A day or so ago, I got an email requesting that I sign an online petition. Like most people, I suspect, I get these alot . It seems so much like petitioning the choir that I often just delete them and move on. But, I read an interesting article in The Economist that started me thinking about that petition and other ones like it. The article shows the results of Tea Party rallies over April 15th, 2010.
new research suggests that the people whom left-wing pundits once dismissed as “teabaggers” made a big difference in the mid-term elections of 2010, when Republicans recaptured the House of Representatives….When it rained, attendance at rallies halved….Dry rallies created momentum…and the rallies a year later were twice as large. Such enthusiasm translated into a 7% rise in the Republican vote in 2010, compared with wet areas. If the Tea Party merely expressed voters’ frustrations rather than inflaming them, one would expect no difference between wet and dry districts. The authors conclude that protests can indeed shape policy.
In a way, this is what I expect, it is why I walked precincts for Obama and turned out for Occupy protests. But, often, when I am doing that, my mind tells me that what I am doing is not going to change anybody’s mind and I didn’t walk as many precincts as I had time for, I didn’t go to most of the Occupy and Move-On protests I was invited to, and I haven’t signed most of the petitions I believe in.
It is nice to see that rallies have effects, and scary because it means that not doing anything has an effect, even if it is negative. Liberals seem to concentrate on Presidential elections and Conservatives on local and down ticket elections. I think the conservatives are right. Having a school Board that is in agreement with their basic beliefs is more germane to their daily lives than having a President that is. We Liberals scream like scalded cats when the School Board wants to buy books that say Intelligent Design is a real theory but the best way to stop that is to get people on the School Board that don’t believe in that nonsense in the first place.
The article ended with Watery tea may be weak, but the strong stuff makes lawmakers sit up and take notice, which reminded me that Courtney Gonzales brought over some green tea on Christmas Eve and showed us how to make it weak. I – we – think of tea as a way to administer caffeine but for hundreds if not thousands of years, it has been a way to make water safe to drink.
To stretch my ramblings on The Economist’s article a little further, I would say that the same is true in politics. The strong tea of presidential politics gets the headlines but it is the weak tea of down ticket politics that, eventually, makes the water safe to drink. It is state and local policies that determine if family planning clinics stay open and determine the boundaries of electoral districts. It is easy for me to fall back on the belief that politics is a way to shock the system into change every four years, but I am starting to believe that politics is the almost daily work of signing protests, the daily work of trying to be heard.