Daniel Kirkpatrick guest writes about how grassroots conversations can influence our elections for Congress next November. He is a lifelong educator and is now semi-retired, working as an educational consultant, parenting mentor, and writer. Daniel is also a neighborhood, climate, and Indigenous rights activist who believes in the power of individuals to make change.
We are awash in a drumbeat of constant messaging about repeated defeats of progressive legislation – and how Republicans are certain to sweep the fall elections.
This narrative, this flood of messaging, is corrosive.
It is hard to deny that Congress is beyond dysfunctional and in need of major reform. We would be far better off if policies valued by wide majorities of Americans – fairer taxation, improved access to health care, reasonable firearm legislation, strong climate action - could be implemented. Instead, things citizens want are sidelined by massive amounts of money and bitter partisanship. Reforming this situation is a big undertaking… but is not impossible, and many are working on it.
Biden could do better, in innumerable ways. But he is just one part of the picture. His widely noted sinking approval rating is still above his predecessor’s four-year average. Social media companies profit from stories of conflict and catastrophe, but we do not need to follow their lead. The current administration is pushing numerous positive initiatives, even if many of them have not (yet) prevailed.
Concerned about inflation and the economy? You’re not the only one. But the dominant narrative we are hearing about the economy is also curiously negative. It’s worth looking at why.
And do we have reason to be concerned about the far right prevailing in our next election cycle? Definitely! Especially with the treasonous voter suppression, gerrymandering, and outright election stealing efforts being pushed all over America. It is hardly hyperbole to suggest that democracy is at risk when access to the vote is being systematically curtailed in places primarily populated by people of color and lower income citizens.
But history is still in the process of being written! I encourage you to read Michael Moore’s recent essay “How to Win Big This November.” It’s well worth a few minutes of your time. I don’t agree with all Moore’s points, but he deserves credit for pushing a new, non-defeatist narrative. We all need to help change the dominant storyline, because language shapes history. Moore is correct that American democracy depends upon us getting this one right.
Meanwhile, the festering wound of election lies being pushed by dominant Republicans is just as likely to cause collapse as success. Witness the growing voices of GOP leaders like Mike Rounds of South Dakota acknowledging that the “stolen election” was all a lie, while other leaders as unsavory as the former president jockey for power. Republicans have sacrificed their core values and positioned themselves as being primarily obstructionist instead of even trying to govern. The fact is that the GOP is right now teetering at the edge of the abyss of its own corruption.
This is America. Individualism is our national religion. And part of that individualism seems to involve placing unrealistic emphasis on the President of the United States, whether you see that person as an ally or not. For years in private conversations, I’ve tried to direct the attention of friends and colleagues away from our nation’s chief executives, whether they be charismatic or corrupt or well-intended or ineffectual. Positive or negative, cults of personality are unhealthy for democracy.
We need to shift our focus from the individual in the Oval Office to the one in the mirror.
Consider a hypothetical. Imagine that a corrupt presidential candidate managed to install his own loyalists into Secretary of State offices in battleground states, then went on to claim a dubious victory based upon those loyalists’ unilateral decisions about which ballots are worth counting. Would you take to the streets to defend democracy? If you are a loyal citizen of the USA, I certainly hope you would! But now is the time to raise your voice!
It is up to us to reframe the narrative of 2022. We can do this. We can make positive change a reality, but not by carping about it and wringing our hands. I invite you to drive a new narrative that reinforces democracy and majority rule in your conversations with friends, neighbors, and co-workers – especially those outside comfortably blue enclaves like Bellingham. Democracy needs to be lived, not watched!
Since it is obvious that Republicans are out of step with the priorities of the majority, we need to mobilize around that fact – as Michael Moore advocates.* Raise our voices. Create dialog around shared issues. Demand that democracy prevail over partisanship. Support pro-democracy groups. Take our role as citizens seriously. And make a habit of telling elected officials where you stand!
*A good start might be sending Moore’s article to your Senators and Representatives!
Editor Note: Daniel has also posted this on his personal blog.
Comments by Readers
Jon HumphreyFeb 04, 2022
Thank you for this excellent article. I have no dispute with any of your points.
However, I have lived in Bellingham for over a decade now. I am proud to call it my home. Still, the thing I’ve noticed is that many of the “Democrats” here are actually Republicans in disguise. Their personal views are just as extreme. They just hide it on the campaign trail.
I’ll just use Michael Lilliquist as an example. He literally wrote a fake conduit ordinance along with our corrupt public works director to protect big telecom. A few weeks ago he delayed a vote, possibly forever, to start phasing natural gas out. Even though that would take decades even if the council voted yes. Why did he do it? To appease CNG. He supports Alex Ramel’s ridiculous plan to continue to use natural gas by putting 5% Hydrogen into the mixture. This has 3 major problems.
1. The infrastructure is private and we have no idea what shape it’s in.
2. Adding Hydrogen actually increases the ignition temperature which burns more natural gas.
3. It increases the fire hazard.
Refer to my broadband articles on the corruption with that and magical thinking around technologies other than fiber that ultimately rely on it anyway. There are no shortcuts. You need as much affordable fiber as possible if you want to continue to call yourself a developed country.
So why so much magical thinking? Why so many half-assed proposals?
Because it allows them to look like they’re doing work while appeasing the establishment.
So as much as we need to resist extremism on the right, we also need the Democratic party to start putting up candidates that aren’t awful too. Fewer pathological liars would be nice as well.
Overall, I’d say it’s obvious that we need a new independent party. I think both major parties have proven that they’re beyond repair. Or simply not interested in changing for the better.
In the meantime, we can do a lot at the local level. Check out this project to get free computers to low-income individuals. https://www.tagnw.org/reconnect/
Now if the city would just stop sitting on its existing public fiber network and Open Access it along with a real Dig Once policy we could hook up low-income individuals with real connections too. The kind they need to address virtually all of their social, educational and economic concerns. But all of the “Republo-crats” on council and our mayor just won’t do reasonable things like that. That’s the problem. Policy-wise, we really have a single party system here.
And so much spinelessness… Like being spineless is part of earning an endorsement.