Activism is defined as finding an answer to three questions. "What decision is being made", "who is making that decision", and "how can I influence that decision". Frequently in political circles, those questions are directed towards legislative, executive or judicial decisions. For a political organization, our focus becomes the voters that we are trying to influence to support our candidates, our campaigns, and our positions on important issues. Between election cycles, we pay close attention to our elected officials and the bills that they are considering and debating. It's easy to get lost in the effort of supporting this policy, that bill, or that court case. It's easy to get totally focused on an election season or specific campaign, which many of us can relate to from the experience of the last two years or for some of us even longer.
It's sometimes harder to keep our attention on the real reason we are making the effort, and the reason that those efforts are worthwhile. I'd like to have us keep in our minds a different level of activism. Community activism can still be defined as finding an answer to the questions above. But the focus is different. When we work on community activism, we make contact with people who are trying to decide whether they should buy a gallon of milk, or a gallon of gas. We talk to people who are deciding whether to save for retirement, or save for their children's education. We work to help people worried about whether to pay their medical bill or their mortgage. People are making those choices in our community right now, from the person riding next to you on the bus to the person working next to you all day long. Your friends may be facing hard times, and even your own family may be affected. So how can we influence those decisions? By getting, and by staying, active.
What our Democratic Party organizations are focused on are kitchen table issues. We want to influence the development of policy, legislation and our courts so that people making the really hard decisions about their lives get a little more confidence that they can make those decisions with a sense of their community at their back, instead of feeling like their lives are a burden on their back.
2008 was a transformative election year. But the work goes on. As we begin to focus on local city and county races, as we pay close attention to the upcoming legislative session in Olympia and Washington D.C., as well as the ongoing debates about policy and municipal legislation that affect our ports, our cities, our schools and our trees, let us keep our focus on our community, making those daily decisions a little easier for ourselves and the people around us so that we can walk into the future together.
It's a new day. Let's make it a great one.