I saw some Facebook video clips from the Sacramento anti-SB 276 rally which took place yesterday, April 10, 2019. The hundreds of participants seemed highly motivated. The speakers which included Rock Star Del Big Tree and RFKJr, (who I consider the brightest and most cogent star in the Vaccine Concerned firmament) was also there I’ve heard.
Del is broadcasting today, and has some other heavyweight movement leaders. It is certainly democracy at work.
I have a question for the anti-276 leaders, and some observations.
How different is what you’re doing now from what you did against SB 277? The obvious reason I ask is that if it’s not that different, and you lost on 277, maybe you need to think about what more it would take to have a different outcome.
I have some observations based on things I’ve seen in political heath freedom activism from the 1980’s. IMO, the most effective health political movement I’ve ever seen were the AIDS activist group Act-Up. (Actually, now Goldwater Institute which has brought you right-to-try might be as or more effective, but I have a feeling these folks have some serious cha-ching behind them, unlike ACT-Up which was grass roots.)
I’ll get back to ACT-UP in a minute, but first a couple things you won’t like to hear.
Liking, emojiing and sharing things on Facebook and other social platforms with your circle of friends is not political activism. It might feel good and it might feel like you’re doing something meaningful, but unless all this social media chatter is going to lead to some tangible political action, in my (perhaps, not so) humble opinion, it’s just a bunch of digital hot air shot out into the infinite internet space.
The problem is that you all have closed social circles and you don’t reach anyone who matters. Another way of putting it, you’re just preaching liking/sharing to the converted/committed/choir.
Unless all this hot air is focused on a specific practical plan, directed at who matters, your feel good button clicking, and small-time protests, is no more than small-time collective self-pleasuring.
So, who matters?
That’s easy. If there are Senate health committee members still in play, they matter the most.
Next, the rest of the Senate and the other house matter.
That’s sort of obvious, but, every single thing you folks do should be aimed at influencing those dozens of people who are the only people who matter.
A corollary is that if you’re not trying to repeatedly and directly influence these select group of people, you’re not in the game, as good as you might feel about what you’re doing.
And ultimately that means one of two things: Boots on the ground in Sacramento AND at their local legislative offices, or massive, and I mean stupid massive communications efforts directed at these folks.
Back in the mid 80’s, when I first started working the health freedom legal beat, I saw up close and was peripherally involved consulting with the ACT-UP folks. They were smart, and very committed. It was easy for them to be so since some were dying of AIDS, some were HIV positive and the rest knew or feared they would get it.
President Reagan wouldn’t even acknowledge the problem and the FDA was stopping people at the border from bringing in potentially life saving medications. So, these dying gays decided to do something about it. They picked a day and they effectively shut down the FDA via a phone barrage, and a lot of protests. They became too big of a problem to avoid. Reagan acknowledged the problem and started throwing money at it. The FDA relented and loosened up its rules on personal importation of unapproved drugs, and in my view, it was all because of the dying and HIV gay activists They didn’t have time to do whatever was the equivalent of Facebook liking and emojing. They acted in a big way.
I’m not suggesting that you close the Sacramento Legislature down by a massive protest. What I am suggesting is that you don’t confuse social media work with actual political work. I would venture a guess that few if any of the people you need to influence are your Facebook friends. So sure, rile yourselves up, but have an actual political plan, and that means boots on the ground and calls and emails and stupid big numbers.
And let’s talk numbers
My view, which you won’t like, is that having hundreds of people protesting yesterday might have felt good for the participants, but from my office two blocks away from the Capital I used to see protests all the time there, busloads full of people. So regrettably and respectfully, I think you folks are deluding yourselves if you think that 500 or 800 people protesting on an issue is going to have a meaning impact in a state like California. Furthermore, I think having legislators receiving dozens or even a hundred calls is equally meaningless in the grand scheme of California politics, especially on a super-hot button polarizing issue like this, where frankly you are a very, very small minority.
I recall hearing that there were three to four hundred thousand signatures on the SB 277 recall referendum. Somewhere between yesterday’s few hundred protestors and the recall number is what I would call the threshold of effectiveness, but it’s not in the order of magnitude of the yesterday’s feel good effort.
Some of you might be thinking, “Ok big talker about the good-old-days, smarty pants, so what should we do?
Fair question (if somewhat harsh).
I do have a small suggestion, but first another critical observation.
Another thing which feels good, but I question the efficacy of are legislative hearings.
It’s really fun and rewarding to assemble like-minded folk and testify, but on a hot button issue like that, I sort of doubt that experts, or even the brightest star have much of an impact on most legislators under normal circumstances. These legislative folks are all about keeping their jobs, and that just means numbers.
I think that clear and cogent arguments, like those made by RFKJr and the Janis Joplin like super VC rock star Toni Bark will be better received with the right attitude adjustment inputs before the hearing.
For example, they might be more focused, if on the afternoon before the hearing, April 23, 2019, say from 2-5 PM, every recall petition signer called and visited their legislators to let them know their views. Email is ok too, but only in addition to calls and visits.
And here’s the thing, why should the calls only come from the California VC? If the California legislators get away with taking away physician medical exemptions here, you think other states won’t try the same thing? Maybe this should be a national effort, April 23, 2019 being the California day kick-off.
I’m not a VC organizer activist, but if I were, I’d give some hard thought to having every vaccine concerned person in the country give the California legislators a piece of their minds on April 23, 2019 in the afternoon, and maybe, just maybe, that might help the VC rock stars do their job.
To adapt a common phrase: Go Big and Go Smart, or Move out of State.
Rick Jaffe, Esq.