So I was petitioning at the Brown County Fairgrounds at the Hub City Spring Big Boy Toy Show yesterday (and I’m going again today! 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.! Come sign!), and a guy came up to me and asks if I’ve got any $12.50–$15/hour jobs.
I check my signs—they say “Defend Your Voice, Defend Your Vote—Sign Petitions on SB 69 and SB 177!” not “South Dakota Job Service—Now Hiring.” I look at the guy and ask if he’s asking if I’m hiring petition circulators (the Democratic Party may be, but I’m not).
He comes up and goes on some spiel about how business people create real jobs, while guys like me just… well, I’m not sure what he said petitioners and activists do, but he dismissed it with “just…” and then babbled something about competition.
I took it that this gentleman wasn’t really asking me a question but trying to make some rhetorical point. I told him what I tell you now:
My interlocutor misuses the word just. We’re aren’t just circulating a petition. We are justly engaging in civic activities that are as valuable to society as any commercial activity businesspeople may do. We are exercising a specialization of labor: the green eye-shade types can keep their beady eyes focused on their ledgers while political activists take care of keeping the civic gears of government and popular participation greased and spinning smoothly. Circulating petitions, educating citizens (and a lot of people have not heard the details about the youth minimum wage and the barriers to ballot access that our legislators foisted upon us this session), mobilizing voters, and checking abuses of power in Pierre are at least as essential to South Dakota’s general welfare as making widgets or designing company slogans or doing whatever else my interlocutor thinks is worth $15 an hour.
And if you like competition, well hey! You should be signing my petition to block and refer Senate Bill 69, because Senate Bill 69 makes it harder for people to run for office, meaning there will be less competition in our elections. I like competition; I want more competition in elections to ensure we get better public discourse during the campaign and better candidates in office.
My interlocutor evidently didn’t mean whatever he was saying about competition. He walked away without signing. But that’s o.k. I’ve got 500,000 other voters to talk to… and I’m sure many more of them can put their thoughts together into a consistent philosophy that envisions a complete society of not just glorification of captains of industry and wage-slavery, but a healthy community that integrates honest business and honest politics into a vision of the general democratic welfare.