In today’s NYT, two scholars of authoritarian movements, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, weigh in. It’s an important article.
Readers, recall that my main purpose in running this site was not simply to aggregate polls. I also wanted to help direct efforts and resources. Presidential polls were off (watch my entomophagy, which I made as substantive as I could), but the top six Senate races split 2-to-4, which is about right.
Now, with democratic institutions under threat, the question is: what can everyday citizens do? Recently, former Congressional staffers have prepared an excellent divide, titled Indivisible. It’s very popular! I provide a downloaded PDF here Read it, print it, save it. Also, here is a story on how the document came to be.
In addition, I offer three ideas, whose impacts range from long-term to immediate. These are meant for all Americans who want to save institutions – whether they are liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican.
1. Join your Representative’s party. This can be a tough one to do mentally, but it can potentially pay off.
David Wasserman at Cook Political Report/FiveThirtyEight points out a major problem in our democracy: most districts are not competitive. Mostly because of population clustering, with an additional boost from gerrymandering, like-minded people are clustered within legislative districts. And when districts are lopsided in their partisan makeup, the only competitive legislative election is the primary.
In both parties, representatives will face pressures to cave, if and when our institutions come under threat. Since most general elections carry no suspense, I suggest that you put your effort where you have the most leverage: the primary. In most states, advance party registration is necessary to vote in the primary. This has a consequence: to influence your representative, you must register to his/her party. That may mean changing parties! It sounds tough, but think about it. The Republican Party in particular needs to be brought back from its Trumpist death spiral.
Such logic also applies to both Republicans and Democrats. However, the risks with Democrats are different because (a) they’re not in power, and (b) they’re not putting institutions at risk. Either way, maximize your influence by registering to the dominant local party.
2. Contact your local and state officials. When an offense to institutions occurs, contact your local and state officials. Because they have fewer constituents, they are more likely to be responsive. This is especially important if you think your representative is swayable, or if he/she is a mismatch to the state partisan leaning. An example would be Governor Larry Hogan (R) of Maryland, which is heavily Democratic. Although Hogan was not a Trump supporter, he was rather silent during the campaign. Silence in the face of constitutional violations is not a sufficient response. Encourage such people to be vocal.
3. Keep the media on task. A free press is one of our remaining defenses. But news organizations face many pitfalls, including:
- Choosing unimportant stories over important ones (Kanye instead of Rex Tillerson),
- Pressure to offer “both sides” balance (this attitude was once used to normalize lynching),
- Misleading headlines after the story is written, and
- Intimidation from the incoming President.
You can help by contacting editors, writers, and producers to give them feedback. Keep it friendly. Here are contacts for the NYT. Looking for contacts for AP, ABC, NBC, CBS, WSJ. Here’s an example of a success.
The Times properly uses the F-word in a headline reporting a Trump statement. Other news orgs should take note. pic.twitter.com/WbPkmVqLIz
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) December 15, 2016
Please give input and suggestions in the comments section, which is my favorite part of PEC.