SYNDICATED COLUMN: To Do Next for the #NeverAgain Movement: Settle on a Clear Demand

Image result for march for our lives Notice the signs: where are the exact demands for Congress?

Eight hundred thousand people participated in the March for Our Lives rally in Washington on March 24th, say organizers with the #NeverAgain movement sparked by the Parkland, Florida school massacre. The turnout was impressive — but will it lead to new gun legislation?

History suggests no. But victory is achievable — if rallies are sharpened in focus.

Enthusiasm is necessary to launch a movement. Careful strategizing is required to sustain and grow it. The Million Moms March, also dedicated to curbing gun violence in 2000 drew a similar-sized crowd. Yet the next two decades saw one mass shooting after another, the NRA gaining rather than losing political influence, and a major reversal for the gun-control movement marked by the failure to renew the ban on assault weapons.

Whether it’s the Million Man March to promote unity and family values among African-American men or the 1981 Solidarity Day march to defend unions from Reagan-era attacks against organizations like the air traffic controllers union, there is a century-old tradition of large groups of Americans gathering in Washington, carrying signs, chanting slogans and being ignored by Congress and the president after they go home. To those shattered dreams you can add 2011’s Occupy Wall Street, another leaderless protest that came together and fizzled.

At almost all these events, speakers proclaimed themselves present at the continuation or initiation of a movement. But sustained movements must be organized. These were, like the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in 1964, political spasms. Perhaps not theater as farce — but theater at most. At best, some presaged something later, bigger and effective.

Weighing in favor of the #NeverAgain movement’s chances of effecting real change is the role of social media, which can bring large groups of people together quickly. But they also need a simple, coherent, bumper-sticker-ready demand message.

Writing in USA Today, Rick Hampson argues that even the go-to granddaddy of all contemporary marches, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, was less effective than advertised: “Even the 1963 civil rights march required so much effort, created so many internal divisions and produced so few immediate results (the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed only after and because of President Kennedy’s assassination) that its leaders vowed never to attempt another.”

Hampson has a point. The 10 printed demands for the March on Washington remind us of American society’s failure to address the needs of the poor and oppressed since 1963. They wanted a $2-per-hour minimum wage, which is at least $15 today. Even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton refused to go over $12 in 2016. Still, they had a clear, coherent set of demands, beginning with: “Comprehensive and effective Civil Rights legislation from the present Congress — without compromise or filibuster — to guarantee all Americans: Access to all public accommodations, decent housing, adequate and integrated education, the right to vote.” And the Civil Rights Act did get passed.

The March 24th March for Our Lives opposed gun violence. The problem is, it failed to articulate a precise demand or set of demands.

“School safety is not a political issue,” read the Mission Statement. “There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children who are at risk of dying when they should be learning, playing, and growing. The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues.”

Sorry, but those are weasel words.

“Address”?

How?

Should we ban large-capacity magazines?

Would restoring the assault-weapons ban be enough?

Should we, as retired Justice John Paul Stevens suggested recently, repeal the Second Amendment entirely and ban all guns?

Asking Congress to simply “address” an issue is an invitation for more endless debate leading nowhere, or to a compromise so watered down that it undermines the cause. (The ACA is an example of the latter.) A movement must settle on an area of clear focus. Unlike Occupy, which was split between reformists and revolutionaries and talked about everything from restoring the Glass-Steagall Act to eliminating homelessness, #NeverAgain has that part down pat.

An effective movement also has to settle on the solution to a problem. Proposing a path forward does not guarantee success: demonstrators had a clear, straightforward demand in 2002-03: do not invade Iraq. The Bush Administration ignored them. On the other hand, it’s now painfully clear which side was right. That will add to the credibility of antiwar marchers the next time a president tries to start a war of choice.

Settling on a clear solution, as opposed to asking the political class to “address” the issue, entails risk. For #NeverAgain, advocating for a comprehensive gun ban will push away allies who prefer a compromise approach. On the other hand, a more moderate approach will generate less excitement among those in favor of a radical solution (and moderation generally elicits less enthusiasm). But to take a page from gun-toting military folks, it’s better to go into battle with half an army than a whole one riddled with confusion and no idea why they’re fighting.

(Ted Rall, the editorial cartoonist and columnist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.”)

12 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: To Do Next for the #NeverAgain Movement: Settle on a Clear Demand

  1. I once defended a black Chicago bus driver from a white attacker, by means of a physical threat, one that remained only a physical threat because his stupid white ass ran fast enough from me to convince me that his attack was over. Afterwards, a few white assholes on the bus a muttered some N* lover BS loud enough that I could hear it without talking directly to me.

    I once defended an elderly woman neighbor from three white muggers. I chased the three to their car, got its license number, went to court where the one that the police arrested was sentenced to time served because he couldn’t make bail. A Chicago alderman wanted to encourage what I did but the police said that I should have let the muggers stand over the neighbor lady’s body and leave her to call the police, because they could have shot me or killed me instead of running away.

    My wife and I were once victims of an attempted robbery by two black men. I wasn’t carrying a pistol at the time but I convinced the two attackers that I was carrying a pistol convincingly enough that they both ran away from me and my wife.

    As soon as the anti-gunners can convince me that all white and black people have turned kind and peaceful I’ll stop carrying. Until then I’ll take the measures necessary to force assholes to simulate respect, kindness and peaceability when dealing with me, and maybe to find someone easier to rob.

  2. On the other hand, it’s now painfully clear which side was right. That will add to the credibility of antiwar marchers the next time a president tries to start a war of choice.

    Good luck with that, Ted ; as anyone familiar with the history of US military interventions since 1947 – all of which have been «wars of choice» – it won’t matter a tinker’s damn….

    Henri

    • Anti-war Middle East War marches effectively ended after Obama took office, when a Republican Party “stupid war” was miraculously transformed into a Democratic Party “smart war” merely by the change of the sitting president’s party.

      The real effects of the anti-war protest of late have been of less importance to making real positive social change than their use for identity groups making claims of occupying the moral high ground, while emitting the self-congratulating chants of, in effect, “We are the good guys, they are the bad guys”.

      Heroes put their own skin in the game and are less common than those who find their own skin has been thrown into the game and then act out in a common rebellion against the forces that put them at risk.

      The real divisions within the military, which mobilized civilians not yet drafted and those post military discharge, hastened the end of the Vietnam War, eventually ending the draft. Rumsfeld did not want to restart the draft during the Iraq War, saying its pluses and minuses were a wash, diminishing its use in creating an effective fighting machine.

      Now come the robots that make moot the question of the moral high ground, leaving only the Darwinian “winning is good, losing is bad” in play while in service to the interests of MIC.

      More so than when first said:

      “Things are in the saddle. And ride mankind.”

      ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

      • “In the wake of the deadly shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, administrators will be requiring students to carry clear backpacks when they return from spring break in April.”

        “The new policy, he said, will make students feel like they’re in “a prison”:

        “It’s unnecessary, it’s embarrassing for a lot of the students and it makes them feel isolated and separated from the rest of American school culture, where they’re having essentially their First Amendment rights infringed upon because they can’t freely wear whatever backpack they want regardless of what it is.”

        https://ijr.com/2018/03/1078696-david-hogg-clear-backpacks-parkland/

        “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — B. Franklin

      • @glenn, I saw that article. I’m sure “American Teacher” would approve. Rather than fix the problem: normalize it. ANYTHING is better than relinquishing your right to own military grade hardware.

        Theme Music “Bang Bang (S/he shot me down)” – I prefer Cher’s version to Sinatra’s, but will take either since you can’t hear it anyway…

  3. Hey, Ted –

    You’ve got some good advice, but you could help. Mail this column to every high school newspaper in the land. I know you’re not big on giving your work away, so consider it charitable giving. Let’s see, ten column inches in each of ten thousand papers = $1,000,000 tax write off!

    oh, wait- “Email this to every high school website” 😉

    • Hah, email is so 90s…

      All the cool kids now insta-snap their twoots directly to the mac-face-no-evil-micro-book 3.0.

      Otherwise how could sponsored ads for occupy-wall-street stickers and high calibre automatic weapons be connected to the story to serve up the audience (by algorithms that they want you to let drive your car over your neighbors cat)?

      • Andreas, what do you have against cats (or apostrophes, for that matter) ?…

        Henri

      • Doh? D’oh!

        Clearly the auto-spellcheck functions was woefully inadequate to spot the missing apostrophe, why don’t we turn over the controls of my car (not that I have one) to a machine?

        Thus it is up to *you* to help the AI community -> only you can save my neighbors cat! =^.^=

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