All of those who took part in recent demonstrations – the women’s marches, Black Lives Matter and others aimed at protecting civil liberties, immigrants, the vulnerable and the less advantaged – we are not a minority.
But demonstrations aren’t enough. This country is ruled by ballots. Protests matter when ballots threaten. Nonvoters are routinely discounted. So the next step is to organize to vote.
That’s where demonstrations become a major opportunity. Those who marched can be helped to register or they can help others register and vote.
Marchers need to be asked: whether they are registered to vote; whether they are registered at their current address; whether they are registered to vote in the primaries; whether they have been getting to the polls and voting; and whether they know others, in this or any other state, who need help or encouragement to register and vote. Would you get registration forms for others?
Demonstrations can lead to votes in other ways.
Demonstrate at the Board of Elections to make a difference by showing we want to vote, we’re signing up to vote, we’re ready to vote. Let’s show up where it matters.
Demonstrate outside the 100 foot or other state defined zone where electioneering is prohibited, showing and sharing the fact and the joy that we voted, and you voted, and we performed our civic duty for each other and we did it together and we’re celebrating – those are demonstrations that can make a difference.
What’s crucial about the demonstrations we all took part in doesn’t end with the message. That’s the beginning; that’s what got us fired up and brought us together; that’s what made clear our commitment and our shared sense that acting as a people is empowering. But what matters is converting that commitment – the joy, the fire in our hearts and the messages we marched for – into votes.
Democracy depends on what happens at the voting machines. It’s run by votes and the threat of votes. Even campaign contributions are ultimately about votes. Voices are most powerful when they lead to votes. If we vote, we count. If we stay home in disdain because we’re not satisfied, we’re politically irrelevant. Vote. Count. Take back our democracy – for us, for all of us, for the people. Don’t let the moneychangers and the slick talkers take the forms of democracy for their own benefit. We vote; we count; and we celebrate.
Why look at that now? Because the organization that makes voting happen, the organization that makes the voices of the people matter at the polls and on the ballots, all that organization starts way in advance. Because every state has its deadlines. And back before the deadlines, organization is not instantaneous. Let’s create our political snowball. Let’s terrify the politicians with our strength so that they’ll actually have to behave democratically, according to the rules, principles and methods of democratic government.
Wouldn’t that be refreshing!
— This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, May 2, 2017.