Very Troubling. Very troubling.
Liberals’ deeply entrenched status quo.
Last night, I went to a meeting at our member-serviced coop. This is a place where educated and moderately well-to-do liberals shop high-quality groceries at a reasonably discounted price. You work a few hours every month to keep the costs down. They have monthly open meetings for members, where decisions are made in a democratic way. Or, that’s what we would want to think.
We’ve been members for a number of years, and found it to be a viable, alternative food and environment-friendly model, away from the supermarkets and national chains. Their foods have also visibly improved our health over the years. True! Their fruits and vegetables are mostly organic or at least chemical-free, a lot of it comes from local farmers, and they totally reject Monsanto or other GMO products. Definitely, for middle-class people like us, it’s been a blessing.
Yet, slowly we are realizing the problems they have, and *in some cases* this realization is not too much different from my long experience working with my labor union, or the immigrant advocacy groups. In the coming months leading up to the 2016 elections, I’ll write more about it.
But briefly, here’s a list of things we’ve noticed that are of great worry.
(1) Out of some 16,000 members at the coop, perhaps only a hundred or two show up at these important, decision-making monthly meetings, vis-a-vis our labor union meetings where a similarly small percent shows up. The others do not care.
(2) Only about 5-10% vote at important organizational elections where they elect officers for the next few years. Again, exactly the same percent I see at our 30,000-strong labor union. If ten percent vote, that’s a high turnout. The others — non-voters– happily take advantage of all the benefits, but do not participate. In case of the food coop, they must work two and a half hours every four weeks, and they put in the time. And that’s about it. Practically nobody knows nobody.
(3) Critically important decisions often seem to be pre-determined, and meeting proceedings are conducted in a way so that status quo prevails. Meeting chairs often use biased calls during the proceeding, but they are careful not to flout Roberts Rule transparently. Yet, to the politically savvy, the bias is loud and clear.
(4) Censorship happens in a subtle way when members voice strong dissent on policy matters. Their media subtly use their power to exclude serious voices of dissent. And most members do not care to speak or write in the first place.
If this is how a so-called “liberal” or “progressive” or “democratic” organization (I’m using this coop as an example) functions, where almost all the members are educated and well-to-do, who overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party, then I have every reason to worry how they will vote in the coming elections.
Whether it’s my union where most are middle class or lower middle class workers and their families, or whether it’s this food coop where most are either affluent or upper middle class, they are decidedly pro-status quo. That means, in 2016, they will overwhelmingly vote for Hillary Clinton, and not Bernie Sanders or other lesser-known candidates.
One group (i.e., labor unions) would vote for Hillary because they don’t know who Bernie Sanders is, and believe Hillary is at least a “lesser evil” than anti-union Republicans. They are right from their perspective, an illusory perspective big media have created for them.
In case of the food coop, a small minority of the educated voters will vote for Bernie, and I know some will vote for the Green Party. But a large majority will vote for Hillary because they do not want to disrupt the status quo. The status quo has kept them happy. They are wealthy or at least better privileged than most other Americans with their own houses, higher education, shares on the stock markets, and other assets. They are also ideologically affiliated with a global economic and foreign policy that have worked well for their class for a very long time. They would not want to rock that boat.
You can call me a naysayer, and you can call me a party pooper, but this is my experience: real, raw and rough. And it’s fresh memory too.
I hope you read this post twice, with an open mind.
Partha Banerjee (and my Wikipedia page)
Brooklyn, New York
P.S. — I am going to attend the nationwide mobilization meeting Bernie Sanders is holding tonight.