The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for liberals and progressives.
The state legislature has been out of control on a host of issues - you're probably feeling angry and shellshocked after the Republican attacks on voting rights and their passage of laws that would expand dark money in North Carolina politics and allow candidates and groups to run political ads with no accountability.
The Republicans have gone far beyond enacting a conservative agenda. They have enacted a coup that has destroyed democracy in our state and handed over control of your money, your public officials, the well being of your family, your economic future and even your basic rights under the US Constitution to Art Pope, the Koch Brothers, extremist religious groups, the NRA, and a handful of business interests around the state.
In the Weekend Woundup thread here at BlueNC, several people have bandied about ideas for what to do next. The legislature is polling negative with NC voters - even Republicans - and the public is angry. Very angry.
Several groups are working to fight Republicans in the legislature. The NAACP has had remarkable success with Moral Mondays. The League of Women Voters has come out strongly against restrictions on our basic voting rights. Progress NC and Democracy NC are organizing and getting the word out on the extremism in the legislature.
You can attend Moral Mondays or volunteer for an existing organization or get involved with the NC Democratic Party. What else can you do?
While all these groups are doing great work, they're only one piece of what can happen to bring a popular uprising to fruition here in North Carolina.
Before the Republican Coup that tossed our state back in time fifty years and delivered the keys to the statehouse and government offices to big monied special interests, religious bigots and racists, the Old North State was known as a national hub for innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity.
Much of that energy has been put on the back burner as all of us have tried to digest how the Republicans are reshaping the state and the impacts it might have on our business, career, our families, or even our basic rights and safety.
We need to get back on track on the job at hand - exposing the lies from the Pope machine in Raleigh and taking back our government.
We are energized. We're angry. We have ideas. We want action. Let's put all that together into an unstoppable force.
I would propose that liberals and progressives organize a series of Take Back NC Unconferences.
What is an unconference, you might ask? If you've been a part of the higher ed or technology community, you've probably been to one.
The idea is simple. Organizers book a space with multiple rooms and give attendees a theme to work with. On the day of the conference, attendees show up and there's a large whiteboard schedule in the lobby. Anyone can post an idea for a session on the schedule. At some, attendees propose sessions in an online wiki and arrange the schedule themselves.
It sounds crazy and disorganized, but it works. What happens at these things is that people show up with an idea for something they want to do. Others attend sessions to offer ideas, start to flesh out ideas, and make connections to move forward.
Perhaps you've got an idea for a way to make information about dark money donors or political influence easier for the public to understand. Maybe you've got ideas for how to organize apathetic voters in your area or ways to reach specific communities or groups of people to get out the vote. You might have ideas on better ways to organize phone banks for the election or web and video campaigns that would make the issues clearer.
If you don't have ideas, you can offer your skills - everything from programming to web design to public relations and community organizing or fundraising. You can offer your passion and help.
If you like an idea and can offer your time, you can go away from the event with a group of people with a concrete goal and something you can do before election day.
It's going to take more than the Democratic Party and the organizations we have now. Small groups can work together on small scale efforts that support what these groups are doing and reach areas of the state and groups of voters beyond their reach.
As far as I know, an unconference has never been tried to "kickstart" grassroots political work with this kind of scale or focus. It's quite unlike the "Occupy" model - it's really the kind of thing used to bring together entrepreneurs for start-ups or "kickstarting" new research collaborations at universities. Why not get people with a passion for doing something together with people who have new ideas on what can done?
A single unconference isn't going to make a big difference - we really need at least three in different areas of the state (the Triangle, Triad and Charlotte) and enough time before each event is scheduled to advertise and recruit energetic people to attend from different regions of the state. There should be a strong focus on ideas for doing things - not political cheerleading - and bringing your ideas and what you want to do back to your local community or to existing groups that can use what you have to offer.
To get the conversation going, here's some links to more info on unconferences and how they work.
What do you think?
How to prepare to attend an unconference
How to run an unconference
How to run a great unconference session
Notes on organizing an unconference
CityCamp NC - Organizing an unconference for a transparent city government