Civic Diary 5/13/2016

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

And welcome to my weekly examination of how I’m doing in being a better citizen.

For those of you just joining, I was inspired by Anil Dash to find a way to be more regularly civicly engaged.  This is the result – a weekly diary to keep myself accountable and inspire people.

My big focus initially had been A) Following my assorted representatives, B) Following and joining relevant organizations, and C) Making efforts to at least write my representatives on issues, and of course D) Voting.  That was a start.

I’ve been thinking over how there’s two kinds of civic engagement – Strong (highly organized, vertical organizations like political parties, PACs, and political orgs), and Weak (more local, distributed, casual efforts that, like the power of weak links in networking, having profound effects by accumulation).  I did a lot more Weak work but not enough Strong work.

The simple fact of the matter is if you want to be civicly engaged, really make a difference, you have to get involved in some of the organizations out there.  So now I’m wrestling with what’s appropriate for me.  I’m waiting until June or so before I really try to answer this – but i’m leaning towards voter registration drives.

Now my latest findings:

  • First people are awful at talking about politics, and our media doesn’t help – we argue, we snipe, but we don’t engage.  I’d heard about The Little Book of Revolution by David Akadjian and Maiez Mehdi, a guide to talking to people about politics.  I’m reading it now and it’s really thought provoking – I’ll share more later.  Short form is it’s got great advice on engaging people and getting them involved – and it’s very goal-oriented.
  • I’ve started following my local political party (Democrats, natch) and plan to attend a local meeting to get a feel for getting involved politically.  Again just following a group on Twitter reveals a wealth of information.  My default interest, as you may guess, is GOTV.
  • Your local political parties provide a ton of ways to get involved.  Ever sat on a board?  Raised funds?  There’s a lot you can do – though how local (or national) you want to get may affect your options.
  • My local Democratic club had contact info for both Clinton and Sanders supporters, which was pretty cool.
  • I’m seeing the importance of “Weak Links” as well.  Just running events for a club really makes a difference for people.  Organizing people matters perhaps as much as anything else.

So that’s it for now.  Any insights on your end?

Started your civic diary yet?

– Steve