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“Yo, dude, you’re blocking the beer!”: Building Social Capital on the Left

This morning at the gym, Mikki had a “moment of clairity.” She said that one of the reasons Donald Trump has so many followers is that he makes it fun. Progressives need to make things fun too.

Trump helicopterMany of Trump’s followers are struggling economically and don’t have a lot to feel optimistic about. He makes them feel good. They like that he says outrageous things, they like getting together, and they like the festive nature of his rallies.

And Mikki is right. Donald Trump is an entertainer, and I have to confess to finding him entertaining at times — mostly he is just scary and offensive, but his Twitter feed can be amusing. What is he going to say next? And how will people react?

We need to put the fun back into politics. A lot of “everyday people” are interested in politics but don’t want to sit through deadly boring meetings, talking about the bylaws and how many tickets we need to sell to the next rubber chicken dinner. And nothing kills the fun at a political gathering like candidate speeches. The only thing worse are the speeches of those already in office!

(If any candidates or elected officials are reading this, not you guys!)

bernie beerI’ll never forget a political event we attended with some of our friends who are smart reliable voters but not otherwise active. We were hanging out having a good time, and then the candidate speeches started. As one guy droned on and on, we realized he was blocking our access to the bar. Luckily, we prevented our friend from shouting out, “Yo, dude, you’re blocking the beer!”


You don’t have to drink to have a good time, but they don’t call alcohol a “social lubricant” for nothing. To me, having drinks signifies having fun. Drinks turn a political gathering into a social event.

partySocial events are important for building a social movement because they create what political scientists call “social capital” — “connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them” (Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone). Social events bring people together and so help form relationships and networks of solidarity among otherwise isolated individuals. Relationships undergird social movements.

Drinking and eating together creates community and builds civic capacity. Many people may not want to sit through a boring meeting every month, but they will show up for a protest, a rally, or a lobby day.

occupy_wall_street_anonymous_skippy_pb_2011_shankbone-2When we held our “Occupy Rehoboth” event back in 2011, someone quipped that it was held in the afternoon, so as not to interfere with our dinner plans. My thought was, “what, we’re not allowed to have dinner”?

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” (Emma Goldman).

Let’s put the FUN back into fundamental change.

Email me at if you want to be included in one of our progressive community house parties. They’re fun!


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