Together, We Change the Game

By Jakada Imani

Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Time and again we see, when we come together and focus on a shared vision, we make a difference. Real progress only happens when people move together; that is why we call it a movement. On Tuesday, millions of us pulled together. Through our work with Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Prop, communities of color and our allies made history, again, by soundly defeating Prop 23.

Polling in early August told us that our communities could be tricked by the slick lies and dirty tricks of Prop 23 backers. That changed when Communities United launched its statewide mobilization drive reaching over 350,000 voters. The Dirty Energy Prop started to lose the minute our coalition of 130 justice-minded organizations took to the streets and air waves reminding voters that California is strongest when we choose health, jobs, and the planet- together. On Tuesday, Proposition 23 was soundly defeated in 8 of the 10 counties where we focused our work. Even the two most conservative counties –Kern and Orange– passed Prop 23 with a shockingly narrow margin.

Our strength as an organized movement is also seen in our partners Oakland Rising and the California Alliance who were key in the passing of Proposition 25 (a simple majority vote for the state budget) and threw down to defeat of Prop 23. Oakland Rising, an electoral alliance of which we are an anchor member, filled over 400 door knocking shifts in election season- the highest number in the State and IDed a record number of voters to stand with us. When we look at the results on all of California’s ballot measures, we can truly see that our collective effort on 23 and 25 made a difference — bucking the otherwise conservative trend of the night.

Nationally, even the successes of the Tea Party across the country, while a true setback, bear a valuable lesson for us — people working together change the game. Let us hold that truth in our hearts and know, more than ever, that our work to bring people together to make change is crucial in building a brighter future where all people and communities thrive.

Another critical lesson hammered home Tuesday night: people don’t base their votes on facts- if they did, millions of Americans would not vote against their own best interests. Our votes are more likely based on emotion, often fear or anger. With our economy in the dumps, people have a right to be angry and it’s easy for folks to be confused as to who is to blame- letting hate mongers point a blaming finger at everyone from immigrants to the Government to people who believe that everyone should have health care.

We, however, are not confused. The problem isn’t any one party or politician or even any one corporation. Instead of basing policies and our election day decisions on fear, we want to build a society where decisions are made based on love and our common concerns. When Proposition 23 first showed up, people feared they had to choose between good jobs and the environment. Fear drove support of the Dirty Energy Prop. We worked to trigger different emotions — the feelings of love and protection that folks of color and our allies have for our children, our environment and our economy. That helped us ensure that the future of California is one that puts people and the planet ahead of Big Oil’s profits.

Despite dismaying election results across the country, we celebrate that California swung back to its roots as a Blue State. As Meg Whitman learned, money alone can’t buy you victory. We look forward to working with Governor Elect Jerry Brown to implement AB32, close the state’s abusive and costly youth prison system, and bring peace and prosperity to all Californians.

The election, while a mixed bag of wins and losses, is just one short trailmarker in our march toward justice. Money and elections alone don’t determine the future. People-powered action, fueled by hope and the knowledge that things should and can be better, is how change happens. The Ella Baker Center knows the future is one where every person can thrive and we look forward to working with you to make that vision come true.