Voting Alone Is Not Enough For Effective Political Engagement
Voting in and of itself is not effective political engagement, and will not accomplish the political objectives needed to end our shared and continued social marginalization. But voting in and of itself is not the problem. The problem is our ineptitude at effective political engagement. The paragraphs below highlight what we need to do to effectively engage in politics. Once we collectively engage effectively, we will get the legislation and policies that support our political objectives.
Develop A Political Identity
Political identity is important because it sets standards of judgement and parameters for public use of power. We come from a lineage of people who were victims of the Atlantic Slave Trade. But is this understood by enough of us? How about slavery’s lingering effects: lynchings, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, police violence, and poverty? Do enough of us recognize the lingering effects of these experiences on us presently?
A Black person shaped by these experiences will have a different standard of judgement as to what constitutes racial violence by law enforcement officials, then a Black person who refuses to acknowledge slavery and its lingering effects on society. A Black person who acknowledges the opportunity cost of slavery to their ancestors on wealth building, and the government’s facilitation of this inhumane trade, recognizes the validity in the political goal of reparations. This person judges two things; first, they judge that a debt is due because the government facilitated and illegally benefited from slavery; and secondly, they judge that it is within the parameters of government power to authorize payments to victims.
Develop A Political Agenda
A political agenda does not currently exist for Black people that is known and accepted in great number. Some politicians pretend to advocate for some of our interests when politically safe to do so. This is not the same an an exclusive, black agenda.
We can create our own political objectives once we have an agenda, and eliminate the political, social, and economic disenfranchisement that we’re all subjected too to varying degrees. Any respectable agenda must include a $20 trillion plus reparations package, the criminalization of all racist writing and speech, and a k-12 anti-racist curriculum.
Racists must be rooted out, regardless of how they may feel about it. For instance, a publisher should be charged when he or she changes the narrative in a history book so that racists are not held accountable. Authors should be charged for writing novels glorifying racist ideology, and parents who perpetuate racist ideology towards their children should also be charged.
Learn The Officials Who Affect You Most
We have to know the political players in our communities. We need to know how they serve us and be familiar with their records. Lastly, we need to know the leverage we have over them. For instance, are they removable directly or by way of proxy vote?
Here is a list of the officials we should be familiar with: senators, congresspersons, judges, governors, secretary of states, labor and agriculture commissioners, public service commissioners, state legislators, county executives and board of commissioners, mayors, city councilors, police chiefs, superintendents and board members. In each of these positions there is someone who affects your life; it is your responsibility as an informed voter to know who these people are.
Organize Four Tiers Of Meeting Groups
You have to organize. Do not assume others will do this work; you have to do it. Your network should have four tiers of organization: national, state, county, and local; and, should be divided into units of five.
Units are meant to build camaraderie amongst members. They should have set times and locations where they meet, names and logos (nothing official), and a centralized process for decision making.
Unit activities should include but are not limited to: legislative/policy research, courtroom observations, processes for holding public officials accountable, fundraising for selection and running of candidates, book readings/discussions, cookouts, movie nights, and content creation. Again, this list is not all inclusive as it focuses heavily on fellowship building, and leaves out activities requiring coordination amongst the four tiers.
Politics is not a sideline sport; it is not a “once every election cycle” type of activity neither. Effective political engagement requires continuous effort. The ideas above provide the foundation for what is needed to effectively engage. The more effective we are at political engagement, the more weight our votes will carry. Only when our votes carry enough political weight will we be successful at accomplishing our political objectives.
If you enjoyed this article you maybe interested in this one on consensus building.