Saturday, March 9, 2024

#69 / When Ordinary Citizens Engage

I am always pleased when columnists for the "mainstream media" say the exact same things that I am saying right here, in this daily blog. Just to be clear, the "mainstream media" will cost you money. You can get my thoughts for free.

I am doubtful that The Washington Post is going to let non-subscribers read a December 21, 2023, column by Dan Balz, which was titled, "American democracy is cracking." Still, I encourage non-subscribers to give that link a click, just to see how strongly The Post's paywall protections will operate to keep you away from what The Post has published. I do think that what Balz has to say is worth reading. He advances a number of specific suggestions for reform in the way our politics works, and they are all worth thinking about. 

The basic message that Balz sends, though, which came to me in an email alert, last Christmas, is pretty simple. Here it is, as encapsulated in that email alert, which popped into my email inbox on Christmas last year. That email bulletin, which has a link to Balz' column, says this: 

The problems with the U.S. political system can, at times, feel overwhelming and intractable. But solutions can become reality when ordinary citizens engage.

As far as I am concerned, the four key words are these: "when ordinary citizens engage." 

The Balz column tells the story of how Katie Fahey, a young woman with very little political experience, led a successful grassroots campaign to ban partisan gerrymandering in Michigan:

On the morning of Nov. 10, 2016, Katie Fahey posted a short message on her Facebook page. It read: “I’d like to take on gerrymandering in Michigan, if you’re interested in doing this as well, please let me know.” She ended it with a smiley face emoji. 
Fahey was then 27 years old, with little experience in politics. Her message was born of general frustration that the system wasn’t working for most people, including her. She thought that gerrymandering — the manipulation of legislative and congressional districts for political gain — was a major contributor to the problem of lack of representation. 
Fahey wasn’t by any stretch a social media influencer, but by lunchtime, she realized she had struck a nerve. Many people “liked” the posting, others responded with comments, still others sent her personal messages asking how to help. To that question, she had no answer. “Oh, crap,” she thought to herself. And then she Googled, “How do you end gerrymandering?” 
Today, because of the grass-roots campaign that Fahey launched, Michigan’s district lines are drawn by an independent commission of citizens. 
As an example of the power of an individual to change the system, the movement started by Fahey’s Facebook post stands out at a time when so many Americans distrust politicians and political institutions, feel their voices are not heard and are angry at one another.

Huge, postive changes to our political and economic system are actually possible. But if we are waiting for someone else to repair and replace our currently non-functional system, we will be waiting a long time. Candidly, we can't really wait! 

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a whole book about what happens when people start understanding that if they "can't wait," then they have to stop waiting. 

Can we wait? If we can't (I don't think we can), then when are we going to stop waiting?

When ordinary citizens engage!

1 comment:

Thanks for your comment!