Why the Hell Would a Couple of Local Activists Organize an Impeachment March?
Why? Ground Game LA’s Caleb Crowder and Stephanie Tatro break it down:
Impeachment is a loaded term. Impeachment is a complicated issue to organize around. It is a lengthy political process that will likely not happen with a GOP controlled House and Senate. Is impeachment a distraction, or is it a real issue the left should be working on?
When the idea of organizing a march for impeachment was first floated, we at Ground Game wondered if this was an issue to organize around. We wondered if our efforts should be focused on something more timely, something more tangible, something that seemed more pressing. Specifically, we wondered if paying attention to impeachment was a distraction from the thousands of lives under threat from this administration every day.
Is there room for immigrant voices, LGBTQ voices, and the voices of people who face losing their healthcare in the impeachment debate? The organizing space around this issue has been largely dominated by Democrats and a few anomalous Republicans. We decided that this was an opportunity to partner with people from across the political spectrum and build relationships for the long, hard work of organizing yet to come.
It is important to recognize the amazingly difficult lift organizing around impeachment is. Some wondered if impeachment would give us a President Pence, a more vile possibility than the current circumstances, and argued that we stick with the “devil you know”. Other groups could not, as 501(c)3 nonprofits, rally to the issue since Trump is already filed as a 2020 candidate. And still, others felt that focusing on healthcare and immigration were more important and pressing concerns to rally around. We didn’t disagree with these concerns at all. But we felt that being able to create a space where thousands of people continue to rally, connect, and hear progressive voices was an opportunity too important to pass up.
We realized that impeachment, though in terms of support is not a true bi-partisan issue, could be a launching pad for the unification of the left, and a catalyst for the organization of the working class, regardless of political leanings or affiliations. We knew this because there are some very obvious truths that we can all agree on. It is objectively true that our government is beholden to corporations, special interests, and the lobbying dollars of the rich. At the heart of the impeachment issue, is accountability. Our government is screwing us over because it is not accountable to us, it is accountable to corporate dollars. And this is about a unified voice coming from across the political spectrum declaring “WE DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS!”
We deserve a government which is accountable to the people. We deserve a government that is willing to recognize the systemic racism that is directly contributing to socio-economic disparity. We deserve a government which represents the entire country, not just special or foreign interests. We deserve a government which invests in and protects the people. We deserve a government which is a global partner, not an imperial war machine.
When we came on board to help organize, thousands of RSVPs were already pouring in to the event page. Cities across the nation were beginning to set up sister marches, and looking to Los Angeles for messaging and guidance. The discussion became geared towards dreaming big. Four people were present at that first planning meeting, a small group who quickly grew in numbers and influence. This march promised to develop into a testament of the power of a small but mighty group; a large organizing lift, pulled off by a group of dedicated volunteers, who came from a variety of backgrounds and political ideologies.
We had ideas about building a national movement, holding congressional representatives accountable to the question: “why aren’t you impeaching?” We imagined collaborating with Democrats who are in favor of impeachment, and providing the political cover needed to move forward. We envisioned creating a space for grassroots groups, and marginalized voices. We brainstormed how to connect impeachment to the existential threats people were already organizing around, and give those efforts a platform to get their ever-important message across. How can impeachment, as an issue, serve the people working on immigration or housing?
As we looked at these unifying sentiments that we agree our government is failing us, we kept coming back to the importance of accountability. A great deal of effort, across the spectrum that is the left, is going into recruiting and building a progressive slate of candidates for 2018. A movement is gaining momentum to ensure our government is made up of more women, more people of color, more people with working class backgrounds. Accountability is an important aspect of this effort as we work to replace representatives who are more accountable to corporate interests than to the people. This is the same for the White House, we want to see the same level of accountability apply to the presidency. This is why we decided to join with more moderate folks to work on an Impeachment March which incorporates the importance of grassroots organizing and continues to build progressive power.
Impeachment is not the solution to the current shortcomings of our government. But impeachment is a tool that will combat the destructive nature of the present administration. Impeachment makes this president toxic to his allies, and weakens their resolve to support his proposed legislation. This is a tool, it is a step. We call for impeachment today. We work to elect representatives who are by and for us tomorrow. And no matter who is in office, we know our own value as human beings, and we know we deserve better than this.
It is also important to realize that there is something bigger happening here: a movement is taking place. A movement that is long overdue. A movement that recognizes the power in the people, seeks to use that power to establish the democracy we deserve, a democracy that we’ve never really had. Whether it’s an Impeachment March, or a Women’s March, a Climate March, lobbying city council members, staging sit-ins at senators’ offices, calling representatives, etc., the progressive movement is here and we must continue to nurture it. Has it been easy so far? No. Will it become more difficult? Most likely. But we have vision. We have conviction. And the new deal we are fighting for is possible, and moreover it is necessary.
We will do it by working in coalition with our leftist allies, collaborating on solutions, and materializing the progressive ideologies that will help lift us out of our oppressive system. The impeachment march has been an opportunity to learn how to collaborate in this resistance movement with partners from across the political spectrum. We are learning to work together by practicing to work together. We certainly came across several instances of ideological and strategic differences with our partners who consider themselves to be more moderate than us, but ultimately we were able to work through our differences. By building up these working relationships, we were able to normalize socialist values and bridge gaps between groups with differing political stances within our organizing effort for the march.
Socialists need to be in this movement, creating these spaces, engaging in these dialogues. We often tell ourselves that it is more important that we organize locally, focus on the issues that make life impossible in our own background for the neighbors we care about. We needed to recognize that right now as people are galvanized to participate in the resistance, in whatever way that makes sense to them, this is our opportunity to normalize socialism and collectivist values. This is our chance to say not only are we in this together, but we all deserve better.
On July 2, 2017, about 10,000 people marched together in downtown Los Angeles, in miserable heat, to demand the House of Representatives begin the process to impeach the president. About 50 other cities joined in the national effort and held demonstrations of their own. While people of diverse political stances united on the message that this president has violated the nation’s laws and must be held accountable, a conscious effort was made to include messaging about the other ways in which our government is harming us. Over a dozen groups from across the left joined us by setting up tables and inviting the marchers to join ongoing local organizing efforts. The event included Congressman Brad Sherman, who spoke on the importance of impeachment, as well as including speakers from organizations advocating for a multitude of progressive legislation, including, but not limited to: single payer healthcare, renewable energy, universal representation, and immigration reform.
This was a key facet to the march and a chief focal point for our team when building out the programming for the march. Recruiting and providing space for intersectional movements and groups is an integral and invaluable component in building the coalitions and solidarity that are needed to tackle the complex, systemic problems that are undermining our democracy and freedoms. Through the grassroots organizing training we’ve received, we learned that protest is important and necessary in movement building, but the real measure of success is our ability as organizers to turn protest into power. The idea was to ensure that our march/protest did not only provide a space for protesters to show up and express their collective anger, but to also help them harness that anger and connect them with organizations that are already organizing around progressive initiatives and causes, in hopes that we can grow people power in the grassroots movement.
This was a very new thing for Ground Game. Our organization is still in its infancy, and our focus has been on hyperlocal organizing, civic empowerment, lobbying, and other forms of community support within District 13 in Los Angeles. So to have been brought on as lead organizers for a national march/movement was something quite foreign to us. So was it a success? Absolutely. Were there things that could have been better? Absolutely. Do we wish we had been able to garnered the support of an even more diverse coalition? Absolutely. But this is precisely why we also did not look at this opportunity as a one-off. This march, and every march before, and every march hereafter, is an opportunity for growth and unity — an incubator for solidarity. They are an opportunity to cultivate the relationships between the folks on the ground that are doing the hard work, an opportunity to educate each other, and an opportunity to forge stronger alliances that will properly support the myriad of movements that are taking place locally, statewide, and federally.