Suppose Your Actions Swung the Election

| 10/26/2010 3:29:29 PM

Paul Rogat LoebImagine 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 in the 1990s. 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.

10/28/2010 2:45:16 AM

When Obama wanted me to vote for him in 2008, he said he would change the corruption in Washington, go through the budget line by line to eliminate waste, Get the jobs back from NAFTA, give me health care the same as what Senators get, not the state welfare Medicaid that 60% of the doctors won't see you and doesn't start for four years. Then he calls a UNION tow truck to pull the car out of the ditch, gives the union's 90% of a car company as a tip, pays a union for shovel ready jobs that do not exist, sends the taxpayers a bill of 5 1/2 trillion dollars for his first 2 years, and then goes on a world wide vacation to play golf only to return home and have a concert and luau, Just in time for his next vacation, while bragging he is ONLY losing 350,000 jobs a month. I'm sorry but I'm not going to vote again, and I would really like my last vote back.

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