Throw the Bums Out! (2.0)

I bet I know something about you. You're sick and tired of the idiots who run our government. How'd I know that? Because everyone is sick and tired of the idiots who run our government.

So why do we keep electing them?

That's easy: Because every election, we get the same two choices -- Idiot Republican and Idiot Democrat. And guess what? The idiot always wins!

Why do we even bother voting? Well, when you go vote, you probably don't even know anything about these idiots who are running. Neither do I. (I just got up and polled my local coffee shop to tests this assumption, and out of about 25 people, only one person, a poli-sci undergrad, knew the name of our member of Congress. Try it where you live.) But we at least know something about these idiots' idiotic parties.

So we choose the party that, sort of, maybe, best represents our values. Because voting for these parties at least lets us make a tiny political statement on certain social and cultural issues that most of us care about.

Pulling the party lever is a way of asserting our values. It's like saying, "Hey! There are people like me out here!"

But when it comes to issues, like jobs, that we all care and feel the same way about -- we all want more and better jobs! -- here, we are really left with no choice at all. On that issue, both the idiot parties seem totally committed to screwing the rest of us -- or at least letting us be screwed by the special interests they represent.

For example, both parties voted for NAFTA -- the free trade bill that stuck it to all North American workers. Both parties voted in exactly the same proportion. It's true, and incredible: A full 75 percent of each party voted to pass it.

More recently, when the big banks nuked the economy, both parties had exactly the same solution: Give those same big banks trillions of dollars. Not just idiotic. TOTALLY INSANE.

So how sick of this are you? I'm guessing very sick -- but I'm guessing you're also resigned to it, because you know it will never change.

But what if I told you that, because of a technical change to our political system, it is now possible to throw all the bums out in one fell swoop?

Probably you'd say, "Zack, you're a crackpot!" Right?

Fair enough. But on this topic, I'm not just any crackpot. I am a crackpot who was an insider at the creation of this fundamental change that will let us throw all of Congress out at once.

Here's the change I'm talking about: It is now possible for insurgent, anti-establishment candidates to raise a ton of money from small donors online, and to use that money, plus the Internet, plus old-fashioned organizing, to build nationwide, strong volunteer organizations -- all without any help from either of the idiot parties.

This change started way back in Jerry Brown's insurgent 1992 presidential campaign, when Brown asked America to make credit card donations through his 1-800 number. Picking up the phone was such a bother, though, so that really didn't work. In 2000, the maverick John McCain had this brief moment when it looked like he just might be able to beat the mega-corporate-funded Bush -- and so he asked his supporters to make a donation to his "Website." Most people were like, "Website?" Nevertheless, $2 million flooded in. Unfortunately it was too little too late.

In the 2004 election cycle -- the one I worked on -- Ron Paul, Howard Dean and then John Kerry defined this model. Ron Paul punched way above his weight in fundraising, but still got out-fundraised by the establishment. The insurgent Dean, however, raised tens of millions dollars, leaving the big money establishment candidates in the dust. Nothing like that had never happened before and it totally turned politics on its head.

Unfortunately, Dean's campaign forgot that, back in real life, volunteers needed to be trained how to actually win the Iowa caucuses. And then, there was that scream.

But then, John Kerry, who was an insurgent in the context of the 2004 general election, doubled his budget using Internet fundraising, raising about as much as the Mega-Corporate-Funded Bush. He also mobilized hundreds of thousands of volunteers to knock on doors. I ran online fundraising and organizing for Kerry. We raised about $125 million for Kerry. For John Frickin' Kerry! OK?

But then Obama finally took this thing all the way to victory -- raising hundreds of millions and recruiting tons of volunteers using the Internet -- as the ultimate insurgent candidate, even if, as it turned out, it was in name only. And his campaign didn't forget about the old-fashioned things like getting out the vote... and acting normal on TV.

Even though most Obama supporters are disappointed by who he turned out to be, there's no denying that he campaigned as a radical, anti-establishment outsider, with tons of biases against him, and he won with one of the strongest mandates in a long time.

So how can we use this new power to throw out all the idiots in the Congress and the White House and replace them with normal, honest smart people?

I believe we can use these same proven tactics while thinking far beyond the White House. We can recruit a great candidate for every single congressional district, for every open Senate seat -- and for the White House.

Then we can run them in a unified campaign, with all the same focused excitement that goes with an insurgent presidential campaign -- except that this will be even more exciting because we'll be campaigning to replace not one, but all of the idiots who run the government.

I realize that this idea sounds wacky the first time you hear it. Please just bear with me as I walk you through how this will work.

The first step is of course to recruit good, honest leaders for every seat in Congress plus one stately candidate for the White House. I'll admit, that's going to be a huge job -- and that this is the one part of this plan that's never been done before. But in the age of Internet organizing, it has become common for many teams in different places to work in a coordinated way on a shared project using Internet tools. I'm talking about common tools such as Google docs and discussion forums, but also custom tools made specially for doing this kind of work.

I've seen projects as big as this recruitment task carried out successfully with just those tools and some willing volunteers. I really believe we can do this.

I'm going to put the specifics of the plan to recruit the candidates in a separate article, so for now, just take a leap of faith with me that it might be possible... and sign up to help right here.

We just need one volunteer in every congressional district to start. And the first step is easy: Just get together a handful of interested people for an informational meeting that will be tied in, through your computer, to a nationally facilitated meeting. A ton of you have already done this kind of thing at a political or campaign house party. Slow and steady wins the race, so we'll give ourselves a few months to complete this first task.