Saturday, March 26, 2005

Report on SF No Confidence Workshop

Last night I conducted a workshop on the No Confidence Resolution at the headquarters of the San Francisco Green Party. This was not an official meeting of the Greens, but several people who attended are active and influential with the Greens of either SF or Berkeley.

Unlike all of the presentations I've previously given, the workshop was 90 minutes rather than a brief item among other topics on a group's meeting agenda. As a result, everyone in attendance was there exclusively to talk about No Confidence.

I brought with me copies of version 5.1 of the resolution (archived) , probably a small mistake given that the Humboldt County Green Party has endorsed version 5.2 which is currently shown at the GuvWurld blog permalink:

As far as mistakes go, this was inconsequential since the resolution is a template. To illustrate this, I gave far less set-up for the workshop group discussion than I typically offer during a presentation. Instead, I jumped right in, asking for the conditions that have damaged confidence in U.S. federal elections. The points were mainly offered in terms of anecdotes so I attempted to get the bullet points up on the white board. We also had a scribe who is supposed to e-mail me the notes for posting here. Suffice to say the points have a lot in common with the template.

Soliciting ideas in this way kept everyone engaged and allowed the group to generate the material for its own version of the WHEREAS clauses found at the top of the resolution. In facilitating the collection of their talking points I simply wrapped them in the frame of "basis." By using this frame, I explained, potential opponents can be challenged to explain their basis for maintaining confidence in this obviously broken system. No one I've met has ever tried to argue for the existence of a basis for confidence. This is also a winning frame when we say the comprehensive election reform platform we advocate sets out to create a new basis for confidence.

When we had labeled the major criticisms (disenfranchisement was the most emphasized through various types of examples) we moved on to what would become the RESOLVE clauses found at the bottom of the resolution. For a context, I asked them to imagine we were building a whole new political system from scratch - what would it take to create a basis for confidence? Here too the suggestions were mostly familiar but generated by a group of people who now have ownership of creating their own draft version of a No Confidence Resolution.

This workshop was only attended by what seemed like seasoned public servants (nee activists). At the end of presentations I typically offer specific action steps that people can take on the smallest levels. This time, that was not necessary. Instead, I offered the macro frame outlined in the No Confidence Movement Strategy and Talking Points Primer calling for repeatedly asking the question "has the Consent of the Governed been withdrawn, yet?" with the passage of each No Confidence Resolution.

The Greens are very active in both SF and Berkeley and they know how to conduct an issue campaign and get it to the Supes or City Council. Now both groups have members prepared and planning to make the case for their entire membership to back No Confidence. That is the best I could have hoped for last night. Expect more Bay Area updates coming soon.



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