Posted by: jamesvw | February 8, 2010

Guest Post – The Importance of Special Elections

Guest Post – The Importance of Special Elections

(Editor’s note) **I have the pleasure to post a column by blog reader Douglas Findlay. It outlines his reflections on special elections and the importance of being involved in state-level politics. I encourage those who are interested to visit his blog, Ride2Repeal, a fascinating look at mobilizing and advocating for an issue near and dear to his heart.**

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By Douglas Findlay, Ride2Repeal Blog

I particularly enjoy reading the “All Politics is Local” blog for many reasons. It’s timely, relevant, unbiased, and uncluttered. It is also rare, because it gives me news about state legislative elections all around the country.

For most folks, this is local news. Like the school board or county council, it’s close to home. But I’ve found that state politics is where we, the people, have the most influence over our government. This is because we have the greatest ability to have a hand in shaping our future, both at the local level and the highest offices of the land.

If you look at Congress and the Oval Office, you’ll see quite a few politicians that used to be state senators, representatives, or assemblymen. The most obvious case is President Obama, who made the giant leap from state legislator to Commander in Chief inside the span of one election cycle.

Special elections are of particular importance, representing the greatest opportunity for individuals and grassroots organizations. The conventional wisdom is that nobody cares, based on predictably low voter turnout. But the truth is that the fewer people who turnout, the greater the influence of the people who do.

We are conditioned to believe that voting is the greatest power we hold over our government. It’s how the people hold their elected officials accountable. “One man, one vote” is ingrained in our minds, and the ballot box is a hallowed place. But there’s a secret weapon right under our noses, one that is ten times as powerful as the individual act of voting.

This secret weapon is campaign volunteering. Instead of a single vote, volunteers have the power of voting by the dozens. And despite every broken campaign promise ever uttered, politicians are always most loyal to the people who got them elected. Not to the people who voted for them, but to the people who got others to vote for them.

I’ve worked in dozens of campaigns, and worked on both sides of the aisle. In so doing, I’ve developed personal friendships with the people who govern. Yes, they are just as human as everyone else. And for that very reason, they take care of their friends first. After all, they can count on their friends to help them when they are most in need. And as a campaign volunteer, I am a friend indeed.

So if you watch the news and see some jerk get elected, and then re-elected time and again, it’s not because there’s nothing you can do. It’s because there are so many people who only think that there’s nothing they can do. The rest of us just get up and do it.

As with so many other things, knowledge is power. I used to spend hours and hours, scanning the news, scouring government websites, searching through the web, just to find out simple things about state elections.

It’s just not that easy, considering that government and the media are more interested in keeping power than sharing it. So they feed us McNews, and our minds become well fed — but poorly exercised.

But as an activist, the “All Politics is Local” blog always provides me with the best kind of election information: timely, relevant, and actionable. Now that’s what I call food for thought.

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