Revolution Made Easy: How the Occupy Movement Can [Still] Change the World
Sunday, 16 September 2012 00:00  |  Written by Rick Theis | Commentary

'No Voice' Sign at Occupy Wall Street, New York City, photo by Rick Theis[Written in October 2011, less than a month after the occupation began, this commentary presents a strategy that still seems the best way forward for the Occupy movement and the country. - Ed.]

One Occupy Wall Street (OWS) stalwart has stated, "This is the most important thing in our lifetimes—and it's happening right now!" I cannot disagree. I support and have frequented the OWS encampment in New York City since its beginning. I want to see the movement succeed because I support most, if not all of the issues represented there, not least of which is protecting our planet. So I offer this “Restore Democracy Plan,” which came from discussions over many days between myself and many other folks at Occupy Wall Street, New York, as the best and perhaps only chance for Occupy to achieve, not only some, but all of its disparate aims.

This plan is based both on youthful idealism and the wisdom gleaned from many years of left-wing political half-victories and failures. Its purpose is to avoid the pitfalls of the past and achieve complete victory for all of the issues important to us: economic justice, social equality, peace and environmental protection, to name a few. The basic details of this simple four-step program, answers to possible objections and proposed next steps follow. If and when this Restore Democracy Plan gains momentum, more supporting evidence and information can be added.

The "Restore Democracy Plan" in Brief

  1. Laser-Focus Our Message
  2. Declare Victory and Decamp
  3. Employ Constitutional Jujitsu
  4. Take Power/Change the World

I will shortly describe each of these steps in detail and how they guarantee victory. But first let me explain the strategy that gave rise to this proposition.

The “Restore Democracy Plan” Strategy
'99 to 1' Sign at Occupy Wall Street, New York City, photo by Rick TheisThe Left is always more splintered than the Right. You need only walk around the Occupy Wall Street site in New York City to see the myriad issues being supported. This is both our strength and our Achilles heel. Yet we cannot afford any weakness or disarray. Why? Because we are battling an enemy that is focused, authoritarian, massively funded, armed to the hilt and utterly lacking in scruples. Yet if we concentrate on a single issue, since we are the vast majority—the 99%—we can’t help but win. This is the basis of the Restore Democracy Plan.

But how can we focus on just one issue? Won’t supporters of all the other issues feel left out? And if we focus on one issue, what should that be?

The answer to those questions is simple. The Restore Democracy Plan will focus on:

  • An issue that will have the near universal support of all Americans (even, potentially, those in the Tea Party) because it is as American as apple pie and makes common sense (so that it will be difficult for the Right to use their normal tactics of confusing or scaring enough of the 99% to motivate them to oppose it and thus cause us to lose—as often happens).
  • An issue that, once won, will almost guarantee our victory on all of the other issues we support because it will even the political playing field, thus giving us the 99-to-1 advantage our numbers indicate we should have in a true democracy.

What that issue is will be discussed in a moment. But first I want to point out where the idea for this Restore Democracy Plan strategy came from and how this strategy was massively successful in the recent past right here in the USA.

"Proof" the Strategy Can Work
Dumping of Liquor During ProhibitionThe historical example of using this type of strategy is Prohibition. Don’t be confused by the specifics of the issue (banning alcohol); that has nothing to do with my point. Just look at this historical example in terms of strategy:

The Prohibition movement started as a disjointed effort by Baptist teetotalers who thought the consumption of alcohol was immoral. They ransacked saloons and garnered press coverage here and there for a few years. Then they began to gain support from left-wing social reformers who considered alcohol partially responsible for spousal and child abuse, among other social ills.

This odd alliance, after many years of failing to influence change consistently across jurisdictions, decided to concentrate on one issue nationally—a constitutional amendment. They pressured all politicians on every level to sign a pledge to support the amendment. Any who did not, they defeated easily at the ballot box since they controlled a huge number of liberal, conservative and independent swing votes in every election. By being a single-issue constituency, they very quickly amassed the 2/3 majorities required in both houses of Congress. And, using the same tactics, within just 17 months, they were successful in getting ¾ of the state legislatures to ratify the constitutional amendment into law. (Other amendments were ratified even faster: Eight—the 7th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 20th, 21st and 26th—took less than a year. The 26th, granting 18-year-olds the right to vote, took just three months and eight days.)

So what is the amendment the Restore Democracy Plan will push that will have the support of nearly every American and, once passed, give us the power to defeat corporate America on nearly every one of our issues? See Step 1 below.

Details of the “Restore Democracy Plan”

'Practical Steps' Sign at Occupy Wall Street, New York City, photo by Rick TheisStep 1 – Laser-Focus the Message
Decide that the focus of the Occupy movement will be a restoration of democracy by returning to equal representation (one person one vote), and that this will be accomplished by getting big money out of politics, starting with the passage of a constitutional amendment that states simply:

In reference to this Constitution, and in particular to its Bill of Rights, organizations such as corporations and unions shall not be considered people and money shall not be considered speech.

This will nullify the recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling by the US Supreme Court and numerous previous court rulings that have weakened or completely undercut nearly all campaign-finance reform that has been attempted. It may also be important to explicitly state in the amendment that Congress is authorized to set campaign contribution limits. Once in place, this amendment will allow for sweeping campaign-finance restrictions (to end unlimited and anonymous donations) and severely weaken corporate control of our elections.

This is one issue—perhaps the only issue—we can all agree on. And it is the only one I can think of that will truly empower us to accomplish all of the other issues we hold dear. Also, this is the one issue of ours for which we have the support of a supermajority of Americans from all political persuasions.

In February of 2010, ABC News reported on an ABC News/Washington Post poll that found

80 percent of Americans...oppose the [Citizens United] ruling, including 65 percent who “strongly” oppose it, an unusually high intensity of sentiment.

Seventy-two percent, moreover, support the idea of a legislative workaround to try to reinstate the limits the court lifted.

The bipartisan nature of these views is striking in these largely partisan times. The court’s ruling is opposed, respectively, by 76, 81 and 85 percent of Republicans, independents and Democrats; and by 73, 85 and 86 percent of conservatives, moderates and liberals. Majorities in all these groups, ranging from 58 to 73 percent, not only oppose the ruling but feel strongly about it.

Even among people who agree at least somewhat with the Tea Party movement, which advocates less government regulation, 73 percent oppose the high court’s rejection of this particular law. Among the subset who agree strongly with the Tea Party’s positions on the issues – 14 percent of all adults – fewer but still most, 56 percent, oppose the high court in this case.

Plus, by Occupy focusing on this one issue, it will make it virtually impossible for the corporate media to continue claiming that our aims are indecipherable; obfuscating and trivializing our positions; and misrepresenting us.

Step 2 – Declare Victory and Decamp
Declare that the occupation was successful in that we came together, focused our vision and decided on a strategy. That strategy is to “Restore Democracy” through the passage of the proposed constitutional amendment; and that this is a victory-in-the-making for the movement as it will put an end to the present plutocracy and finally restore one person, one vote. Then vacate all Occupy encampments across the US (after cleaning them, replanting flowers, etc.), leaving only a small contingent of information booths manned by volunteers 24 hours a day, seven days a week (but with no one living or sleeping on the premises) at the original Occupy Wall Street location in New York City. These booths will recruit folks to help pass the amendment, answer questions and provide information. Thus, as a group we will focus all of our energy on passing this amendment—using the strategy the Prohibitionists used to defeat any and every politician who opposes it. And imagine the positive impression we will leave in the minds of those who are on the fence in terms of supporting us!

Staying encamped will dilute both our energy and message—and it and may be counterproductive should there be a major confrontation with the authorities; they are expert at leveraging physical confrontations to spread fear and scare the masses away from judging our opinions and proposals rationally.

(Let me note here that I've found overwhelming and strong support for this plan from the folks at the New York Occupy encampment with one exception: There is a split about whether we should decamp. I do not think that, if we decide to stay with more than the information booths, it will be fatal to the core strategy of this proposal—just a distraction and a diversion of our energies. However, I strongly believe that, for the reasons mentioned above, it will greatly benefit us to leave, except for the information booths in New York, for now. Even if we stay, however, we should adopt the balance of this plan of action as soon as possible.)

Step 3 – Employ Constitutional Jujitsu
Ask all candidates for office to sign a pledge to support our “Restore Democracy” constitutional amendment that will take big money out of politics. Defeat all who refuse. Once we have enough pro-amendment politicians in both houses of Congress, they will pass the amendment by the 2/3 majorities required. Then we will repeat this strategy in the legislatures of ¾ of the states, the number the Constitution stipulates for the ratification of an amendment.

'Two-Party Dictatorship' Sign at Occupy Wall Street, New York City, photo by Rick TheisStep 4 – Take Power/Change the World
Once our constitutional amendment is ratified by ¾ of the states, ask all candidates for office to sign a pledge to support campaign-finance reform (e.g., individual contribution limits, full transparency, free air time and publicly funded campaigns) and election reform (instant runoff voting that will help smaller parties win elections, ending our current two-party dictatorship; instant voter registration; voting on Saturdays and Sundays, or for an entire week or on a day designated as a national holiday to make it more convenient for working people to vote; and the option of easy absentee ballots). Defeat any who refuse. Once campaign finance and election reforms are in place, the playing field will be equal and candidates with corporate support will lose to candidates with grassroots support, who will then pass the laws we want—ecological protection, pro-peace, universal healthcare, a living wage and (your favorite issue here).

As democracy is restored and our pet issues become law, our political system will become more and more representative. And this will become a self-perpetuating cycle. For example, once we improve our schools (offering everyone a free college education, for example) and folks no longer live in poverty, the electorate will be more educated, with more time to concentrate on politics. They will then better understand and vote their class interests, thus electing more left-wing candidates. Society will become more progressive until corporate-controlled parties like the Republicans will be seen as the extreme fringe group they are. Democrats will be considered the conservative party they mostly are. The Green party will be considered centrist and far-left parties will elect candidates and have their ideas seriously considered and sometimes adopted.

Since the US is so powerful, these changes in America will affect the entire world. Not only will we finally be a true "beacon of democracy," but we will no longer support dictatorships and wage wars around the world to support corporate interests, to cite just two examples.

Answers to Possible Objections

  1. The Restore Democracy Plan will take too long. I want revolution now! – There is no shortcut to real, sustainable social change; it takes hard, grassroots work to educate people and change social conditions so that change is sustainable. If we try a frontal assault, not only will we likely fail, but we may give those in power an excuse to end even more of our civil liberties so that a stratagem like the one we are proposing might not be possible. That said, the amendment will be relatively easy to pass using the Prohibition amendment as a model. It, too, consisted of a left/center/right coalition joining together. As noted above, it took them only 17 months to make the amendment law; 8 other constitutional amendments took less than a year; one, lowering the voting age to 18, took only four months to pass.
  2. But the “Restore Democracy” amendment would also prohibit labor unions from making unlimited campaign contributions. This is counterproductive to our interests – I strongly support labor unions. I come from a family of union members. My father; both grandfathers (one a local union leader); one grandmother; and several uncles, great uncles and cousins were all union steelworkers. But, truth be told, many unions are decidedly conservative. And even if they were not, it is best to deny all organizations the right to make unlimited contributions when allowing them to do so is at the expense of the individual’s right to democratic elections. In any case, it makes our effort nonpartisan, guaranteeing support from the entire political spectrum, which will hasten our victory.
  3. If we spend all our resources passing the “Restore'No Fracking' Sign at Occupy Wall Street, New York City, photo by Rick Theis Democracy” amendment, other issues will fall by the wayside (e.g., more species will be lost, more people killed in war, etc.). – The fact is that we are losing on all fronts now. We haven’t even been able to stop our two overt wars, let alone hundreds of covert ones, because our “leaders” are beholden to those who control the money they need to be elected. We must get big money out of politics first. This will create a more level playing field and allow us to then elect progressives beholden to the people. They will then do the bidding of the people instead of the corporations.
  4. If we leave the encampments without substantial victory, it will look like we lost. – I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the Trojan horse: The Greeks had tried for a decade to penetrate and defeat the city-state of Troy, their enemy. After a string of military failures, the Greek army devised a clever scheme. They constructed a large wooden horse, hid several soldiers inside, wheeled it up to the city wall and pretended to sail away. The Trojans, thinking they had won, pulled the horse into their fortress city as a trophy. That night the Greek soldiers snuck out of the horse and opened the city gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks won a decisive victory over Troy, ending the war.

Our choices are to stay put at Occupy encampments across the country and “stick it to the man” now (making him mildly uncomfortable and perhaps playing into his hands) or to decamp, go door to door across the country and do the hard work of building a movement to cut off “the man’s” air supply—unlimited campaign spending that literally buys politicians—forever into the future, and then fight him in his weakened state on all of our issues, virtually guaranteeing that we will win each and every one! So let’s leave. Let’s let Wall Street think they’ve won. Who cares what they think. Soon enough, total victory will be ours.

Next Steps

This is the way I see things proceeding:
  1. We all spread the word about the Restore Democracy Plan (see the "How You Can Help" section below).
  2. OWS General Assembly (its decision-making body) and its counterparts around the country agree on the Restore Democracy Plan.
  3. Occupy makes a victory statement to the press.
  4. All Occupy sites decamp with the exception of an information presence at OWS, New York City. (This is optional, but highly recommended, especially for all non-New York City encampments).
  5. OWS and all other Occupies organize a constitutional amendment campaign—contact groups already involved in such an undertaking, get all left-leaning groups and parties to sign onto the effort, reach out to right-leaning entities like the Tea Party and Libertarians for their support, etc.
  6. Occupy and its allies continue to refine and implement the ideas and strategies noted herein to take back and transform our country and world.

We have an uphill battle within the Occupy movement. On the ground at Zuccotti Park, there are almost as many opinions about what issues/demands we should champion as there are people. If Occupy starts staking out positions, regardless of how “correct,” each one will give a few more Americans an excuse to not support us. We need an initial cause that will have a strong consensus among nearly all Americans, without muddying the waters with hundreds of disparate issues. Also, we don’t need to make demands. We are not children. It may not be as romantic as ‘Revolution Now!” but we should do the adult thing and organize on one issue at a time—each a building block to where we want to go—using a proven strategy as outlined in this piece.

How You Can Help
Right now, we have to get the word out—and fast—so that there is a ground-swell of support for the “Restore Democracy” strategy before Occupy starts going down an unworkable path based on a losing strategy. To help, you can do any or all of the following:

  • Use the “Share This” button below the article
  • Email your friends the shortened link—http://bit.ly/vK2pGI—to this piece.
  • Spread this idea and above shortened link across the Internet including all politics-related discussion boards, list serves and article comment-modules.
  • Use the comments module below to note your support and offer your time and talents.
  • Go down to Occupy Wall Street in New York City (or the nearest Occupy encampment to you) and engage people there in discussion about this initiative. Also, show up for General Assembly meetings and support this "Restore Democracy" plan there as the best first step forward. Certainly you can print copies of this piece to pass out as well.
  • Register at www.nycga.net, the organizing site for OWS, and join the "Corporations Are Not People and Money Is Not Speech" (formerly called "Restore Democracy") working group (WG) and other WGs (just click the "Join Group" link under the group's name and description on the group's profile page; you must be logged in to see the button). Come to the Corporations Are Not People and Money Is Not Speech WG meetings and participate in our online discussions. Push this plan in all of the other WGs you join and include the shortened link—http://bit.ly/vK2pGI—to this piece in your comments so you won’t have to repeat all of the arguments and supporting information.
  • Learn more about the issue via the many resources posted at the Corporations Are NOT People and Money Is NOT Speech public website.
  • Sign the Get BIG MONEY Out of Politics Forever voter pledge, promising to vote only for candidates who support such a constitutional amendment.

Here’s to the beautiful future we are in the process of creating.

[Please contribute your thoughts, objections, ideas and counterproposals in the comments section below. – Ed.]

Additional resources:
Occupy Self / Occupy Wall Street

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Comments (35)add
Written by Ruth Shanen , November 22, 2012
Petitions can be sent to the President via the
whitehouse.gov website. I have started a petition
which needs 150 signatures, in order to be publicly viewable on the Open Petitions section where everyone
can sign it. It is only one step towards
reforming the government, and is admittedly
conventional. But every step can help.
Please help.

Short URL: http://wh.gov/Ix9G
Save and Share this URL: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/over-rule-citizens-united-ruling-supreme-court-creating-consitutional-ammendment/Dfcw8qwQ
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Written by rick , February 19, 2012
Chris, thanks for your comment, but it seems you skimmed rather than read this op-ed piece. It sets forth a clear plan for getting Congress to agree to the amendment using the same tactics Prohibition amendment supporters successfully used...and we have public support for overturning corporate personhood at far greater levels (80% of Americans, including 85% of Democrats, 81% of independents and 76% of Republicans, as the piece states) than Prohibition supporters did. Proof that Congress can and will act against its own selfish interests is all of the campaign finance reform they passed (especially as a result of public pressure after Watergate), reform that would have helped had it not been overturned by the courts. An Article V convention is a horrible idea for many, many reasons not the least of which is that it could easily be hijacked by right-wing demagogues.
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Written by Chris Brown , February 19, 2012
"Laser focus" is good, but only works at an Article V convention and that's not the proposal here. Asking congress to amend asks them to undo what they put the supremes up to the "citizens united" decision. They have want the $ for years. Thinking they are going to give it up short of an Article V convention is naive.
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Written by John , December 29, 2011
It seems the conversation has grown cold along with the weather. OWS is now several months into the running, been hammered from every direction and by the cops.

It's really tough living in winter conditions, in a nylon tent, cooking from a propane stove. Its tough to put up with the insults, threats and downer media coverage. It's even more difficult when the very people you are concerned about and are willing to fight for don't support you.

Not one person I've spoken to about the movement have come forward to become active. I have to say my participation is coming late even though I feel strongly about the movement and live "my life" in a manner common the cause.

People seem to either have their head buried in the sand, are too busy with their lives to understand the significance of what is being done to them, or feel powerless.

Our Government is best at fracturing movements and political agendas that don't fit its own and making them powerless. The Environmental Movement is a case in point. Fractured into small ineffectual groups is what has occurred overtime, when a combined unified effort would change everything.

Reading the responses to Rick's proposal indicates a fractured effort. Some folks are in support, some are more interested in being "right" and others are just pissed off. What's lacking is the "we" the unity.

Here in New Mexico the OWS effort started out fractured due to local interests demanding "Unoccupy Wall Street" thus insuring a lack of unity and its failure!

NOW really is the time to gear-up again, get ready in a serious way for the spring and the elections coming up. The 1% are scared...no doubt about it.

Witness the combined efforts of Homeland Security and local police. First "testing" in Oakland and elsewhere to see if their actions and "techniques" combined with media disinformation would calm any reaction. It did, and they proceed to NY.

Now that the Holidays are past, if we can get back "in their face" in a well-organized and meaningful effort we can really gain momentum and political force. Focused on a finite goal...we can make a difference. I can't sit back anymore. Can you?
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Written by Rick , November 18, 2011
Steve, thank you for your kind comments, advice on rewriting to be more nonpartisan and astute analysis--and thanks in advance for promoting the plan!
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Written by Steve Wood , November 18, 2011
Rick, a few quick additional comments. Look for other platforms to get the Restore Democracy message out. Write a more centrist version for publication elsewhere. It is fine as is for a site like EcoHearth, but it can easily appeal to a far broader audience. As someone else suggested, removing the "left/right" element will broaden appeal. As you mention yourself, once real democracy is restored, specific issues can be decided by an educated electorate by representatives unswayed by the corrupting influence of big money. Again thanks for your efforts.

--- Que le vaya bien...Steve
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Written by Steve Wood , November 18, 2011
This is very, very good stuff IMO. I will be supporting it by spreading the word. Rick, are you aware that GetMoneyOut.com has merged with RootStrikers, both with objectives very similar to yours. The resulting organization is UnitedRepublic.org. Check them out and see if there is a potential coalition with OWS, or at least synergies. Dylan Ratigan, a bit proponent of GetMoneyOut has also been very supportive of the Occupy movements.

On the comments objecting to this strategy in favor of one that "starts over" with a new money system and a new system of government. This is noble in principal and especially noble because it was the seed for the Occupy movements which have given us a once in a generation chance to fix a system that is horribly broken. However it is a non-starter in terms of being doable. Not even a fraction of the 99%, not even a fraction of fervent supporters of #Occupy will support such a radical agenda. Sorry, but fixing what we have is the only viable option.

To the few comments coming directly from Fox News speaking points, to see how affordable health care and education will be paid for just look at the huge transfer of wealth that has taken place since 1960. The productivity of American workers has doubled in constant dollars while worker compensation has fallen in constant dollars for most jobs.

At the same time compensation of the top tier of executives at the largest U.S. corporations has increased TEN TIMES in constant dollars. See my most recent posts on blog.complacent-majority.com for details and supporting research.

This is not about taxing the rich, it is about returning to a fair distribution of the work product of Americans. Getting money out of politics and returning corporations to their true status as fictional entities is the logical first step.

Thanks Rick for your effort. I wish I could be in NYC to help get a consensus on this as well as an agreement to work with others on the same path. As the sole caretaker of a bed fast parent, I rely on the Internet to learn and hopefully share what I've learned over the past 65 years. I will be promoting Restore Democracy, as well as United Republic on my blog.
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Written by Rick , November 07, 2011
JLB Villar, I understand your attachment to the encampment, and that it is a rejection of the current system. However, rather than spend the energy and money to maintain what has become a small city, I think the energy and money is better spend bringing down the current system with a plan like that above.
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Written by JLB Villar , November 07, 2011
Yeah, the camp itself is the most important thing, so I don't like the decamping idea. It's the most visible statement and rejection of the status quo. 'Enclosure' is part of the problem in a society obsessed with money and ownership. Forgive the nerdy pop-culture reference, but it'd be like telling Zion they need to go back into the Matrix. The other ideas I'll have to reread and really think about for a minute.
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Written by evenstevens , November 04, 2011
MOP, yes! It's the fundamental basis of our problems and the easiest, most rapid stumbling block to oppression we can erect.

The independent MOP organization site referred to earlier is more voluminous than I am willing to entertain, and the first few pages suggest a wide ranging set of aspirations I doubt will capture many unified adherents.

The commentators who advocate a ground up totally new system, I agree, are looking for something that is impractical on so many levels. Just look at the history of such revolutions and their outcomes. Abdication of power and elephants fly.

MOP is not my pet aspiration. What I personally want is direct democracy in the form of superior legislative authority by way of popular petition, but that is not likely to happen right now.

Your version of MOP is something I would get behind if OWS consensus is for it, but I think it needs a little more. I don't see how your proposal blocks the dominating PAC mass media campaigning or lobbyist perks. Lobbyist perks, I'm sure, can be very persuasive and may certainly include entrapment of legislators in embarrassing and unlawful situations.

Agreed, a laser fine focus must be used for maximum consensus. If you seek it out I think you will also find super majority favor for elimination of paid lobbying and special interest mass media campaigning, so here's a stab at it.

No organizational contributing, (as you stipulated), to include mass-media mention, reference to, or image of names of political parties or of persons living or dead,(In short, only legislative issues may be mass-communicated by non-candidates.), and no acquisitions of any value to any elected official or immediate family member that is related to any entity that official has authority to directly impact in his elected functioning, with the exception of family employment that precedes the assumption of office. No paid lobbyists or paid lobbying campaigns.

That's a pretty muddled up laser, I admit, but as long as the whole thing is zipped up with the phrase, "Money Out Of Politics", and given the overwhelming popularity of each of these closely related items on their own merits, I think the whole package would go over damn near as easily.

Of course I will defer to reasonable OWS consensus, and I have no problem with using more than one tactic at a time, or more than one objective, but consensus and focus are each key essentials, and time is of the essence. Focus will accelerate recruiting. Multiple tactics will enhance popularity, as each proponent can choose his favorite, most comfortable mode of action.

I feel the situation is desperate enough that every tool must be considered and if useful, then endorsed. Things can evolve on the way. Let us strike while the iron is hot, but before it melts.
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Written by Rick , November 04, 2011
BenC, Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I don't think we need to argue about things so much, but there is a huge difference between pursuing a constitutional amendment vs. holding a constitutional convention. The latter opens a huge can of worms. Every aspect of government will be considered and the final proposal will find enemies for each specific. Plus it could easily be coopted by the Right.
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Written by BenC , November 04, 2011
I agree with the general sentiment. Unfortunately there are far too many 'occupiers' who think they are radically remaking society into some vague sort of horizontal, consensus-based movement - as if we're going to abolish Congress and form some online twinkle-finger based global government. In other words, they'll never get behind this.

The "get money out" people will have to form a subgroup. We are "empowered" to do whatever we want, so let's start groups that turn the focus on just these issues. But first let's start by agreeing among ourselves, and stop fighting about specifics (e.g. article v convention or not).
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Written by urbaned , November 04, 2011
buttons, logos, soundbites. Sorry, I've been dumbed-down.
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Written by Rick , October 31, 2011
MOPstr,
Thanks for adding to the discussion. I think it is more productive for your group to outline the specific reasons you think your approach is better than a constitutional amendment, rather than denigrating the latter as "the constitutional amendment soundbite strategy.” Certainly, no one I know who supports this idea does so because it makes a good sound bite. On the other hand, the fact this it is easy to explain is actually an advantage over your plan in terms of getting public support.

Also, you say, “A constitutional amendment is a dead end, and its supporters admit it…” What supporters are you referring to? You never say. You also state that “a constitutional amendment is impossible.” That’s quite an assertion and not supported by any evidence.

That said, I followed both of the links you provided and can see the great amount of work your group has put into analyzing and touting your ideas. As you noted, our approaches have much in common and I was prepared to defer to a better idea if it presented itself. Perhaps with more information I could be convinced otherwise, but for now I see some serious flaws in your approach (note that much of this refers to information you linked to, not parts of your comment below):

1.The October Gallup Poll numbers for public approval of Congress is at 13%, an all-time low. To try to get the public to support Congress usurping more power for itself by removing high court oversight of Congressional legislation on elections would likely be a nonstarter for the public.

2.It would be easy for corporations to argue that such a move will destroy the balance of powers between the branches of government.

3.You suggest that a constitutional amendment will be open to Congressional interpretation, but so will your change in the law. And it seems the court will be very unfriendly to a law decreasing its power.

4.Even if your law passes and is not declared unconstitutional by the high court, your law will not necessarily protect campaign finance laws because other lower courts (many very conservative) may still find them unconstitutional as violations of the First Amendment because they will have to apply the earlier high court rulings that ‘money is speech’ and ‘corporations are people.’

5.Also, as noted above, your approach is complex and will be difficult to explain to the public, whose support we need.

Let me review my answers to your five reasons why a constitutional amendment is not a good idea:

1.You say, “A constitutional amendment is unnecessary” because your plan can do the same thing. I already noted some of the major flaws in your plan above.

2.You say, “A constitutional amendment is insufficient, and would be less effective than comprehensive legislation” because “[i]t is by nature far too brief to cover all of the detailed provisions that will be necessary to effectively remove money from politics.” The amendment does not need to be complex to remove money from politics, it just needs to overturn the ideas that “corporations are people” and “money is speech,” which have been used by the courts to weaken or kill numerous campaign spending limit laws. This it does, simply and effectively.

3.You say, “Attempting a constitutional amendment is wasteful of scarce political capital because it would be many times more difficult and time-consuming than would enactment of a comprehensive law.” As my piece above notes, the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the Citizens United ruling that corporations are people, so that gaining their support would be much easier for a constitutional amendment saying the opposite, than for legislation that is difficult to understand and seems to shift the balance of power from the high court to the very unpopular Congress.

4.You say, “Proposals for a constitutional amendment are Counterproductive.” Your argument here repeats some of the above arguments and makes an unsupportable assumption that if a constitutional amendment passes it won’t succeed in protecting campaign spending limits legislation, thereby engendering cynicism. On the contrary, such an amendment would be effective because it would remove the major weapon used to eviscerate such legislation.

5.You say: “Advocacy of a constitutional amendment is dangerous” because “[t]he main, perhaps only effective, defense Congress can make to sidestep efforts to force enactment of legislation to get money out of politics would be: Congress is sorry, they would love to help, but they cannot do that because a constitutional amendment is necessary to deal with the Supreme Court.” If your approach makes sense, you will be able to argue it is a realistic alternative (even a better alternative, if you overcome my and others objections to your plan) to an amendment. Of course, you’ll have to explain “why” to the public, and this will be difficult due to the difficulty in explaining to your plan to non-constitutional lawyers, I would think.

I’m open to learning more about your plan, especially if it will overcome my objections.
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Written by MOPstr , October 31, 2011
Your enthusiasm is understandable because you are on the right track with several of your ideas. Laser focus on a single issue rather than a coalition of issues is essential, and focus on getting money out of politics is the right and only choice that can support the single issue approach because it is at the root of all other issues that have arisen in OWS. These two strategies are similar to moneyouttapolitics.org, (MOP) and are discussed in detail there,http://moneyouttapolitics.org/pdf/pq_the_20_percent_solutionre_mop.pdf


Your proposal for reframing OWS as a national strategy session is also good.

Where your proposal goes off the tracks and diverges from MOP is by adopting the constitutional amendment soundbite as strategy. A constitutional amendment to get money out of politics is a very easy thing to propose but a very bad idea for the reasons discussed here. http://www.opednews.com/articl...5-578.html This article shows that a constitutional amendment is impossible at the same time it is both unnecessary and insufficient. Support for it is counterproductive because it diverts energy from what is possible and propagates the dangerous idea that an amendment is necessary.

MOP has already laid out the details of the plan you propose. It only requires OWS to adopt it for it to succeed. No other strategy you will find can make that promise. A constitutional amendment is a dead end, and its supporters admit it, though organizations are out raising money on this bad idea. There has been no constitutional amendment proposed and ratified since well before the new gilded Age formally began in 1976, with the ruling that money is speech. There was none in the original Gilded Age for the same reason - money will stop it.

The real problem we face is the lack of strategic sensibility and you are in a position to help to solve that problem – should you chose to accept it.

http://moneyouttapolitics.org/pdf/pq_the_20_percent_solutionre_mop.pdf
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Written by scottsgreen , October 28, 2011
Holy Shmo-lie Batman what a lovely bunch of Poo.Shill.Sure vote our way out of this ,do not hold anyone responsible except bernie,bernard and I could have Bin somebody.bs.
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Written by VP , October 28, 2011
uh, right now, 47% of the people live off of the other 53% who pay taxes. who is going to pay for universal healthcare? who is going to pay for everyone to have free college education? do the 53% get more heavily burdened? what if they just decide to retire and no longer support everybody else?...... and no registration to vote? so any foreigner can go to America and vote in the American elections??

scary article.
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Written by MP , October 28, 2011
It seems it's usually spontaneous events that set off deep change in a system, not drawn-out, methodical listening and teach-ins. Gaining civil rights was a long process that was a culmination of many shocking events (Rosa Parks, assassinations, violent demonstrations, boycotts, etc.). All lasting historical change has built on our (albeit flawed) constitution. Since that is the framework our society has in place, I don't see how we can completely discard it and start again. Ending corporate personhood would be a good first step, and our political system would begin to look like a real democracy again. The abuse by police in Oakland and NY have given fuel to protesters. Unfortunately, it's usually these painful shocks that spur change in the law.
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Written by Rick , October 28, 2011
Thomas, Thanks for your comment and interest. Yes, I am one individual with an opinion about the best way forward for "the movement," the county and the world (I hold all of these groups dear, but prioritized in the reverse order). I’m not sure why this makes me “arrogant.” I assume you do not think it is arrogant of you to present your views on what is best for these same groups, because that is what you do in your critique of the plan I presented. In fact, you go further. It seems as if you are setting yourself up as speaking for the entire “movement.” If you are truly as active in “the movement” as you imply, then you know this is impossible. There are almost as many opinions as people.

Contrary to your assumption, my opinions are based 40 years of experience traveling to and living in different parts of the country. In those places I’ve met and worked with activists. I’ve also spent countless hours (adding up to literally years of my life) organizing for “the movement.” During this time, I’ve employed and seen the same tactics used again and again by “the movement” without much success. That is why I am proposing a different way forward. As they say, ’the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’

So, yes, I have traveled around and spoken with many people in "the movement." I'm wondering, based on your comments, though, if you have traveled around or even opened your eyes to try to understand people not in "the movement" who are the vast majority. It is these people who we must connect with in order for "our movement" to be truly successful and democratic. Otherwise we are a minority dictating to the majority like the plutocrats in power now. I will go even further. I think we need to connect with those opposed to "the movement," because if "the movement" does indeed represent the best in human nature, we should be able to connect with (and cause to flower) that part of their nature, too.

After seeing so many years of “movement” stumbles, I sat down with others to discuss a way forward that isn’t beholden to any dogma, but purely pragmatic. Our goal was to find the best strategy for success–the most good, for the most people, in the shortest amount of time. The plan we devised is what I presented.

You say, “We need to create a new monetary system and we need to create a new political system, in their entirety.” If OWS adopts such a stance, it will be a gift to the plutocrats and their corporate-controlled news organizations—and a nonstarter for the vast majority of Americans. Now, if you could set aside your prejudices and look at the plan I presented objectively, you would see that the radical changes in society and government that you propose are possible only under one of two scenarios. The first is total revolution in which you win (and for the US that would mean violent insurrection that would almost certainly be easily crushed, engendering further abridgements of our civil liberties; or result in uncontrolled chaos that would end in either a Left or Right-wing dictatorship, necessary to keep the faction not in power under control). Even if you “win,” have you considered the dislocation, starvation and other chaos that would ensue from making such structural changes (especially when you consider how interdependent the US economy is with that of the rest of the world, and all of the factions in this country that would form an insurgent force to violently oppose you)?

The second scenario for the success of your more extreme changes would be adoption globally only after society across the planet has moved much further in a progressive direction. And that is only possible after we change the electoral system, part of the above plan, to make it easier and more natural for poor and working class people to vote their class interests. And that will only happen after we get big and anonymous money out of politics. And the only clear way to do that is the constitutional amendment proposed above. I hope you will reconsider and support it, while working on a parallel path to plan the changes you want to see adopted once we can vote into office people who truly reflect the working classes in this country.

If the movement can focus—not on just one goal for all time, but on one first step for a short time, a step that will build bridges, gain us massive popular support and then enable us to achieve more and more of our goals—we will one day see many of the changes you envision. If we go on the same way we have—making myriad demands to a corrupt system—then people like you and me will be having this same discussion centuries from now, only then it may have to be in secret. Thanks for the dialogue!
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Written by Krisf , October 28, 2011
Thomas,

I appreciate your passion but I seriously doubt that a majority of people who support this movement want to 'abolish the government'. I'm not even clear on exactly what that means, what actionable steps you would propose to get us there, or how you would propose to deal with the consequences of what follows.

I hear lots of people with big grand ideas in this movement, but you don't talk yourself into finishing a marathon, you do it by taking one step at a time. 50,000 times. The first step is the most important and the above plan is a smart and strategic way for OWS to take it.
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Written by Thomas Jaggers , October 27, 2011
Rick, I am glad that you support the movement and that you are bringing your time and your thoughts to how to make it succeed. But I am dismayed both by your arrogance - imagining that you, the individual, know what is best for all of the activists working tirelessly around the country as we speak and that you know what is best for this movement and ultimately for this country. I think you need to take some time to reflect upon yourself and your own agenda in writing this piece, and then take some time to travel around the country, visiting not just the movement in Liberty Plaza but the grassroots groups and movements that have been so inspired and have acted so rapidly in every state in this country, and then reflect upon what you have learned about yourself and the movement, and return to your keyboard.

I am also dismayed at the smallness of your vision and the dead-end you would lead this movement into. I agree with you that this is a very, very long-term movement - we are not going to achieve transformation of our political system overnight. And thankfully, pretty much everyone I have spoken to who is engaged in the movement, both in New York and in my home state of New Mexico, recognizes that and is prepared for the months and years of work we have ahead of us.

This movement is not about tweaking the current political system or winning over Congressmen and women in order to amend laws and amend the constitution. This movement is about starting again. We need to create a new monetary system and we need to create a new political system, in their entirety. And we can achieve those ends by continuing to aim for them and creating strategies that work towards them. But we will not meet those ends by now pandering to the mainstream media and middle America who, in their failure to grasp what is happening and failure of imagination are calling out for a single issue which they can understand, debate and then either agree with or disagree with.

Focusing on a single issue, and one which will continue to keep us and all of our communities in thrall to the current political system, will undermine everything that has so far been built in the five short but incredible weeks of this massive modern popular movement.

What is happening in New York and all around the country in the General Assemblies that are taking place most evenings is the participatory creation of a new form of direct democracy. Thousands and thousands of people across the country are rising up and speaking to the communities about the issues that they see laid before us and about how to deal with those issues. And those same people are practicing consensus decision-making every night, on issues large and small. This is no small thing. This in itself is transformational and revolutionary (in its highest sense). People are coming together to decide the political and social direction of this country, no longer submissive to and beaten down by the financial and political elites and their militias.

To write this off as unclear and unfocused, and to call for a "laser-focus" on one issue and then "declare victory and decamp" only points to your failure to grasp the potential of this movement and what is at stake here.

As I am sure you are aware, the Declaration of Independence states that it is the right (the RIGHT) of the people to abolish any form of government that prevents the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. That our current form of government and our current monetary system prevents that pursuit, not only for all the marginalized communities who make up so much of the beauty of the USA, but now in recent years the rest of the 99%, even we white middle class males, is clear to all.

That is what this movement is about - abolishing our current form of government and abolishing our current monetary system. Anything less than that fails us all just as completely and tragically as the current systems fail us all now.
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Written by DGrips , October 27, 2011
I like this, and can see real potential for success. As a New Zealander, I hold great hope that the OWS movement changes America from a massive international rogue state, into an actual free and awesome country (which it can and should be!)

I would advise however, that you avoid advancing the leftist/rightist distinction, as this is adding partisanship to an extent, where the success of a plan like this must have none. Once OWS achieves this goal, any other goals, the first of which (for people like van spronsen) would be massive reform to corporate law in [insert specific agenda here] way, which people are free to form separate movements to support.

OWS won't achieve all the important changes at once, but reinstating democracy will facilitate all agendas which are currently dominated by corporate interests (foreign policy, economic policy and differential taxation policies for example)
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Written by Terry Delman , October 27, 2011
Please contact me. I have time to help!
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Written by JerryD , October 27, 2011
Yes! We need to focus on ONE thing at a time and I believe this is the ONE to start with. I'll forward the link!!
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Written by david ross , October 27, 2011
excellent essay! best i've read to thoroughly describe the effort.
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Written by ElDavide , October 27, 2011
Fantastic write-up, Rick.

I have to say that I never thought I'd see anything like OWS take shape in the U.S. In fact, years ago, during the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, I remember remarking to a friend that such an upsurge in popular revolt would never happen here because we've become robots in the system. We consider ourselves to be the "freest" people in the world (whatever that means) when, in fact, we've had so much taken from us from those with the means to do so. Our voices get drowned out; our votes count for nothing; and even when we do manage to get something meaningful passed by our overly inept and corrupt legislators, it's overturned or completely watered down by the courts.

The only point I'd challenge in your posting is #2; the OWS has to grow and grow before even thinking of decamping. In fact, until it grows even larger it'll be far to easy to be overlooked or drowned out by "important" news like the release of a new phone or the interminable Presidential election process.

Again, thanks for posting this!
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Written by Ryan , October 27, 2011
Will, the kind of participatory democracy used in the general assemblies is not scalable to the entire country. It sounds like you're just being obstinate.

This is a worthwhile initiative -- but the best way to promote it is not to write a blog post about it and forward it to all your friends. Anybody who supports this should get down to Wall Street and lobby for it in the General Assembly; if that's not possible, try to get to one of the other Occupy assemblies and push for it there.
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Written by John , October 27, 2011
Rick
Increditable, absolutely, you have my vote and support. I think I will go down the Albuquerque this Saturday to spread the word. In the mean time, what else can I do other than talk with everyone, and I mean everyone, about the need for the constitional ammendment!
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Written by JJ , October 27, 2011
Provides strong endgame to encampments which preserves dignity, support. May not produce utopia you describe but lead to sweeping improvement.
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Written by will van spronsen , October 27, 2011
participatory democracy, exactly as it's practiced so successfully at occupy general assemblies.
and, please, call me will.
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Written by Rick , October 27, 2011
van spronsen, it is clear you don't like this plan. so please give details of the path forward that you propose with supporting evidence that it might work.
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Written by will van spronsen , October 27, 2011
dislike, with extreme prejudice;
this undercuts the movement. it calls for the reform of the corrupt corpse of representative democracy, it ignores the rest of the world in an attempt to divide and conquer.
this revolution will not be co-opted by half measures which leave the corporatocracy wide swath for the rest of the earth to despoil while window dressing distracts the masses.
it will not be "business as usual" and palliatives such as this this time around.
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Written by RLT , October 26, 2011
I'm on board, but I think the encampment in New York City should stay put.
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Written by Julie Thompson , October 26, 2011
Wow, this will work. I'm forwarding it to everyone I know!
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Written by JBlaine , October 26, 2011
Best idea I've heard yet. It's about time OWS set a definitive, attainable goal for itself.
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