Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Paradigm shift in activism?

Some seem to think the Prop 8 protests indicate a big Yes.

Quoting one of them in the piece above:

The leaders of what is being billed as Stonewall 2.0 are not coming from large, established organizations. ... That this huge outpouring of organic outrage is not being channeled through official organizational channels has enormous implications.

Yes, it does. But what are the implications? Let's say that the Prop 8 protests are a factor in the eventual demise of the existing big national GLBT organizations. Won't this new movement eventually shift from charismatic, emotion-driven grassroots leadership to something more formalized with bureaucracy? I think it would have to in order to achieve its goals. Money still drives so much of the political process including the legislative process. If you're going to channel money, you have to do so lawfully. And that means structure that meets the requirements of state and federal law--the tax code and all that.

Furthermore, what began as a spontaneous movement is already developing an agenda focused on visibility and marriage. Since marriage remains a state prerogative, won't strategy beyond visibility be necessary at some point? That would seem to indicate that a national structure and leadership are necessary. After all, someone is determining what the goals, actions, and timing are, oh, and how the money is spent!

What the protests represent are a breakthrough in using the web to get people in every state to do approximately the same thing on the same day in a short amount of time. And that is definitely a significant breakthrough. But if such an effort is to be sustained to the point of having a real effect on law (and not just a way to channel justified rage), then it will take on some of the same structures as existing organizations.

And if marriage equality is on a different time trajectory in each state, will the new, centralized Web activism be patient enough to deal with 50 state legislatures or lengthy federal court battles? Either way you look at it, lawyers and lobbyists should not worry about being out of work. Their employers may change, though.

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