linked from CNN Opinion, Tue February 11, 2014
By Ben Cohen and Larry Cohen
Forwarded by Holly Mosher, Gov360 Board Member
linked from CNN Opinion, Tue February 11, 2014
By Ben Cohen and Larry Cohen
Forwarded by Holly Mosher, Gov360 Board Member
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.
BAD WEATHER is not the reason that 80-90% of the eligible citizens will NOT show up!
Typical of mainstream MEDIA election coverage, this Washington post reporter uses the term “voters” to define the narrow slice of the electorate that will actually show up to vote. She also uses the term “trio” of candidates, as if all three of the candidates are the same. In observing years of political coverage, from coast to coast, we have found that most MEDIA outlets use the same artful terms in their election reporting.
This Post article goes on to blame BAD WEATHER for potential low turnout, despite the fact that 80-90% of the eligible electorate would be unlikely to show up even if the temperature were in the 60s! It is not apathy. People think the elections are rigged, or they don’t vote in local elections because (thanks to the MEDIA) they equate the act of voting with presidential elections and not local elections.
We must design a way to specifically target non-voters with the message that their non-vote does not send any message Washington (or their state capital). Non-voters vastly outnumber voters when it comes to local and congressional elections. We intend to continue to reach out directly to these tens of millions of non-voting citizens.
Va. special election could determine balance of power
Turnout on pace to meet or exceed predictions in Va. Senate special election
As the director of GOV360, I am always thrilled to find newly published research by scholars in my field. Dan Balz’ Washington Post column, Monday, January 4th, identified a new book about the impact of low voter turnout on American elections. “Who Votes Now” (2014), by Jan E. Leighley and Jonathan Nagler is perhaps the most comprehensive work on the subject in 25 years. The broad premise of the book is that not voting in presidential elections does have consequences on our political system, and that the silence of non-voters can have an adverse impact on policy decisions affecting the direction of our country. The book defines gaps between voters and non-voters. However, what is missing is any mention of the fact that these demographic gaps become much more significant in non-presidential elections. For example, wealthier people may be somewhat more likely to vote in presidential elections than people with lower incomes, but the wealthy are far more likely to vote in congressional primaries, mid-terms and off-year or special elections.
When I started, GOV360 in 2010, the goal was to point out that the United States was designed to be a representative republic. According to the constitution, it would seem that founders intended for the make-up of the United States House of Representatives to be more significant to public policy than the person occupying the White House. In “Who Votes Now”, the authors attempt to show how income gaps and demographic disparity can adversely affect the outcome of presidential elections. But they omit the fact that other elections, where these gaps are much greater, could be much more important to the grand scheme of things in our democratic system. This issue is not directly addressed at all in the book. Yet, if non-voters have an impact on presidential elections, they certainly have an even greater impact on the outcome of congressional elections.
Leighley and Nagler do a great service in addressing the influence of presidential politics on voter turnout, and vice versa. They both seem to understand the importance of examining the motivations of non-voters. But, they fail to address the need for sustainable solutions to low turnout in elections that matter to our cities, states, and districts. GOV360 is fighting an uphill battle as long as scholars, experts, and people in the mainstream media continue to downplay important representative elections. Like any problem, if we are to ever find solutions to the voter turnout crisis, we must be bold in pointing out where and how the crisis really exists.
Just as we saw in 2011, polls are showing that nearly 85% of the citizens do not approve of the performance of the 113th congress. 57% of the July 24th NBC poll respondents said they would replace every member of congress “if that were possible”. Not only is it possible to replace members of congress, it is what is prescribed in the Constitution. The only major problem is the fact that Americans vote less in congressional elections than any other type of elections held anywhere in America. The constitution does not tell us to directly elect the president, but it does ask citizens to pick their representatives in order to have a functional form of representative government. We do the opposite. 55-62% of Americans will come out and vote in Presidential elections.
Most Americans do not realize that according to Article 1, Section 2 of the constitution, they could replace every single member of congress every two years. That is why Madison and Jefferson agreed to make Article 1, Section 2 so important. However, for some reason, we have everything backwards. If you factor in the low turnout in important congressional primary elections, at least 80% of the citizens are not at all involved in picking the members of congress from the 435 districts around the country. We come out and vote in presidential elections, but we do not really vote in the only direct elections called for in the constitution. The figures below help illustrate the results that occur when citizens are doing the complete opposite of what the constitution tell them to do.
2008 presidential elections
213 million eligible to vote. 132 million votes cast: 69.5 million Democrat/59 million Republican
Percentage of eligible citizens who elected the president: 33%
Average presidential approval ratings after the election: 45-50%
2010 Congressional elections
218 million eligible to vote. 90 million total votes cast: 45 million Republican/44 million Democrat
Percentage of eligible citizens who elected the Congress: 20%
Average congressional approval ratings after the election: 12-15%
Alex Jones engages in an interesting debate with shotgun totting, anarchist, Adam Kokesh. The two shed some insight into the various views of two radical, ideological, controversial, anti-government men from southwestern states. Both men have made names for themselves (and a lot of money) through the use of modern social media. These men both reach tens of millions of Americans who are sick and tired of broken government. Kokesh (who is wrongly compared to Rosa Parks) wants the total abolishment of the entire federal government (as did Jefferson Davis before the civil war). Jones takes the “Ron Paul” approach of supposedly being the “compassionate conservative” with a non-interventional foreign policy. As with most people who are brainwashed by the media, neither of these two men seem to understand the real problem. There is only one election that we are supposed to vote in according to the constitution(Congressional elections), but 90% of us are not really voting in those elections and thus we have broken representative government. Who is the tyrant? We have a constitution that tells us to pick our representatives IF we want to avoid tyranny, and 90% of the citizens are not following the law of Article 1, Section 2. www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxwPOAT1AZA
Anarchy thrives when leaderless groups of conscientious people rebel against the status quo or otherwise voice dissent outside of their system of government. Anarchy is rampant when people blame their government for perceived injustices, refusing to be a part of the system they so desperately want to change. The concerns are being voiced outside of the system and not addressed in any manner that is constructive. People want to replace their government, but they have no plan for what the replacement government would look like. In terms of changing the unjust conditions that exist, nothing could defeat the purpose more than anarchy. Anarchy is the easier, more cowardly way of handling our problems. It is an ineffective model for any real change.
The people need to find ways to fix their own government themselves through leadership. If the people walk out on their government and slam the door in disgust, the government has every right to lock the door and throw away the key. The lack of civil discourse is where the SPCL sees a problem. Therefore, in order to effectively address injustices in the world and bring about change, people must try to get back into the room, work with their government, and be the change they want to see in the world.
Conspiracy theories tend to make people outwardly focused and more likely to cast blame on others. To affect change in the world, people must stop blaming government and start taking the personal responsibility for looking inward. As Mark Potok puts it, “We are trying to defend an open society that values honesty, frank opinions, sincerely held or passionately held, but also the truth. That is fine. What is not fine are rancid ideologues” (M. Potok, personal communication, September 27, 2011). He is not suggesting that there is anything wrong with differences of opinion. His concern is the lack of healthy discourse.
Donald Clifton and Marcus Buckingham’s use of the term revolution in their book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, indicates the concept that dramatic changes can come about in an organization that takes advantage of the available tools of leadership development. The first revolutionary tool is in learning to distinguish strengths from weaknesses, by understanding the difference between innate talent and learned attributes. Other revolutionary tools involve the use of a system of identifying talents and the development of a vocabulary for identifying talents. (Buckingham &Clifton, 32)
Developing a marketable model of transformational servant leadership with an emphasis on personal responsibility, strengths, and values could change the paradigm enough to bring about real solutions to the cycle of widespread anarchy and bad government. Servant leadership involves inward reflection, personal growth and constant change. Instead of chasing conspiracies, if an organization such as WAC were to foster a model of transformational servant leadership with transformational leaders and followers who are servant leaders, they could be a beacon of hope to millions of disaffected people who reject the status quo. Part of Mark Potok’s message is that change comes from challenging the status quo. If the natural tendency of the counter-culture is to challenge and even reject the status quo, then this concept of transformational servant leadership is the perfect model for the revolutionary-minded counter culture to embrace.
This is the new Gov 360 blog, where we’ll be posting comments and observations on topics of interest. We hope you’ll join in the discussion.