Let’s examine the lowly root. Roots anchor. Roots collect and store nutrients. Roots sustain. Roots are the unseen masses, without which even the most stately trees cannot thrive.
It’s time for progressives to put down roots. Voter registration and empowerment are an important start. Interstate Crosscheck has got to go (see also Project Vote and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. ) Vote by mail needs boosting, and the electorate must demand examination of The United States voting process. The meta issue, however, is choice: Who can the newly registered and reinstated turn to for just and responsive representation?
Maybe you’re an introvert — even the thought of running for Neighborhood Watch captain is unnerving. Start simply by attending public city or county council meetings, a state legislative session or your political party’s local meetings. Meet and question elected officials during office hours and town halls. Next, ask yourself: Who do I know? Who thrives on serving others or solving problems? Who has well-formed ideas? Who speaks out and asks questions? Who brings people together? Who shows up, works hard and contributes to making the community a better place for everyone? Then, recruit, nominate, encourage and sponsor!
The Tea Party and radical right know a guy. They succeeded in silencing true conservatives and imposing their minority ideology on the rest of us by showing up and winning votes at the most local levels of government first and training youth to engage in civic life. In other words, they laid down roots and grew from an exotic varietal to a noxious weed.
In order to successfully reseed progressive values, those of us who believe that diversity is the key to a sustainable democracy, that all people are equally deserving of civil liberties and justice, and that government should be accountable, must put down roots. You, me and our social networks are essential! From PTAs and neighborhood associations to school boards, city councils and the state legislature, our democracy needs people to show up and serve.
The competition is alarmingly light. According to Run For Office, about 40 percent of state legislature races go uncontested “and the problem is worse at the local level.” Fortunately, organizations like Run For Office aim to ease process by offering training and financial and organizational support (in other words, “there’s an app for that” … or at least an online hub). This Slate article has great resources for recruiting, training and campaign tools. visit the Washington State or your county’s elections department websites for information about how to become an official candidate or volunteer to protect election integrity. Train for the next cycle by volunteering for a re-election campaign.
Inexperience is no excuse (just look at the current administration)! There are online courses and internship opportunities at every level. If you favor one of the major parties, consider starting out as a Precinct Committee Officer (Democrats; Republicans). Personally, I have my eye on local parks and school boards … some day. Until then, I know a person or two. They (and I) may not be perfect; because, the ideal candidate is about as likely to exist as the tooth fairy. If a new candidate is willing to work hard to learn and prepared to defend the values that have made our country the icon of democracy, I’m interested.