Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots
Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots
Dozens of volunteers and activists turned out Tuesday at the State House to show support for referendum to strengthen Maine’s Clean Election law, July 28, 2015. (Photo: BDN File)
By Ilze Peterson / commondreams.org

Many years ago, the late Judy Guay, a low-income woman from Bangor, founded the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods in order to advocate for the neediest in our state.

I remember she said “democracy is not a spectator sport.” But each time I turn on the television, listen to the radio or read the paper, I quickly turn away from “the news” that focuses mainly on the latest outrageous attack by Donald Trump and counterattack by Hillary Clinton. Is this what democracy looks like? If so, count me out.

Writer and blogger Tom Engelhardt got to the core of the inanity and insanity of this seemingly endless election campaign. In an Aug. 7 article on TomDispatch.com, he says, “The spectacle of our moment is so overwhelming, dominating every screen of our lives and focused on just two outsized individuals in a country of 300 million plus on a planet of billions, that it blocks our view of reality.”

He suggests that “missing in action” is meaningful discussion of endless war, the federal budget that feeds this war with billions of our tax dollars, climate change that threatens the future of the planet and what we as citizens in a democracy can do to help shape a future for our children that is more peaceful, just and sustainable.

"I believe that unless we as individuals commit ourselves to becoming involved with others in creating fundamental change as an ongoing part of our daily lives after Nov. 8, our vote (or abstinence from voting) will only lead to disappointment when the elected 'leaders' respond to the more powerful voices of the wealthy, corporations and the military establishment."

Amazingly, in the midst of this bread and circus, Bernie Sanders was able to mobilize millions who donated an average of $27 to his campaign. His rallies drew thousands, despite the lack of mainstream coverage. I can understand why many of those who backed him are bitterly disappointed with Clinton’s nomination as the Democratic Party candidate and why they plan to vote for a third party or sit out the election. But I believe that the Nov. 8 election is important. The outcome will shape the possibilities for working for long-term fundamental change. I will vote to defeat the fear-mongering, racism and hate represented by Trump.

This is why I plan to vote for Clinton, not because she will bring about that change but because she has espoused more progressive policies in response to the amazing grass-roots support for Sanders. His campaign addressed income inequality, health care, student debt and climate change, and he was not dependent on wealthy and corporate donors. The nomination of Supreme Court justices also will be in the hands of the next president.

But I believe that unless we as individuals commit ourselves to becoming involved with others in creating fundamental change as an ongoing part of our daily lives after Nov. 8, our vote (or abstinence from voting) will only lead to disappointment when the elected “leaders” respond to the more powerful voices of the wealthy, corporations and the military establishment. We will be left to complain and become even more cynical about the possibility of a more humane future and wait for the next “great leader” to do the job for us.

As Sanders said in an interview, “We can elect the best person in the world to be president, but that person will get swallowed up unless there is an unprecedented level of activism at the grass-roots level.”

How can we as ordinary citizens become involved in meaningful action? Some may choose to run for local or state offices. But electoral politics has limits as we have witnessed, and it needs input and support from those most affected by the enacted policies. In order to ensure positive change, we can support some of the hundreds of grass-roots organizations working for an increase in the minimum wage, alternative energy, local food, Medicare for all, and against the racism and hatred that divides us from each other. We can join others by volunteering, donating, or simply showing up when called.

Because we know our individual and single issue efforts won’t be enough to create needed long-term changes, we can come together to affirm the power of our united efforts based on the values of caring, compassion and cooperation. By showing up, we can honor those, such as Guay, who, even when wheelchair bound, continued to speak out for justice and equality. We can become part of the process that is democracy.

© 2016 Ilze Peterson

Ilze Peterson was program coordinator for the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine for 20 years before her retirement.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 6,545 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
All the News Is Fake!
3 min · 5,735 views today · Jonathan Pie finds nothing new in the idea of fake news.
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 4,408 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 4,393 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
Sky Roosevelt-Morris: The Secret of Indigenous Resiliency
2 min · 4,213 views today · Activist Sky Roosevelt-Morris is of the Shawnee and White Mountain Apache Nations. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. In...
How Romanticism Ruined Love
5 min · 3,674 views today · The set of ideas we can call Romanticism is responsible for making our relationships extremely difficult. We shouldn’t give up on love; we should just recognize that it’s more...
Australian Government Promotes Crap with Adani Carmichael Coal Mine
2 min · 3,305 views today · The Australian Government just released this advert about the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and it's surprisingly honest and informative. 6 WAYS YOU CAN HELP STOP CCRAP: 1...
Dakota Access Pipeline Permit Denied
Nika Knight · 3,194 views today · 'For the first time in Native American history, they heard our voices.'
This is an Anthem for Our Times
6 min · 2,951 views today · I think the world deserves to see the truth about #NoDAPL I tried my best to portray what I felt at camp, I felt LOVE. Love for all people, all living things, Mother Earth...
13 Crises That We All Must Face
George Monbiot · 2,646 views today · We face (at least) 13 major crises, some of which are immediate. It’s time for some hard thinking about how we confront them.
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 2,335 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
The Venus Project by Jacque Fresco
4 min · 2,232 views today · For more information visit the official web site: thevenusproject.com Facebook: facebook.com/TheVenusProjectGlobal Music: Salomon Ligthelm - Close Horizonz Hanz Zimmer ...
After Historic Protests, Army Corps of Engineers Blocks Current Route of the Dakota Access Pipeline
3 min · 1,999 views today · The $4 billion dollar project could still be approved by President-elect Donald Trump who is heavily invested in the pipeline. Help support The Real News by making a donation...
The Numbers That Tell the Story of the Standing Rock Sioux's Victory
Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn · 1,912 views today · The Army Corps announced Sunday that the Dakota Access pipeline will be rerouted. Here are the numbers that show what lies ahead.
Bikini Was Just the Beginning, Bombs Still Threaten the Islanders
John Pilger · 1,875 views today · I was recently in the Marshall Islands, which lie in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia and south of Hawaii. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they...
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 1,765 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
The Trouble With Equality: Feminism and the Forgotten Places of Power
Adebayo Akomolafe · 1,600 views today · "...Patriarchy is not the rule of men over women, it's the rule of the binary - the insistence that there really are sides, and that each is a pre-existing category unto...
10 Practical Tools for Building a Resilient Local Economy
Environmental Change Makers · 1,433 views today · The economy is changing. Dramatically. Coping with these changes means changing the way we do things. The path of the future involves root level, radical changes. Things we...
Mary Lyons Describes 'The We'
29 min · 1,345 views today · Beautiful. Listen to this. 
The Power Principle: Corporate Empire and the Rise of the National Security State (2012)
95 min · 1,303 views today · "A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire; insightful, historically grounded and highly relevant to the...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots