I’m hearing similar questions from several quarters, some here on BMG and some from friends and fellow activists; all having to do with the makeup of the working groups reflecting business-as-usual rather than true open participation. Some campaign volunteers, who worked their hearts out for hundreds of hours to get this ticket elected, have expressed anguish at how this administration seems to be shaping up. Here are some questions I’m hearing:
– Why is the overall composition of the workgroups about 75% male?
– Why are there no teachers on the K-12 education group, but superintendents and business people are represented?
– Why is the environment and energy group composed of mainly department heads from past administrations, with paltry representation from currently active grassroots groups?
– Why are there so many CEOs in most of the groups?
– Why are there only mayors on the local government group?
– Why is the health care group so dominated by insurance company executives?
– Why is there no work group on public health?
I keep having this sinking feeling, this fear, that all of this community input is just window dressing, and that these guys are really the ones who will make the decisions. I sincerely hope it isn’t so. I think what this not-really-grassroots makeup of the working groups actually reflects is how far we have to go to really have a participatory democracy. It reflects the elephant on the table: how much of our civic life is now dominated by the CEO’s, the business interests, how invisible that usually is, and how much the business interests expect it to be so. So this is where civic engagement comes in. I think it will take ongoing efforts to open up the process; to create avenues whereby all of us workers, parents, teachers, housing activists, environmental activists, health care activists, neighborhood activists, and many more demand our rightful places at the table.
Deval talked about changing politics as usual; he never talked explicitly about changing business as usual. But many of his platform positions require changing business as usual. One of the phrases he used over and over, that was one of the points that first attracted me to his campaign, was his saying that there had to be “more than one bottom line.” To have more than one bottom line, you have to change business as usual. There will be a lot of powerful and moneyed interests pushing in the other direction. It’s commendable that this new administration is opening the door wide enough that we can even see what needs to happen. But it will be up to us to make it happen.
David, you asked us to post suggestions here and to send them to the transition team. But there isn’t any way for me to actually send this to the team or to the workgroup. That little box on the transition web site will only accept 2,000 characters. Lots of people want to send documents. When I mentioned this to a couple of the transition team staffers at the hearing, they said there actually was an email address, and offered to give it to me. I said, “don’t give it to me, put it on the web site so everyone can use it.” So here is my first specific suggestion to open up the process: designate an email address for receiving documents, and a process for senders to indicate which work group should receive it. Please put this up on the site right away. It will make it easier for you in the long run.