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AUDIO FILE: Gaining Political Power in Oregon

Harry Lonsdale, speaking before a meeting of Money Is Not Democracy, a group seeking signatures for the Campaign Finance Reform Initiative, Ballot Measure 53.
Harry Lonsdale, speaking before a meeting of Money Is Not Democracy, a group seeking signatures for the Campaign Finance Reform Initiative, Ballot Measure 53.
Lonsdale, among others, has been working on this issue for years now, having passsed one in 1994, which was subsequently struck down by the courts. Another campaign gathered signatures in 2002, but failed to gather enoguh LEGAL signatures to have it put upon the ballot. For every invalid signature, 400 signatures were deleted from the total, leaving them just short of the required number of signatures.
Lonsdale, who, in 1992 ran as a Democrat for the Senate from Oregon three times unsuccessfully, began by stating, "I am angy, almost beyond words at George Bush and his administration for this immoral war, for which there seems to be no evidence..........I'm angry at my fellow Democrats for not calling him on it and not standing up to him. Four out of the five leading presidental candidates are for the war....but most of all I'm angry at the press, I'm angry at the media for not calling this guy for this immoral war."
What can we do, he asks? "We can use the initiative process as a way of fighting back.....I think it's a potential way at least to gain political power in Oregon." He believes that it is possible to use Measure 53 as a launching pad for further initiatives to gain political power. He cites the example of Bill Sizemore who, using other people's money, passed several Initiatives, and even gained a high enough profile to mount a formidable campaign for governor.
While admitting that this is a dream, and that it will take a number of years to realize, Lonsdale is confident that this is possible. He says that all we need are a couple hundred people, dedicated people, who can get out and gather the signatures. "Oregon was the second state to have the initiative and the first to use it, just about 100 years ago right now." He then uses the struggle for women to get the right to vote as an example of how perseverant we must be, and quotes statistics extensively from a book by Gail Collins, America's Women
The drive for women's sufferage went on for at least 100 years, full of failures, set backs and hostility. During the 52 years of pauseless campaigns, "they were forced to conduct 56 campaigns of referenda to male voters, 480 campaigns to get legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters, 47 campaigns to get state constitutional conventions to write women's suffrage in the state constitutions, 277 to get state party conventions to include women's suffrage planks, 30 campaigns to get presidential party campaigns to include women's suffrage in party platforms, and 19 campaigns with 19 successive congresses."
Here in Oregon the struggle for women's suffrage went on from 1906 through 1912, when women were finally successful in getting the right to vote. Eventually, the federal government followed the lead of the various states, with the 19th amendment to the Constitution in 1920. And, both the 40 hour work week and the 8 hour work day were first passed in the states before being made the law of the entire country.
"Only six states have no limits on campaign contributions. Oregon is one of those six. Pathetic. This so called clean government state can't even get big money out of politics. We will do it!"
Nothing great comes easy; yet all things, great and small, are the sum of many smaller components. Perhaps one of the underlying reasons for the apathy of the American people is the enormity of the task ahead, the magnitude of what it takes to struggle against the power of big money and the force of insider momentum. But, that is the power of Democracy, the power of the people, now scattered into thousands of scattered slow streams and meandering rivers, lost on their way to the sea. So many of us want to do something. Perhaps Lonsdale is pointing the way to the ocean, a way we can attend to the dreams we have of a better world, where money doesn't rule the roost and every one can have a voice, a voice that counts for something besides it's purchasing power.
We can each do something, and this is something we can do. It's no secret that as long as money controls the elections it controls the people. Each signature gathered is another drop of water in the wave that will reinstate the people as the rightful navigator of the ship of state. Those brave souls who fought so hard and for so long to gain women's suffrage are the perfect model for this struggle. They fought and uphill batle against an entrenched establishment. No different than the present situation.
This audio file is about 22 minutes in length.
Harry Lonsdale

homepage: homepage: http://www.PhilosopherSeed.org

go deeper 29.Jan.2004 21:06

Joe Hill

I'm sympathetic to your ideals. But I think the problem is deeper and more fundamental than you've suggested, and requires more radical solutions. Women's suffrage is not necessarily an adequate example. "Money in politics" gets much closer to the heart of the vile beast than even women's suffrage. And the beast is Capitalism. That's the thing we have to drive a bloody stake through the heart of.

Take a look at the example of this recent Public Utility District campaign in Multnomah County. We saw election officials deliberately write lies into the ballot. Now a federal judge has condemned their lies in a court of law, but has ordered no remedy. In other words, "Wink wink! Nudge nudge! Oops! That was naughty! You can't use THAT trick again to fool the people! Next time, you'd better use a DIFFERENT one!"

This is the kind of system we are dealing with. The people who run it are protecting class interests. They will stop at nothing. They are dirty, double-dealing, and completely unscrupulous. We can't expect anything short of outright, mass citizen uprisings to even begin to seriously address what we're up against.

I think we should be learning from people in Bolivia. What did Bolivians do when Bechtel came in and tried to take over their water supply, hiking the cost of water up 80% overnight? Petition the government? Try to get a ballot initiative passed? I don't think so.

They occupied government buildings, blocked roads and bridges, and called a General Strike. A number of people were killed by armed government thugs. But they won. And that's the kind of resolve that it will take in this country, if we're serious about making real change and turning things around from the brink of total unmitigated disaster.

going deeper........ 29.Jan.2004 22:49

Jim eagleye@PhilosopherSeed.org

You'll get no arguement from me for anything you said, except for the fact that the example of women's suffrage was used to indicate how perseverant people have been in the past in achieving their goals against near impossible odds. The battle may have had different parameters, but also had some similarities, at least to the degree they seek reform in the face of a firmly established hierarchy.

This brings up, in my mind, the capitalism is evil, socialism is much better, or at least less prone to corruption, argument. Perhaps this is so. Capitalism has sure degenerated. But, did any form of Socialism fare much better in the long run? I'm asking, because I'm not in possession of all the facts of history.

I do know that if one was to go deeper, as you suggest, what one comes to is the fact that we're ultimately dealing with human nature, not economic systems. I suppose, idealistically, if one were to adhere to the true tenants of Capitalism, encouraging competition, rather than merging power and money against democratic instituions, that this system would work as well as any other. Maybe not, these are merely conjectures. Communism has done well in some instances, but in the Soviet Union was perhaps even more corrupt than present western style Capitalism.

To my mind, the problem and the solution lies in Human Naure, which, as long as it perceives itself to be separate and aloof from Nature itself, will always somehow stand in the shadows cast by the inventions it's own mind. This does little to solve the problem of the human condition, but at least it correctly assesses the true contours of the problem.

human nature 30.Jan.2004 15:36

Joe Hill

Arguments about "human nature" are dangerous and disingenuous. It is a typical rightwing sort of armwaving effort to dismiss fundamental, systemic defects as attributable to 'human nature" Marx had a very good retort to this, something to the effect that whatever human beings are capable of is not "human nature," or if it is, then the term itself is meaningless. Some humans eat each other, some mothers drown their babies, but would we then say these things are "human nature'? Yes, there is nothing in "human nature" that precludes these things. The real question is, what sort of behaviors are encouraged and what sort are discouraged by the overall society?

Derrick Jensen says that a society whose fundamental ethos glorifies "competition" over cooperation will always lead to genocide. And a society that puts no checks on the ability of capital to accumulate leads to total despotism. This is the nature of capitalism, not 'human nature."

The colossal failure of the revolutionary socialist enterprise undertaken by Lenin and his ideological inheritors is one of the bigger tragedies in human history, no doubt. However, it has its own characteristics, and doesn't justify the idea that no alternatives are possible to capitalism. Just observing the marked differences between European social democracy, tattered as it may be getting, and American laissez-faire capitalism belies this notion. The real danger we face today is the growing power of the American model, by force of arms and economic hegemony, to spread itself against the will of most of the world's people, and to the benefit of only a small minority of them.