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“A republic… if you can keep it…”
The work of building up to a better outcome has always already begun, before we have a chance to think about the work itself or its necessity.
The act of leading, then, is a recognition of the forces that are converging and a conscious understanding of how to work with them, when and to what purpose.
Having just arrived back from a journey to the heart of our democracy, I am again affirmed in the feeling that our democracy is deeply personal. And so, the success of our democracy depends on the intimate experience each participant has of the democratic process.
Historically, when observers to the Bretton Woods institutions would raise issues of macrocritical value distortion, they were generally told “That’s not our business.” The common practice was to treat environmental damage, the degradation of basic rights, limited access to education, as “unquantifiables” or as “social issues”. IMF leadership would refer to the founding mission as dealing exclusively with the health or unhealth of fiscal math in a given country—its budgetary solvency. At the World Bank, the mission of ending poverty was not seen as directly linked to the building of basic civic and economic infrastructure required for sustained human development.
So, for a long time, macrocritical considerations would make their way into analysis and reports, but global economic leaders went on about their business without worrying too much about environmental impacts, gender inequality, or systemic multi-directional feedback loops like the climate system.
An idea whose time has come
In 2010, when Citizens’ Climate Lobby brought 25 citizen volunteers to Capitol Hill, it felt like a big challenge to get enough people to go the distance, to meet with all 535 voting members of Congress. This year, we brought 36 times as many people, and it is looking more like we will need more elected officials to welcome and build relationships with all the citizen lobbyists coming to make democracy work.
The 2015 CCL International Conference brought a record number of citizen volunteer lobbyists together—more than 900—to have real policy discussions with elected officials. It was a breakthrough year in a lot of ways:
- For the first time, we had more people attending than could reasonably fit into the meetings we had scheduled.
- We had nearly three times as many volunteers to role-play members of Congress in our basic training than we had volunteers total in our first conference.
- We heard from not one but two great scientists who have been named to TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people on Earth.
- We were joined by dozens of faith leaders, who came to support this message of enhanced civics and substantive policy for a livable world.
- Pope Francis released his Encyclical Laudato Si: On caring for our common home 5 days before we went to the Hill.
- On the morning of our Lobby Day, the Lancet released a comprehensive public health study that calls for pricing carbon as necessary to protect human health from now on.
- And, in one Republican office after another, we heard the message: we get the science; we want to talk about solutions.
The people have a right to co-create policy with our representatives.
Political analysts around the world have been noting the extreme negative tone of the 2014 midterm election campaign in the U.S. Outside groups that are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on smears and innuendo are degrading the political debate. The ugliness of the campaign has exacerbated the bitterness many Americans feel toward the political process itself.
That bitterness tends to be connected to a feeling of detachment or of access denied. People believe they do not have access to their elected officials and that the parties do not respond to their day-to-day needs. This detachment is driven partly by the apparent inability of leading national political figures to work together, which leaves a great deal of important work unfinished.
Part 3: 7,200 Hours of Education for Principled Civics
With over 600 volunteers, spending between 8 and 16 hours learning, strategizing and coordinating, the 2014 Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference provided roughly 7,200 total hours of education. That time empowers volunteers to do better work as citizens on Capitol Hill, but also delivers that training, through them, to our local groups, all across the United States.