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Bush Must Go is a local grass roots organization based in the progressive area of Ithaca, New York, that works to, well, get President Bush and his administration unseated from the White House. For the record, Bush Must Go is not officially affiliated with any political party, but instead attracts persons from accross the ideological spectrum that have a common desire: Bush Must Go. Irregular Times spoke this week with Pete Myers, one of BMG's founding participators.
For our Irregular Times readers who are not in Ithaca, New York, or who are otherwise outside of the Finger Lakes region, what is Bush Must Go?
The idea for it started last April. We had what we call an "Ithaca Peace Summit," and there were people from different organizations, individuals, there were about 150 people going to this summit. Basically, the consentual committment that came from about from the result of this summit was two things: one, was to start a peace and justice center in Tompkins County (New York), and the other, more importantly, was to do something, some kind of effort to get Bush out of office. In a certain way, those two ideas did not conflict with each other, but that was the first step...There was so much energy here to get Bush out of office. Some of the more interested people, who really wanted to do something after the peace summit, we just started talking, and started forming something more at a formal meeting last September last year. It was a small group of people at first, but we had a real commitment to it. It wasn't really diverse, and we had a commitment to diversify. I think we've had some success with that. Some of the first ideas were to convene further summits about what to do about the Bush administration. One of the first ideas was about getting yard signs out. We got about 500 yard signs to start. So we decided that was how we were going to go, to get our presence out there. That was our first step. And we're doing a lot of other things, but I would say that is our main thing: a very simple message about what we're about.
You've said you started with a small group of people and have been working on diversifying. Tell me about the number of Bush Must Go supporters and about the diversification process.
We have a basic steering committee, and there are different working groups as well: there's an events working group and a voter outreach working group which is involved in voter registration, but not in an entirely non-partisan way. We're not a non-partisan group. We have a listserve of close to three hundred people, now do you consider all those people a member of Bush Must Go? I don't know. It's not really a "member" organization. The steering committee is, roughly, ten people. At first, it was all white male. But now we have an African-American woman, a Latino man, two other white women. So we've gotten better with that. The voter outreach group is joining with other groups - you may have heard that May 8th is this big voter kick off, so we've been funnelling a lot of people their way. Now, that's a non-partisan effort because it's a part of the 527. Have you heard of the whole 527 thing?
No, tell me about it.
It's a FEC (Federal Elections Commission) designation that people who get money into their organization, they can't be partisan about how they do their outreach. So, people are just going down there to register voter, targeting certain areas. We went to a conference about getting people registered to vote, and the focus is more with the progressive circuits is to focus more on the African-American, then Latino, then whites last. Simply because 80% of African-Americans vote Democrat; 60% of Latinos; and then it goes down the whiter you get.
You've talked about a lot of things here. What would you say the main thrusts of Bush Must Go are?
I think that people, especially the people on the Steering Committee, all share this belief that we're all part of doing what you might call "movement politics." We all want Bush to go, but we don't so much want to be seen as working for Kerry so much. A lot of people give us feedback that what we do really helps Kerry in a lot of ways. And I think in terms of the swing voters, who are more independently minded, I think we're really good for the swing voters because we're talking more about what's wrong with Bush than we are about what's right with Kerry. We let people figure out: Bush must go - how is that going to happen? It's a vote for Kerry. But we're not telling people to think that. That's got its place - the Kerry campaign, the Democratic party - but we're filling a unique niche. We've sold about a thousand yard signs. And our signs have ten different messages (that purchasers can select from to personalize their sign), the different strands of the larger movement: "Bush Lied, Thousands Died," "Make Living Wage Jobs, Not War," "2000: Jobs Promised; 2003: 3 Million Jobs Lost." OS, the lawns signs hit on these issues that I would consider movement issues. It's not just about Bush. It's about these issues - and to hold Kerry accountable to these issues, too.
Where do you see Bush Must Go as a part of the larger national grass roots effort - like MoveOn.org, or Dean's Democracy for America, and countless others. How does Bush Must Go fit into this big grass roots agenda?
There are a lot of de-centralized efforts going on with essentially the same goal in mind. And I'd say they all complement each other, so I just see us fitting within them. There's a campaign called "Re-defeat Bush," which is the only other campaign I know that has yard signs.
Are they local (to Ithaca or the New York Finger Lakes region)?
No, it's out of Washington, D.C., I think. We were worried sometimes that our $6.00 price for a lawn sign was a little steep, but theirs is $25.00. But we are more than about lawn signs. We are organizing events, we're going to be going door-to-door, and we're going to be having a training about that later in May. We're trying to be part of a larger political movement. Everybody has their own unique character...The Syracuse Peace Council has started their own Bush Must Go chapter, and they are doing their own yard signs, which is fine. We see ourselves as planting seeds around the country, too, because people are taking these signs around the country. There is a great big tsunami (a Japanese word meaning "tidal wave") about Bush and company.... As people see more and more of these signs go up, that's part of the tsunami, and they get one.
If people want a sign, how can they get one?
If people wanted to be a distributor in their area, we have a brochure about that. They can also come down to our headquarters (above Autumn Leaves Bookstore on the Commons in downtown Ithaca, New York.)...They can certainly order a sign online, but with postage costs, it's a little prohibitive, unless you get into a higher number of orders...If you order five signs, you'd get them, the wire frames, and ten stickers (to personalize each side of the five signs.)
So how else does Bush Must Go get their message out?
We've done events. We've had a "speak out/organizing event" which was really good.
What is a "speak out," really? Someone like my mom, for example, who really needs a fire under her butt to get out of the house to a political event, even though she is a liberal person, what would she expect to see at a "speak out"?
Basically, everybody had a chance to say briefly why they felt that Bush Must Go. To speak to that. And then it really moved into breaking up into working groups, like the voter registration working group, events working group. We've had other events like a syndicated Latino author just happened to be here, coming to Cornell (University) to speak, and we were able to create that event.
If my mom wanted to get a lawn sign, and she's in Michigan, how would she do it?
http://www.bushmustgo.net. But she would not be able to order just one ...She'd have to get, at minimum, five. But let me do say this, that if somebody called the headquarters, we could work something else out -- if they just wanted one or two signs.
What's the Bush Must Go phone number?
That's also online. It's (607) 339-1680. Your mom could make the purchase online, though. We use Paypal.
Where do you see Bush Must Go after the election, whether Bush is defeated or not?
That depends. If Bush wins, then Bush Must Go keeps going.
How so? In your own imagination, if Bush wins on Election Day, how would you like to see Bush Must Go continue?
I think the commitment is to eventually start a peace and justice center. And what that center would do is act as a coalition-builder between, oftentimes, separate peace and justice centers, ones that share similar goals, but work on different issues.
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