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May 17, 2007

campaigns that stir up civic participation

I don't believe that voting makes sense on its own. If all you do is vote, it takes too much effort to become adequately informed, and the payoff is too small. Very few elections are actually decided by a single vote. However, if you work on public problems in other ways, it makes sense to vote as an additional form of influence. Besides, if you're heavily involved in civic work with other people, they may give you information about the election, which then comes virtually free. And you can persuade them to vote, which multiplies your impact.

The level of local civic engagement is demonstrably much lower than it was even 25 years ago, and that makes it harder to recruit voters. As a response, campaigns could actually organize local civic work as a way of developing supporters. I've looked at the websites of all the major presidential candidates, D's and R's. Most provide ways to "volunteer," but that usually means helping the campaign to mobilize voters. Two campaigns claim a much more ambitious strategy: organizing local discussions and work on issues. We don't yet know the "return-on-investment" in terms of votes for their candidates, nor can we estimate how much positive civic impact these efforts will have. But I think the attempts should be celebrated, and therefore I quote their websites (at the risk of appearing partial to the candidates, which I'm not):

Barack Obama:

For too many people, politics is a bad word. It's not surprising since for many people "politics" means talking heads screaming at each other on TV, or special interests stacking the deck in Washington.

We have an opportunity to change that. When politics gets local, when the person talking is your neighbor standing on your front porch, things change.

On June 9th, hundreds of thousands of people will have that experience as we take our campaign to the streets in all 50 states for a nationwide neighborhood walk.

We're calling it Walk for Change, and its success depends on you. ... If you agree to organize a walk, we'll mail you the materials you need to start a conversation with your neighbors about being part of this movement for change. But it can only happen if you're willing to take the leap and put together a June 9th Walk for Change event where you live.

It's not common these days to reach out to a neighbor.

We're more likely to nod quickly and smile when unloading the groceries or walking the dog than we are to stop and talk about the things that shape our common destiny.

But the great issues of our day shouldn't just be topics to fill time between commercials on cable news. These challenges -- ending the war in Iraq, solving the health care crisis, tackling climate change -- affect each one of us personally.

And the solutions to each one will require personal investment from all of us.

That's why it's so important to create this dialogue in your community -- to have a serious conversation about what matters most to your neighbors, and to share with them why this movement for change is personal for you.

John Edwards:
John Edwards One Corps' mission is about more than online organizing. We believe that effective advocacy and implementation of change happens when the online world and the offline world work together. John Edwards One Corps offers the components and tools to make this possible.

John Edwards One Corps is the official local action arm of the campaign. Thousands of members in chapters covering all 50 states work to help get John Edwards elected president by organizing and attending local events to raise awareness about Senator Edwards and his message and reach out to voters in key areas.

But John Edwards One Corps members aren't waiting until the election to help build the one America we all believe in - we also engage in local service projects and issue advocacy to start transforming America today.

Together, through these and other actions, we can and will make a difference in this country from the ground up.

Together -- as One Corps -- we will create the one America we all believe in.

May 17, 2007 3:59 PM | category: Barack Obama | Comments


More examples at:




May 20, 2007 3:21 PM | Comments (1) | posted by Peter Levine

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