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July 22, 2007

The Next American Revolution

At the risk of being melodramatic, it seems to me that this country is in some desperate need of change.  I personally would like that change to be massive, relatively quick and completely non-violent and painless.  I think we are likely to see the outlines of what that change might look like at this year's YearlyKos convention as the participants in the convention engage our Democratic leaders in an extended discussion of what we want this country to look like.

There will be a lot of journalists there and a lot of political folk on blogger turf.  Some of our best national bloggers have been meeting with retired presidential candidates to consider topics of deep interest to the increasingly large number of folks in this country who are paying attention.  They will then ask all the leading Democratic Presidential candidates who will be there some real questions, including questions on 1) what it means that corporations have so much more concentrated power than they did when this country was founded, 2) what kind of government people think we ought to have and 3) how we ought to conduct foreign policy. 

There will also be an "Ask the Leaders" forum with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, and Sen. Charles E. "Chuck" Schumer.  And a panel of our newly elected Democratic Congresscritters.  And a panel of "Upcoming Leaders" - candidates, including Darcy Burner, who didn't quite make it last cycle but are sticking with it and are likely to win in '08.

Ideas for questions have been culled from readers and writers across the blogosphere.  There will also be opportunities for folks from the audience to ask questions - if they're quick enough to get in line at the mikes.  This is radical.  What comes out of this YearlyKos convention may well set the agenda for what we in the blogosphere, in conjunction with our leaders, choose to do in the next few years to change course in this country.   

It is a discussion that will need to continue in the blogs, in the traditional media, in the Democratic district and county and state meetings, at Drinking Liberally, and in the legislative bodies around the country including Congress.  It should be a back and forth between us and our Democratic leaders, culminating in massive change in the laws and the ways those laws are carried out. 

We have done this before.  We can do it again.  In fact it is how our country was founded.

The First American Revolution

There is an amazing book called "The First American Revolution" by Ray Raphael that describes the beginnings of the American Revolution.  Raphael writes about the decade before the Declaration of Independence was written, about the uprising that emerged out of the small towns surrounding Boston, without which our American Revolution might not have occurred in the way it did.  Recognizing that it's hard to take a well-researched book and summarize it into a few paragraphs, let me try anyway.

The New England colonies had come to have a great deal of local, democratic participation in their own governance.  There were elected colonial leaders, usually the more well-to-do, often lawyers.  But there were also vigorous town meetings and nightly talk at public houses. The hand of the British was reasonably light until about 1765 when the British Parliament tried to enact a Stamp Act, a tax on all official documents in the North American colonies.  For the British, it was an attempt to get the colonies to pay for the expenses of the French and Indian War.  For the American colonists, it was an imposition that they would not accept.  It was also the beginning of the rift between the British courts in the colonies and the small farmers in the towns of New England, especially eastern Massachusetts.

Research suggests that the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer as the land became more and more divided between many sons and also less fertile, "worn" they called it.  The imposition of the Stamp Act made it harder for the poorest to protect themselves in court.  The farmers as a whole stood with the poorer of their lot and refused to use the stamps.  The popular response to the Stamp Act changed the political landscape of New England.  The court officials were stuck trying to serve two masters -  the Crown and the people.  The people began to instruct their representatives to the General Court, almost always the same wealthy families that had been elected for generations.  The citizens began to call for sweeping reform.

In 1768, the tone-deaf British Parliament and the Crown added another tax, on goods imported into the colonies, setting off another round of political restiveness and leading to a few new leaders being elected to office in place of the traditional leaders.  In 1772, in an attempt to gain full control of the judiciary the British also decided to pay the salaries of the court officers rather than have them subject to the demands of the people.

In response, a few Boston firebrands, led by Samual Adams, wrote a letter to the selectman of every town and district in Massachusetts, called the "Boston Pamphlet",  listing the many grievances the colonists had against the British.  By early 1773, 119 towns had responded, almost all favorably, many with great passion and articulate support.  The towns across the colony were primed for political upheaval and becoming organized for action.  The Boston Tea Party occurred on Dec. 16, 1773. 

The British responded by closing the port of Boston in May 1774 and then passing an Act of Parliament in June 1774 that effectively deprived the people of Massachusetts any effective voice in their government, contrary to the 1691 Charter that established the colony.  All judges, sheriffs, and other officials of the court would be appointed by the British governor and serve at his pleasure.  The Council, whose members had previously been selected by elected representatives from the towns, would be appointed directly by the Crown, all agenda items at every meeting in every town in Massachusetts were to be approved by the governor, and all jurors were to be appointed by the sheriffs who were appointed by the governor.

Common farmers and artisans saw that their freedom was on the line.  They also saw that the elite Tories who generally supported the British, were their opponents as much as the British were.  Meeting at public houses throughout the colony, the common people talked about what they could do.  They corresponded amongst themselves.  And then they effectively shut down the judiciary and refused to allow officials to do their jobs.  Working democratically amongst themselves and with no violent acts, they "convinced" official after official to quit the court, the Council, the sheriff's office, whatever role they had in maintaining the British rule.

How did they do this?  Well, here's an example.  Thomas Paine (not that Thomas Paine) was one of the local councilors who had not resigned.  On the morning of Aug. 27th, 1774, over two thousand men gathered in Worcester Commons, muskets in hand.  Worcester itself had only 350 adult men at the time; the rest had come from surrounding towns, having been alerted by riders from Worcester.  A very polite but firm group of men were invited into his residence, having convinced Paine they meant him no harm.  They told him he had to resign.  He argued he could do more for him on the inside.  They were adamant and Paine wrote a letter of resignation that included an apology to the people who had elected him.  They then required that he come out into the crowd, with his hat off, and read the letter of resignation to the crowd.  And then again, louder.  Written letters indicate Paine saw the crowd as very well-behaved but very insistent. 

This happened all over the colony of Massachusetts.  It presaged the gathering together of the founding fathers and the Revolutionary War that we think of as the beginning of this country.   It was bloodless and rose up from the common people, neither of which makes for historical amplification. 

And I think it is happening again.  Watch what we do at YearlyKos in less than two weeks!   

Posted by Lynn Allen on July 22, 2007 at 02:08 PM in National and International Politics, Strategery, Taking Action | Permalink


I would really like to see what they have to say about corporate power in our government. Corporations are an important part of our country, but they do not need to have 95% of the power. Especially the Media Corporations with today's "newsspeak" straight out of "1984" filling our eyes, and ears.

If you want a taste of how much power the MSM has, just look at how they painted Howard Dean as a lunatic for one enthusiastic scream. I will never forgive them for that. I guess Dean deserved it for saying he would break up the media monopolies right?

The sooner we have federal funding of elections, the quicker America recovers.

please visit http://www.soundpolitics.net

Stefan's worst nightmare is born

Posted by: All Facts Support My Positions | Jul 22, 2007 6:28:28 PM

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