When a well-known Portland lawyer took to the stage on Saturday night and claimed that his son was responsible for filling the arena, he insulted every last one of these beautiful people. That Nader ran through a list celebrities but also neglected to mention the volunteers was also offensive. People who are this out of touch with reality should not be our leaders, and we should not stand for it when they take on that mantle.

Our revolution cannot be about fame, glory, or ego. It really must be about our grandchildren. Grandstanding, top-down authoritarianism, and corporate media whoring are not going to save the world. Millions of us cooperating equally, consensually, and respectfully is a much more effective approach. So -- I express my deepest admiration for the volunteers who did their best to put on a great day of events, and I decry those who would steal the fruit of their efforts for their own self-aggrandizement. We must resist domination wherever we find it: politically, socially, and personally. No one of us is so smart or talented or important that we can hold ourselves above another and force our ways upon them. August 4's event was a hard lesson in that concept. Let's not let it slip by without learning from it.

I thought I was alone... 08.Aug.2001 02:30

xoxo

I don't want to put my name, because my friends will tease me.

I was in the organizing office often. The local greens were great and treated me with such kindness and respect.
The one fellow who talked to all the press and took phone calls from "ralph",was ......
hummm, how to say this kindly?
in need of some personal skills.
I am a professinal woman, college educated, and I have never been treated with
glaring insensitivy in my life. The man snapped his fingers
at me and ordered me around like an errand girl. More than once.
I was told 3 times in 2 hours to sell, sell, sell, and to "get aggressive". I said that "that is a deal breaker for me, I would rather go home." One hour later I was taken aside and told not to speak to walk-ins anymore, but it was okay if I answered the phone.
I don't really know how to communicate my sense that I was
neither respected nor liked. I wasn't treated in a way that
would indicate that anything I did was of any value to this individual.
oh, it wasn't just me. I watched folks be humiliated, talked down to, flat ignored. I saw a 60 year old woman get "schooled" on "what we're doin' here".

I should have acted on my instinct that something was amiss sooner, and feel like my efforts went to further this kids
career and put money in his pocket. I won't do it again.
Oh, I'll volunteer again, but not for the
Kafourys spot-light loving personal agenda. I won't work for Nader again, although, I am considering becoming a
Green. Thanks to Sara, Barb, Morgan,Jeremy and the rest of the nice folks.

Nader is a millionaire hypocrite who supports 08.Aug.2001 03:21

Black Samba

Read for yourself:

 http://www.bushwatch.net/nader.htm


-d

Jeremy, what you are saying is true, BUT.... 08.Aug.2001 09:00

Earnst Miesner

a high profile event is what was needed. You have to understand the secluded cave most Americans live in. Big media events are CRUCIAL to reaching out to new people. How will you ever reach the people who go from one corporate controled place to another, and then lock themselves in their own homes with the corporate controlled TV telling them about the corporate controlled world. The average American gets up in the morning, eats a bowl of his favorite breakfast cereal, pours coffee into his travel mug, gets into his car and fights traffic all the way to work. At work he sits by himself applying himself to the task of benifiting the company that he works for, with little or no meaningfull talk with his co-workers. He then goes to the company parking lot, gets into his car and goes home. He might stop at a corporate supermarket on the way home where the checkout person's only speech are the pat lines she was told to say to every costomer. He gets home, his wife had a similar day. His kid spent the day in a school that has corporate logos in the cafiteria and a curiculum approved, if not written by the most influential corporations in the state. Yes, I would agree that this event was too glitzy and contrived by to few people, but it was very important that it did occur. Big events like this show the rest of the American public that we are here to stay. It gives us credibility to the media soaked public. It brings thousands of like minded people together to network. And yes it was only possible because hundreds of people got off their damn asses and spent many hours on the streets selling tickets, and promoting the event. Could you get over 7,000 people together any other way than to put on a show. I thought the event was a raging success.
I also think Jello is a great public speaker.

what did you expect 08.Aug.2001 10:44

why

It's about time that progressives and supposed "anarchists" woke up. Ralph Nader is not an anarchist, nor is Eddie Vedder an anarchist. What made people think they would actually have something radical to say? Nader is a political relic from days past and Vedder is a member of one of the biggest selling bands of the 90's. Why would they possibly be anarchists? Hate to sound cynical, but I purposely didn't waste my ten dollars because I knew this rally was going to be pretty insignificant. Hopefully this will be a wake up call to progressives that if they want any significant power in this country, they are going to have to endorse more electable, charismatic individuals.

Anarchist? 08.Aug.2001 17:18

frontier

Who said that Nader was an anarchist?

For anybody to say that party politician is even like an anarchist is laughable.

 http://www.anarchistfaq.org

reply to Ernst 08.Aug.2001 21:02

anon

You seem to understand how deep the power structure runs. Why then do you think we can rely ON CORPORATE MEDIA to get the message out? A super rally WHICH IS A BIG MEDIA EVENT - am I quoting you incorrectly? You should take your own advice.

Frontier 09.Aug.2001 12:20

Jen

That's the point, Jeremy is saying that he gave up party politics (even the Green Party) and became an anarchist because of the fact that even the green party is fucked up.

diversity of tactics 09.Aug.2001 17:07

barb

the green party is fucked up?

no organization is perfect, but to say that we are fucked up is not accurate. my fellow greens and i work together to better improve the green parties presence. the green party is where folks go when they are disollusioned about party politics. groups like the Liberation Collective (god bless 'em) provides a place for folks to go that are done with politics all together. either way, all groups are needed to represent all who feel oppressed.

dialogue is needed in order to better our movement, and those movements that are not critcized do not succeed. we must understand where and why we choose to place ourselves in this anti-corporate movement and not judge, claiming one way is better than another.

as far as nader goes, nader is nader. good, bad or indifferent he attempts to do what he can to change things. the folks that jeremy refers to in his critique are here and now-you either deal with them, don't deal with them or organize around them. this movement does not stop with the few folks that are not user-friendly.

if anything i can personally recount, that which makes me smile and really appreciate the event, is the conversation that i had with mike at libco. to be able to count on each other's org's for support is a relationship worth more than all the tickets and all the fundraisers that could have happened that night.

and we move forward....

barb

Reply to Jen 09.Aug.2001 17:09

Jeremy David Stolen fellowtraveler@riseup.net

I did not say that the green party is fucked up, nor would I. Above, I wrote, "The local Green Party leaders and volunteers involved with the August 4 rally were some of the most dedicated, hardest working, smartest, well-organized, and all-around-best people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting." And that was my experience with green party folks in other parts of the country last fall. Though I am not a member of the party -- and would indeed label myself an anarchist if I had to label myself as something -- I believe in a diversity of tactics. Electoral politics is sometimes a legitimate tactic to use, if only on the very local level. For example, the election of Pacific Green Party member Lisa Melyan to the Tualatin Valley Water District is significant and meaningful. If she can help prevent corporate power from forcing Oregonians to drink polluted Wilamette River water, then her election will have had a genuinely positive effect on the world. Her speech at the Aug. 4 rally was, in my opinion, the most inspiring because her message was that we can *all* change the world.

Honest, Informed Critique: Blast of Fresh Air 10.Aug.2001 02:27

Energee

Much thanks to Jeremy for the thoughtful critique. It is especially significant given his considerable experience with last years' "super-rallies" throughout the country, as well as the recent Rose Garden rally, and all the more credible because of his courage to sign his name. Perhaps because I've never been immersed deeply in any Pacific Green campaigns, I've never encountered such reprehensible behavior myself. But I have HEARD such complaints within the Nader campaigns in the Portland area before. I think it's important that such experiences and criticism be discussed openly and that future Green activities not fall under the dominance of authoritarian individuals due to silence, fear, passivity, or avoidance of leadership on the part of others.
I am NOT an anarchist. Although I probably need an education in anarchic philosophy and principles, I cannot advocate anarchism at this time because I see it as impractical idealism. My greatest problem with it is that so often, when a structure is not agreed upon by a group or a leader is not chosen, someone assumes that position overtly or covertly. (When it is a group that includes anarchists, it is not unusual for a self-proclaimed anarchist, or clique of anarchists, to dominate, lead, or co-opt.)
THE PRICE OF DEMOCRACY IS ETERNAL VIGILANCE.
While the Pacific Green Party does support decentralization of power, it does not purport to advocate anarchy. Therefore, I suggest it is appropriate for the party or activities done in the name of the party to be led or managed by individuals who have been chosen by democratic selection or other agreed upon processes. The onus is upon all members and supporters of the Greens (or any other group or organization in a similar situation) to offer to take responsibility for various projects, insist upon democratic processes that ensure that such projects truly represent the party, and stand up to individuals and groups who assume authority, or who are assumed by non-Greens to be in authority. Usurpation of our purpose, name, principles, and decision-making processes must be challenged and disallowed. And it is the responsibility of everyone within the organization - and most especially our chosen leaders and administrators - to protect the party and its processes from threats - ESPECIALLY threats form WITHIN the party. This is best done by establishing and following process, and, when necessary, by sounding alarm when that process is threatened or violated.
I am moved by Jeremy's committment to open dialogue. It is a necessary requisite of democratic process.

anarchism 11.Aug.2001 00:37

Deva drdartist3@home.com

<<<I am NOT an anarchist. Although I probably need an education in anarchic philosophy and principles, I cannot advocate anarchism at this time because I see it as impractical idealism. My greatest problem with it is that so often, when a structure is not agreed upon by a group or a leader is not chosen, someone assumes that position overtly or covertly. (When it is a group that includes anarchists, it is not unusual for a self-proclaimed anarchist, or clique of anarchists, to dominate, lead, or co-opt.) >>>

exactly how often is so often? and how many anarchist groups have you observed over some time? How many anarchist groups have you been around that had no agreed upon structure? How many that had a structure developed through consensus?

Indymedia itself is structured on essentially anarchist principles. . .it is consensus based, non-authoritarian, non-hierarchical, self determined, based in autonomous action, and is not for profit.

It is doing quite well for itself

A couple of anarchist groups I have been involved with were/are not manifesting these problems that you mention in a degree to be anywhere near as problematic as our usual top down power structures.

Since we have so much experience with authoritarian rule, we have a certain efficiency of "production" in its use. However, we have seen countless times, how such structures lead to abuse and domination. It is virtually inherent in the structure.

Isn't it high time we tried something new?. . .and stay with it, even through some growing pains? I would suggest that it is more realistic to attempt something that contains the seeds of success yet is untried, rather than sticking to the usual top down authoritarian structures hoping for a positive result in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

In no way is xoxo alo 11.Aug.2001 11:02

Allen Timm atimm_1999@yahoo.com

I am a PGP member and volunteer who worked with the People Have The Power Tour.
From my observation of this volunteer effort Jason Kafoury is in no ways suitable for directing
such efforts as he violated the essence of values that Greens are supposed to support. Where does it say we check our humanity at the door when we go to volunteer? I was also subjected to snapped and hasty orders by Jason Kafoury, showing a complete lack of respect, foresight, and planning.

The Greens may expect to receive a lot people who are subjected daily to the very behaviour that Jason Kafoury meted out ("Nickel and Dimed to Death" is one to read) as it has become more obvious that something is going wrong as regards trade deals, loss of public services, and the further impoverishment of the marginalized locally and worldwide. Greens cant have, on the surface, values that look pretty but then not follow through with them.
Thats why people have to be living the life as well as just reading it. I already see in Portland that happening
in very tangeble ways and it has been positive to see interaction among other groups and see it on the streets
i hope others see it as well so we can do things collectively electoraly and otherwise with numbers that couldnt be accomplished by the elevated few (as Jeremy pointed out above). I agree we have got to get away from the superstar mentality, else that will be our end.

ps xoxo is not alone 11.Aug.2001 12:04

Allen atimm_1999@yahoo.com

It has been very positive to see in the Portland area Greens, the Pacific Green Party, endorsing justice and human rights and helping to organize a street demonstration (such as with the Liberation Collective in response to Genoa recently) within it's official capacity. This is what I joined for, and not to work to elevate some ones son above the rest to further the political fortunes of another superstar.

The Organizers 14.Aug.2001 17:35

NGL

Filling an arena, especially during a nonelection year, is a most stressful undertaking and any disagreeable behavior should be viewed with this in mind.
I have known and worked with the men who conceived of and organized of this event since September and found them to be fully competent and dedicated individuals. As a volunteer (and as a woman) I was treated with the utmost respect and appreciation, and I look forward to working with them in the future.

NGL

I See Changes Made 15.Jul.2002 09:32

Richard Martin rmartin1978@yahoo.com

I was a volunteer at the Super Rally in Tampa, Florida for Democracy Rising and had a hand in the event.

I showed up off the street about 3 weeks before the rally was scheduled in the USF Sundome. All I wanted to do was volunteer. I was given that opportunity.

Answering phones, doing media research, contacting different places for supplies, photocopies, editorial contacts and even arranging a plane "banner-tow" over Florida's Gulf Beaches were the bulk of what I did. I was never "told" to do any of this. I just asked.

Sure, there was a sense of urgency to all of it. I would expect there to be with a contracted dome, pre-arranged speakers and the level of coordination that had to go into it. Jason Kafoury was stressed out, Matt Zawicky was stressed out, hell, I was stressed out. Human nature makes people tense when they are under pressure. For the record, no matter how pressured or tense they got, I never saw them lose their cool. They remained focused and determined. I was treated with the utmost respect and appreciation for my volunteer work. The personal rewards and the friends I made were also enjoyable.

If some of the previous rallies had issues listed in previous posters comments, I didn't see them. We had a steering committee which was properly functioning with volunteers representing a large cross-section of progressive groups and organizations in the Tampa area. At the event, the tables of some 150 organizations took up half the SunDome and were open to the public through the ENTIRE event. Somewhere near 6,500 people showed up - a record in the Dome's history. People who wanted to listen to the speakers could, or they could walk the booths, pick up material, organize, volunteer etc. The progressive directory that was distributed has done wonders for local organizing of groups.

The steeting committee itself organized and supported nearly everything that happened. They worked to find the best person who could fill positions needed by the media, the facility crews, transportation needs, etc.

I do understand the argument currently proferred by discontents. I find it hard though to see how they want the event organized. Many of the issues they bring up are issues which have to be resolved prior to volunteers becoming involved. Choosing a venue alone is done prior to entering a city. We are talking about money here. Democracy Rising doesn't have much money so, before they go into a city, they have to search these things out ahead of time. To demand that they break contract, and choose another venue is simply unfeasible.

Yes, Democracy Rising does come "pre-packaged" to a large extent but, when they come into town, before any of it, they ask the local groups "This is who we are, this is what we have done, these are our goals and this is what we want to do here. - Do you want to work with us to do it?" For better or for worse, the results are largely a group effort and the results are indicative of the communication, cooperation and participation of everyone involved. The question that I believes nees to be asked is "Despite operational difficulties, despite stressful conditions and personality conflicts, as they are simply results of shoprt time frames and close quarters coordination, did the event achieve results that everyone can agree were positive? Were individual organizations and participants goals achieved? Were Democracy Rising's goals achieved?

If we want to see it changed because of these difficulties, let's put together some concrete proposals. Let's not take a tone of negativity and instead say "You know what, I was a little bit bothered by the organizational aspects of volunteers, I think that giving the steering committee more say in the on-stage event would be benificial in the future." or something to that effect. Not, "Be damned, they are just a group of media-hogging bastards!" You will get more cooperation in the spirit of cooperation than in antagonism. This is simply human nature.

Democracy Rising affords an absolutely fabulous opportunity to local progressive groups wherever they go. An opportunity that would not otherwise be available! Sure, money is involved, a large amount of money to secure a facility and arrange the logistics for an event this large. Local groups do not, my experience has seen, have the type of capital and cash to put on an event like this. Democracy Rising does.

A lot of the upfront outlays come out of their pockets to pay for the arrangement of these events. Ticket sales and donations are the sole way they can recoup these losses so that they can remain viable and continue to put on these events. If you ask for the budget, they will show it to you. Ticket sales barely cover the costs of the facility. The remaining money has to come from somewhere - donations. Even then, when all is said and done, any money left over afterwards goes to the next rally. It gives them greater flexibility. Some have said that Democracy Rising "profit" on the work of the volunteers. I say that all of the groups involved "profit" economically and in other ways. In the Tampa rally, Democracy Rising offered space to the Green Party and the Campus Greens for a fundraiser where all profts went to them. A lot of the volunteer tables took donations for their causes.

Any money Democracy Rising made from the event was given to them by people who wanted it to go to them to continue the rallies they have been successful in pulling off. I think they deserve it.

The volunteers do deserve a lot of credit. In Tampa, they got it. The volunteers were thanked immensely. An after party was thrown at Democracy Rising's expense for the volunteers with Ralph Nader and Michael Moore open for conversation and a live band. Even today, two months after the event, they are still putting on a Volunteer appreciation party in a local park. Friends were made here and Democracy Rising's appreciation was duly noted.

Do the people who have criticized the organization believe that these organizers do this for personal gain? If so, what do they have to gain? Recognition so that they can continue to mobilize progressives? Better experience at mobilizing the dissaffected? Is this bad? Do they believe that what this group is trying to achieve in some way hurts progressive thought and direction? If so, how? Is there a better way for an event that brings people together in this magnitude to go off without some sort of centralized direction? If so, I would love to hear it.

I cherish the time I volunteered for Democracy Rising. I think it is the best volunteer opportunity I have found in all my years doing so. The people who participate and who organize it are in touch 100% with Progressive thought. They advocate and try to live the dream we all have for a better world and they are not content with sitting idly and instead choose to do something about it. Are there faults in how these vents are pulled off? Of course but, the positive effects well outweigh the negative. Anyone who has ever run an event of that magnitude knows that snafu's happen all the time. This is the nature of volunteer activity. Overall, Democracy Rising is a benefit to the Progrssive movement and I challenge anyone to say that it is not.