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Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time, and The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear,winner of the 2005 Nautilus Award for the best book on social change. See www.paulloeb.org
Saturday, September 29, 2012 "My Vote Doesn't Matter": Helping Students Surmount Political Cynicism (5 comments)
You've heard it again and again. "My vote doesn't matter," students too often say. Others complain that politicians are "all the same and all corrupt." How do we overcome this cynical resignation and encourage students to register and vote despite their conviction that the game is fundamentally rigged?
Friday, July 22, 2011 Praising the Hostage Takers: Will Obama Ever Hold the Republicans Accountable? (8 comments)
We all need to compromise at some points. That's democracy.The bitter purism of those who stayed home in '10 helped land us in our mess,& if we stay home in 2012 or let others stay home who our volunteer efforts could have otherwise turned out,we'll end up making matters still worse.But endless compromises in the service of regressive policies move us further from the critical changes that we need if we're to create an America
Monday, June 6, 2011 Glued to the Weather Channel While the World Burns (7 comments)
Media coverage rarely connects the unfolding cataclysms with the global climate change that fuels them. As a result, too many Americans still don't know what to believe. The antidote to denial and the forces that promote it is courage, working with our allies and taking action.
Thursday, April 28, 2011 Three Cups of a Flawed Hero: The Limits of Greg Mortenson's Model of Change (1 comments)
It's tempting to expect perfection from those we admire, but we romanticize lone heroes at our peril. A story of unimaginable individual heroism and sacrifice that drew people in could also leave them feeling insignificant in comparison. I believed that Mortenson's books had their limits as models for how ordinary people can create social change.
Thursday, March 3, 2011 Go to Wisconsin, President Obama (6 comments)
It's time to stand with those who are speaking out in a way that can make the choices clear to the distracted and overloaded Americans watching from the sidelines. That doesn't mean you'll own the protests or should. Participants have led with their courage, and you need to make clear that you're not telling them what to do or hijacking their moment, but standing in solidarity and encouraging all Americans to speak out and
Tuesday, November 2, 2010 Ten Reasons Why I'm Spending This Election Day On the Phones (3 comments)
I admit it. 2008 was a whole lot more fun. Even so, I'm going to spend my entire day on the phones today, from when the polls open in Pennsylvania and Illinois to when they close in Washington and Alaska. I hope you'll join me with whatever time you have.
Monday, November 1, 2010 The Party of Non-Voters--Why Our Election Day Volunteering Matters More Than Ever
The Pew Research Center just released a poll contrasting those who intend to vote this round with those likely to stay home. Among all adults, the Democrats or those who leaned Democrat had a 50 to 39 margin. But among those likely to head to the polls, Republicans were up four points. The difference was among non-voters, where the Democrats led by a staggering 24 points, except that these people were likely to stay home.
Friday, October 29, 2010 The Republican War on Reality (2 comments)
Beyond political differences with Obama and the Democrats, Republicans been making war on reality itself, which should be a major issue of the campaign's final days.
Friday, October 29, 2010 The Republican War on Reality (4 comments)
If there's an antidote,it's citizen participation.If enough of us knock on doors,make phone calls,talk to coworkers and neighbors,& otherwise reach out beyond the core converted(or at least get sympathetic voters to the polls), there's a chance that the Everett Dirksens of the Repubs will regain the upper hand.If we're silent,we allow reality itself to become hostage to delusion and country and planet will all pay the price.
Saturday, October 23, 2010 Suppose Your Actions Swung the Election (5 comments)
Also if you happen to know anyone who works on a campus (or if you're on a campus yourself), here's an article that I sent to my educators lists on 45 ways to still get students involved in the election. People have found it very useful, so please do forward it if you're in a position to do so.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010 Stop the Anonymous Hit Men: Make Shadowy Campaign Money the Issue (11 comments)
I've found a way to break through people's cynicism. When I talked about the takeover of our politics by destructive corporate interests, culminating in the barrage of anonymous attack ads unleashed by the Supreme Court's ghastly Citizens United decision, they quickly became willing to listen.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010 Don't Let the Russ Feingolds Go Down For the Sins of the Blanche Lincolns (9 comments)
One-time Obama supporters often lament: "The Democrats have sold us out. I'm tired of their spinelessness. I'm staying home to teach them a lesson." Not everyone responds this way, but enough do to worry me: If these people don't show up and work to get others to vote, it could make the difference. Better to get past our broken hearts and work to elect the best candidates we can. The alternative...
Thursday, September 9, 2010 The Election Needs You, Broken Heart and All (19 comments)
"OK, so your heart's broken," as the old song goes. So's mine. But we have to get over it--now--and start taking action for the November election.
Friday, August 13, 2010 The Seductions Of Clicking: How The Internet Can Make It Harder To Act (2 comments)
Without online technologies, Barack Obama would never have gotten past the primaries. Yet progressive hopes are faltering, not only because of Obama's compromises and mistakes and Republican intransigence, but also because far too many of his supporters have come to believe they can act exclusively through these online technologies, to the exclusion of face-to-face politics.
Saturday, July 31, 2010 The Seductions Of Clicking: How The Internet Can Make It Harder To Act (3 comments)
Without online technologies, Barack Obama would never have gotten past the primaries. Yet now progressive hopes are faltering, not only because of Obama's compromises and mistakes and Republican intransigence, but also because far too many of his supporters have come to believe they can act exclusively through these online technologies, to the exclusion of face-to-face politics.
Thursday, July 15, 2010 'Soul Of A Citizen': Village Politics -- Rebuilding Engaged Communities (1 comments)
Churches and temples, PTA's, block associations and Rotary Clubs, soccer clubs and softball leagues, the places we work, and all the other ordinary institutions of daily life. Building on the community that they offer, and on our relationships with colleagues, co-workers, and neighbors who already know us, they can provide powerful venues to engage our fellow citizens in our country's most critical issues.
Friday, July 2, 2010 We Energized Each Other: Finding Engaged Allies Where We Work (1 comments)
Whatever our situation, we need allies to work successfully for change. We need people to talk with, brainstorm ideas, lift us up when we're down, and build power by acting together. Many of us involve ourselves in local and national political issues, but what about our workplaces? How do we shift these contexts to help create a more just and sustainable world? Finding engaged allies makes it possible to make a difference.
Sunday, June 27, 2010 Unexpected Environmental Alliances Amidst The Oil Spill: 'Jesus Will Rip Your Head Off' (6 comments)
However long before the Gulf's seafood populations recover, those whose livelihoods are affected will need to create a powerful common voice to avoid becoming expendable. One powerful model: Northwest salmon fisher Pete Knutson has spent 35 years engaging his community to take environmental responsibility, creating unexpected alliances to broaden the impact of their voice, and in the process defeated corporate interests.
Thursday, June 17, 2010 Want To Help? 10 Ways To Start Making Change (10 comments)
When I was updating my book on citizen activism, an activist rabbi who was teaching the book at a Florida university suggested I gather together a Ten Commandments for effective citizen engagement. Calling them Commandments seemed presumptuous, but I did draw together ten suggestions that can make engagement more fruitful.
Friday, June 11, 2010 Why the Arkansas Primary Challenge Was Worth It (2 comments)
It's always a dilemma to spend scarce resources taking on sitting members of the party you normally support. That said, I believe the groups who tried to unseat Blanche Lincoln in the primary run-off in Arkansas made the right choice.
Saturday, June 5, 2010 Acting Effectively in Ambiguous Times (1 comments)
When people hesitate to take a stand on issues from the Gulf oil spill to the horror show off the coast of Gaza, it's often because they're unsure of the outcomes of their actions. Yet acting despite this ambiguity is often the most effective way to make change.
Thursday, May 13, 2010 'Soul Of A Citizen': From An Eighth Grade Education To Testifying Before Congress
Too many of us hold back from community involvement because we think we don't know enough to act on our beliefs, or don't have the standing or confidence to take a public stand. When we see a woman who begins with no money, no power, no education and no status in the community, and then becomes a powerful voice for change, it should inspire us all.
Thursday, April 29, 2010 'Soul of a Citizen' Volunteers Can't Solve Our Problems: For Every House Habitat Builds, 100s More Are Homeless (1 comments)
Given the deep roots of our culture's winner-take-all individualism,it's hard not to feel defensive,on the losing end of history.We may even mute our voices,lest we offend those whose financial & political resources our community institutions may depend on.Yet some of the energy we spend on volunteering should be directed toward the roots of the crises we address.To stop the needless drowning, We must ultimately look upstream.
Thursday, March 25, 2010 Soul of a Citizen: Vaclav Havel, Barack Obama and Unforeseen Fruits
But change also comes when we stir the hearts of previously disengaged citizens and help them take their own moral stands. We never know how the new-found involvement of those we engage will play out in the rest of their lives, but if we inspire enough people to take those first steps in speaking out for justice we can sometimes transform history.
Friday, March 19, 2010 'Soul Of A Citizen' Excerpt: Taking Money Out Of Politics: A Grassroots Effort For Clean Elections (1 comments)
Nothing makes us feel more powerless than the corruption of our democracy by money.It undermines progress on every issue we face.If America is ever to deal with our critical problems, we'll need to sever the links between wealth and politics,more challenging after the recent Supreme Court decision that overturned a hundred years of precedent.Here is the Main Clean Elections model,how Alison Smith helped it pass,step by step.
Thursday, March 11, 2010 'Soul of a Citizen' excerpt: The Real Rosa Parks
I began my excerpts from Soul of a Citizen by writing about the costs of cynicism.One reason people despair so easily these days is that we often have little sense of how change has occurred in times past,and of what it took for ordinary people to persist until they prevailed.The Rosa Parks story offers an example that we all think we know, but where the story as usually told omits the key context and blurs the key lessons.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 How The Democrats Can Reclaim The Youth Vote (1 comments)
As the recent surveys imply, the stakes in this are huge--not just for now or November, but for the ongoing allegiance and participation levels of a generation. Whether citizen activists can help the Obama administration and the Democrats reengage those who carried them to victory in 08 will shape American politics not just in the coming year, but for decades to come.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 How The Democrats Can Reclaim The Youth Vote (5 comments)
If the Democrats don't get the youth vote, they're toast. That happened in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, where young Obama voters stayed home in droves. It's an ugly conceivable future portended several recent polls that show that young voters still prefer the Democrats, but their margin is slipping and their enthusiasm level is worse.
Thursday, March 4, 2010 Soul of a Citizen: What Cynicism Costs Us (7 comments)
I spent the past year writing a wholly revised new edition, which St Martin's will publish March 30, and which I'll serialize for the next several months. I like to think of it as an antidote to the political demoralization, paralysis, and despair that so many people are feeling these days. Here's the first excerpt, adapted from the chapter called "The Cynical Smirk."
Thursday, January 7, 2010 Calling the Bluff in the Conference Committee (3 comments)
There's tension between the House health care bill and a lesser Senate one that contains problematic elements and can't move us forward. Senate negotiators will no doubt try to keep their version using the specter of certain Senators filibustering if the House holds firm on issues like the public option or paying the bill by taxing the wealthy. And if the House holds firm, those Senators might indeed vote against cloture.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 Eight Reasons the Democrats lost Virginia & New Jersey--and How to Recover (1 comments)
Losing the Virginia and New Jersey governorships hurt. Local factors played a part, but these are major states. Eight reasons why the Democrats lost them matter. Bad candidates, blue dogs, more blue dogs, Obama, plummeting youth vote, those who threw acorn under the bus, organizing for America, our common inaction
Friday, September 4, 2009 Life Lessons From a Dying Friend (3 comments)
My friend Robert Gordon is dying of lupus. He's a novelist who spent a decade teaching in the Washington State prisons and written essays. With his death approaching closer, Robert has now sent out a follow up letter to his friends, a more personal reflection, looking back on a life approaching its close. I'm posting it as Robert's gift to a broader public community. I hope it touches your heart as much as it did mine.
Thursday, July 2, 2009 Letter to Obama from a Dying Friend (2 comments)
My friend Robert Ellis Gordon is dying of lupus, with months left to live. He's taught writing to prison inmates, written about it in a terrific book,The Fun House Mirror, and crafted a great novel, When Bobby Kennedy was a Moving Man.
Robert's open letter to Obama, challenges him to reach for his deepest levels of courage in being honest about what we face after decades of pillaging our economy. I'll miss his wise voice.
Monday, June 8, 2009 Gutting the Health Care Plan: The Scorpion and the Congress
Like the scorpion who stings his reluctant turtle ally as they work together to cross a river with the explanation: "it's just who I am," I fear we're about to get stung again. The sting will come of we continue to assume insurance companies must be at the table while forcing a single payer plan aside because it isn't currently politically achievable.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009 Stiffed: Why are Bailed-Out Banks Helping Pfizer Buy Wyeth? (1 comments)
Perhaps the new combined entity will come up with some miracle drug that neither company would have created on their own. But mostly, it seems just one more example of how a bailout without strong government control, or even oversight, just feeds the same greed-driven abuses that have gotten us into our current predicament. It's going to take more than Viagra to strengthen our economy once more.
Sunday, January 18, 2009 Missing the Train on the Recovery Package
The highway lobby and its allies will have their say. They already have. It's time now for the rest of us to get on board and convince the new administration to change course by boosting investment in transit and rail.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 Saving the Economy, One Furnace at a Time (1 comments)
Like most Americans, I'm guarding my dollars, but when my furnace died during Seattle's coldest winter in decades, I had to replace it. And when I did, with a high-efficiency model, the costs and gains underscored key lessons about how to craft a stimulus package that actually builds for America's future. My new furnace saves energy and fights climate change. It promotes American jobs, and pays back in a reasonable time frame.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 KEEP THE WHITE HOUSE DRAPES: BRING BACK THE SOLAR PANELS
But suppose instead that [Obama] took the opportunity to break with tradition, and make a powerful symbolic stand by instead using the already allocated money to bring back additional solar panels (Bush actually brought back some in 2002 but more could be added), and make the White House more energy efficient.
Sunday, November 2, 2008 No Time for Nader: A Letter to Nader and McKinney Supporters (7 comments)
Either we stop these trends or we don't. And the ballot's the most direct way to do this.We can cast a symbolic vote for Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney. Or vote for Barack Obama and actually help shape the political landscape. It would be a tragedy if because of our own desire for pure and uncomplicated stands, we helped throw away a historic chance to move forward.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 Antidotes To Complacency: Four reasons NOT to take the election for granted
It's tempting to Obama's likely victory just a bit for granted. The polls look good. McCain and Palin are flailing and the Republicans have started their blame game.
But it's dangerous to assume that the election is over, or to settle for a narrow margin. Here are four reasons to keep working: we need a mandate for change, voter suppression is real, we've got a volatile electorate and October surprises are still possible.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 Volunteer Energy and Political Tipping Points -- What We Can Do
What a difference we can each make. I've made calls and doorbelled and got a few people to the polls who wouldn't have gone otherwise. Magnify my efforts and those few people by hundreds of thousands of volunteers and we can truly make the difference in this election.
Thursday, September 11, 2008 Pit Bull Palin (1 comments)
When Sarah Palin joked about herself and her fellow hockey moms as pit bulls with lipstick, she may have revealed more than she intended. She even seems to relish this pit bull approach to government...and polls suggest it may be working, as it has in the past eight years. Let's hope we finally reject this approach.
Monday, September 1, 2008 The Rovian Politics of Choosing Sarah Palin (1 comments)
What does it say about John McCain that he not only picked the least experienced Vice Presidential nominee in America's history, but picked someone he really didn't know?
What makes Palin such a cynical choice is that McCain doesn't know her and doesn't know what drives her. Until she was selected by the Karl Rove types running his campaign (like campaign manager and Rove protégé Steve Schmidt), McCain might not even have
Tuesday, May 13, 2008 Did the Limbaugh Effect Also Flip Michigan? (3 comments)
With Hillary Clinton rejecting the compromise that Michigan Democratic leaders just crafted, the Democratic Rules Committee has a dilemma. Clinton keeps demanding that Michigan's delegates be apportioned according to the January 15 vote, where she was the sole major candidate on the Democratic ballot. But there's another twist that no one has raised--the impact of a Rush Limbaugh-style crossover on the Michigan vote.
Friday, March 28, 2008 Truth, Lies and the Bosnian NAFTAgate (1 comments)
Obama's supposed evasion around "NAFTAgate" played a key role in Hillary Clinton taking Ohio. If there's any justice, her Bosnia fabrications should now bring her down in the remaining states. Repeatedly this spring, Clinton described sniper scenarios refuted by the pilot who flew her into Bosnia. Hillary got caught, to put it bluntly, in a lie, not "misspeaking."
Thursday, March 20, 2008 Can SuperDelegates Stop the Scorched Earth Campaigning? (6 comments)
No matter how well Clinton does in the remaining primaries, her future is going to be in the hands of the superdelegates. It's time for them to exercise their power to rein in scorched-earth campaigning.
Thursday, March 6, 2008 Did Clinton Win Ohio on a Lie? (2 comments)
Hillary Clinton's win in Ohio was greatly affected by her focus on what seemed to be a controversy about Obama's position on NAFTA. Recent news provides evidence that the leaks about his supposed hypocricy were fabricated. Since a foreign government, Canada, was involved, this scandal about a scandal is becoming more than just about the standard sniping that happens in campaigns.
Sunday, March 2, 2008 Obama & Clinton: Who's More Likely to Confront Global Warming?
If we ignore global warming much longer, we'll face a world of perpetual disaster, so there's no larger question for presidential candidates than who is more likely to tackle it successfully. Although Obama's and Clinton's positions are similar, he seems far more likely to. The key difference is their ability to mobilize a grassroots base to demand that the necessary changes get passed.
Friday, February 22, 2008 How Much Damage Will Clinton Do Before She Folds? (4 comments)
In the wake of ten straight losses, Clinton's going to need some miracles to win. But the question is how much damage she'll do to Obama and the Democratic chances before she quits.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008 Will Clinton's Advisors Tell Her the Hard Truths? (1 comments)
Given that Hillary Clinton's campaign has now been reduced to a nonstop mantra of "ready to lead on day one," I wonder what certain incidents reveal about her competence, transparency and trust-the essence of her ability to lead. It seems Clinton follows a discomfortingly familiar path in surrounding herself with people who are so intimidated they won't stand up and disagree with her and won't tell her bad news.