July 6, 2018
Winter book preview: How We Win by George Lakey
by Melville House
As summer gets going in earnest, we’re taking a look at some of the books we have forthcoming in the next few months. Honestly, we’re getting pretty excited. Right now, let’s have a look at George Lakey’s How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning, which hits shelves December 4th.
Today’s new direct action campaigns require a new, down-to-earth guide to effective campaigning. George Lakey’s How We Win is that timely guide.
The Women’s March of January 21, 2017 was estimated at four million people—the largest assembly of activist protest in US history—and many of those assembled were in the streets for the first time, or returning after a period of inactivity.
Lakey, a lifelong activist, helps us understand our polarized political moment, teaches us how to plan a campaign to overcome that polarization, and shows us how to grow and sustain our movements. This is what democracy looks like.
How We Win hits shelves—not a moment too soon—on December 4th. In the meantime, here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter 6, “Inventing a New Campaign.” Read close, feel the hope welling up within you.
“Early on we decided to put the state’s gambling regulators in a dilemma by announcing that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board needed either to release all its casino files by December first at high noon (‘all politics is theater’), or we would take the files ourselves and release them to the public.”
This is Daniel Hunter describing the merry pranks of a new campaign.
“Each week leading up to December first we did a stunt action. We went to their nearby offices armed with buckets and squeegees … and washed their windows, ‘to help them to be more transparent.’
“We also held a practice document search at the entrance to a building where the Board staged public presentation of casino proposals. Lawyers for Donald Trump, Steve Wynn, and other casino magnates walked by as we approached them with our signature magnifying glasses and asked if they’ve seen the documents.
“One scared lawyer clutched his briefcase and ran inside shouting, ‘No, I’ve never seen them!’
“These actions were to get our people ready for the confrontation, generate some buzz, and get some press. The real action was yet to come.”
These actions came about when the Pennsylvania state legislature sought a new income source in the form of casino gambling, despite the long history of popular opposition to it in major cities. Legislators were so fearful of public reaction that in the dead of night on a holiday weekend they passed a law providing for casino gambling in various parts of Pennsylvania.
The law designated two big-box casinos for Philadelphia, and the plan assigned them to locations close to houses and schools. Philly would become the biggest city in the country to suffer the crime and economic loss associated with billionaire-operated gambling.
The campaigners’ deadline arrived and the Gambling Control Board failed to surrender its documents. “So,” Daniel said, “we announced we were being forced—forced—to do the right thing and release the documents ourselves.”
The drumroll increased in intensity, since the announced showdown was seven days later. The Board strongly wanted to keep the files secret but they were already feeling the heat. The campaigners, who called themselves Casino-Free Philadelphia, vowed to do a “citizen search and seizure” of the documents if the Board didn’t surrender them. That would mean arrest, increasing publicity for the campaign and raising the question in the public about what secrets the Board was so intent to hide.
“Heads we win, tails they lose,” said Daniel. “For us campaigners, we had set it up so that with either choice the authorities strengthened the grassroots campaign.”
The media, given the drumroll of what Casino-Free called “Operation Transparency,” had to cover the arrests when Daniel and his comrades were marched off to jail for their attempt to take the documents.
How We Win by George Lakey
ON SALE: December 4, 2018