To achieve true progress in America, we need a dramatic increase in civic engagement. Changing how millions of people approach the democratic process can feel daunting, and over the past few weeks, some folks have written me that they support the Bull Moose Movement in spirit, but because of work or family obligations, don’t have time to ‘take to the streets.’ I am sympathetic to peoples’ concerns that they can’t participate. Activism has traditionally been seen as a time-intensive commitment to long meetings, knocking on strangers doors, chanting in the streets, even risking arrest. Many people have children to raise and long hours to work, or live far from the urban centers where such activism often takes place. The Bull Moose Movement, however, still wants you involved.
The Bull Moose Movement recognizes the need for robust organizing online and in the neighborhood. The neighborhood is the community we lean on in our daily lives, and neighbors, whether they are friends or strangers, share many of the same concern. Reaching out within the neighborhood is vital to producing long-term systemic change. Online we can find treasure troves of information, like-minded people and organizations, and pool resources. The two pillars of organizing can be implemented by anyone, anywhere.
Promoting civic education and reform in your neighborhoods is easy, because you can start by engaging the same people you already know- the folks in your schools, offices, parks and local stores. I worked out of a coffee shop some morning last fall, and marveled at the social network of mothers who would rendezvous with their young children in strollers every day. It will be awkward at first to talk about social and political issues with certain groups of people, but rather than lecturing your hardware store owner on financial regulatory reform, ask him how his business is going in the current market. Ask your child’s teacher what obstacles she is facing in providing your child the ideal education. Talk to your neighbor about the plan you read about to rescue underwater mortgages. Ask a friend to come with you to your representative’s next town hall meeting.
Similarly, anyone stuck at home with the capacity to read this post has the magic of the internet at her fingertips. I’ve written previously on how online organizing needs to graduate from its current state, which is overly reliant on steering a passive audience to large list-serve, to a platform for interactive forums and planning. If you come across an article you think other Bull Moosers should be sharing, post it on the Facebook Wall. Reach out to fellow Bull Moosers in your area. Email other group members who write or post things that interest you. Although I’ll admit it feels a little weird to have burgeoning relationships with folks across the country who I’ve never met in person, this is 2010, and we should all start getting used to it. Finally, use the Bull Moose website to promote your local contributions civic engagement. In the next few weeks, one of our members from Wisconsin will be have a page of the website devoted to her project teaching self-sustainability.
And any successful movement needs to have highly visible and energetic supporters who do take to the streets and engage the public, and we have our share of experienced traditional activists in the organization. But if that’s not you, don’t worry. We’re all in this together, and all hands are on deck. I look forward to organizing with all of you.