Reader’s Forum — Al Bell

Al Bell is writing some short commentary on each chapter in UNRIGGED as he reads it. Join him in his exploration of David Daley’s book.

In this installment, Al reads Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Chapter 2: Aboard Idaho’s Medicaid Express

David chronicles the adventures of some improbable characters, saddled together in a couple of end-of-life RVs, wandering the back roads of Idaho, turning the political world upside down. Three millennials sharpened their creds in the community of Sandpoint by convincing reluctant voters to support a recently rejected school funding measure that went on to win by a two to one margin. The lesson: door-to-door contact enabling real conversations with real people flipped the odds. You would have to know Sandpoint in a state like Idaho to appreciate the significance of their breakthrough (I’ve been there).

They doubled down and went on to accomplish the truly impossible statewide to overcome ridiculously powerful political resistance to fill the yawning Medigap “doughnut hole” for desperate citizens their elected officials were willing to write off. That endeavor scaled up lessons learned to a 61% win.

Moral of the story:

Keeping a Democracy, it turns out, requires lots of work.”

Don’t forget that phrase.

My observation: Millennials are democracy’s secret weapon. This book is a veritable arsenal.

Chapter 3: The Defeat of the Voter Fraud Myth

Chris Kobach is a pathetic, anti-American disaster. Chapter 3 explains why. The fact that he was an actual candidate for the governorship of a state in America is one of the most powerful indictments of this Nation in decades. We should be ashamed of ourselves. He has no shame, so the point is lost on him.

Despite Kobach being the despicable destruction machine that he is, a simple, decent official from the State of Maine emerges as the American hero no one has heard of. How gratifying that we now know his story and his role in destroying the destroyer. The contrast between the two is astonishing.

Chapter 4: Native Americans Battle Back

Our history is strewn with amazing feats of accomplishment and astonishing acts of evil and exploitation. The awful selling of black Americans down their long, painful, trail of tears is relatively well known, though typically diminished in its telling. The demonization and exploitation of Native American tribes and the duplicity of many of our leaders in suppressing their humanity is a monstrous blot on our American heritage. This is a part of our behavior as a nation that erodes our past and clouds our present. This tragic reality struggles for redemption and often fails.

However, in a county in Utah, the dedication of contemporary Native American heroes manages to achieve an extraordinary breakthrough in local representation. The lessons learned there have been carried to other states in which illegitimate strategies dominate party politics. North Dakota provides an impressive object lesson in what the trend looks like.

Chapter 5: Michigan’s Redistricting Revolution

If you only read one chapter in this book, this is the one. That does not diminish the power of the others nor the significance of the people involved in other adventures. It is just that the Michigan experience and the leadership that fomented it are exceptional examples of what happens when real patriots get organized around a pivotal issue and bring it home.

This chapter is also a chronicle of real heroism. Imagine standing on the eve of a major event that has been bought by the energy of literally thousands of people who have devoted multiple thousands of hours of their time, pursuing a vision that the experts discounted is illusory, with the potential to change the lives of even more thousands of citizens, and it all rests on a state supreme court decision with the balance of members loaded against you by a 5-2 ratio. The politicos still think you’re crazy. And then, your case prevails by a 4-3 margin. And you have never been involved in grass roots politics before. And you aren’t even thirty years old yet. And the people win and the message goes viral and a powerful movement is joined by a new force.

I think of heroism as nothing at all like fearlessness; rather, it is knowing fear and going ahead anyway.

There is so much more, even so. The leadership team and collaborative spirit of the whole enterprise are evidence of a “way of going” that vastly exceeds the contribution of any one person. The multiplier effect is central to the whole experience and its story. Therein lies the immense power of The People.

If you can read the story of Katie Fahey and The People and not stand up and cheer, it’s because somehow you’ve been strapped to your chair with duct tape on your mouth.

Chapter 6: Redistricting Goes National

As exceptional as the Michigan adventure is—and it does take your breath away—there are five other states in which significant breakthroughs engineered by motivated citizens overcame seriously entrenched party establishments committed to choosing voters rather than the other way around. None of these breakthroughs were easy (they shouldn’t be); each was different in important respects. They all share this, however: common, ordinary, regular, everyday, plain citizens (among the various labels the elites apply to the rest of us) can turn the tables on party control masters.

What shines through in this chapter is that the circumstance, backstory, pivotal characters, partisan/non-partisan mix, historic patterns, and richness of common ground discovered amid a wide array of motivations enjoy a diversity of almost fictional inventiveness. This tells me that no situation is impervious to improvement. Perfect is always illusory; better can be highly worthwhile. And better is eminently achievable if a few key people tune in to the opportunity and choose to throw away the blinders.

The key takeaway:

When voters are given a choice, fairness wins.”

Now there’s a concept for you!

I just read this today in a Time Magazine column by Colum McCann:

What if [this virus] can allow us to see that we’re not as stupid as our political parties want us to be, or as unidirectional as our TV channels seem to think we are?”

My response:

Mr. McCann, the proof was underway long before the virus struck. Read UNRIGGED.”

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona. Al served on Independent Voting’s Eyes on 2020 National Cabinet, working to get the 2020 presidential primaries open to independents across the country.

Politics for the People Zoom Call

with Author David Daley

Sunday, May 31st


Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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