Right now in America, a broad movement exists calling for change. It cannot be defined by any single label. Independent, Common Sense, Moderate, Centrist… they have all been used to characterize aspects of something much larger.
It is a movement driven by a deep disillusionment with politics. Its members are the crazy voters, the ones who view the low standards of leadership, the lack of government responsiveness, and the failure of Congress to do anything meaningful, and say, “Enough is enough.”
Right now, these voters represent a minority, but they shouldn’t. In April, 80% of Americans disapproved of how Congress was handling its job. Americans identify the government as our greatest national problem. Party affiliation has been in decline since 2008, and public approval of both parties is below 40% for the first time ever.@@CentProjAmericans want change. What we need is an army of agitators to show that change is possible.
Polls show time and again that a majority of Americans are deeply dissatisfied with politics, but have lost faith in their own power to make a difference. It is the belief that we can do better, and the confidence to make that a reality, that sets this movement apart.
To effect the change we wish to see — be it election reform, more independent candidates, a better functioning Congress, etc. — we need to reawaken the self-confidence of the American voter and invigorate the calling of American democracy. Americans want change. What we need now is an army of agitators to show that change is possible.
Do you believe America can do better? Do something about it.
Talk to People
There are a multitude of leading groups you can engage with online. You can share your thoughts in blog posts, comments, and emails. But eventually, this needs to be taken offline. Talk to the people who need convincing — your family members, friends, colleagues — who complain about the state of politics but never seem to have an answer. Don’t just talk about the problems, talk about solutions. What can be done to make things better?
Americans avoid talking politics unless they are shielded by a message board, but it is through our real-world connections that we can have the greatest impact. Be vocal, and set an example that others will follow. This isn’t about convincing anyone. It is about creating a culture where it is ok to say, “We can do better.”
This movement is bigger than just procedural reforms or candidacies. It is about a political system that serves itself more than it serves the people. By staying informed you tie this national problem to the lives of everyone around you.
If you are reading this on IVN, you are already starting in the right place, but do more, be curious. What policies affect your life and the lives of those around you? How have the failures of the political system impacted these policies?
Hold your representatives accountable. Have they followed through on their campaign promises? What have they done to address the issues that matter to you? Use GovTrack to track important legislation and your representative’s voting record. Want to know how much money your representative raises, and from whom? Use OpenSecrets to track whether or not your representative serves the public or special interests.
Most of the decisions that affect your life happen on the local level. Who is your local representative? What legislation is being discussed in your state house? Several months ago, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill dramatically restricting the democratic rights of both party and unaffiliated voters. It wasn’t until after the bill passed that the public became wholly aware of its magnitude.
At the local level, your power to have an impact is magnified. While national organizations might lead a charge, their ability to have an impact is determined by local networks of dedicated supporters. You can use powerful online tools like Mightybell and Meetup to connect with allies, and take this movement offline. Grow through your personal relationships and you will build something powerful.
Your impact does not have to be dictated by the size of your group or the money you can spend. Take a page from the tea party, and be disruptive. Hold signs at an intersection or your local congressional office. Meet with your local representative. Try a Thunderclap. Set an example by showing the world that it is ok to demand better from politics.
As 2016 approaches, what we do now lays the groundwork for the achievements of the future. A powerful, vocal movement can dictate the tone for the 2016 elections.
Americans want change, but to make that change a reality we need people ready to challenge a political culture that says things will never get better. We need people willing to agitate for the change they believe in, and set an example for others to follow.
Editor’s note: This article, written by Andy Smith, originally published on Centrist Project’s blog on May 29, 2015, and has been edited for publication on IVN. You can learn more about the Centrist Project on its website or follow the organization on Twitter and Facebook.