ACTIVE CITIZENS MAKE DEMOCRACY WORK
Democracy requires citizens to be involved. It isn’t a spectator sport. Too often people think electing a new president or a better legislator will solve our problems. Then they are disappointed when they find out he or she is a just another politician. Little or nothing changes. We want a savior when what really works is citizen involvement.
None of the progress we now enjoy came about by accident. None of it happened because the political leadership had vision. It all took decades of work by many people. It took citizens demanding change. Abolition of slavery, woman’s suffrage,civil rights, the labor movement and environmental protection are examples. People made it happen.
There is a nice song about not giving up the struggle for peace and justice. Part of the lyrics are, “Working on a ship we may never sail on, we’re gonna build it anyway.” It then names famous activists and their contributions. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFFk05rH2qo&noredirect=1
In Wisconsin we have a recent example of citizen involvement working. At the last minute an attempt was made to sneak changes to the open records law into the state budget bill. Many people, including conservatives, reacted to this bad idea and it was taken out of the budget. But you can be sure this bad idea was put there because the sponsors THOUGHT and HOPED the citizens were asleep. Citizens need to be involved in their government.
What can I do? There are many things EVERYONE can do that can help make a difference. You don’t have to be a political junky or spend a lot of time. But you can’t ignore politics either.
- Talk with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers. If you are respectful it can be enjoyable. We have to get past the false, destructive idea that discussing politics is not done in polite company.
- Contact your elected officials. It is easy with email. You don’t have to be a policy wonk or eloquent. Talk about how their actions are affecting your life. Tell your story. Give your opinion.
- Write letters to the editor. Some sources claim letters to the editor are the most widely read part of the paper. Again you don’t have to be eloquent. Say what you think. A Google search will turn up many helpful resources on writing effective letters.
- Sign online petitions. I think these tools are becoming more accepted by politicians and are becoming more effective. Plus they are easy. Just click on them and add your name. It amazes me that these petitions don’t get millions of signatures.
- Back your candidates. Put up yard signs. They are easy to make. Donate! Why does big money dominate politics? One reason is that small money is not there. Only a tiny fraction (½ of 1 %) of voters ever give anything to candidates. So to get elected, politicians have to sell themselves to the big money.
We can make a difference one small action at a time. But we need many people doing it. Please do your part.