Turning Out for Democracy

The Road to Resilience

It was heartening to see a good crowd showing up last Sunday afternoon at our Unifying For Democracy meeting.  We had about 60 people, which was close to as many as we could handle given the space, tables, and chairs available.  We weren’t sure how well something as wonky as saving our democracy would resonate on a sunny afternoon, but our doubts, thankfully, were unwarranted.  Assuming there are probably ten of you interested for every one that showed up, it is clear that Vashonites are concerned about our democracy, have a good sense of what went wrong, and some ideas about what we need to do to correct it.  The following is my take on it, so if I missed or mischaracterized something, please forgive as we really haven’t had the time to analyze our results yet.

Although you can’t expect a comprehensive analysis in such a short time, an hour of discussion among 8 tables yielded a number of action steps.  Of uppermost concern was the commanding influence of wealthy corporate interests in our elections and in lobbying activity.  In order to regulate that activity we need laws passed and a Congress amenable to passing those laws.  Thus the second most popular action:  elect people to Congress in 2018 who will pass those laws.  Not as easy at it sounds.  It’s kind of like trying to put a leash on the junkyard dog.  We are talking about electing Democrats, while being cognizant of the fact that not even all Democrats want to leash the dog.

It is apparent to me, anyway, that this is why we need the full attention and discipline from all of us rank and file voters in this next election.  I would like to make taking corporate money a negative factor for Democratic candidates, although, not taking the money may also jeopardize their chance of getting elected.  This is a classic “Catch 22,” that we—and they—will have to navigate, as well as overcoming voter restrictions and gerrymandering.  In connection with this, there were suggestions that we need to educate and register more voters and motivate all voters to vote.

Another popular action step was characterized as “multicultural tolerance” or “inclusion.”  What that says to me is that we have to overcome the fractious groupings we have today and, somehow, build multi-racial/ethnic/cultural solidarity and common purpose.   Even if this bond is limited and narrowly defined, it can serve the purpose of electoral success now, and as a basis of trust that could eventually lead to eliminating the negative stereotypes.   History shows that times of tolerance are followed by times of intolerance, so it may be one of those things that requires continual watchfulness.

The next most popular action revolved around education in its many forms:  in general, critical and independent thinking, knowledge of civics, history, human behavior, science, the natural world, philosophy, spirituality, and all the things that mitigate for love and against ignorance, prejudice, hatred, and stupidity.  Not that we can eliminate those, but I think we can agree that we can do a little better than we are now.

Another area of concern was all aspects of communication:  how well, how often, and how truthfully we communicate with each other, and taking responsibility, especially the mass media, for the consequences of the stories we tell.  With regard to the former, we need to communicate knowledgably in concert with each other, and in the latter, we need to realize that what we say, publish, or broadcast helps establish the emotional context in which we live.  You may remember in Michael Moore’s movie, Bowling For Columbine, one explanation given for the markedly lower level of gun violence in the more gun-dense Canada was that the Canadian local TV news did not lead with crime, fire, and accident stories as ours in the US does.  What we dwell on has consequences.

There were other specific suggestions made that I won’t go into now.  We also did a survey of interest in future discussions of various topics, and got a very positive response, so, although we don’t know what forum those discussions will take place in, we hope to facilitate that in some way.

Next, we will have a follow-up meeting on Saturday, May 19, 9:30-11:30, also at the Presbyterian Church.  At this meeting, we will be presenting our action steps to members of our political world.  Sharon Nelson, our State Senator will be there, also, Dylan Cate of the Washington State Democratic Party, and Shaun Scott, field organizer for Rep. Pramila Jayapal.  We want to be sure they understand our concerns and intentions, and will seek their advice on how best to proceed.

Please come to the next meeting, even if you missed the first.  If you want to be kept informed of what we are doing, you can email Kevin Jones, kevinjonvash@gmail.com.

Comments or questions?