Ballot Strategies for Pirate Party
I would like to offer some strategies to help the Pirate Party get ballot qualification in California. Do I have any special expertise in this area? No. I just want to start the process of developing a comprehensive plan to achieve this goal. We do have a January 3rd, 2018 deadline to qualify for the June 2018 ballot. One way to start a process is to get something on the table. So here are my “Top 10” ideas for consideration and ridicule. And yes, I would be willing to work on all of them.
Become a leader among political bodies attempting to qualify for the ballot. By producing events and statements that encompass all reachers for the brass ring you will not only attract attention to the general concept of examining unheard of political groups but you will give the Pirate Party instant recognition for being bigger than themselves.
I assume every internet geek knows the value of Search Engine Optimization. If no one competent wants this thankless job we will have to pay an outsider. And everything we send out, no matter how inappropriate, should contain the Secretary of State online registration link.
Send out regular press releases and feeds responding to current events and statements by pundits. Normally these will be ignored. But there are slow news days and news stories where the writers are pressed to get “another view.” There may be occasions where we will be asked for an on air response. These should sound clear, compelling, and spontaneous. We may need to practice the spontaneous part. Pirate Party Toastmasters anyone?
Produce videos and podcasts on our core issues, preferably with people we admire and containing footage from ambushed public officials. Offer a regular “Pirate Spot” column to radio stations. Reagan did this between political gigs. Make “public input” statements at public meetings for the purpose of getting the video, with the officials and staff as your backdrop. I do this.
Make voice over parodies of public meetings. Some of these go virile. Since they are public officials in a public meeting there are no permission issues.
Create your own speakers bureau for service clubs and high school civics classes. You will gain greater acceptance if your list includes speakers from a broad spectrum of political parties and bodies. Did I mention a Pirate Party Toastmasters? Members of service clubs are usually active politically and will talk you up, for better or worse.
Parades and festivals. There are often places for tables at parades. I’ve actually seen pirate ships in parades. One or two well made floats could be shared around the State.
Sponsor contests. These generate publicity before and after the event, due to having a winner. Examples: Geo Cacheing (Treasure Hunt?), Song Parodies, and for strictly colleges only – a marathon Barnacle Bill the Sailor lyric contest. A Yale University contest racked up over 90 lyrics. Probably the least offense entry, not the winner, will be quoted by the press.
Petition for various Ballot Initiatives (maybe two or three at a time) where you incidentally register people to vote, casually bringing up “other” options. A ballot issue will often pull in people easier than a “Register to Vote” sign.
Sponsor Candidates Nights (if you’re not running). I did several of these. It will be a political crowd that shows up. Pirate Party organizer will be part of your intro and qualifications. Did I mention you should always have voter reg cards with you, even when you go to the John?
Now for the youth vote. You know, the people who will be dancing on our graves. Most are not registered. Sponsor a band event with local youth bands, maybe thru Pirate Punks if they’re still around. Youth bands usually work for the door, assuming a low minimum. We spring for the venue, which is often lower for non profits. At the reg table, have something to eat.
Those are my ideas. I hope I’ve inspired a flood of others. I know, it looks like thousands of hours. But that may be what it takes.
Piracy On the Local Seas
The Northern California Pirate Festival is June 17 and 18 in Vallejo. As a registered member of the California Pirate Party I’ll be there. It’s not a joke. The name was chosen because people who value a free internet, open information (which means government transparency), and reforming our archaic copyright laws were called……pirates.
The point is we are now an information society which moves very fast. Freedom and survival depends on the free flow of information. But barriers have been going up fast and furious. California Pirates are focused on these goals but the broader platform and strategies are still in formation. In general there is a bottom up bias in organization. Not too much thought has been given to what this means at the bottom. I would like to share some pirate flavored strategy names to my own attempts to work at the local level in my checkered past.
Sometimes a single person moves fastest without a committee. Writing letters to newspapers, legislators, or blogs is an example. Doing research and contributing ideas to people from that research is another. Research includes experiments as well as general “book learnin.” I call these “post” functions.
We all have posts but we can also be part of a group. A “crew” is a local cohesive group in regular contact focused on a very specific goal that is a little bigger than what one person can accomplish. When they work together they are totally in sync and in the zone. I would call this “a cannon crew.” Staging a videoed speaker event or keeping a website fresh and up to date are examples.
Separate crews can have the same function but different targets. Its important for different crews not to duplicate efforts while leaving some tasks undone (overlooked targets). Coordinated crews with similar skills and talents I would call “a team.” Staffing a political campaign or the recruitment of legal and internet SEO experts are high value teams.
The sum total of posts, crews, and teams in a locality dedicated to supporting each other and their efforts is of course, “the ship.” A ship may be a city, a county, part of a city, or two counties. Effectiveness should not be restrained by artificial boundaries. State organizations could be thought of as just bigger ships with captains in their own right. Or they can be thought of as fleets with admirals (a little hierarchical I know). What happens at the top depends on what is underneath.
Specific actions could have names as well to commemorate those efforts. They could be called “cruises” or “tours” of duty. Just like some bands have tours that are memorable enough to sell merchandise, both official and pirate (Arrrgh!).
These pirate groupings are not fixed over time. They are like an orchestra with different instruments and sections coming in at different times in the symphony. A violinist could be a soloist at one point and part of the violin section in another part. A pirate can occupy their post writing a blog, be part of a camera crew, and commit to a team effort making a movie.
So is this all a bunch of armchair philosophy? No, I have painful experience. In the late 70’s and early 80’s I was part of a minor party that did the usual boring stuff. But I also was part of separately organized groups. These groups allowed me the freedom to define my role in aligned community and fellow traveller projects. So here are three personal examples.
My first political foray beyond licking envelopes and staring out from behind a fair booth was my 1979 anti draft protest role. Carter was trying to revive conscription and the peace groups were hot in San Jose. They needed a site near the collage and I had an idea. I went to the City recreation department with the story (mostly true) that I was part of a student club that wanted to put on a “seminar” in the San Antonio Plaza. I mentioned that so far I had a SJSU professor and a think tank spokesman lined up.
I got the permit. The real organizers provided the band and the hard core participants. The police were there but it was the department head that got in trouble not us. I had seriously misled a government employee.
The Koch crowd activists wanted to enter SF’s Gay Freedom Day parade. So I bought a1948 bread truck on my own dime and painted it “Clark For President” green for a focal point. It barely ran and overheated near the end of the parade but not until publicity photos were taken of it and the flyer pushing campaign workers buzzing around it. For the next year I used the “Green Machine” to haul old books to a college flea market where locals had secured a voter registration booth.
I was getting faster on my feet and started talking to high school classes and community groups. There was a group of three people who did this. I wasn’t the County Chair’s first choice as a speaker since I was considered a loose cannon (Arrrrgh) and a “Plan B” with his own script. Next I joined two other Party outcasts as part of a morning community radio program on KKUP in Silicon Valley. We weren’t especially interesting but we stayed with it. These were all good communication experiences.
Some of these projects were my individual efforts and some were cooperative crews and teams. But all were bottom up operations with little interference from initiative sapping bosses.
What Has Five Bodies But No Head?
The last election was not the first time many people felt they did not have a real choice. Of course, “not having a choice”, or rather only having highly filtered choices, is what our system is all about. Occasionally, a minor rebellion to create some serious alternative is beaten back with the programmed responses: “You’ll be wasting your vote.” “Voting for the lesser of two evils is the responsible thing to do.” “We have a better chance to change one of the parties from within.” The result of this strategy is to discourage the entrance of new players in the game to begin with.
Obviously there are structural barriers in our system that prevent break outs from below. New parties end up wasting all their “none of the above” political capital on transient candidates who will be moving on long before the first barricade has been breached. Motivated more by rage, righteousness, and indignation than substance, the upstart party then slides into oblivion.
What if a new mindset, disguised as a political party, promoted the heretical idea that this established process needed to be changed first before any challenge on issues can succeed. Agenda Item #1. They would not claim ownership of this goal since it is a premise that all excluded political entities could embrace. It would be a cooperative venture, for if it prevailed, they would all win by having the artificial barriers abolished.
The first filter is access to the voting ballot. The one and only voting ballot, where precious time and money has to be spent for voters to see you. For electoral purposes, you are not even considered a political party until you clear this hurdle. If you file papers indicating you are currently trying to achieve the exalted status of a “ballot qualified political party” you are awarded the provisional title of a “political body.”
In California there are five political bodies attempting to gain ballot status for the June 2018 election. The former Unified Progressive Party dropped out and has decided to work as a caucus within the Democratic Party, where they have had some early success. For the record, the functioning political bodies are California Pirate Party, American Solidarity Party, California National Party, Constitution Party, and the People for Justice.
Some of these bodies have one or more issues in common. So you could say they are in competition with each other. But there are good reasons why they should be working together or at least becoming knowledgeable about what each other is about. The strongest bond they have in common is being effectively shut out of normal political discourse and participation. They are all burdened by restrictions imposed by the two-party monopoly, even though new ideas tend to originate from outsiders. All political bodies should be presenting a common front to roll back this affront to democracy.
The first objection we hear from the average citizen is “we have to have some standards or the ballot will become too cluttered or confusing. This will not encourage democratic participation.” Before the backlash against “foreign ideologies” in the early 20th Century there was no problem. This was because what made a ballot official was not who printed it but the fact that one person turned in one ballot on a specific day with at least one person listed who filed for an office. Why do all ballots have to have a preselected subset of people running? Groups printed and circulated their own ballots which was less ballot restrictive. With the introduction of machines in counting votes, standardization was cited as the reason we have limited ballots.
The irony today is, machines, that is computers and computer programs, have made the restricted ballot obsolete. Secure ID technology has arrived, making voting online practical and inclusive. For people who have limited access, there will be voting stations where they can use official computers, the way we go to testing centers now to take standardized tests on computers. The disabled will still get assistance to vote the way they do now.
The only technology problems with online voting are the same tech problems we have with the present system. Those problems revolve around proprietary software and hardware owned by corporate contractors. Many of these contractors have a vested interest in the outcome of elections. Many anomalies have been noticed in proprietary voting equipment with the most “backdoors.” With state of the art encryption there are no compelling arguments against open source voting software. The popular fraud solution of “paper voting trails” is grossly inadequate.
On the core issue of information security, accessibility, and proliferation the Pirate Party will simply have to take the lead. They are the geeks of the political body front. For other issues they may have to step back and support other political bodies. So how will the disenfranchised political bodies support each other in the competitive world of limited independent voters and even more limited attention spans? They will cooperate in punching through the second filter. This is the filter of entertainment. If it is not entertaining today’s voter will tune you out. The power elite have more money, which is the third filter. They can buy more professional productions, media whores, and ditto time on TV. Knowledge presented in a compelling way will reduce this advantage.
To be brutally honest, none of the five functioning political bodies in California are making a compelling presentation to convince dubious voters to reregister. When approaching people who know little or nothing about you, to not just sign a petition but fill out a personal official document, you are going to have to sell sell sell. That means a schtick, a repertoire of answers, and an environment of entertainment. Most people have to be bought, entertained, or at least intrigued to gain their attention. Since no billionaires or celebrities have appeared, the political bodies are going to have to cooperate with each other to create an energetic scene.
Its hard to imagine anything else working. Just as the insiders stage phony debates, the outsiders are going to have to stage their own outsider debates, produce multi political body videos around common issues, and sponsor spectacles as a gift to the public.The concept of supporting a political body must become mainstream and fun. Mailing lists and social media are still relevant but no excluded wannabe will attract established media attention by themselves. That requires a coalition of wannabes, creating events that have the feel of “fairs.” Any registration defector from the electoral con game is a victory, even if your body doesn’t get all of them.