Movement building is exhausting, highly skilled work. What appears to be “spontaneous” is the result of painstaking organizing and--just like Oscar Wilde never said--constant meetings. Over the decades, social movements have convened meetings of every kind and size, from the farmer’s alliances of the Populist movement to the consciousness raising sessions of the second women’s movement. There have been meetings to assign mundane tasks of list building and phone calling to volunteers; meetings to debate and decide changes in strategy; meetings to hold people accountable for the stuff they promised to do at the last meeting—meetings meetings meetings.
Experienced organizers teach the less experienced and expand the circle of competent leadership. Rosa Parks was an activist veteran. Key CIO staff who organized the steel industry in the late 1930s got their start by organizing the great 400,000 worker strong steel strike of 1919. Betty Friedan was no novice housewife—she worked for a militant, leftist union in the 1940s. And today academics are learning that the Tea Party is composed not only of the newly disgruntled, but also of many people who have been politically active, some of them since the Goldwater campaign.