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:
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail