Gothamist recently reported on people who plan to protest the Repuplican national convention by signing up as volunteers and then not showing up for their assignments. In the spirit of bipartisanship, websites such as shadowprotest.org are encouraging would-be protesters to volunteer on both sides of the aisle, so to speak, and then not follow through with their jobs in order to protest this country's two-party system. In the most highly-realized versions of the shadow protesters' goals, chaos - bible-thumping fundamentalists double-booked into hotel rooms with Log Cabin Republicans, left-leaning vegans served giant Big Macs - would bring both conventions to a grinding halt.
As much as Ask Gothamist can see the humor in sending directionally-challenged Texan Republicans to Christopher Street instead of Madison Square Garden or forcing Democrats to watch The O'Reilly Factor on the Fleet Center Jumbotron, we can not condone the shadow protesters' plans. Sabotage is rarely an effective means by which one institutes real change. If your aim is to stop Bush from being re-elected in November, making delegates ten minutes late for a meeting in September will do little to make that goal a reality.
There will be plenty of opportunities for those who wish to protest the conventions to do so. Raising money for your preferred candidate, attending rallies, reaching out to disenfranchised citizens and distributing leaflets are just a few. Butterfly ballots and recounts not withstanding, the most effective form of politcal protest Ask Gothamist can think of is voting.
Ask Gothamist would not be doing our duty, however, if we did not point out a valid point made by organizations advocating the sign-up-and-ditch strategy. One reason cities agree to host political conventions - or conventions of any kind, for that matter, be they auto shows or technology conferences - is that such gatherings are generally good for the local economy. While we certainly see how full hotel rooms, busy restaurants and hired taxis will be good for New York, we don't see how failing to dip into a multi-million-dollar "war chest" for even a token wage to local help will beneift anyone other than the national party committee.