Thursday, July 12, 2012

Strategic insults? Classy!

Consensus organizers begin their organizing work by identifying the interests, strengths, and resources of the community they are working in (Ohmer & DeMasi, 2009, p. 74).
 It's amazing watching a native member of Richistan try to organize support for himself in the 'hood, pretending as though he can offer something that those beneath him can use in the sweet by and by if they just all agree to make him their leader. The latest, of course, is Mitt Romney making the obligatory speech to the NAACP. He attacked "Obamacare," which earned him a hearty "Boo!" from the colored people who had been so happy to help elect the first president of color. All of Obama's missteps could never efface that pride amongst NAACP members, so Mitt, his wealthy whiteness standing out, didn't even have the sense to alter his label from the Tea Party-Rush Limbaugh personalized Obamacare. Some are calling this blatant failure intentional race-baiting. Perhaps. Or, just as likely, Romney is clueless and going with his gut, which is politically sensitive to his "Elect me" gene but not capable of balancing his life experience deficit. Indeed, his pathetic attempts to relate (insulting NASCAR fans, casually mentioning that his wife drives a couple of Cadillacs, reveling in the rights of all Americans to enjoy spendy vacations on their huge powerboats just like him, etc.) are now legion. Planet Mitt is not our planet.

This is why consensus organizing is both the opposite of elect-me politics and integrated deeply into politics.

Consensus organizing is 'Elect yourselves' in its approach to a community. A consensus organizer would in fact not be the speechmaker. Romney's arrogance was his attempt to brazen out the requisite NAACP appearance, on the theory, perhaps, that the best defense is a good offense. He seemed to be trying to achieve the Patronizing Pale Patriarch of the Year Award, declaring himself--in an evidence-free proclamation--to be the best candidate for black people. Was he trying to energize Obama's base or the Tea Party? The former was clearly pricked and responded. The latter will likely celebrate the boos that Romney earned from their natural opponents. Romney's gut no doubt informed his choice of loaded language. He will gain points with any rabid racist and he's already lost with the NAACP crowd before he walks into the room.

To the extent Obama gets in touch with his consensus organizer roots he will prevail. His war policies will never gain consensus with principled opponents of war, but he clearly has as little care for us as Romney has for people of color. Nonviolence is left out again by both power people, and will only make its entry when enough of us make it politically important.

Ohmer, Mary L. & DeMasi, Karen (2009). Consensus organizing: A community development workbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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