Bum Rush the Vote

Bum Rush the Vote is a grassroots “PAC” launched in Brooklyn, New York, whose mission it is to erode the money-fueled corrupt political system in the United States by dint of supporting political campaigns that run candidates from the general population, that are propelled by volunteer power, and that put forth platforms that answer, without compromise to established interests, the need for social justice in a post-consumerist society.

Today the home page on the website for Bum Rush the Vote starts out by saying:

The Bum Rush premise is simple:  Controlling politics without money is power, people power.

Our goal is to create an open-source, crowd-sourced DIY campaign.  All of the resources we need to accomplish this goal are available to us due to the fantastic technology that we now have access to.  We started this campaign with no money, and are using our resources in a very efficient and frugal manner.

Our resources come directly from our people.  We look toward whomever is involved.  We are not seeking to hire anyone.  We are seeking those who like us want to see a game change in politics.

Bum Rush the Vote was the brainchild of George Martinez, known as “Honorable George Martinez” due to his status as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State. George’s life story might be called a “bubble-up bio.” Raised by a single mother in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, as a first generation American he pursued higher education, went on to graduate studies in political science, earned a doctoral fellowship at CUNY Graduate Center, and is an adjunct professor of political science. Under the alias “Rithm,” George also developed a tandem hip-hop music career and profile that led to his work under auspices of the State Department.

Several years ago, George and some others within his sphere founded Global Block, whose motto is “Changing the world, block by block,” and whose mission is to harness “the spirit of innovation, creativity and activism at the core of the Hip-Hop movement to empower youth and transform communities across the globe. Through its leadership, expertise and financial support it aims to inspire individuals to become agents of change in their communities.”

What is most interesting about the course of George’s career, though, is how he is using his learning and his understanding of the scheme of things to  subvert the status quo, to counteract the same educational and political systems that you might say gave him his start. In September, 2011, he returned to New York City from an ambassadorial project in Latin America just after Occupy Wall Street took possession of Zuccotti Park. He became deeply involved in the Occupy movement, but was determined to counter within that movement the idea that we ought to cease participating in the current political system. George and his cohorts maintain belief in the democratic system as much as they see the need to overturn the influence of money and entrenched power.

Thus, Bum Rush the Vote was born, and the first candidate run by the PAC was George himself, who became a Democratic party candidate for a Congressional seat. He assembled like-minded, able peers to plan and run his campaign. They used their network in the neighborhoods, within Occupy, and on the internet to recruit a body of volunteers who headed out to subway platforms every morning and evening to gather ballot petition signatures. George and his “crew” toured the many neighborhoods in the council district, spreading word of their belief that The People need to run their own candidates, and that political campaigns do not need to take corporate donations. They put together a thoughtful, no-compromise platform that addressed specific problems of the present and that offered real vision for a better future.

Due to a rather chaotic situation with election maps being redrawn, the Democratic Party in New York held its primaries for state and local positions in June of 2012. As the primary date grew close, George’s campaign discovered that the local news channel, NY1, was giving air time for a debate among the primary candidates for his Congressional district … all candidates except for him, that is! When the campaign contacted the TV station to object and to ask why he was excluded, the station answered that they looked at the Federal Election Commission filings for each campaign and, since George’s campaign had not taken enough in donations to be required to file, NY1 presumed his was not a viable campaign. In fact, he had obtained as many or more ballot petition signatures as had his rivals.

A “Twitter storm” ensued taking NY1 to task for propagating the belief that money is what campaigns are all about, and having no other measure of viability. Enough noise was made that NY1 changed their mind and included George in the live debate.

As was predicted by all, the incumbent candidate (an entrenched incumbent who has served her district in Congress since 1993) won the primary. Winning was a dream, but Bum Rush was realistic about their expectations. George Martinez was not sent to Congress, but some practical, achievable goals were met:

  • Scores of citizens were activated and inspired to exercise their voices, and to take concrete action with their boots on the ground, to work towards undoing our corrupt system of politics.
  • Bum Rush the Vote has highlighted the need for communities to cultivate and put forth their own candidates for political office, to perceive themselves as the body politic, to cease thinking that political office is somehow the domain of some other class of people.
  • George’s candidacy, his success in getting on the ballot, and the “airtime” he got in local newspapers and TV, and on the Web, has already inspired other candidates to rise up from among the people.

Bum Rush the Vote continues to encourage nationwide adoption of the premise that communities can run their own candidates, that political candidates do not need corporate money, that “you” as a every-day citizen can run for some sort of public office, and that while we rail against the political system that serves “the one percent” we must stay engaged with that system if we are serious about changing it.

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About ilyse kazar

Ilyse Kazar is a planeteer. She is also a writer, tech consultant, solutions architect, community organizer, animal lover, eternal student, and amateur artist. She lives and works in the Lower East Side NYC.
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