By Alec Pruchnicki
“Don’t Mourn, Organize!”
—the legendary last words of Joe Hill
For many years, I’ve worked with an organization called Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), which has been advocating for a single-payer health system in the United States. But, every time we would approach politicians—even those favorable to our cause—to argue on political, economic, or moral grounds for legislation, I would always get the feeling we were begging them to do the right thing. Some of my friends advised me that if I really wanted to have politicians pay attention I should be part of a political club. I looked around my neighborhood and found the Village Independent Democrats (VID), a progressive reform club that looked promising.
Within six months of joining the club, four people who were running for local office and wanted the club’s endorsement called me and asked to sit and have coffee and discuss their positions. After decades of chasing politicians to ask for help, here were some who were calling me and asking for help. Although three of them lost their elections, the one who did win is now speaker of the city council, Corey Johnson.
Why did they contact me, and why were they so eager for the club’s endorsement? As explained previously (“Part I: Sign That Petition,” WestView April 2018), it is the clubs that provide the personnel to do the necessary work in elections, including petitioning, phone banks, fundraising, publicity, voter registration and turnout. These endorsements also advertise to the general voting public that a candidate has been vetted by an experienced group of political activists, and that his or her positions are consistent with the political views of the club. If a voter knows the club and its political orientation, it can help undecided voters make their choices.
There are many clubs in New York based on neighborhood, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation. A quick internet search will provide more options than most of us can explore. My experience has been with the VID; other clubs, or those of Republicans and third parties, might operate differently.
Also, one-on-one sit-downs with a candidate is an exception to club duties. There are countless individuals coming for club endorsements for judicial positions of which you may never had heard. There are countless political conflicts occurring in which you may not be interested. And, there are the election-related activities listed above which might require long hours and intense feelings, especially when your candidate loses.
But, if you actually want to do something other than helplessly yell at your TV or computer screen every time the news shows some outrageous development, then this is one option. Even if Joe Hill didn’t actually say it, it’s still a good idea to organize with others. If you feel strongly enough, don’t just sit there, do something.