Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CROSS-POST: Electoral Organizing As A Means to Movement Building

Here's an excerpt from an excellent article that Xiomara Corpeno, Director of Organizing at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, wrote about for CCC's Movement Vision Lab about organizing during this election season.

In the heat of a historic Presidential race, and with expectations that November 4th will bring the highest voter turnout ever, there is a lot of energy and focus on get out the vote efforts (both partisan and non-partisan). But there are also a lot of questions from activists about what will happen to that energy on November 5th. Some fear that the throngs of new people who will vote on Election Day will just celebrate or mourn the election results and then check out of the political process and wait quietly for another four years to see what happens next.

Unfortunately, this fear is not unfounded. Traditional electoral campaign work has always been about winning or losing on Election Day and then packing up the day after. Too many times, we've seen candidates make promises to bring sweeping changes, and state ballot measures in states like Arizona and California promising “Safer Neighborhoods” and to “Protect our Homes.” But soon after the elections, people realize more often than not that there is no longer anyone who is willing to listen to their concerns, except a sympathetic but powerless intern at their elected representative's local office. In the case of ballot measures, communities are left wondering why there is no money for improvement of schools, but there are two more prison's being built in their community. This campaign pattern – parachuting into communities and inundating them with campaign propaganda a couple of weeks before Election Day and then a return to business-as-usual after the ballots are cast – has left many communities and individuals feeling used and ultimately disgusted with the voting process in general.

But for many groups and organizations around the country, there is a completely different model of electoral organizing that isn’t just about parachuting in to win votes on Election Day. Many organizations like CHIRLA are conducting electoral organizing as part of a movement-building strategy. It is clear that the fight for better jobs, affordable housing, universal healthcare, quality education, just and humane immigration reform, and other important issues does not begin or end with the current election cycle. But rather elections work is an extension of our everyday work in order to make long-lasting social change in our communities and in the United States.

Read the rest of the article on the Movement Vision Lab.

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