Introducing the Local Political Tracker
Imagine a world in which the top priority of our institutions of government is to facilitate the Great Work of our age: reintegrating human beings with the entire web of life, and maintaining a viable planet for humans and all species. A world where human health and happiness are understood to be inseparable from the health of the local bioregion: the soil, the plants and animals, the waters, and the atmosphere. A world where our political priorities and our policies reflect the awareness that we are organisms embedded in the living matrix of our precious planet.
That world is possible, but it will not happen on its own. It will take a shift of consciousness and values, as well as education, organization, and political empowerment. It will also take a spirit of collective action, and a sense of planetary and local responsibility that transcends the individualism of Western society. A massive mobilization is needed, driven by a passion akin to patriotism or religious fervor, but clear-headed, evolutionarily-sound, and rooted in love for one’s family, community, planet, and for existence itself.
In terms of political action, the way forward may entail simultaneously:
- working to create true democracy via the existing structures of government; and
- continually reflecting on and experimenting with new institutions that may make more evolutionary sense.
For now, the Political Tracker emphasizes the first approach, promoting a grassroots transformation of the democratic process through citizen engagement. True democracy is participatory democracy, where people are empowered to make the decisions that shape their lives, their communities, and their future.
Yet in many ways the United States is a democracy in name only, with all aspects of the political process – including campaigning, voting, vote-counting, lobbying, law-making, enforcement of regulations, and even the judicial process – having been compromised by the role of corporate and other elite interests. Elected officials are often beholden to wealthy campaign donors and their lobbyists. Corporate lawyers continually work to shape the legal code, and as a result wealth and power are concentrated like never before. To top it off the mainstream media – which ideally would be informing the people on important issues – has largely become an entertainment and misinformation industry. This is not surprising, since the media outlets are also owned or influenced by many of the same corporate sponsors that shape government.
It is no wonder that for many people the political situation seems rigged and beyond control, either too complicated or too corrupted to bother getting involved with. Yet a population of consumers that is paralyzed by a sense of hopelessness, despair, and apathy is all that the corporate-government elite could ever hope and wish for. On the other hand, a population filled with desperation and unchanneled anger is equally easy to manipulate with false promises.
The US does, however, have a long history of social movements, civic organizations, and political struggles to draw inspiration from. If nothing else, this past election cycle showed the extent of people’s dissatisfaction with the status quo. On both sides of the carefully crafted "political divide", grassroots sensibility is on the rise.
Yet while social movements are alive and growing, in large part elections and governance still take place with only limited public awareness, scrutiny, or participation.
Enter the Tracker
The Local Political Tracker is a tool for reclaiming democracy and governance from the bottom up. While action is needed at all levels, the tracker is built on the notion that we can start where our actions make a tangible difference, at the local level. Even a country as large as the US is comprised of a collection of locales. Many of the issues that trouble our nation and our world as a whole are the sum of a million small local decisions. If a culture of political awareness and empowerment can be cultivated at the local level, it will naturally “trickle up” to affect higher levels of decision-making.
The Tracker aims to support an educated, aware, and empowered population by promoting:
The concept in its present form is simple: independent volunteers and organizations compile and summarize relevant information on elected officials, governmental bodies, and important political issues, and make that information available to the public in an accessible form. A dynamic archive is maintained, so that at election time there is no mystery about current candidates’ voting records and positions on the issues. The tracker can also be used to highlight important pieces of legislation that community members may want to support or oppose.
The tracker is merely a tool, and to make it work will require local volunteers who are willing to serve their community. Even for a willing volunteer, the labyrinth of different governmental bodies, federal, state, and local policies, can be overwhelming. Understandably, no one wants to spend all their free time sitting through local government meetings. The idea behind the tracker is that if even a small organized group of people agrees that each will attend, say, one meeting a month, and summarize what happened, that will make a difference. With time, the tracker will become a powerful source of information, a place that citizens can turn to who want to understand local issues, have their voice be heard, and support candidates they can believe in. Or better yet – they can run for office.
The tracker will be coupled with the Local Discussion Forum on this website, so that issues can be discussed and debated freely. The tracker will also complement the excellent work done by organizations such as the League of Women Voters, and the League of Conservation Voters.
The tracker is a work in progress, and your ideas and participation are welcome. What are you willing to do to step up and take responsibility for your community, town, or city, your country, and the planet? There is too much at stake to rely on someone else to make the decisions that will shape our shared future.