A five point plan on how liberals can change the make-up of the House of Representatives
Remember syllogisms? Of course you do, you “studied” them in school – maybe a single lesson, but still you’ll nod when you’re presented with a major premise (all men are mortal), a minor premise (Socrates is a man) and a conclusion (Therefore, Socrates is mortal).
Here’s one: All people want legislators to do better work and pass better laws. Therefore, the legislators elected by the people are passing better laws on guns, health, housing, prison reform and many more issues.
Something is missing from that syllogism. It’s the minor premise and it might sound like this: People elect legislators who are capable, alert, progressive and canny.
It’s the premise that we have to work on. We don’t want to ignore the “top of the ticket,” whether we support Hillary or Bernie or Jim.We’ll get behind our hero and plaster stickers all over our cars and rally and cheer.
Great. But that’s not the hard work ahead. If we want progress on guns, health, housing, prison reform etc., we have to do the heavy lifting of ousting the bad guys from Congress and replacing them with more generous, caring and progressive men and women.
Here is my five-point plan for addressing that minor premise and making it real in the next election. There are 435 Congressional seats to be decided, so we have a lot of work to do.
1 – Sort out the wheat from the chaff. I’d suggest that anybody running with a high approval rating from the NRA is a candidate for ouster. Similar interest group red flags include Campaign for Working Families, Eagle Forum, ALEC and so on. Voting records are a good trail of bread crumbs to follow.
Another resource is Vote Smart, a group Bill Moyers calls “a bright light in an often desultory civic culture.” Pick out the politicians who stand against all kinds of progressive action, and make a list of those you plan to stand against. Chances are in those districts there will be a candidate of merit and promise who wants to unseat the bastard – put those good guys on another list.
2 – Send a little money to the good guys you have chosen. Not all of them and not a lot of money (unless you’ve got really deep pockets, in which case blessings on you and write a bigger check). For the majority of us who want to see change and who want a Congress that will work with a new Democratic President, we are able to make small contributions.
Emily’s List is a well-known organization that raises money and awareness for good women candidates. They’ve identified progressive women who are candidates for the House. Another good group to pay attention to is the Center for Community Change and their activist progressive stance. These and other organizations can help direct money to candidates who stand for change and who might stand a chance to knock off an obstructionist or a climate-change denier or a pro-gun Representative. (check out DiscovertheNetworks for lots of suggestions.)
3 – Tell people. There is every reason to use your personal network to spread the word about a Congressional district that might be up for grabs. If we are angry about Congress and we find candidates to support who would make change happen, then we ought to be willing to talk about it with friends, family, co-workers, your barber, plumber, the small business people we interact with every day.
Some people say “it isn’t cool to talk politics.” The longer we stay cool about politics the longer we will have to endure the lousy performance of our Congress. And while we wait to heat up, the climate keeps changing, the gun purchases keep mounting up, etc..
4 – See if you know people in the Congressional district you want to influence. We are an amazingly mobile and interconnected public. We move a lot, change jobs, have family scattered all over. My personal network of just family includes districts in California, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania.
It’s possible that as I look at the Congressional map and do the targeting I’ve described, I will find places where my family lives. When I do the same thing with my electronic address book with my professional and other contacts, I’m more than certain that I will find people living where the change has to happen. Then the job is to alert and energize those contacts.
5 – Make plans now to go to a district and volunteer on a campaign. What? And disrupt my life, leave my spouse with the kids, miss my monthly meeting? I know there are constraints on us, I know there are practical considerations. But think about it. This election is many months away. Vacations take the same kind of planning.
If you live in a district with a good guy in Congress, you’ll vote for him or her. That’s necessary, but not sufficient. I think we have to rally our energies around other candidates who can get rid of the crud and reinvent the Congress.
In the coming weeks, I plan to profile some of the worst of the sitting Members of the United States House of Representatives, along with profiles of fresh promising progressives. I want to give voice (mine, at least) to these change agents. Maybe it will inspire others to do the same.