The November Fifth Coalition has just been launched as a collaboration among several major civic organizations (with others to be added to the website very soon). November Fifth is the day after the election. We mean to say that the campaign is not a competition that will end when the votes are cast; it is part of an ongoing process by which the whole American polity governs itself.
Unless we and others intervene effectively, the 2008 campaign will follow a sadly predictable script. Candidates will present themselves as the solution to our problems and will blame our current difficulties on rival politicians. Policy ideas will all be state-centered; candidates will argue for expanding, cutting, or reorganizing the government, as if the state were the only actor. The press will treat the campaign as a horse race, as if the most important question were: Who will win? Reporters will provide some stories about “issues,” but again, it will all be about the government.
Neither journalists on the campaign beat nor candidates will pay much attention to citizen-centered work, such as watershed restorations, land trusts, community planning exercises, charter schools, public arts projects, and service-learning. If they propose policies involving “citizenship,” these will be rather thin: for example, they may promise to increase the number of volunteers.
Citizen-centered work is increasingly robust, diverse, and sophisticated. It is addressing increasingly serious and large-scale issues, from global warming to the reconstruction of the Gulf. The November Fifth Coalition aims to draw public attention to this movement. Candidates should stop running as potential saviors and instead explain–concretely–how they will collaborate with responsible civic groups and movements to address our real problems.
At this moment, there is not a clear mechanism by which an individual can joint November Fifth. But please email me if you are interested and I will look for ways to include you.