Guest Post by Lauren Intollubbe-Chmil, PhD
Gov360 Board Member
I am a born participant, and for many years have been involved in a variety of efforts to encourage representative and informed civic engagement, in no small way because my own civic enthusiasm is sustained by the ‘collective effervescence’ (in the more positive sense) of being part of a democratic community. To me, this is the essence of Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts, especially in between national elections.
That said, I have witnessed too many times the ways in which politics at every level have eroded a sense of efficacy in the realm of civic participation—partisanship and lack of transparency being chief among the threats to participation for ‘everyday’ citizens, at every level. In the community that I have recently relocated from, the level of disenfranchisement, even in a highly educated locale, is unfortunately breath-taking, and is a good indication of how disingenuous our claims for working towards representative governance can be (i.e., just try to question the status quo in a university town….).
Be that as it may, I believe strongly in the merits of cultivating and nurturing civic hope, a term that is often used in relation to youth civic identity development, but one that I believe is highly relevant to the work of increasing informed voters who are able to hold on to a sense of efficacy, at any age. To go back to collective effervescence, civic hope builds the case for citizens relying on one another as trusted allies, and as sources for restoring (or in many cases, developing) faith in humanity.
And by this, I mean across political party lines and ideological differences. To expand upon the concept of civic hope, it is to demonstrate a willingness to civically engage, from the perspective that democratic dialogue is premised upon the strength of diversity and divergent thinking.
Thus, GOTV becomes a mechanism not just for registering, educating, and mobilizing eligible voters, but for cultivating sustained involvement throughout every stage of the process as a result of becoming a part of a community of practice—in this case, as community members with a vested interest in the common good and a sense that their collective participation is what can shape and define—transform—the political system.
In this way, GOTV is a community organizing model that should grow in 2014 as a civic participation movement that centers on what we can do: restoratively, representatively, and responsively.
Dr. Loren Intollubbe-Chmil is an educator, author, and researcher, who served as a director of the League of Women Voters (Charlottesville Regional Branch). Loren works with the Eastern/Southern Africa and Virginia Networks and Associations (ESAVANA) Consortium, which offers global research, education, and outreach opportunities for a range of participants. She has co-authored an article in review for publication which describes the transformative learning experiences of undergraduate participants in an intense study abroad program that travels to southern Africa. Loren has worked for many years in community-based organizations and as part of community-university partnerships, dedicating much of her life’s work to representative, participatory engagement.