How We Become The Change We Seek

Ken Thomson shares his vision for what Cambridge/Somerville for Change should do next:
"This victory alone is not the change we seek, it is only the chance for us to make that change."
-- Obama's Victory Speech, 11/4/08
It is not just Obama who has the chance to make that change we seek, it is all of us. In fact, it is likely he cannot make the kind of changes we all envision without us bringing together the grassroots behind those changes. Already we've seen how the machinations of Washington can begin to chip away at the potential. The antidote to the constant grinding away at the chance for change is a constant flow of energy from the people who carried the campaign to the voter.

We have the chance to change the way our democracy itself works. To move from an outdated and poorly functioning representative democracy to a true participatory democracy. What would a participatory democracy look like? It would include broad-based networks working between elections on the issues that embody the change we seek. Networks with enough political clout to make Congresspeople do the right thing or risk losing their jobs two years from now. Networks with enough issue savvy to nudge Obama himself in a better direction when expediency lures him toward a well worn rut of political safety.

We don't need to repeat what the Democratic city committees or Democratic state committee are doing with candidates, or what single issue groups are doing on their individual issues. We can support their good work without being coopted by them. If we are to make real change, we need to develop organization structures and tap grassroots energies that existing groups have not tapped.

Three elements seem essential:
  1. In order to retain our political focus, we need to turn our efforts to specific issue work on the key elements that make up the change we seek. We have the potential to build on the broad coalition of the Obama campaign. We won't always agree on every issue. Part of our work will be to find ways to forge
    consensus on each of the issues we undertake.

  2. In order to keep alive our collective energy, we need to develop action strategies that can achieve rapid intermediate victories along the path to longer-term change. A way to do this may be to tap into and amplify some of the issues shaping up to be most dramatic and important of Obama's first days in office including major thrusts on energy and the economy, and specific actions such as Guantanamo, FISA, and related security vs. liberty issues.

  3. In order to work effectively, we need to organize on a level that bridges local action and national impact. The Congressional Districts seem a perfect place. grassroots organization at this level is relatively scarce. Our Congresspeople provide one of the most direct links to national policy available to us. And our work through and on our Congresspeople may be the kind of support most needed by the new administration to achieve our common goals. If we take this on, we need to develop both a powerful Congressional district force, and a strong network which allows our district organizations to work closely together when the issues demand.

I hope we can discuss these issues as we work out our plans for the future wonders we anticipate.

Is this a way forward you see? Share your thoughts in the comments below or send us a blog post of your very own by sending an email to


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Cambridge-Somerville for Change is an all-volunteer community group dedicated to harnessing the grassroots energy and spirit of change inspired by the Obama campaign. Our organizing work includes electoral and issue-based campaigns at the local, state, and national level. Our members have chosen to work on promoting economic fairness, comprehensive health care reform, creating policies that conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide for fair and adequate access to public transportation, and promoting in-state tuition for immigrant youth.

This is an organization built by and for you, the community, and we look forward to your participation and feedback. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about getting involved, please email
or call us at
(617) 302-7324.

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