What's really wrong with America today? According to a small group of political activists in The Oakland Statement by Frederick Ellis and Carl Frederick, there are two problems. First is the electoral system -- it's not equitable. Second is the concentration of the majority of the nation's financial resources with a small minority of its citizens -- not everyone can participate fully in the creation of the national wealth. Their solution? Attack the power grid and force the federal government to call for a constitutional convention to remedy those problems.
It all starts when a group of friends in California form a weekly political discussion group. Among their number are a marketing professional, a Spanish-literature professor, a documentary filmmaker, a women's clothier, a retired professor of economics, two franchisers, a lawyer and a former model. Most are middle-aged ex-hippie activists, and they share political interests. As their meetings go on, they decide to actually do something to improve the country's state. They decide to kickstart a leaderless movement to goad the entrenched feds into convening a convention to amend the constitution in line with the group's goals. They write a mission statement outlining their demands and calling for other dissatisfied individuals across the country to follow their suit: attacking electrical power autonomously until the demands outlined in "The Oakland Statement" are met.
Many disgruntled citizens answer the original group's call, and in the time spanning from 2002 to 2005 scores of attacks on the power grid take place. Loss of life is not the goal (although one outage in Arizona over the Fourth of July weekend may have been ill thought out); a kick in the seat of the pants is. A grassroots surge sweeps the nation, and the President (with the unlikely name of Veronica Lake) and her closest advisors cave in to the movement's demands with as much dignity as possible, which isn't much. The convention is called, the amendments are made, the perpetrators of the electrical terrorism are given amnesty, and, presumably, the American corner of the world becomes a much nicer place for everyone to live.
The idea driving The Oakland Statement is interesting; the novel's execution, though, is mostly hapless. Weird punctuation stylings and typos mar the book; awkward plotting, barebones characterization and clumsy dialogue interrupt the narrative flow. Cameos of real political figures like Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson and Jack Anderson have the potential to be a lot of fun, but their speeches are so similar that it's left entirely to the reader to imagine the voices of familiar faces reading their scripted lines. Presumably Ellis and Frederick intend The Oakland Statement to stand as a blueprint for real-world activists to pursue the statement's goals. It's too bad that a lack of suspense and the dearth of realism (could law enforcement at every level possibly be so ineffectual in investigating domestic terrorism? Is there any way politicians would roll over so easily?) rob a theoretically interesting topic of readability.