I don’t think Julian Bond would have nodded. “There is a right-wing conspiracy,” thundered the NAACP chairman during a glib, showy speech on the opening day of the conference. “It controls both houses, the presidency, much of the judiciary and a significant portion of the media.” Later, another speaker said, “Our greatest fear is that the election will be stolen, not that we won’t win it.”
Ultimately, the strategy laid out by the conference appeared to be one of proliferating politicization. Michael Kieschnick, president of Working Assets, referred to himself as the head of “a social-change organization that lives inside a phone company.” Joan Blades of MoveOn.org, which claims to have more members than the Christian Coalition did at its peak, suggested that the next time anyone in the audience felt like going for a long drive, they “drive to a swing state.” And media consultant Will Robinson taught the audience exactly how to clap so as to convey just the right amount of excitement and enthusiasm for the person who represents theirviews.
I asked Roger Hickey, the dapper co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, the group that organized the conference, if encouraging people to arrange every aspect of their lives along ideological lines, from their choice of phone company to how they clap and where they take the car for a spin, might not create even more social divisions than we already have. Do we want a society in which every action comes with a campaign button attached? Are we really going to visit swing states and strike up apparently casual but secretly political conversations with people? (“Waitress, could I get some kerry — I mean, er, ketchup with that?”)
Hickey gave a short laugh. What we were witnessing, he said, was “unprecedented cooperation, not division,” and he rattled off some statistics to back up his claim. “Everybody’s button supports everybody else’s button.”
That’s fine for here, I persisted, but what about in the country at large?
“I think the general tone of this conference is ‘We want to listen to people,’” he replied. “It’s very open-minded. I’ve been in this business a long time, and I think today’s activists are much more interested in creating a majority than they are in splintering off into factions.”
And if there were any activists in the house who were notinterested in creating a majority, well, Take Back America had set up an activist-training program for them called “Progressive Majority Campaign Training Track.” In it, they could learn exactly how to talk to the little people so as to target their political vulnerabilities in the most considerate and painless and surgical manner imaginable according to the latest scientific studies. Your body will remain untouched; only your soul will be transformed.