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The Can Kicks Back Campus Grassroots Effort: Dried Up

“The Can Kicks Back” depicts itself as a social movement of young people who all “individually” decided in 2012 taxing more poor people, taxing corporations less, and cutting social programs is a keen idea, then joined together in a grassroots firestorm sweeping the nation in a grand populist melange of mixed metaphors. That’s the story “The Can Kicks Back” tells the public. The reality of “The Can Kicks Back” is quite different: it’s one of a constellation of registered political corporations that differ in name but cooperate with one another. TCKB is funded by the billionaire soak-the-poor advocate Peter G. Peterson, sharing funding streams and a Washington DC office with its brother groups “Campaign to Fix the Debt” and “The New America Foundation.” Its leaders are the same people who provided the face of youth to two earlier fake-grassroots efforts: Americans Elect and the committee to draft Peterson underling David Walker for President of the U.S. in 2012.

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself that The Can Kicks Back might have started out as a corporate prop, but maybe it’s actually taken off by now, supported great masses of young people who believe in cutting social programs and helping corporations increase their profit margins.

Back in 2012, that was actually the idea. First, The Can Kicks Back would use its insider contacts to get major media coverage (that part of the plan worked). Then, riding its insider media buzz, The Can Kicks Back would kick-start a huge number of campus chapters:

The Campus Program of The Can Kicks Back envisions having a presence on at least 300 college campuses across the country by the end of the spring semester in 2013. It all starts with one student, stepping up and speaking out as TCKB’s Campus Leader. These leaders are charged with serving as a point of contact for our campaign, organizing volunteers on their campus and managing the campaign locally.

The pitch was backed up by promises to actually send chapters money. It rewarded campus organizers by flying them to Washington DC for pre-arranged meetings with Senators and House Republican leaders. These incentives should be highly motivating to any college student who wants to make a name for himself or herself and who (here’s the trick) actually believes in the soak-the-poor, help-the-corporations policies that The Can Kicks Back is promoting.

How did The Can Kicks Back’s effort pay off? Back in mid-April, I reported that The Can Kicks Back listed just 52 chapters. In contrast, the Go Fossil Free campaign started by 350.org during the same semester listed 328 campus chapters nationwide. Of those 52 chapters, only 10 were active on the NationBuilder organizing service The Can Kicks Back set up for them in order to announce events and recruit students:

Leaderboards, gamification and your own political currency

Customize public leaderboards for top commenters, social media supporters and other fans and friends of your efforts. Your supporters can earn and spend “political capital” for spreading the word about your site on Twitter and Facebook and recruiting new signups.

In mid-April 2013, the 10 active campus chapters of “The Can Kicks Back” were, in order of the political capital (pc) points earned in the NationBuilder system:

Hofstra University: 202 pc
Notre Dame University: 145 pc
Lebanon Valley College: 94 pc
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: 85 pc
University of Wisconsin – Madison: 77 pc
SUNY Old Westbury: 24 pc
Emory University: 22 pc
Fairleigh Dickinson University: 22 pc
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis: 22 pc
George Washington University: 22 pc

What about four months later, in mid August 2013? An additional month of the 2013 Spring semester, plus time in the summer without classes, would give an actual grassroots movement extra time to reach the 300 campus chapter mark. What’s actually happened?

1. The number of campus chapters listed by The Can Kicks Back has grown, but only from 52 to 54, far off the goal of 300 chapters.

2. Only 12 of those chapters have shown any activity on the Nationbuilder organizing site built for them by The Can Kicks back:

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: 785 pc
Hofstra University: 202 pc
Notre Dame University: 145 pc
Lebanon Valley College: 104 pc
University of Wisconsin-Madison: 80 pc
Syracuse University: 58 pc
George Washington University: 34 pc
Emory University: 32 pc
SUNY Old Westbury: 24 pc
Fairleigh Dickinson University: 22 pc
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis: 22 pc
Middle Tennessee State University: 15 pc

3. Of those 12 chapters that ever showed activity, 5 have shown no activity over the past four months.

During the same period, the Go Fossil Free campaign added another 40 campus chapters, with 5 campuses signing up over 500 students and 44 campuses signing up more than 100 students.

The Can Kicks Back continues to be active as a registered and funded political corporation, with its paid staff posting slickly produced YouTube videos and boasting about meetings with prominent Peterson-backed politicians and media figures. But it is hardly a populist movement sweeping across the nation and drawing young people to its banner. Even with promises of money, free trips to DC and meetings with powerful insiders, college students appear to be largely uninterested in joining The Can Kicks Back.

2 comments to The Can Kicks Back Campus Grassroots Effort: Dried Up

  • Tom

    i’m sure it has no effect, but just for the record, the last four months have been “summer vacation.” Let’s hope this nonsense actually has dried up, but we should revisit it this October or December and check again. The corporate influence on college campuses is sickening and has turned former institutions of higher learning into research arms of donating industries (complete with free labor and proprietary ownership of results) and twisted the former “education” model into a business model.

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