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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/24/10

Suppose Your Actions Swung the Election

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Another election piece on what it would mean if our individual actions swung the election. Please forward, post, or circulate in any way that works.

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.

Here's the piece on our individual actions. I may or may not write one more article before the election, but then the pace will definitely slow. Also if you're in area that gets those shows, and want to call in, I'll be on the huge Jim Bohannon Show Tuesday Oct 26 live 11:00 PM to midnight EST, and on the Bev Smith show on American Urban radio Wed Oct 27 at 10:00 PM EST.

Thanks as always


Suppose Your Actions Swung the Election

By Paul Rogat Loeb

Imagine if your actions made the difference in electing a Senator, Governor, or Congressional representative? Suppose the phone calls you made, money you donated, doors you knocked on, and conversations you initiated helped swing a critically close race, or two or three. Suppose the friends you dragged to the polls helped America reject the anonymous corporate dollars that threaten to drown our democracy?

You'd feel pretty good, I believe, at least about your own efforts. So why aren't more of us doing everything we can from now through the election to ensure the best possible outcome? In 2008, millions of people reached deep and then deeper to stake our time, money, and hearts on the possibility of change. We knew it was a critical election, and helped carry Obama and the Democrats to victory. Now, too many of us feel burned and disillusioned, with dashed hopes. We've lost the habit of being engaged. The election seems someone else's problem. We doubt what we do will matter--for this round or in general.

Think about what you and your friends did during the election of two years ago compared with what you're doing now. Then think of some ways to make an impact in the remaining days. November's results will hinge on which side turns out its peripheral voters, those most overloaded, distracted, torn in their sentiments, and distrustful of politics. They're at risk of succumbing to the deluge of paid lies, voting for candidates who don't represent their values or staying home in cynical resignation. But with enough person-to-person conversations we can reach them.

So why aren't most of us doing more? We may be disappointed at the past two years, but as I've written, we need to act, broken hearts and all, because to hand power over to those who represent America's most predatory corporate interests will make change harder on every conceivable front. For instance, if the Republicans gain a Congressional majority and John Boehner becomes Speaker of the House, he'll be able to do more than just hand out tobacco lobbyist checks on the House floor, as he gleefully did a few years ago. Because he'll control legislation, next to nothing will pass without his consent, leaving an incredibly difficult road to addressing any of our most critical problems. When those who'd normally vote Democrat stay home in anger or spite, it's time and again moved this country to the political right, as Robert Parry, who broke the original Iran-Contra stories, has brilliantly explored. Getting past our disappointment gives us a chance to remember that change is a long-haul process, with inevitable frustrations and setbacks.

But broken hearts aren't the only reason for our inaction. There's also inertia, distraction, and overload--the weight of our day to day routine. Following the 2008 election, too many of us stepped back from actively working to change our society and switched instead to morosely watching our hopes get frustrated, doing little beyond signing the occasional online petition or letter. Like most other activities, political volunteering is a habit, and we've let that habit atrophy. We need to once again start doing whatever we can, even if that requires shaking off some rust.

We also need to remember the power of our actions. In 2008, we took it on faith that the election could hinge on what we did, and then saw that faith confirmed. We need to regain at least some part of that sense, even with more chastened hopes. If we talk with a dozen people door to door or make 20 phone calls, we will yield one or two more votes, as studies have repeatedly shown. A hundred people each spending a day of volunteering can bring in a couple hundred votes. A thousand can produce a couple thousand. If just a tenth of us who were on Obama's 13-million name email list spent two days on the phones, we'd be talking over a million votes, or enough to swing state after state.

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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 (more...)
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