By Nathan Schmidt
Organizing for change is never easy. Sustaining a movement is even harder. We have all seen the awakening of long slumbering political movements over the last year, from the women’s march following the election to the Indivisible groups popping up all over Kansas and the nation. Energy is the key to getting any movement off the ground, but hope, focus, and visible results are what sustains it.
We live in a red state (ask any of the pundits and they will tell you so). They will point to our elected officials that garner national attention for conservative policies, the dominance of the Republican Party across the board and the lack of strong progressive opposition to them. They aren’t wrong but they also aren’t looking at the whole picture. The largest group of eligible voters in this state and this country are not Republicans, nor are they Democrats, or even Independents. The largest and most powerful group are those who don’t vote at all. As a progressive Democrat, I see the potential to uproot the current political structure and advance the cause that has begun to take hold across this country.
It doesn’t take much, even in a state like Kansas, to turn the political winds when you look at the untapped potential out there. Millennials, the largest generation this country has ever seen, will soon be the largest and most powerful block of voters in the country, up to 40% of the electorate by 2020. They share progressive social values, embrace diversity, and want opportunity for all, but they don’t currently vote in numbers representative of their power.
Change doesn’t require moderating our principles in order to appeal to a Republican faction that has long rejected our beliefs. Of course we want them to join us, but not at the expense of what we stand for. Change requires a much simpler event, increasing the participation of those who already share those values but don’t see a vehicle to express them. A relatively small increase in the participation of those who share our beliefs would create a huge change in the makeup of our elected officials.
It is time to turn this potential into action, our passion into results. It is time to demand candidates willing to stand up for Democratic issues and to support those candidates willing to actually take a stance. Our demands are not unreasonable. We remain the only developed nation on earth without universal health care despite being the wealthiest nation on the planet. We are denying opportunity to our best and brightest by making higher education a debt they bear for decades to come. We saw our nation build the world’s greatest infrastructure after WWII only to see it crumble and fall behind in the decades after. These are not extremist positions, they are common sense solutions to our real problems.
Government is not some separate entity that we only get to yell at or curse. Government is us. We are responsible for the failures in our government and we are also the cure.
Government doesn’t fail. Government does what it is told at the ballot box.
This government is our government. We control its direction, competency, and impact by our actions, but also by our inaction. It is our responsibility to act, to take back the power that has always been ours to begin with. We are not alone, most of you reading this are already involved but you have allies among those who aren’t. You have friends and family, associates and neighbors, who share your ideals but have never felt they have had a voice. There are more like us than opposed to us. Show them what votes can do, show them how our government can once again serve our interests. Talk to them, organize them, drive them to the polls. Energy and outrage can be fleeting, tangible advances and results are what will sustain the movement we are all seeing right now. Now is not the time to shy away from what we believe in. We know the other side doesn’t. It is our nation, our government, let’s be an active part of the solution.