This article is the child of an interesting mating of notions I encountered over a span of just three days: a comment I heard at the ANC-WR banquet, an ANC Burbank meeting discussion, and two pieces on the Huffington Post.
We’ve come a long way from the days when we got political traction in the halls of federal, state, and local halls of power only out of the kindness of people’s hearts—throwing us a bone, Cold War considerations, and sometimes even sincere belief.
But we’re missing something. Somehow we get close to the prize (think of two years ago and the genocide resolution passing committee muster), but never quite get it. We don’t close the BIG deals. We get relative pennies for Armenia and Artsakh. And this happens at all levels of government. We are not yet in a position to get what we reasonably need and are equitably entitled to.
Besides obvious cases of weakening our political presence through outright foolishness—as manifested through the ego and personal-gain considerations driving the fiasco that was Glendale’s 2007 and 2009 elections—there’s something else art play.
When someone who is otherwise a “friend,” as the jargon goes, does something damaging to our interests, we don’t rip ‘em a new one. We play by the rules, participate in the process, yet we don’t get commensurate returns. Sometimes this is because we fail to ask, to lay out clearly what we want, but even that’s not always the case.
Those currently in power do not take us sufficiently seriously. Yes, we’ve mobilized votes where it matters. Yes, we’ve improved (though we still have a long way to go) when it comes to political fundraising. Yes we’ve even elected our home grown candidates, sometimes under very adverse circumstances. So why aren’t we getting a fair shake?
I think Machiavelli may point us to the right answer. In his famous The Prince tract, he poses the question, from the perspective of the ruler: “Is it better to be feared or loved?” His answer, after very interesting analysis, is “feared.”
We are not yet feared as a community/interest group. We are respected, loved, cooperated with, encouraged, and supported by some, and opposed, for whatever reasons and on whatever basis, by others. But no one fears us.
We are not alone in this, as evidenced in the postings from Monday’s and Tuesday’s (Nov. 9 and 10, respectively) Huff Post pieces quoted below. The specifics in each case don’t matter, so please try not to get hung up on them. It’s the same position two other constituencies find themselves in.
Jean Hamsher wrote:
“But let’s be clear about this. The only reason that we are in the position where the price of passing health care reform is allowing even liberal Marcy Kaptur to sneeringly dismiss choice activists as narrow class warriors who don’t care about working women is because Planned Parenthood and NARAL have allowed it to happen. They collect millions of dollars in revenue each year. They’ve exacted no price from the Marcy Kapturs of the world, who actually have to care what liberals think of them, and focused instead on anti-choice Republicans who are only empowered by their ire. They have no scalps. There is no price for crossing Planned Parenthood and NARAL. It isn’t a fight that the Democrats want to spend “political capital” on, and these groups insure that they don’t have to.”
Emma Ruby-Sachs wrote:
“I think the freeze in fundraising is a great idea… Threatening the fiscal base of the Democratic Party is an important tactic. But threatening their voter base by floating a truly liberal candidate in districts with close races would be an even better strategy. Have someone run on an equal rights, populist platform with support for social services and equality under the law and see how quickly the Democrats start racing around for ways to fold in the left vote they have ignored for so long… Ralph Nader tried this and managed to strike fear into the heart of major political parties for many years to come. Let’s play on this fear.”
Both advise, in effect, becoming feared. That’s what we have to do. Someone has to lose their election, ideally an incumbent. And that loss has to be attributable largely, if not exclusively, to us and our efforts.
So start thinking about how much time and/or money you can spare, then go further than that when the time comes. Give your heart and soul to that ONE race that will clinch things. All it takes is once, and for a very long time, people in office will think long and hard before crossing us.