An Invitation to a Conversation

January, 2018

Investment in a recovering democracy produces the greatest all around returns for our country. Investment in a tightening plutocracy disintegrates our society and its prospects. What follows is a proposal for an enlightened citizenry funded by the enlightened affluent starting now. Compare the proposed investments with what are the benefits of having a Congress that is accountable to voters and that respects the just rule of law starting in January 2019?

Objective: Organize a Civic Initiative to get-out-the-vote of ten million Americans who otherwise would not have voted in selected states and congressional districts, laying the basis from April to November 2018.

It is likely, based on the 2014 turnout, that over two-thirds of the voting-age voters will stay home for the mid-term congressional elections of November 2018. That numbers about 150 million people! If a different Congress is not elected, all the present “clear and present dangers” will receive two additional years of accelerating implementation with all their serious direct and indirect harms to our county at all levels among the populace and to our country’s posterity.

Traditional partisan political efforts to bring out the vote from this vast pool of about 150 million non-voters — phone banks, advertisements, mailings and other unilateral exhortations — have not been very successful. We have ample warning that 2018 could give us the same-old same-old practices and the same fate of past years. There has been no shake up of the political bureaucracies, political consultants and their traditional single-issue allies, for a more vigorous, more creative and more intensive get-out-the-vote efforts. Another disastrous spectre of déjå vu is clearly ahead of us. We need a fresh, new entry for bringing out a significant and decisive number of new voters in strategically selected Congressional Districts.

What is proposed here is a civically driven labor-intensive, educational, neighborhood effort over about seven months to bring out adequately informed, motivated voters who, registered or not currently registered, have usually stayed home. This civic drive would be enhanced by often discussed, fair and prudent redirections, reforms and realistic visions for the good society enabling better livelihoods and the good life for millions of deprived people and families.

There would be lively discussions, more formal teach-ins, get-togethers for neighborhood feedback and daily contacts by locally respected “influentials” in various residential venues. The necessities, wants and values of the voters would be related to Congress to which so much of the sovereign powers of citizens have been delegated under our Constitution. This mutual learning/educational process will use the most effective person-to-person and modern media techniques of achieving regular pre-election attendance, increasingly motivated as their perceived empowerment increases.

This week after week of personal attention is designed to bring out en mass new voters to the polls. Citizens will have been properly registered and voters will be trained to overcome other, in time, election day hurdles to voting. Organizers will carefully plan for election day so that voters’ voices are heard at the ballot box.

Past low voter turnout by citizens living within communities in need of a sensitive, responsive Congress will receive foremost attention.

Too many members of Congress focus on indicators such as GDP, the stock market, corporate profits and the increases in wealth (the greatest percentage of wealth gains going to the top one percent). Unfortunately, too few members of Congress truly focus on the daily life and livelihoods of the majority of Americans and the impoverishment, debt, anxiety, dread and the fear people have for their family’s future. Let’s face it, half of the people are poor, given what economists think is required for a family of four to have the basic necessities. Collectively, many people have given up on “politics” which they view as a dirty word which of course, assures that we get dirty politics created by such mass withdrawal from the electoral political process writ large, before and beyond election day.

Why would ten million non-voters become voters next year? Because for seven months they will be respected — and located, informed and connected to their friends, neighbors, relatives and recognized “influentials” in their communities. Because they will be discovering themselves as sensitive, reflective citizens — much as the poor farmers and their travelling lecturers did in East Texas around 1887 to start the greatest political reform movement in US history around fundamental issues of power, economics and accountability spearheaded by their own candidates (See The Populist Moment by the late Lawrence Goodwyn, Professor of History at Duke University). With seven months of interactions and elevated aspirations, the usual stereotypes of get-out-the-vote campaigns are replaced with lengthy educational and motivational sequences for a better life.

It comes down to advancing prospects for a better life and livelihoods in safe, “neighborly” neighborhoods with the essentials of living wages, universal health insurance, decent shelter, safer consumer goods, especially food and drugs, (environmental protections, air, water, soil and climate), properly maintained public facilities and effective community services. Responsive governments and political reforms also will be necessary to sustain these advantages.