The Convention: What Was Missing

democratic partyj 2One key element was not included in the remarkably successful 2016 Democratic Convention: the Democratic Party.

The convention fully engaged the important cultural war between “Individualism or Communitarianism?” Many of the speeches and presentations were remarkably powerful. I lost track of how many times I cried. At the end, I was relieved and reassured that Clinton will win in November.

But none of the speakers called for rebuilding the Party into a unified, activist organization that fights year-round for its platform, In fact, both the Party and the platform were barely mentioned. Following are the number of times the major speakers mentioned “Democratic Party” or “platform.”

Democratic Party Platform
Hillary Clinton 0 1
Tim Kaine 1 0
Barack Obama 1 0
Joe Biden 0 0
Bill Clinton 0 0
Bernie Sanders 2 3

Hillary’s reference to the platform was included in her appeal to Bernie’s supporters: “That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.  We wrote it together – now let’s go out there and make it happen together.”

But she said little about how to do that.

Sanders fought successfully to make the platform more progressive and he concluded his remarks by talking about that effort. And he declared, “We have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution, our revolution, continues!”

But the only thing he said about how to achieve that goal was, “Our job now is to see that strong Democratic platform implemented by a Democratic-controlled Senate, a Democratic House, and a Hillary Clinton presidency!”

He did not, for example, in order to transform the Party into an activist organization that fights for its platform throughout the year, urge his supporters to elect like-minded people to local Democratic Party county committees and other bodies that elect the state committees that elect the National Committee.

Instead, as Jane Sanders told Rolling Stone Wednesday, she and Bernie plan to:

“Hold their feet to the fire.” …If the Democratic Party starts backing away from the platform, ever, we will fight like crazy to support the work that all of these millions of people did….

Starting yesterday, we have two new organizations: the Sanders Institute, which will convey the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve traveled this country and met with so many people. [And Our Revolution, which will help craft policies and elect new leadership.]

So Bernie is not urging his supporters to transform the Democratic Party. He is not giving the Democratic Party his lists of donors and volunteers, which reinforces the underlying fragmentation. Presumably he will decide when to mobilize his supporters. His plan does not envision helping to build a powerful, democratic, inclusive, multi-issue, nonviolent, national coalition that can quickly mobilize massive popular pressure on Washington in a timely manner. 

I still believe the Democratic Party could become that kind of coalition. But that scenario will not be realized and fragmentation will prevail so long as people like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders focus so heavily on elections and decline to use their office as organizing tools to transform the Democratic Party into a real organization.

The Party will continue to be an empty shell of an organization that is superseded by the campaign organizations of candidates who win primary campaigns. Weeks ago, a highly accomplished retired administrative assistant offered to volunteer in a highly disorganized Democratic Party county office in a swing state. Elsewhere, another experienced activist in a blue state asked the local Democratic Party office for a list of voters in his precinct so he could recruit Democrats to engage voters in swing states. Neither offer so far has been accepted. Another Democratic Party activist who’s been registering voters in public locations was told that the Clinton campaign and the local Party would be dividing up public outreach and phone banking. Those instances of disarray and fragmentation are par for the course.

Ideally, some day the Democratic Party will reverse the decline of political parties, as was described so well in “How American Politics Went Insane.” If not, perhaps existing activist organizations will eventually overcome their ego trips and unify. Or maybe somehow a new national coalition will emerge.

Otherwise, we’ll have to continue to rely on haphazard spontaneity. And we see how far that has got us.


Birthday Reflections: 2016

WadeOn my 72nd birthday, my path forward is unclear. I know what I want but I don’t know how to get there.

I want to participate in a holistic, powerful, democratic, inclusive, multi-issue, nonviolent, national organization that:

  • Is dedicated to steadily transforming this nation and its social system into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of the Earth Community.
  • Builds momentum with evolutionary revolution by backing progressive positions that already have the support of a majority of Americans.
  • Grows a network of small groups of individuals who share that commitment and explicitly support one another in their efforts to become better, more effective human beings.
  • Encourages members to engage in active listening, appreciative inquiry, and respectful, non-dogmatic, non-ideological dialog.

As I see it, major changes in national policy are essential to relieve the suffering and injustice that are so widespread. In particular, the federal government should generate and share revenue with local governments to provide more human services and protect the environment. That public-service program could guarantee that anyone who is able and willing to work could find a living-wage job.

Instead, the federal government is more concerned about protecting the creditor class against even a small degree of unexpected inflation, which erodes capital. So Congress refuses to engage in short-term deficit spending to fund a real jobs program. And when we approach full employment, the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

The result is that the federal government intentionally creates widespread poverty and unemployment. Under those circumstances, local efforts to solve homelessness, for example, are doomed to failure. But compassion-grounded advocates who merely help individuals or address local policies neglect national policy.

Since I first became an activist fifty years ago, my associates and I have hoped that some day a powerful, national, ongoing, progressive coalition would come together. On a number of occasions, I’ve joined such efforts, including the Rainbow Coalition, Labor Party, Alliance for Democracy, Progressive Challenge, and the 2008 Obama campaign (which promised the hope of a post-election grassroots organization). None of those efforts persisted.

About 20 years ago, I concluded that certain weaknesses in how progressive activists operate undermine our efforts. So I participated in a stone circles workshop on spiritual activism with Claudia Horwitz and then initiated a series of workshops to explore how the progressive movement might be more effective: several Strategy Workshops, two Compassionate Politics Workshops, and a Holistic Three-Fold Path Workshop. And I participated in a number of similar workshops convened by local faith-based organizations. All of those activities were fruitful.

But I still have not found an organization of the sort that I described above (in the second paragraph) that I can join. And the issues that prompted me to initiate those workshops — such as fragmentation, ego trips, head trips, power trips, lack of listening, unwillingness to engage in respectful dialog, and just plain meanness —  have come to the fore even more during this year’s Presidential campaign.

Bernie’s campaign prompted me to hope that his movement would take over the bottom-up Democratic Party and transform it into an activist organization that organizes precinct-based clubs composed of neighbors who gather regularly, grow face-to-face community, and fight for the Party’s platform year-round.

I posted numerous essays on that idea online and discussed it with my taxi passengers. After receiving considerable positive feedback, I proposed to the San Francisco Democratic Party that they develop a model based on that concept that could help encourage the Democratic Party nationwide to adopt that approach. Some Party leaders and my District Five Democratic Club expressed support, but so far they have not followed through. So that proposal is on the back burner.

It seems that Democratic Party leaders (and Bernie himself) are almost entirely focused on elections. They don’t seem interested in building a real grassroots organization. So the Party is an empty shell that springs to life for elections and then goes back to sleep.

So I’m once again pausing from trying to initiate anything. Since Uber wiped out my retirement plan, I have to drive taxi and save as much money as I can, perhaps for as long as I am physically able (which will require a stronger commitment to my self-care).

For fifty years, I was lucky. I was able to survive on “movement wages,” which freed me to do my community work (and at times be rather self-indulgent). I never had to be a wage slave for long or develop a career. Then, when I got my medallion, it seemed my old age was secure.

But maybe the yuppies were right. Maybe I should’ve focused on my upward mobility.

Now if I take a weekly “day of rest” and do some reading, I’m lucky to squeeze out an hour a day to write, which I feel compelled to do. Writing helps me sort out my thoughts and sharing my comments seems valuable to some readers. Few people ever share what I post, so obviously what I communicate rarely seems as important to others as it does to me (lol). But I get just enough feedback to keep writing and circulate it.

So I’ll try to occasionally post at least a little something to Facebook, Wade’s Wire and Wade’s Weekly. Mike Larsen  has invited me to join some friends of his to a Saturday morning “tea and conversation,” to which I’ll invite a few friends. Paul Kinburn and I invited several fellow Western Park residents to a Sunday night “tea and conversation” last Sunday, which went well and may continue. I want to catch up on some loose email threads with friends and place higher priority on such dialogs in the future. I may invite some old friends to experiment with a format for a more intentional, “soulful” conversation that others might find useful. I’ll continue to dialog with my passengers and conduct occasional public-opinion surveys. I’ll try to remain open and available for “I-Thou” mutuality when the opportunity emerges. And maybe I’ll write a new manifesto or a brief memoir about my community organizing.

In the meantime, with Lawrence Ferlinghetti:

I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

Countering Racism

racismDid anyone catch Van Jones and the CNN panel last night discuss how to react to white racism?

If so, what points do you remember? CNN has not yet posted a transcript and I deleted my recording (alas).

As I recall, Van urged progressives to really understand the pain being experienced by many white working class people and learn how to speak to it. He described the struggles many suffer, including I believe the erosion of their long-held identity as breadwinner, and then one of their children comes home and tell them, “You are a bigot.” Van said, “That is painful.”

I believe racism is the single most important factor fueling the Trump campaign. Learning how to counter it seems critical. That’s why I recently posted on Facebook the lyrics to Dylan’s “Only a Pawn in Their Game” and, on another occasion a question, “How can we counter racism? Do we need alternatives to preaching?”

I received three responses to that question:

Yes!!! We need to do as the leaders of BLM and other anti-racist groups are asking: we white peoples must destroy white supremacy and fight racism.


We start with white people calling out other white people when they say or do racist things. No more ignoring it, no more nervous chuckling, no more changing the subject. (The same for straight people with homophobes, men with misogyny, etc. Don’t let the bullshit slide.) Trump has set us back years by giving people permission to be openly racist. We have to put them back in their ignorant, hateful little closets.


Those of us with white kids must teach them about racism, white privilege, and white supremacy and how to be aware of and counter these things. (Also about homophobia and misogyny.) Teaching kids that these things are wrong is not hard. They intuitively grasp how wrong these things are. The more challenging part is teaching them to stand up against these things, and how to counter these things.

Though helpful, I find those responses inadequate.

Thomas Edsall’s excellent “The Anti-PC Votecommented on “the kind of messages that provoke reactance and a defiant or oppositional response” and referred to a study, “Psychological reactance theory,” which includes:

Research indicates that some linguistic features seem to evoke the perception that free behavior might be curtailed, eliciting psychological reactance. In particular, language that is dogmatic, sometimes referred to as controlling (Miller, Lane, Deatrick, Young, & Potts, 2007) or explicit (Grandpre, Alvaro, Burgoon, Miller, & Hall, 2003), provokes reactance. To illustrate, as shown by Quick and Stephenson (2008), dogmatic messages were perceived as more threatening, which provoked reactance, anger, and unfavorable thoughts. The dogmatic messages include:

  • Imperatives, such as “must” or “need”
  • Absolute allegations, such as “cannot deny that…” or “This issue is extremely serious”
  • Derision towards other perspectives, such as “Any reasonable person would agree that…”
  • Threatening warnings rather than merely impartial, objective information (Bushman, 1998)

In contrast, messages that are less dogmatic do not provoke this sequence of reactions. These messages are more likely to include:

  • Allusions to choice, such as “You have a chance to…” or “We leave the choice to you…”
  • Qualified propositions, such as “There is some evidence that…” or “This issue is fairly serious”
  • Impartial, objective information (Bushman, 1998)
  • Avoidance of imperatives or derisive language

I find that article intriguing. When I shared it with a friend, he replied, “Outstanding, if frightening, piece.”

How to counter racism without provoking “reactance” seems important. I’d like to explore it further. One key may be to first establish some common ground with regard to shared economic insecurity.

Individualism or Communitarianism?

individualismBy revealing his ego, Donald Trump has exposed American individualism for what it is: a deadly lie.

Hopefully next week the Democrats will contrast that display with a different American tradition: communitarianism friends and neighbors working together to help others with activities like quilting bees, barn raisings, food banks, and responses to natural disasters.

Tensions between the interests of the individual, family, business, community, nation, all humanity, and the environment are difficult to reconcile. Brian Swimme does so by promoting the “Earth Community.” Buddhists affirm “neither selfishness nor self-sacrifice.” Christians preach, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All religious traditions have some form of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Karen Armstrong and other global religious leaders digested that principle into the Charter for Compassion, which calls us to:

work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

In that spirit, communitarianism insists that individuals who are well-integrated into communities are better able to reason and act in responsible ways — if the social pressure to conform does not become excessive and thereby undermine self-determination. Strong individuals grow strong communities, and strong communities grow strong individuals.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed , “No one is free until we are all free.” So long as others are oppressed by injustice, I feel morally obligated to do what I can to help relieve that injustice. I cannot escape my conscience. Faced with injustice, I am not free.

The line between self-care and self-indulgence is ambiguous. No doubt I’ve crossed it many times, which I regret. Going forward, I can only try to be honest, take care of myself, and do what I can to serve others.

On the other hand, individualism, which America has developed more fully than any other country, asserts that the needs of each person are more important than the needs of the whole society. WIIFM –  what’s in it for me? –  is the American mantra.  Trump is the ultimate personification of that individualism.

Based on their testimony, Trump’s main message to his children was “get ahead.” Three values he apparently did not teach them are the Golden Rule, humility, and service to the less fortunate. It seems his parenting primarily consisted of giving his children feedback on their report cards and inviting them to his workplace. His children are “high achievers,” but that does not mean they are “great,” as the network pundits claim. His children are “successful,” competent worker bees in the Trump Cult. But their ambition to “make it” at the expense of others does not impress me.

That individualistic drive to climb the social ladder fuels “the system.” The “American Dream” is deeply embedded and widely embraced. Parents routinely tell their children, “You can be whatever you want.” A good example is Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech that Melania Trump plagiarized. In that speech, Michelle and Melania said, “Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

That belief is clearly an illusion. Limits on our ability to achieve our dreams are inherent in the human condition.

Seeking a solid sense of self through upward mobility is like a dog chasing its tail. When a whole society does it, the result is a downward spiral. That syndrome has hit America with a plague of increasing selfishness as individuals become evermore isolated.

Aggravated by the explosion of electronic devices, Americans are becoming more self-centered. With spoken communication, it’s natural to listen as much as you talk. But with electronic communication, more time is devoted to typing than to reading. That imbalance seems to be replicated face-to-face. Active listening and compassionate inquiry are becoming a lost art.

One result is that more people have fewer close friends with whom they discuss personal issues. So when they get a chance to talk about themselves, they don’t take the time to listen, which leaves the other feeling a greater need to connect with someone who will listen to them talk. Another downward spiral prompted by individualism.

As described in “How American Politics Went Insane,” the increased use of direct democracy, with individuals voting in primaries and on referenda, has weakened both Congress and political parties. Congress is less able to negotiate compromises collectively and parties are less able to collaborate. The result is more gridlock and an outsider taking over the Republican Party.

American individualism produces downward spirals throughout society. The problem is systemic. Absent countervailing, corrective pressures, “the system” contains the seeds of its own destruction.

Hopefully Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party will help us reverse course so we can be “stronger together.” In her 1969 commencement address to her graduating class, she spoke eloquently about the “responsibility we should have both for our lives as individuals and for our lives as members of a collective group.” Later she wrote the book, It Takes a Village. Early in the Clinton Administration, she embraced Rabbi Michael Lerner and his “politics of meaning.” Now in “Hillary Clinton Wants to Talk with You About Love and Kindness,” Buzzfeed reports:

In the early days of her husband’s administration, Hillary Clinton tried to start a national conversation about basic human decency, only to be mocked. In the midst of the most mean-spirited presidential campaign in memory, she talks with BuzzFeed News about the unchanged way she sees herself — and if she’ll ever be able to communicate it.

In that interview, Clinton said:

I want this campaign, and eventually my administration to be more about inspiring young people, and older ones as well, to find that niche where kindness matters, whether it’s to a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, a fellow student—whether it’s in the classroom, or a doctor’s office, or in a business—we need to do more to help each other. That’s what my campaign is about. I want more kindness.

We can only hope America’s downward spiral of evermore selfishness has hit bottom. If we’re lucky, the ugly spectacle of the Republican Convention will wake up the American people and lead us to join the human family. As flawed as they are, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party may help us counter American individualism and strengthen our communitarianism.


Trump Lies: Acceptance Speech Analysis

The following statements in Donald Trump’s 2016 acceptance speech stand out as lies. Later I may add more lies and include more notes to explain or document my opinions.

If you want to edit this report, let me know and I’ll send you the link. Working together, we could flesh this out and perhaps make it worthy of widespread distribution.


The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life.

The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon — and I mean very soon come to an end.

But here, at our convention, there will be no lies.

Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement.

The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 percent compared to this point last year.

President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing. [Congress passes the budget.]

…the Iran deal, which gave back to Iran $150 billion and gave us absolutely nothing.

Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change. Never ever.

Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place. They are throwing money at her because they have total control over every single thing she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings.

…when a Secretary of State illegally stores her emails on a private server

…when others who have been far less [criminal] have paid so dearly.

Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.

We will bring the same economic success to America that Mike brought Indiana,…

I will restore law and order to our country.

The irresponsible rhetoric of our president, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color,…

Instead, we must work with all of our allies who share our goal of destroying ISIS and stamping out Islamic terrorism and doing it now, doing it quickly.

…there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from.

My opponent will never meet with them, or share in their pain.

We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration….

On on January 20 of 2017, the day I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced.

Hillary Clinton is proposing mass amnesty, mass immigration, and mass lawlessness.

Now I’m going to make our country rich again.

I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences.

This includes stopping China’s outrageous theft of intellectual property, along with their illegal product dumping, and their devastating currency manipulation.

Our … miners are going back to work again.

America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.

…[Clinton] wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment.

In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS was not even on the map.


It’s All About Me (and My Family)

egoismDonald Trump and his family have exposed American individualism for what it is: a deadly lie.

We can only hope America’s downward spiral of evermore selfishness has hit bottom. If we’re lucky, the ugly spectacle of the Republican Convention will wake up the American people and lead us to join the human family

Chances are it will not, however, for the American Dream is deeply embedded and widely embraced.

The Obama family, for example, affirms the same myth. In her 2008 speech that Melania Trump plagiarized, Michele said, “Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

That belief is clearly an illusion. The only human beings who have achieved all of their dreams have had no dreams to speak of.

Yet parents tell their children, “You can be whatever you want.” And the corollary to that is: At the expense of others. If you win, others will lose.

Based on his children’s testimony thus far, three values Trump did not teach his children are the Golden Rule, humility, and service to the less fortunate. It seems his primary child care consisted of giving his children feedback on their report cards and inviting them to his workplace. His main message was “get ahead,” which is the narrow-minded dynamic that drives “the system.” His children are “high achievers,” but that does not mean they are “great,” as the network pundits claim.

Bernie Sanders and other economic populists buttress the materialism that is interwoven with American individualism. His proposal for free public college helped Bernie get support from young people. But it also reinforces the dominant social system which is rooted in the desire to climb the social ladder.

Barack Obama reflected and buttressed that individualistic culture when he said that his election would itself “transform America.” Trump’s followers mimic the same individualism when they claim Trump (alone) will “make America great again.” Some even say that merely electing him will work that magic.

Aggravated by the explosion of electronic devices, Americans are on a downward spiral of ever increasing self-centeredness. Active listening and compassionate inquiry are becoming a lost art. People seem to think they’re being a good listener when they reply, “Yes. I had the same experience,” and proceed to talk about themselves at length. With spoken communication, it’s natural to listen as much as you talk. But with electronic communication, more time is devoted to typing than to reading. That pattern seems to be replicated face-to-face.

One result is that more people have fewer close friends with whom they can discuss personal issues. So when they get a chance to talk about themselves, they don’t take the time to listen, which leaves the other feeling a greater need to connect with someone who will listen to them, leading to a downward spiral of increasing isolation.

Perhaps Hillary Clinton, who wrote “It Takes a Village,” will help us reverse course so we can be “stronger together.”

Hillary, Be Vulnerable and Be Positive

The ability to admit mistakes is a virtue. You’ve demonstrated that capacity to some degree. I encourage to do so even more. Many Americans who have mixed feelings about you will respect you for it.

Sit down with 60 minutes to “clear the air.” Hold a town-hall meeting with a commitment to answer any question. Do so directly without side-stepping. Hold more press conferences. Conduct more interviews. Be transparent.

Donald Trump has demonstrated a remarkable refusal to admit mistakes or accept criticism. His typical response is to crush the critic. That trait ill suits him for the White House. You can highlight that weakness by being more vulnerable.

You can also draw a contrast with Trump by including in your speeches and the convention at least as much positivity as negativity. Some pundits have criticized your “stronger together” theme, but I like it.  I believe it may reflect your inner core — the communitarianism you reflected in your commencement speech and the community service you have demonstrated since. Your entrenchment in politics and the world of unseemly compromise may have obscured that commitment. Let us know if that dedication is truly in your heart.

Based on his children’s testimony thus far, three values Trump did not teach his children are the Golden Rule, humility, and service to the less fortunate. “High achievers” does not necessarily mean “great.” It seems his primary child care consisted of giving his children feedback on their report cards and inviting them to his workplace. His main message was “get ahead,” which is the narrow-minded dynamic that drives “the system.”

I believe you hold to higher values. If that is true, let the American people know.

Revealing your humanity will help us win a landslide. The RCP “no toss ups” map shows you winning by a 2-to1 margin. We need to do even better than that, and we can.

Only a Pawn in Their Game

bob dylan 2A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game.

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than blacks, don’t complain
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin” they explain
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

From the powerty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoof beats pound in his brain
And he’s taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide ‘neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.
–Bob Dylan

From The Transcendentalist

EmersonFrom The Transcendalist, by Ralph Waldo Emerson

NOTE: It’s been a rough week. At times like this, I occasionally seek inspiration and solace from this Emerson essay. These are excerpts that stuck me tonight.


…It is a sign of our times, conspicuous to the coarsest observer, that many intelligent and religious persons withdraw themselves from the common labors and competitions of the market and the caucus, and betake themselves to a certain solitary and critical way of living, from which no solid fruit has yet appeared to justify their separation. They hold themselves aloof: they feel the disproportion between their faculties and the work offered them, and they prefer to ramble in the country and perish of ennui, to the degradation of such charities and such ambitions as the city can propose to them. They are … crying out for somewhat worthy to do!

…Whoso knows these seething brains, these admirable radicals, these unsocial worshippers, these talkers who talk the sun and moon away, will believe that this heresy cannot pass away without leaving its mark.

They are lonely; the spirit of their writing and conversation is lonely; they repel influences; they shun general society; they incline to shut themselves in their chamber in the house, to live in the country rather than in the town, and to find their tasks and amusements in solitude.

Society, to be sure, does not like this very well; it saith, Whoso goes to walk alone, accuses the whole world; he declareth all to be unfit to be his companions; it is very uncivil, nay, insulting; Society will retaliate.

Meantime, this retirement does not proceed from any whim on the part of these separators; but if any one will take pains to talk with them, he will find that this part is chosen both from temperament and from principle; with some unwillingness, too, and as a choice of the less of two evils; for these persons are not by nature melancholy, sour, and unsocial, — they are not stockish or brute, — but joyous; susceptible, affectionate; they have even more than others a great wish to be loved.

Like the young Mozart, they are rather ready to cry ten times a day, “But are you sure you love me?” Nay, if they tell you their whole thought, they will own that love seems to them the last and highest gift of nature;

…To behold the beauty of another character, which inspires a new interest in our own; to behold the beauty lodged in a human being, with such vivacity of apprehension, that I am instantly forced home to inquire if I am not deformity itself: to behold in another the expression of a love so high that it assures itself, — assures itself also to me against every possible casualty except my unworthiness; — these are degrees on the scale of human happiness, to which they have ascended; and it is a fidelity to this sentiment which has made common association distasteful to them.

They wish a just and [equal] fellowship, or none. They cannot gossip with you, and they do not wish, as they are sincere and religious, to gratify any mere curiosity which you may entertain. …Love me, they say, but do not ask who is my cousin and my uncle. If you do not need to hear my thought, because you can read it in my face and behavior, then I will tell it you from sunrise to sunset. If you cannot divine it, you would not understand what I say. I will not molest myself for you. I do not wish to be profaned.

And yet, it seems as if this loneliness, and not this love, would prevail in their circumstances, because of the extravagant demand they make on human nature. That, indeed, constitutes a new feature in their portrait, that they are the most exacting and extortionate critics. Their quarrel with every man they meet, is not with his kind, but with his degree.

…These youths bring us a rough but effectual aid. By their unconcealed dissatisfaction, they expose our poverty, and the insignificance of man to man. ….

… Life and their faculty seem to them gifts too rich to be squandered on such trifles as you propose to them….By no means happy, is our condition: if you want the aid of our labor, we ourselves stand in greater want of the labor. We are miserable with inaction. We perish of rest and rust: but we do not like your work…. To the general course of living, and the daily employments of men, they cannot see much virtue in these, since they are parts of this vicious circle;…

They have made the experiment, and found that, from the liberal professions to the coarsest manual labor, and from the courtesies of the academy and the college to the conventions of the cotillon-room and the morning call, there is a spirit of cowardly compromise and seeming, which intimates a frightful skepticism, a life without love, and an activity without an aim.

It is the quality of the moment, not the number of days, of events, or of actors, that imports.

…The justice which is now claimed for the black, and the pauper, and the drunkard is for Beauty, — is for a necessity to the soul of the agent, not of the beneficiary. ….

…The strong spirits overpower those around them without effort. Their thought and emotion comes in like a flood, quite withdraws them from all notice of these carping critics; they surrender themselves with glad heart to the heavenly guide, and only by implication reject the clamorous nonsense of the hour. …

…To him who looks at his life from these moments of illumination, it will seem that he skulks and plays a mean, shiftless, and subaltern part in the world…. Yet we retain the belief that this petty web we weave will at last be overshot and reticulated with veins of the blue, and that the moments will characterize the days. Patience, then, is for us, is it not?…

…Amidst the downward tendency and proneness of things, when every voice is raised for a new road or another statute, or a subscription of stock, for an improvement in dress, or in dentistry, for a new house or a larger business, for a political party, or the division of an estate, — will you not tolerate one or two solitary voices in the land, speaking for thoughts and principles not marketable or perishable?

Soon these improvements and mechanical inventions will be superseded; these modes of living lost out of memory; these cities rotted, ruined by war, by new inventions, by new seats of trade, or the geologic changes: — all gone, like the shells which sprinkle the seabeach with a white colony today, forever renewed to be forever destroyed. But the thoughts which these few hermits strove to proclaim by silence, as well as by speech, not only by what they did, but by what they forbore to do, shall abide in beauty and strength, to reorganize themselves in nature, to invest themselves anew in other, perhaps higher endowed and happier mixed clay than ours, in fuller union with the surrounding system.


Engage Swing States with Precinct-Based Clubs

unityWe the people need a national organization that can quickly mobilize massive pressure on Congress to implement improvements in national policy that are backed by a majority of the American people.

Over the years, I’ve joined in efforts to help create a strong national coalition, including the Rainbow Coalition, the Alliance for Democracy, the Campaign to Abolish Poverty, the Progressive Challenge, and the Obama campaign organization.

Those efforts did not flourish, but Obama paved a path for Bernie Sanders. Now the Democratic Party is taking its platform seriously. The New Republic reported that this year’s platform may be “foundational” rather than an “afterthought.” The Party may not forget about its platform after the convention.

Those developments led me to propose to the San Francisco Democratic Party that they engage in year-round precinct organizing as a model for how to rebuild the Democratic Party into an activist organization that fights for its platform throughout the year.

Several Party leaders in the San Francisco Democratic Party have voiced support for those ideas. When I discuss the concept with my taxi passengers, the response has been enthusiastic. Recently I started reaching out to fellow residents in my apartment complex and interest has surfaced.

Yesterday Mary Jung, the outgoing chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, told me that, prior to the Party’s July 20 meeting, she will email to the Central Committee members my proposal.

Following is the latest draft and “cover letter” that I asked Mary to send. Your feedback and suggested changes are welcome. The latest draft will always be at:


Dear SF County Central Committee Members:

I’d very much appreciate your feedback and suggested changes concerning the following. In particular, do you support this proposal?

Might you be able to place it on the July 20 agenda for action?

If not, should I encourage year-round precinct organizing during Public Comment?

Wade Hudson


Engage Swing States with Precinct-Based Clubs (7/10/16 Draft)

To: The San Francisco Democratic Party

Here’s a suggestion for your consideration.

Organize precinct-based clubs to:

  • Engage in online conversations with undecided voters in other regions.
  • Help elect Clinton in November.
  • Influence national policy after the election.
  • Create a model the Party could use throughout the country.
  • Help the Party become an activist organization that fights for its platform year-round.

The Democratic Party already has a bottom-up structure. By uniting to implement a precinct organizing project, like-minded Democrats could rebuild the Party into a powerful, national, inclusive, democratic, multi-issue, activist coalition. That approach could help address the problems associated with weak political parties as described in Jonathan Rauch’s excellent Atlantic cover story, “How American Politics Went Insane.”

Five or more Democrats who live in the same precinct could form self-organizing clubs and engage in some of the following activities (and others not listed here):

  1. Meet in a member’s home, a nearby community center, or a coffee house.
  2. Share food and drink and socialize informally.
  3. Study and discuss the national platform.
  4. Engage in online conversations with undecided voters in other regions.
  5. Participate in phone banks when the Party organizes them.
  6. Discuss the results and how to most effectively talk with others.
  7. Share information about other opportunities for engagement, such as online petitions.
  8. Meet with Democrats from other precinct-based clubs and compare notes.
  9. Use NextDoor and Meetup to connect with neighbors.
  10. Go together to volunteer at a soup kitchen or otherwise serve unmet local needs.

A city-wide kick-off meeting could launch this project. Local leaders, including elected officials, could set an example by meeting monthly with their neighbors.

Precinct-based clubs could nurture a meaningful sense of community, thereby helping to fill a void felt by many Americans. Developing stronger personal bonds would enable neighbors to learn from one another and help sustain ongoing political activism.

The Internet enables engagement with voters in other regions. How to connect with those voters could be a learning process. Asking questions, for example, can be more effective than lecturing.

Google Groups could enable precinct club members to discuss what works. Google Docs could enable clubs to post reports. City-wide gatherings could serve to motivate participation and exchange information.

In those and other ways, San Francisco could pave new ground for how to reach beyond the choir and rebuild the Democratic Party.  

Wade Hudson