April '02 Feature:
Practical Idealism unites protest By John Kusumi
of China, globalization, Mid East
It is a weekend when we are all contemplating the state of protest in America. Today being April 20, the streets of Washington are expected to be full as we experience a crescendo of protest.
I would be known to protestors as the chief of the China Support Network. I would be known to mainstream Americans as the one-time 18-year-old for U.S. President, that candidate of 1984. I have the asset of being the one man who can speak from both standings (and, can now speak from the age of 35).
We are all knocking at the door of Washington, now with some urgency, because those of us in various causes are breathing down each others' neck. I would like to make suggestions which involve bringing disparate groups under the banner of Practical Idealism.
Practical Idealism is a good catch-all phrase for those of us working to achieve a better future. In 1984, I became responsible for it as mainstream media credited me with coining this term, and applying it as the name of a national political platform. My stand in 1984 was for the politics of Practical Idealism, and my bumper stickers read, "People Are Important."
That message seems to be lost on Washington, as the number of matters to protest has multiplied, and "a crisis of domestic dissent" is reflected on the streets today.
Some people would assert that anyone who can remain calm, and not panic, clearly does not understand the situation! But, in my capacities, I believe in keeping a level head, and in speaking to the establishment, it is important to "disagree without being disagreeable." Unlike the angriest of our protestors, I don't have the latitude to fly off the handle, or blow my stack. Yet, I know the pressures. On occasion, I represent the Chinese democracy movement. That is an area of intense pressure, as anyone for human rights and democracy in China must feel levels of rage and frustration which are unfathomable.
I will be suggesting actions for various Americans who may call themselves "protestors" or "mainstream" -- likely, those who feel they are in the overlap. I also feel it is important to praise individuals and groups of protestors, who have kept their resistance non-violent. I have likewise praised Chinese dissidents, because take a look at their plight -- they have been patient while the establishment has blown them off, frustrated them, and thwarted their agenda. The Chinese democracy movement has never turned to terrorism, and has kept its character as a non-violent movement.
So, I believe they and many protestors are correct to stay in a plane above violence, to keep in the right, and to remain principled. The next thing that we want is effectiveness for our causes.
Practical Idealism will not suit the tastes of everyone; there will be some who feel that it is too "mainstream." In Practical Idealism, there would still be our U.S. government, and there would still be capitalism. I propose to upgrade or improve both our politics and our capitalism. In an enhanced condition, they would still be with us. Remember, I was a presidential candidate in the 1980s, so I supported our basic system of those days, with enhancements. (The system later grew worse, with political correctness and the globalization of free trade. I'd care to take away these recent things, and enhance matters beyond that point -- with politics based on the idea that people are important.)
Some will feel that I am too compromising, or that I have sold out. Would Practical Idealism become subborned by the establishment? --My friends, that's the objective! Picture the scenario. --Would it be a massive upgrade for our establishment, if we heard about Practical Idealism along side liberalism and conservatism? And if principled politics, stemming from "people are important" sentiments, had a chance to compete against the conventional, common, sold out positions?
(Note: In such a three way match up, Practical Idealism would be the stronger, and winning, politics. The strength comes from being principled and intellectually self consistent. Those qualities add up to something more: integrity. Truly, conventional politics is more compromised. Practical Idealism is not too compromising...it is industrial strength politics, not bought and paid for, and might be described as "the principled center, not the sell out center.")
It does what seems impossible in a protest movement -- it adds a political platform. As a result, we will face and discuss not just problems -- but rather, face and discuss solutions.
Perhaps I will make it clear here and now, that I am not opening a campaign -- I am not running for anything. However, my action today is to throw open Practical Idealism as a new membership organization. This banner could become an alternative to sold out politics, and could become the platform for others -- likely other candidates -- to run on in the future. Even with no Kusumi campaign, this group can change the outcomes of American politics.
Above, I said that we want effectiveness for our causes. Alright then, who are "we"? What do we want? And, how will Practical Idealism be effective in getting what we want?
Above, I tried to define the "we" as an overlap between "protestors" and "mainstream" Americans. It would be those of us with concern that government is too far away from the operating principle that people are important. Recently, I developed a "thank you" list of Congressmen, and I found that they were 35% Republican and 65% Democrats. Practical Idealism is, itself, not a political party, and it began outside the two party system as I ran my campaign in 1984. Practical Idealists may be a new, generic term for compatible activists and independent minded voters.
I believe that "we" can include Republicans and Democrats, and I think that Practical Idealism will not satisfy true anarchists or anti-capitalists, because we would keep reporting structures and private property. Also, Practical Idealism will not satisfy absolute pacifists. We decry all civilian "collateral damage" of war, but we believe the President must be able to throw a few punches in our behalf. It is important to solve terrorism.
Violence is no long term solution, but we allow that the President may be on to something, with strikes being a needed half-measure. As a result, Practical Idealism will not satisfy the purists in the "peace now" crowd.
Having narrowed down "we," what do we want? We oppose tyranny. We want democratic political reform in places where they now have communists, dictators, tyrants, and thugs. We want just, stable, and lasting solutions for the Middle East and for terrorism. We want the multilateral trade bodies (WTO, NAFTA, etc.) discarded. We want tariffs for tyranny and exploitation implemented. We want private sector types to cease adjudicating "non-tariff barriers to free trade." Taken together, these last three suggestions would rollback the globalization of free trade.
We also want human rights, fair labor standards, redress of environmental concerns, and strengthened consumer protections.
We want a balanced federal budget, and we want social security fixed. Within the conventional spectrum, Practical Idealism is fiscally conservative; hawkish on national security; and socially liberal (we would have the opposite of the President's position on abortion and the war on drugs).
I believe I have well defined the "we" receiving this appeal, and what we want. Now, how will we be more effective for our causes? This is where Practical Idealism comes in. What really is remarkable about Practical Idealism? --The value here is in having more than ideas. The value here is in having a plan.
It may be valuable that I am the political whippersnapper of almost 20 years ago. I have prepared a plan of action which cuts to the bone. Above, I mentioned a "thank you" list of Congressmen. The plan includes thanking them by re-electing the named Congressmen.
The value here is not just that of having a big idea. The value is in having all of our various protest groups, coming down on the same side in your congressional district elections. The idea is to bring pressure and education to politicians, in a large group where your effectiveness is amplified by that of many others.
There is in fact much more to the plan; we want you to familiarize yourself with the steps of this process, where together we can indeed change American politics. Right now, I do not fancy myself to be a contender for U.S. President. But, I can emerge as an advocate, as did Ralph Nader many years ago. And, I work with the leading Chinese dissidents. That crowd from Tiananmen Square and I may, to some people, be the "original rock stars of Generation X politics."
I am now inviting yourself, plus any activists and voters of your acquaintance, to discover or re-discover Practical Idealism, with specific materials on the Web. The plan of action as mentioned is found at the specific URL, kusumi.com/book. I also run the overall kusumi.com Web site.
I believe that we are now protesting for a reason, and that we want to focus on solutions, as well as problems. We are chasing down a real course correction for American politics. To truly make it happen, we will need you to make Practical Idealism your own cause, and to follow all of the steps in the plan, skipping none. (You will see some very key steps in that plan, including that of printing out pages to educate your politicians.) Please print out the plan as you will find at kusumi.com/book.
There you have it -- my best nuggets from political experience and activism. Thank you for your readership!
John Kusumi is your former 18-year-old candidate for U.S. President (Ind., '84).
He is known for "Practical Idealism," and is presently publishing an autobiography.
Kusumi founded the China Support Network (CSN) in 1989. CSN became the leading group of
Americans responding to Tiananmen Square's Communist atrocity.