“Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…” Winston Churchill to House of Commons 1947.
So if democracy is the best form of government, why is it not working? Why are so many of us unhappy with the status quo?
More importantly, what must we do to make our government work better?
The answer I believe, is individual citizens working collectively to take back their government.
Historically and at all levels, government decision-makers both appointed and elected are predominantly influenced (some would say controlled) by big business.
Government leaders will profess to care about ordinary people and some will endeavor to work in support of them, but big business is ALWAYS there, knocking on the door of policy-makers, protecting their profits and expanding their opportunities.
But ordinary people united in purpose have the power to knock even louder, to take back their government, protect and enhance their livelihood, their health, and their environment-especially here in Hawaii.
We are blessed to live in a place small enough that local citizen based control of state and county government is entirely possible.
Regardless of the U. S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision allowing unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, in small communities like ours that advantage can be overcome.
In Hawaii, especially at the County and State levels, districts are small enough that voters can actually know personally the candidate they vote for.
But it takes work.
A healthy democracy requires active civic engagement which requires time, energy and commitment.
It is not enough to show up (or not) every two years on election day and vote.
Pounding out pithy messages of righteous indignation on Facebook or twitter in the wee hours of the morning won’t do it either.
To win, to truly take back and own your government takes real work. It means making civics a part of your daily life, following the issues, attending community meetings, submitting testimony and getting to know your government leaders on a personal level.
It means not being “too busy”. Yes, I know that’s what you are thinking.
Trust me, we are all “too busy” and that excuse does not cut it anymore.
The world is going to hell-in-a-hand-basket and being too busy to join together with others to help fix it is not an option.
So please, get involved and take ownership and responsibility for your government today. Find and join an organization that has an active civic engagement component.
There are many local organizations who desperately need citizen involvement and would welcome your call. Get involved with your neighborhood association, your political Party of choice, or use this handy search engine to find organizations by zip code: https://actionnetwork.org/groups/search
Join with friends and neighbors and organize a meeting in your neighborhood with your local elected leaders about issues that are important to you.
The reality is we can’t afford to wait. Our democracy is not healthy and it is up to all of us to make it well again.
NOTE: A slightly edited version of the above column was first published in The Garden Island newspaper on July 26, 2017