How To Get Stupid White Men Out of Office

contributing author Annie Koh reads tonight, Tuesday April 13, Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside, 7:30 pm

I t's been a tough few years for the Left, what with Bush stealing the election, followed by the Republican blowout in 2002. It's starting to seem like the Left is dead in the U.S., and that only the Right gets elected. But you might be quite surprised to learn that within the last five years a number of progressive candidates have been elected to both national and local office.

In their new book How To Get Stupid White Men Out of Office, William Upski Wimsatt and Adrienne Maree Brown have compiled political success stories from the Left. It's common knowledge that these efforts are largely under-funded, and against wealthy opponents. One of the stories depicts a recent election in Chicago, where Rey Colon was elected to city council after spending under $80,000, compared to the incumbents quarter million. In each case, whether it was the campaigns of the late Paul Wellstone or even the local Get On the Bus Project, the Left's efforts are successful because of engaging the electorate on a personal level.

Wimsatt, a hiphop activist, is best known as the author of Bomb the Suburbs, and No More Prisons. He brings to the book the kind of enthusiasm the Left needs in order to invigorate a detached majority. Just as importantly, the book contains moments of humility, such as when Aya De Leon, an activist and performer, talks about trying to engage a man angry with anti-war protesters. "If somebody could listen to him and validate, maybe not his thinking, but some of the feelings underneath that, then we could start making connections. If we don't... some right wing organization certainly will."

The tone of the book gets tiresome at times, partly because the writing itself is at times too relaxed, and because it begins to feel like a pep rally. But maybe that's not such a bad thing for the Left right now. The Democratic Party has stood grim and silent for the past four years; maybe they need some cheering up, some inspiration. Maybe they just need to be reminded one more time of one important number from the 2000 election: 537--the number of votes by which Al Gore supposedly lost Florida. M. WILLIAM HELFRICH