“We can and must move U.S. politics forward by means of committed participation.” ~Paul Wellstone
Another election season is in full swing, and as usual a multitude of seemingly crazy statements and actions seem to be made on a daily basis. Be it the constant sabre rattling by many of the Republican presidential candidates on the issue of Iran or the intrigue surrounding the more localized state races in light of redistricting, drama and hyperbole are here to stay (at least until November). Witnessing the chaos surrounding this process and still choosing to engage can be difficult. Especially for those who strongly relate to the advice of a certain Jedi Knight when it comes to absolutes. However, the key to staying involved throughout a process seemingly engineered to chase away any moderately minded individuals is to recognize a few important facts.
The extremes need someone to rein them in. Anyone who has ever attended a convention for their respective political party has probably had to listen to an extremely passionate individual or group of individuals express their strongly held belief on an issue. Many times, these views are very partisan and may be slightly outside the realm of the typical voter. This is a chance for the moderate insider to shine. Usually these ideas and thoughts are not bad ideas in principle, but just take things a bit too far. Having someone who can assess the situation, and express the need to dial things back a bit is invaluable to ensuring a party remains in touch with the average citizen while still maintaining the spirit of what they are trying to accomplish.
The sooner you get involved, the more influence you can have. Many of us limit our electoral involvement to voting during Presidential election years. While this is an important step in the right direction, it allows the least amount of influence on the policy direction of this country. By the time we get to the November elections, the decision has boiled down to a seemingly black and white decision between candidate A and candidate B (or for the Simpsons fans out there, Kang and Kodos). It’s during the early processes of elections, those usually dominated by the more partisan party insiders; we are able to get into the nuanced differences between the candidates. In addition, since so few people actually engage at this level, one’s voice carries a lot more weight then it does in November, making it even more imperative for the moderate individuals of the world to get involved early. This is good for both the individual and ensures the candidate continuing into the general election is more in line with the larger voting electorate.
Party activists are the key to any successful campaign and elected officials remember this. First and foremost, politicians are beholden to their constituents. However, merely casting a vote does little to sway the thoughts and ideas of a candidate. However, when you are involved early in the process, either by attending candidate forums, participating in the endorsement process, or doing the real important voter contact work that wins campaigns, the candidate’s familiarity with your beliefs and views increases exponentially. In addition, its more likely they will remember who you are in the event you need their help with something or have an opinion on a specific piece of policy they should hear. An advantage the casual voter will not have.
While it may not always be ideal to engage in a political process wrought with negative political rhetoric, it is vitally important those most disenfranchised with it participate. In order to ensure the influence of the moderate voice on a process that tends to cater to the more passionately engaged fringes, moderate activists are necessary at all levels. Often times we speak of taming the rhetoric, but wait until things are so far along, such a task seems unachievable. By looking past many of the pitfalls of our campaign process and working towards being heard we will ensure a more rational, unified voice moving forward.