By Jason Frerichs
One of the most compelling things Bernie Sanders said during the previous presidential primary season was, “It’s not me. It’s us.” This is especially true now more than ever. The Democrats got their clocks cleaned in 2016. Donald Trump is going to be our next president and when you see the hateful people he’s putting in his cabinet it should shake all of us to the core. It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. I didn’t like her husband and I didn’t like her. I held my nose and voted for her because I believed (and still do) that the status quo would be better than the total annihilation that could potentially come from a Trump presidency. His version of “draining the swamp” is putting together a collection of the most out of touch, anti-gay millionaires ever assembled. I’ve listened to people tell me, “He’ll probably surround himself with really talented people.” That statement speaks volumes about the attention span and the engagement of the average American. The majority of people aren’t paying attention. We the people are going to have to force our fellow citizens and our media to wake up. How do we do this?
Step 1: Understand that the mainstream media is not going to report on anything of substance. MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, etc…are part of the problem. To expect anything resembling quality journalism is unreasonable. Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, etc…are not liberal journalists. They are attractive faces paid to sell a corporate agenda. The Ring of Fire Radio recently published a piece about how the corporate media is just as dangerous as fake news. My brother Justin Frerichs said, “I don’t think most people are able to understand this idea: Corporate sponsorship in the form of ad revenue means these corporations can influence what news is reported and how it is reported. The threat of removing their money combined with the incentive of getting more of their money if you report what they like is what drives this.” If the mainstream media had any integrity, the violence perpetrated by the Morton County Police against the Standing Rock protestors would be the lead story on every single news channel. It would be front page news in every single newspaper in the US.
Step 2: Become a citizen journalist. It is up to us to report the truth. Sites like Progressive Voices of Iowa are wonderful for reporting on issues without a corporate agenda. This site was born only 3 months ago. We’re already averaging 6,000 views a month, have more than 15,000 unique visitors and have more than 19,000 views. None of us are professional journalists. Our writers have degrees in various academic disciplines and some of them don’t have a degree at all. We are mostly disaffected Progressive Democrats, Independents, and even former Republicans and Libertarians from the great state of Iowa. Everyone has a unique perspective and something to offer. Everyone’s experience is worthwhile and everyone has a story worth telling. If you’re scared that you’re not a good writer it’s okay. Just start writing. You will get better.
Step 3: Search out alternative media. There are some really good sites out there. I personally recommend The Young Turks, Ring of Fire Radio, Democracy Now, Free Speech TV, The Intercept, and VICE. There are many others that I haven’t mentioned. Go out there and find them. There are a lot of people doing some really good work. Ed Schultz, Cenk Uygur, Mike Papantonio, Thom Hartmann, etc…are some top quality journalists who are much better than anything the mainstream media has to offer. Ed Schultz was fired from MSNBC because he refused to toe the corporate line. Cenk Uygur passed up a lot of money from a mainstream network in order to practice real journalism with The Young Turks. Look outside the media bubble and you will find some quality. A pretty face on cable television, holding a microphone, won’t tell you the truth.
Step 4: Being discerning in your social media habits. Don’t react to a headline and share an article without reading it. Progressive Voices of Iowa recently published a satirical article about Chelsea Clinton. The author was “Justin Case.” The responses to our questions were so over the top that we didn’t think anyone would actually believe it was a real interview. There was even a disclaimer at the end. We addressed this in the follow-up article, ““Chelsea Clinton Running for Congress”: Consequences of Short Attention Spans and Misleading Headlines” because we were amazed and saddened by the number of people who reacted to and shared the article solely based on the headline. It was obvious that many people didn’t actually read the content. When you do read an article, do so with a critical eye. Don’t share something just because it fits into your worldview. Fact-check it before you share it. Is there a quote? If so, do a Google search for that particular quote. If it’s a real quote, you should be able to find alternative sources for it. Look at the other articles on the site. Do they seem like legitimate news? Don’t contribute to the problem of fake news by sharing something you haven’t personally vetted or aren’t 100% certain the source is a legitimate news source.
Step 5: Get involved. Get off of social media and turn off your computer. Anyone can be a keyboard activist. That doesn’t take any courage and it requires minimal effort. Most of our friends on social media have very similar views to our own. You’re basically shouting into an echo chamber if all your activism is on Facebook. If you’re a Democrat, join your local county party. I can guarantee you that your county chair will welcome any help he or she can get. If you’re a Green, join your local Green Party chapter. They are struggling. Nationally they got less than 1% of the vote. I have no doubt you will be welcomed with open arms. If you’re more independent leaning, there are a multitude of organizations you can join. CCI, Democracy Now, Our Revolution, etc….
Step 6: Leftists and progressives of all stripes need to unite. Stop playing the game of “more progressive than thou art.” Our numbers are large enough to make an impact but only if we unite together. That means Socialists, Democrats, Greens, etc…need to work together to elect the most progressive candidates that we can. The infighting has to stop. That means we must be willing to work with people who didn’t support the same presidential primary candidate that we did. This is an all hands on deck situation.
Step 7: Get money out of Politics. Don’t support candidates who accept money from Super PACs and corporations that are harmful to working class people. Bernie Sanders funded an entire campaign on donations that on average were less than $30. It is possible to run a campaign without taking money from millionaires and billionaires. Campaign finance reform doesn’t go far enough. All elections, at all levels, must be publicly funded. It is the only way we can make our representatives accountable to the people.
Step 8: Run for office. If we are serious about continuing Bernie’s revolution it starts at the grassroots level. Run for your local school board. Run for city council. Run for one of your county supervisor positions. Run for your state legislature or state senate. Run for mayor. One of the best practices we can take from the Tea Party is how they took over by winning seats at the local level. Republicans now control the majority of state legislatures and governorships. This is a huge problem because these people will have a greater impact on your daily life than any president ever will.
Step 9: Hold cowardly elected officials accountable. I am disgusted to read and listen to the tone deaf comments recently made by both Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. They refuse to the see the forest for the trees. The Democrats have been getting their butts kicked since 2010. Neither one of these “leaders” think anything is wrong or that the party needs to change course. Anyone on the ground can see that nothing is further from the truth. It’s true that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but that’s not how presidents are elected. More than 40% of eligible voters stayed home. They thought a vote for nobody was better than a vote for one of our candidates. The problem is that people don’t trust our major political parties. It wasn’t a messaging problem. Call your elected officials on a regular basis. Call them directly. They will listen, especially if large numbers of people are voicing concerns about the same issue. Write letters to the editor. Political offices do track that sort of thing. We must be engaged. When millions of people stand up and say, “Enough is enough”, we will win.
Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus