FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Eight Ways to Strengthen Our Democracy Beyond Voting

Throughout this trying election season, we’ve been told how much is at stake with our vote. But the success of any democracy depends on continuing to pay attention long after we cast our ballots.

So let’s pledge to strengthen our democracy with a few resolutions to focus our intentions and keep us moving forward over the next four years.

Change your media diet.

Way too much ink, airtime, and mental real estate has been consumed by the horserace reporting on elections — it’s all about who’s winning and losing. So unplug from the talk shows that interview pollsters and engage in partisan bickering all day. Find the commentators and independent media outlets that strengthen our civic life.

Turn off corporate media.

This election has been very profitable for big media corporations, but bad for our democracy. As CBS chairman Les Moonves remarked, “Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? The money’s rolling in and this is fun.”

Our differences have been compounded by media reports that amplify the loudest and most partisan utterances. Election coverage this year has encouraged us to view one another as cartoon caricatures, not neighbors.

Reject the consumer mentality in elections.

We’re encouraged to view national elections like consumers buying a car, but presidential elections can make most of us feel like spectators, not participants. Election Day is a small part of our real democracy — think of voting as a tiny fraction of your civic life.

Make your voice heard.

Pledge to communicate with your elected officials all year round, not just when they want your vote. Call, write, email, and attend community forums. When a politician hears from a dozen constituents with the same concern, it matters.

A few resolutions must address our polarized political atmosphere. The only way to break through this is by connecting with people we don’t always agree with.

For instance, the liberal California sociologist Arlie Hochschild spent five years interviewing conservative Tea Party activists in Louisiana, making friends and asking deep questions. She urges us all to scale the “empathy wall” and learn each other’s stories.

Here’s a few easy ways to get started.

Try a social media fast.

Social media is amazing, but it mostly serves as an echo chamber to reinforce our existing views. It’s not a substitute for talking to people, asking questions, and learning why people support certain policies.

Practice the art of civil discourse.

Find ways to meet others face-to-face to engage in conversations, not soapbox speeches and debates. Look at the “Living Room Conversation” movement that brings people together across political divisions. Their goal is to encourage “authentic, respectful conversations” to “strengthen relationships and advance understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and solutions before us.”

Finally, other resolutions should focus on changing our polarizing election system.

Eliminate the wealth primary.

Long before voters cast their ballots in a primary, big money donors have winnowed the field and selected who will stand for election. People all across the political spectrum agree that we need fundamental campaign finance reform to reduce the influence of big money, including the repeal of Citizens United.

Break the two-party duopoly.

A growing number of voters have declared independence from the two major parties. So why do we allow other voices and perspectives to be excluded from presidential debates? Our democracy would benefit if we had real choices outside the two major parties, as they do in most other countries in the world.

The strength of our civic life depends on what we do outside elections. And especially after the deeply toxic experience of 2016, we all need to step up to protect our real democracy from those who profit from division.

Distributed by OtherWords.org.

More articles by:
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail