Russ Schneider of Squirrel Hill is set to start the 2nd Revolutionary Army of the United States on Jan. 25, which would make him a 21st-century George Washington. But the dead general might not recognize his modern counterpart: Schneider's first impulse upon defeat of his progressive ideals on Nov. 2 was to leap into action and rent a video of Gandhi.
"I needed hope," he says. He also needed an alternative to MoveOn.org, whose fall 2004 get-out-the-vote efforts he had aided. "We all realized how ineffective it was," he says of MoveOn members' efforts to send intelligence up the chain of command. "There needed to be an organizational model to get things done. I thought of the Army."
Schneider, 30, had never been politically active until this year; he was a drummer in the Pittsburgh band Mother McCree's Garden. "That's what I want to do," he admits. "But after having your first kid, you look at the kid, and you look at the news, and you look at the kid, and you look at the news ... you go, 'I really have to do something.'"
Working as a local Web developer today, Schneider notes that the standard Internet information model -- create a site and an e-mail address, then wait for things to happen -- is mostly reaching the faithful. He sees parallels to the pre-1776 world in today's political predicament: Taxation -- and everything else -- without representation for him and his hopes. Perhaps that's why he believes in broadsides.
The group's Web site (www.2ra.org) already has its first one-pager, labeled "A Few Quick Points," on Social Security, full of quick thrusts and clickable sources. Schneider is planning a second page on tort reform. "Can you imagine a million people printing it out and handing it out to co-workers, in coffee shops?" he says, adding: "People aren't going to read a long diatribe by Noam Chomsky."
Somehow, it's hard to imagine people reading even Stephen King on tort reform. But eventually, Schneider hopes his site also functions alongside FactCheck.org, to "counter bald-faced lies," in his words.
Mostly, though, he wants what the bluecoats probably had little occasion to seek, once the musket fire commenced: dialogue. "We [will] try to maintain a civil tone," he says. "There has to be more dialogue between diametrically opposed, polarized groups in this country. We need people to just have a picnic together, stop screaming" and start "asking new questions."
He points to another Army model from the Vietnam era: reaching the hearts and minds of the opposition.
"Hasn't really panned out for the U.S. Army," he says. "Hope it works out better for us."
2nd Revolutionary Army's first gathering, 7:30 p.m. Tue., Jan. 25, Wightman School Community Building, Room 206, Squirrel Hill; 412-421-1623; firstname.lastname@example.org.