Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything
a book by Becky Bond and Zack Exley
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that it has lessons from the groundbreaking grassroots campaign that helped launch a new political revolution. Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything is a bold challenge to the political establishment and the “rules” that govern campaign strategy.
It tells the story of a breakthrough experiment conducted on the fringes of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign: A technology-driven team empowered volunteers to build and manage the infrastructure to make seventy-five million calls, launch eight million text messages, and hold more than one-hundred thousand public meetings—in an effort to put Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign over the top.
Bond and Exley, digital iconoclasts who have been reshaping the way politics is practiced in America for two decades, have identified twenty-two rules of “Big Organizing” that can be used to drive social change movements of any kind. And they tell the inside story of one of the most amazing grassroots political campaigns ever run.
Fast-paced, provocative, and profound, Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything stands as a liberating challenge to the low expectations and small thinking that dominates too many advocacy, non-profit, and campaigning organizations—and points the way forward to a future where political revolution is truly possible.
Sanders has built a reputation as a leading progressive voice on issues such as campaign finance reform, corporate welfare, global warming, income inequality, LGBT rights, parental leave, and universal healthcare. Sanders has long been critical of U.S. foreign policy and was an early and outspoken opponent of the Iraq War, the First Gulf War, and U.S. support for the Contras in Nicaragua. He is also outspoken on civil liberties and civil rights, criticizing racial discrimination in the criminal justice system as well as advocating for privacy rights against mass surveillance policies such as the USA Patriot Act and the NSA surveillance programs.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in May found Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in a "dead heat", but the same poll found that if Sanders were the Democratic nominee, 53% of voters would support him to 39% for Trump. Clinton and Trump were the least popular likely candidates in the poll's history, while Sanders received a 43% positive, 36% negative rating. Polls showed that Democratic voters older than 50 preferred Clinton by a large margin but those under 50 overwhelmingly favored Sanders. Some supporters raised concerns that publications such as The New York Times minimized coverage of the Sanders campaign in favor of other candidates', especially Trump's and Clinton's. A December 2015 report found that the three major networks—CBS, NBC, and ABC—had spent 234 minutes reporting on Trump and 10 minutes on Sanders, despite their similar polling results. See Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World and Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda.
Sanders is a statesman, not a whore of the elites like Trump and Hillary, so the elites in control of the media censored coverage of Sanders, and the little guy—the citizens—once again got screwed
The little guy—the citizens—have been getting whores of the elites as leaders for decades, and the citizens are so far beyond screwed they couldn't catch a bus back to screwed
What all this adds up to, of course, is Sanders was telling the truth and sticking to the issues and his positions represented what most U.S. citizens wanted, while Clinton was planning to be Obama 2.0 in a skirt, representing the extremes of political correctness plus establishment elites, and Trump was planning to represent the interests of rich oligarchs and Donald Trump. And yet Sanders' positions were the opposite of what the shadow government elites and neocons wanted in a president. Sanders was the only one running not representing the corporatocracy, hence propaganda of the elites was mostly in the form of ignoring him, which made the Big Orange Oligarch and the Obama Clone in a skirt seem like the only viable candidates. This two-person focus from the media was elites-ordered. "Chomsky lucidly documents his argument that America's government and its corporate giants exercise control over what we read, see and hear." See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.
Between the Benghazi disaster and the email scandals, Hillary shot herself in the foot bigtime
The Big Orange Oligarch was a misogynistic, narcissistic, racist, sexist, xenophobic, ignorant blowhard, but his fans loved it—they elected him President!
This manufactured consent (see Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media) kept the public's atention away from truth-telling Sanders since some of what he said exposed the elites to scrutiny they were not prepared to allow. So the election was rigged. Sanders would be president if the media had followed the issues and the will of the people. But their job—in spite of never admitting it—was and is to keep the elites of the corporatocracy happy, not to fairly report the news, and neocons, oligarchs, and elites were all happy at the way Sanders was ignored, so the media succeeded at their covert purpose if not their overt purpose. Those who buy the elections run the media. So the free and fair elections our country professes is a sham, a fraud. The shadow government rigs things so the person who best represents their interests wins. See Democracy—an American Delusion.
“Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything is a lamppost for those who are committed to causes of community uplift, grassroots empowerment, and organizing for good. Insurgents get ready, this is the book for you.”—Nina Turner, assistant professor of African American history, Cuyahoga Community College; national surrogate, Bernie Sanders campaign; former Ohio state senator
“If you want to understand Bernie's remarkable campaign, and more importantly, if you want to understand how to organize big, world-shaking campaigns of all kinds in the future, this is the book for you. The authors bring enormous credibility and enormous insight to a crucial task; what they describe in electoral politics goes just as much for battles like the one around the Keystone pipeline.”—Bill McKibben, New York Times bestselling author; cofounder, 350.org
The authors bring enormous credibility and enormous insight to a crucial task; what they describe in electoral politics goes just as much for battles like the one around the Keystone pipeline
“Two of our generation’s most accomplished organizers share the creative tactics and technology they used to lead hundreds of thousands of people to volunteer their time to change the course of history—and how you can, too. This page-turner belongs in the hands of new and veteran organizers alike and will set the standard for how to make change in the twenty-first century.”—David Broockman, assistant professor of political economy, Stanford University
“Here’s a guide from the heart of Bernie’s grassroots movement that mobilized hundreds of thousands of volunteers. Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything is a playbook for ‘big organizing’—a melding of grassroots movement tactics with new technology. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to take back our economy from the moneyed interests.”—Robert B. Reich, author of Saving Capitalism
“If you want to change the world and the status quo, read this book. An alternate title would appropriately be: How to Make the Impossible Possible. Prepare to be inspired.”—Assemblywoman Lucy Flores
“Climate activists around the world watched Bernie’s vibrant volunteer network with envy and wondered whether we, too, could build that level of engagement absent a candidate and national election. Bond and Exley answer that question: Yes, we can! Everyone who wants to solve climate change—or any other big issue—should read this book and get started.”—Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA
“This must-read book lays down 22 ‘rules’ designed to put power in the hands of people who want to make radical social change. Becky Bond and Zack Exley have walked the walk—and they know what organizing looks like when you begin with a big, transformative demand and challenge the establishment. You win big when you ask big—and whoever wins in November, we’ll need to push for revolutionary change from Day One. Becky and Zack’s book is a vital contribution to that project!”—Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher, The Nation
"Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything demonstrated how supporter-driven campaigning can operate at a scale never seen before in the U.S. and perhaps the world. . . . Big Organizing is a distributed organizing model supercharged by the rare concentration of resources and energy that the U.S. electoral process brings together. The core innovation, and departure from traditional staff-driven campaigning, is to confer greater levels of power and agency to self-starting volunteers. This opening to grassroots power liberates significant energy that can be channeled towards central objectives. . . . If Big Organizing was able to go so far and so fast with a supporter-driven structure, the need to re-examine traditional campaign strategy and nonprofit management practices is obvious." (Source: Our review of Rules for Revolutionaries, Tom Liacas, netchange)
The Unite the Right rally—also known as the Charlottesville rally
The issue that suggests itself when seeing "the need to re-examine traditional campaign strategy and nonprofit management practices is obvious" is the fact that once you reveal your game plan, the opponent can and will use it too. Unfortunately, now that the Republicans seem to have the loyalty of fundamentalists, white nationalists [see Charlottsville rally picture above], haters, racists, misogynists, climate deniers, Bubbas with guns, and working class whites, they are likely to use this book as a game plan for expanding their base in all these groups as well as making inroads into traditionally Democratic groups by use of fake news or even controversial issues like Hillary the Horrible or Bernie the Socialist. See Fake News: How Propaganda Influenced the 2016 Election, A Historical Comparison to 1930's Germany.
The good news is that Trump's anti-people, anti-rights, anti-media, anti-women, racist, xenophobic, anti-environmental actions and positions rub the majority of U.S. citizens the wrong way, and many will be expressing this disgust not just in the 2020 election but in 2018 midterms. The G.O.P. has aired its dirty laundry for all to see: they are interested in stuffing wealth into the wallets of rich people and rich corporations and they don't care if the environment gets totally wrecked in the process. One reaction to this extremism is anti-Trump groups like Refuse Fascism.
Republicans seem likely to use fake news as a vital political weapon in the future, given the results of the 2016 election
Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything spells out in detail the parameters of effective organizing—namely, getting large numbers of people to work together in a coordinated manner to achieve social justice. The book is full of good pointers for grass-roots groups to garner their energies and focus on goals for local, state, and national governments issues. It explains the thought and planning that went into building their big organizing processes, as well as the steps they took on the ground and in the field to organize hundreds of thousands of people around a common cause.
For both aspiring political candidates and movement organizers, this is a great book—very relevant. Especially if you do not have access to big bucks or you do not want to suffer the strings that come attached to big money. Big Organizing in this book refers to direct contact with the whole electorate instead of merely employing advertisements targeted at swing voters. It is volunteer-run, it is tech-literate and it is rapidly scalable. It is a very dynamic organizational context that works especially well with big, bold ideas, which attract volunteers in high numbers. The Sanders campaign, for example, attracted 2,800,000 donors, as well as 100,000 volunteers who arranged 100,000 events and made 75 million phone calls.
"During the Democratic primary, we had hundreds of thousands of Americans eager get to work to elect Bernie Sanders. Now that Trump is headed for the White House, there are millions of people looking for somewhere to channel their energies. They are ready to fight back as members of a determined opposition, and to help build up a new alternative to the failed neoliberal consensus that paved the way to Clinton’s defeat. . . . What can volunteers do together? Lobby municipal leaders to declare a sanctuary city and protect immigrants from deportation. Hold the police chief accountable for enforcing hate-crimes legislation in the wake of Trump-incited violence. Draft people to run for office or local party committees and then help them win. Participate in national campaigns that welcome volunteers . . . Now is the time to tap into the latent capacity in the grassroots. Millions of people are ready to get to work to rebuild our economy and our democracy, starting with principled opposition to Trump. But mass participation won’t lead to mass power without organization." (Source: The Revolution Will Not Be Staffed: How Big Organizing Can Take Down Trump, Becky Bond and Zack Exley, the Nation)
No matter who Bernie faces in 2020, it will be a David and Goliath scenario, with Bernie against Trump and the media and the elites—not a fair contest!
The latent capacity in the grassroots is composed of not just Trump haters who loathe what he stands for—unbridled greed—but those that Trump and the G.O.P. rubbed the wrong way: immigrants, people of color, offended women such as all women's liberation groups, people who lost medical coverage due to Trump policies, disabled people ridiculed by Trump, and veterans who watched him ridicule their sacrifices. This alone would not win most elections but if the votes of all these Trump-targets-for-ridicule-or-oppression were added to enthusiasm for a pro-people candidate like Bernie Sanders, Trump would be vulnerable in 2020, if he isn't impeached by then. Given his record, Trump would be likely to haul out fake news campaigns bigtime.
The only question that remains is whether the Democrats would be smart enough to haul out even bigger fake news campaigns in response. The American people do not want a childish war of liar against liar and it would be likely to keep them away from the polling places in disgust, but on the other hand, few can dispute that Hillary was caught with her pantsuit down in 2016 and had no idea how to respond to all the lies.
"The only way that we thought Bernie was going to have a chance was getting so many people involved that the campaign was driven by volunteers. I think we're really facing a similar situation now with the president-elect Trump and with the people he's putting in charge of huge parts of the government. It's going to take a huge number of people, not just the people who already are involved doing it smarter and having a better strategy or being more coordinated. We need way more people. . . . Zack Exley: The Brand New Congress is a campaign that I'm working on with a bunch of volunteers that came out of Bernie and some other places. It's trying to follow through on the idea of revolution we talked about earlier. The goal is swapping the people who are in government out with people who actually represent the people. We really believe people want to work on something big. They want to put their time into something big and worthwhile that will actually fix everything." (Source: Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything, Don Hazen, Steven Rosenfeld, Ivy Olesen, alternet.org )
Noam Chomsky stated in a May 2017 BBC interview that the Sanders campaign, by breaking with a century-old political system of reliance on corporate funding, was the most remarkable thing about the 2016 election. Chomsky said Sanders "came from nowhere", used the "scare word 'socialist'", and "would have won the Democratic Party nomination if it hadn’t been for the shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers who kept him out." The fix is in. People with power get their hooks into things as if they were leeches and they use this leverage in any way they think will advantage them with litle concern for fairness, morality, or legality. The Clintons didn't invent political shenanigans. They've been occurring since politics was invented a few millenia ago. People who seek power have variously tuned moral compasses. Some seem to have no compass. Bushes, Clintons, Obama, Trump—these are not paragons of virtue! But at least FDR for sure had some virtue. The rest of the clowns since WWII—not so much. Scum rises to the top.
Can you imagine it? Roosevelt (FDR) actually said this in a big speech: "We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob . . . They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred." Amazing! He was restating the fears of the Founders who, if they could see how the oligarchs are wrecking the U.S. today, would turn over in their graves!
FDR, in warning us about the elites, was restating the fears of the Founders who, if they could see how the oligarchs are wrecking the U.S. today, would turn over in their graves!
To sum up, we let Publishers Weekly take the floor: "The successes of the Sanders campaign gives credibility to this new organizing paradigm, and Bond and Exley’s valuable and pragmatic road map will appeal to those interested in social change, whether they’re organizing presidential campaigns or neighborhood efforts." We can only hope that the public is all Trumped out in 2020 and are willing to get behind an actual statesman (or stateswoman) and get a real president for a change, not just another greedy, corrupt liar.
We can only hope that the public is all Trumped out in 2020 and are willing to get behind an actual statesman (or stateswoman) and get a real president for a change, not just another greedy, corrupt liar
Dubya told some terrible lies—especially the one about WMDs that got us into a war, and it seems to have had an effect on his nose!
Obama gets the prize for the most lies per year, and it seems to have had an effect on his nose!