50 Simple Things You Can Do to Fight the Radical Right

Chuck Sheketoff

It was an email from a good friend.

Subject: "50 Simple Things You Can Do to Fight the Radical Right"

Then I realized it was a chain email using the power of the internet to get ideas to one of the masters of distilling information and giving ordinary folks a simple "to do" list, John Javna. Before he became famous with his 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series, I knew John when we both lived in the Montpelier Vermont area.

The internet connected us, again. And for a good cause. John's compiling a list of the 50 most effective things individuals can do to fight the Extreme Right. His email asks that readers "send this email on to every progressive you know -- friends, co-workers, colleagues, fellow bloggers. We know from experience that there's no telling where the best ideas will come from."

Read on, and send people here if you don't want to send the entire text in an email to your list of 20 folks.

Dear Friends:

Enclosed is an email about my latest book project.

As you'll see,I'm depending on your grassroots assistance to make it work.

My request: Please send this on to at least 20 politically progressive people, with your own short note of support, asking them to send it to 20 people as well. Through the miracle of the internet (and with your help), my initial email to 250 people will then reach 100,000 people in a few days! Thanks-I'll let you know how it turns out.

I'm writing on behalf of the Earthworks Group to ask for your help.

Fifteen years ago we created and published 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth -- an environmental "self-help" book that became a #1 bestseller. Between 1990 and 1994 we distributed nearly 10 million books in the "50 Simple Things" series.

Now, for the first time in a decade, we've decided to write a new volume: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Fight the Radical Right (and Save Democracy in America).

Here's why: Like you, we were upset and angry about the results of the November election; it felt like a death in the family. Then the Radical Right began flexing its post-election muscles -- intimidating politicians, attacking school boards, harassing TV networks. They acted as if the 57 million people who voted for Kerry didn't even exist.

It dawned on us that this is a critical moment for progressives: We can sit by and watch as right-wing extremists shred the Constitution. Or we can fight to preserve American democracy.

As far as the Earthworks Group is concerned, the only questions are: "What should we do?" and "How do we get started?"

That's why we're writing to you. We're compiling a list of the 50 most effective things individuals can do to fight the Extreme Right. We're hoping you can suggest one or more of them….and that you'll pass this email on to your friends, so they can help, too.

Once we have the best ideas, we'll adapt them to the user-friendly format of the original 50 Simple Things books and create our new book -- an activist's guide that we hope will inspire and empower progressives all over the US.

A few basic guidelines:

1. Each Thing has to seem "do-able" to the average person. If it feels overwhelming, it's counterproductive.

2. No symbolic gestures. Readers have to feel each action will make a real difference (whenever possible, we provide facts to prove it).

3. Use your imagination. Think outside the box. Don't be afraid to think "subversive." We're not subversive, of course, but as we've learned from the Radical Right, nothing is too outrageous to consider or adapt. What seems outrageous to one person could just be clever to someone else.

(Note: We've included more details at the end of this letter)

Email any ideas to [email protected]. And PLEASE, send this email on to every progressive you know -- friends, co-workers, colleagues, fellow bloggers. We know from experience that there's no telling where the best ideas will come from.

Anything we use will be acknowledged. However, please understand that all the ideas we receive will become our property, to use in the book as we deem best.

And finally: we think this project is so important that we'll be: -- Working overtime to get "50 Simple Things" into bookstores immediately (by June, we hope) -- Keeping the retail price as low as possible -- Using profits to create and maintain a website that enables people to share their efforts and ideas.

For more info, you can contact us directly. Thanks for all your help. John Javna The EarthWorks Group [email protected]

APPENDIX: 5 types of actions we'd like you to consider:

1. WARM-UPS -- Small, easy changes people can make in their lives that will have a measurable impact. Example: Switching your long distance phone service to Working Assets means 1% of every dollar you spend will go to progressives. -- Simple actions that establish a political presence in your community, or simply build your own sense of strength. Example: Someone we know politely asks bartenders to change the channel whenever Fox News is on. If they refuse, he explains to the manager that they're offending a customer. If they still refuse, he leaves.

2. BASIC SKILLS -- Useful skills to make your efforts more effective. Example: How to do research on the internet; how to learn more about critical issues; how to find advocacy groups; how to find opposition arguments. -- Other examples: How to write a letter to the media; how to argue effectively; how to frame an issue; how to organize a letter-writing campaign.

3. STRATEGIES -- Techniques to get the most out of your actions. Example: "Stay Focused." Radical Right pundits are like rodeo clowns -- their job is to distract and anger you so you lose sight of what you're really trying to accomplish. Important ways to stay on track.

4. STAND UP & FIGHT -- Positive, creative ways to take on important issues. Example: Fight anti-evolutionists by supporting science education in your school district -- and in Washington. There are lots of ways to do it.

5. ELECTORAL POLITICS -- Ways to work directly on elections (in addition to voting and running for office.) Example: Work to guarantee that electronic voting machines also generate a paper ballot for use in possible audits or recounts. Only a paper ballot can guarantee that the machine recorded every vote exactly as the voter cast it, which is basic to our democratic process.

  • jim (unverified)

    Chuck Sheketoff: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Fight the Radical Right

    jk: Here are some actions that I think the left should advocate that would disable the radical right by taking away its issues like Clinton did a few years back:

    1. Cut off corporate welfare: no corporation can receive any government money for any purpose, except the purchase of goods and services.

    2. No property tax exemptions other than for charitable purposes.

    3. No zoning changes without the consent of the property owner AND owners of adjacent properties.

    4. Allow people to live where they want to live and build a house on any lot that you own.

    5. Provide an efficient transportation network for all citizens. All transportation modes to pay their full cost from user fees.

    6. Liberally interpret the bill of rights to maximize personal freedom

    7. Formally declare that all people own their own bodies and the government has no interest in them unless they harm a clearly identifiable non-consenting second party.

    8. Formally declare that all people own their own property and the government has no interest in it unless it is likely to harm a clearly identifiable non-consenting second party.

    9. Declare that the most important functions of government, which must be funded first, are 1) Public safety 2) infrastructure 3) court system 4) education. Nothing else gets funded until these are funded to a fully functional level. Consider using private contractors for the above instead of PERS people.

    10. Declare that government has no role in marriage (or any other living arrangements ). It only records any contracts that might result from same.

    This partial list of what needs to be done will go a long ways toward removing all of the radical right’s reasons for trying to impose its fascism. (Of course, it may reduce the radical left’s ability to impost its brand of fascism on all of us too.)


  • (Show?)

    Oh Jim, you're missing the point. The quest isn't for more bullet points for the platform committee.

    The idea is to find 50 things that are "do-able" for the average person.

    My first suggestion? Start reading blogs and posting your ideas.

  • January (unverified)



  • LT (unverified)

    Doable things for the average person:

    Bring up news stories and give your comment.

    If you see a legislator quoted and you have strong feelings about the quote, call or email and say specifically why you liked/ disliked. The first is vital, because often people who do something intelligent hear more from critics than from fans.

    Talk about things from your own experience. Build bipartisan coalitions on specific issues.

  • Cicolini (unverified)

    Yea don't miss this point because its an important one. One which church groups across the nation have become expert.

    How about:

    Make local purchases. When you buy groceries at Fred Meyer %100 of your $ instantly leaves the state. Some may come back as salaries, product wholesale, but the impact of buying local can't be disputed. If your able to join a CSA, or co-op, all the better.

    Make serious cash donations to causes you believe in. Lefties have a problem understanding the connection between activism and their wallet. Tight MFs if you ask me. Money talks, man.

    Give genial, collegial, warm, comforting support to people working hard on projects you don't have the time to participant in and understand completely. Don't snipe, bitch or whine about stuff you know nothing about.

    Get out of town. There's a whole Oregon out there past 82nd Avenue which you may have missed. Life is not just 97214. You belong, by default, to a larger scheme.

    Turn off your TV. Meditate occasionally. Eat less flesh. Reuse, recycle, rewhatever.

  • Ezekiel (unverified)
    1. Start walking the walk and STOP supporting the "alternative" medicine and health supplement industry. Being a progressive means heeding science and rationality, not ignorance and superstition. Far too many people in this "progressive" community give their money to an industry that wouldn't exist without Republican deregulation, destruction of the FDA and a well-financed lawsuit and lobbying machine.
  • (Show?)

    Blogging etcetera reaches a certain segment of society, and arguably might have a disproportinate benefit in that it's read by a few of the movers and shakers.

    JK (Jim) makes some useful points to though. Long term, it'll be the discussions that I have with "the boys" over breakfast at Shorty's Corner that will get progressives back on top.

    Somebody has to convince these guys that the corporatists that are running their party don't really give a damn about their faith or their day to day lives.

    The numbers seem to be about one in fifteen that can be turned through face to face missionary work.

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