Today, Tuesday, November 8, 2005, affords citizens in many parts of the nation an opportunity to go to the polls and express their opinions on candidates, local issues and state constitutional matters.
Whether we stop to consider it or not, election days are always special.
The freedom we enjoy in the United States to shape our collective life should not be taken lightly.
Yet, I fear that the current state of affairs discourages us from participating fully in the democratic process. A number of factors will combine to keep the majority of us away from the polls today.
Cynicism about the entire process will cause millions of potential voters to sit out the election. Watching the evolution of the role of big money in the entire process is discouraging for sure.
The notion that no matter what, nothing much changes kicks in at some point.
Still, the power could be vested more properly with the people, if we could begin a movement back to the polls from every corner of every community.
Such a movement must originate with ordinary people like you and me. When it comes to cynicism, we just need to "fight on through," to borrow a phrase from one of my daughters.
Vote today as an act of personal engagement that signals your commitment to joining what must become a people's movement.
Millions of Americans don't pay attention to politics nor to the political process because almost all of their energy goes to just "scraping by." Working more than one job, trying to provide for the kids, keeping the transportation up and running and finding a way to pay the bills--all of these factors can become overwhelming.
Again, we need a national campaign that crafts a plan for comprehensive family security for working people that includes a dimension focusing on participatory democracy as a vital component of any plan for family security and uplift.
Millions of Americans don't stay informed. Those of us who care about expanding participation, need to think creatively about voter education.
We need to find culturally engaging ways to make voting a big deal in our communities. Churches, service organizations, non-profit organizations, PTAs, neighborhood groups, crime watch teams and other collections of people need to press for full participation.
Before the election of 2004, I did a detailed analysis of the state district in which I reside.
It is an amazing district. The Gerrymandering process has produced a district that is geographically divided into two sections. One-third of the district is located in the wealthiest section of Dallas County--the Park Cities. The remaining two-thirds is located in Old East Dallas, a much poorer and ethnically diverse community.
What I discovered was the fact that the folks who live in the wealthy 1/3 turn out the vote at between 75 and 95% on a precinct-by-precinct basis on election days.
The residents of the poorer 2/3 turn out between 25-45% of the vote across the district. Even though the lower income section has about twice as many potential voters, the other third of the district historically decides the elections for the entire district.
If democracy is to survive and expand in this century, these trends need to change. Voters in the much less active 2/3 need to step up and get involved for the good of the entire district, city, state and nation.
We need a people's movement. . . back to the polls.
We need to start today!
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