Monday, March 13, 2006

Get Up Stand Up

I hear it all the time. “All politicians are the same. They don’t represent me.” Or, better yet, “I don’t do politics.”

“That’s okay,” I tell them. “Politics will do you.” Then I might add. “Got lube?”

There’s a strong swelling sentiment in this country that the politicians don’t represent the people, a sentiment reflected in the increasingly low voter turnout on Election Day. We can debate the reason for this for days on end, but the truth of it is unmistakable.

We can blame them, rail against them, condemn them for their attitude, but none of these things are likely to do any good. Some want to make voting mandatory, like Australia. Personally I think that’s a stupid idea. Forcing people to participate in something they don’t give a rusty rat’s ass about? Not a good idea. I can’t see how anything positive can come out of it.

I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

So how can we reach these people? How can we get people to actually vote? A radio caller once mentioned an idea that we have a voter lottery. A chance to win money for casting your votes. Well, on the surface it sounds pretty good, but…well…I’m sure we’d rather find a way to encourage informed voting. I’m not sure this would be the best way to do that.

So what is?

Well, first we have to determine which demographic is least likely to vote. Maybe we should sponsor a survey, try to figure out why they don’t vote. Get a consensus rolling. Where are we failing? We’ve got “Rock the Vote” “Rap the Vote” and who knows what else, trying to get the youth out there involved in the system. These things have seen a measure of success, but there is a great untapped resource of voters out there that just don’t connect with the system.

I think part of the problem is that we’ve allowed the whole electoral process to devolve into a mass of soundbytes, where the politicos aren’t so much talking TO the people as talking AT them. A lot of it is obviously manipulative, and, I’ll bet if you did do a survey, you’d find that most people dislike being manipulated by either side of the political spectrum. They don’t need slogans, they need solutions.

The media isn’t helping, of course. The mass communication medium that has sprang up over the past sixty years has done nothing to improve the connection between people and their “representatives.” Only in the last ten, with the advent and expansion of the internet, have we seen a way to reach the people as individuals actually arise. But only a few politicians and campaign people have tapped into this.

The RW has tapped its base, and I’m willing to bet that nearly all of the voters out there who don’t vote now are more attuned to the Democratic message, if it could only reach them effectively. Clearly. And attached to people they can believe will try to make a difference.

They say that “all politics is local.” Howard Dean is building a grassroots financing campaign for the DNC and doing a remarkable job of it. But it’s only half the battle. Getting the money from those who are already interested isn’t the hard part. Getting the votes from the people who aren’t is.

We need strong, charismatic leaders on the ground, in all our communities. Not just talking at the media, but walking around, shaking hands, and being real people. Listening to other people. Because we know that liberalism is about real people…their hopes, their fears, and those things they’d like to see to make their lives better.

It takes real people to connect to real people. So who’ll stand up and be that real person the voters can get to know?

Is it you? Or is it someone you know? Someone who’s willing to go out there and glad-hand, not politicking for any particular candidate, but for our Cause in general. Because that’s a part of what we need.

We already know that the majority of folks support Roe v. Wade and don’t want to see it overturned. We already know that the majority question the Iraq War. We already know that the majority of people want serious healthcare reform.

We need to let it be known that we want the same things they do, and we’re willing to work hard to give it to them.

Democrats. Neighbors helping neighbors. That’s what it’s about.


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