September 4th, 2009

PK Icon

This is the the kind of movement issue I'm talking about

This recent post from Openleft illustrates the sort of movement coordination issues I'm always on about -- recognizing they aren't simple.

Here's the problem. Back in June, LGBT activist Cleve Jones declared a National Equality March on DC for October. The problem, as OpenLeft blogger Adam Bink pointed out, is that progressive resources generally and LGBT resources particularly are spread damn thin right now. Now we see a tension between an organic self-organizing movement and something centrally controlled and funded externally like the Tea Baggers and Freedomworks. The latter don't have coordination issues, nor do they need to make decisions on priorities. All the money is going into opposing health care reform at the moment, so decision made.

Here we see the more difficult problem of who gets to yield and how damaging is it if only a small segment of the community who cares about an issue shows up. Note also, however, that the choice is not "national march" v. "nothing." It is a question of what tactics are effective based on realistic assessments of what resources you have. I'd love to get folks marching in the streets for my issues, but it ain't gonna happen. So I focus on motivating folks to do in district visits, FCC comments, and other goals that more accurately track what I can reasonably expect from people while building what momentum I can.

When to push people for more is a tough call. But it can't be done lightly or even because it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes a push works, especially if you start with low expectations. Color of Change brought significant attention to the Jena 6 when it ignored NAACP and began organizing a protest march that attracted massive attendance. But that was in part because even a few hundred people showing up in Jena would have had some impact and would not have been a failure. That the Jena 6 protest attracted 20K was therefore a major victory.

When to pull back and reassess is always difficult, especially if you are passionate enough to care in the first place and put youir heart into something like this. But it is imperative to the success of a movement.