Every Tuesday I meet with a friend for coffee. Our usual conversation is about how we can better the community and, lately, about the latest outbursts by Trump. Once we get into the core of the problems, our ideological differences emerge. Every time my friend asks me to participate in something, whether it is making a phone call to my congressional official, participate in a postcard night, or write a letter, I look at them, smirk, and casually shake my head. One day, my friend asked me, “why? Why are you shaking your head?” I just smiled and looked at them to say that those things do not work. I could tell I struck a nerve with them, to which their reaction/response to me was, “we need to support Democrats. Give me a good reason why you still do not support Democrats.” I simply said that Democrats lose.
At this point, I could tell my friend was trying to apply their deductive reasoning skills to understand what I just said. “What do you mean Democrats lose? They get elected into office, so how do these lose?” Electorally yes, Democrats do not lose. But elections do not provide aid for those in your community. When was the last time you saw your Democratic Party official conduct a free breakfast program in their district? When was the last time a Democratic Party official said that there will be no drone flying over our city? Personally, I have never seen it. My friend would then say, “You need to side with Democrats so that certain bills get passed or blocked.” No, I don’t. Democrats and republicans play chess with our lives. Again, Democrats and republicans play chess with our lives. We cannot allow that to happen. Real change starts in our communities, not in a legislative building. My friend would then go on to say, “well you are not suggesting that radicals are the ones that get things done. Are you?” Yet you cannot talk about the weekend, the eight hour work day, having better working conditions, and other labor laws without talking about those socialists, communists, and anarchists in the unions they were involved in. You cannot talk about the civil rights movement without those same radicals that participated in the planning in the historic events we know of. They are the same radical feminists that address the state of patriarchy in our society, even to this day. They are the same radicals that were in the beginning of the queer liberation movement as well as fighting to protect our environment. The list goes on. Our historical fabric is sewed with socialists, communists, and anarchists that have fought for changes to our system and have won.
What have Democrats done? They have voted for pro-business legislation called the Affordable Care Act, plus voted for a bailout to keep Wall Street secure. Looking at a state like Illinois, where Democrats have ruled the state assembly since 2003, a bill that would transaction taxpayer monies out of the state, while giving tax breaks to entities like the Chicago Board of Options Exchange, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and related Wall St. organization has been introduced to the legislative body. The Illinois State Assembly, along with other Democratic Party supporters, voted for a fracking regulatory bill. It would keep fracking businesses operational plus continue to destroy the natural beauty in places like the Starved Rock State Park and the Shawnee National Forest. Democrats lose: U.S. House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, even said during a CNN Town Hall that “We are capitalists and that is not going to change.” She and other Democrats say that reforms are the only way to address the issues we have. Capitalism will always grow over the reforms that are in place. Democrats make public policy for capitalism to thrive when a reform is in the works. If that were not the case, then we would have a living wage by now, have better public education and healthcare, our infrastructure would be at its best, and our environment to not be tampered with oil pipelines, fracking equipment, and the animal population would not be depleting at an exponential rate. This is where my friend would interject to say that “the problem with ideas like socialism is the drastic change we would face if capitalism was removed.”
Who said anything about drastic change? We have to transition from capitalism into socialism through the implementation of programs, which is already in motion in the United States of America. One of those examples is in Wisconsin where the Center for Cooperatives at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has a report that the nearly 30,000 cooperatives in the United States, excluding housing co-ops, has drawn in $652 billion in revenue with it’s 2.1 million total jobs it provides. Even the city of Cleveland has looked at the cooperative model to rebuild its local economy. This led to the formation of Evergreen Cooperative. It started out as an initiative to identify six low-income neighborhoods in the city and implement a worker cooperative program that residents could apply for as well as grow the local economy.
Free schools are another example. Free schools are a non-hierarchical, decentralized network of individuals in which skills, information, and knowledge are shared without the institutional environment of formal schooling. Free schools are found internationally, plus can be found from Albany, NY to Santa Cruz, CA.
There is also participatory budgeting. Participatory budgeting is a different way to manage public money and to engage people in government. It is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It enables taxpayers to work with the government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives. It was first conceived in Porto Alegre, Brazil in the late 80s, and there are now over 1,500 participatory budgets around the world. Most of these are at the city level for municipal budgets. Participatory budgeting has also been used for counties, states, housing authorities, schools and school systems, universities, coalitions, and other public agencies.
Finally, there are public banks. Public banking is distinguished from private banking in that its mandate begins with the public’s interest. Privately-owned banks, by contrast, have shareholders who generally seek short-term profits as their highest priority. Public banks are able to reduce taxes within their jurisdictions because their profits are returned to the general fund of the public entity. The costs of public projects undertaken by governmental bodies are also greatly reduced because public banks do not need to charge interest. Eliminating interest has been shown to reduce the cost of such projects, on average, by 50%. The above mentioned are things that Democrats will never do or support, since we signed the social contract willingly to give elected officials the authority to reign over our lives. This is the reason why we will continue to see the systemic problems that we face every day. That is why we have to raise awareness of programs that are currently underway, and like revolt, we ought to question the absence of radical ideas. As the late Grace Lee Boggs said, “you cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it.” It is in your non-invisible hand to build a future worth of your dreams.