Many Americans I know assume that voting is the only method by which they participate in their government. This is incorrect. As Howard Zinn stated, “Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”
[“Election Madness” The Progressive (March 2008)]
Politicians are highly susceptible to pressure asserted by social movements and by corporate power. If social movements are weak or non-existent, politicians will fall completely into the arms of corporations. Exhibit A is the rapacious yet mostly legal conduct of Wall Street banks over the past decade.
Amy Goodman raised this point of the need for ordinary citizens to get involved in social movements to keep pressure on the president in a recent article at Common Dreams:
Someone asked [Barack Obama] what he would do about the Middle East. He answered with a story about the legendary 20th-century organizer A. Philip Randolph meeting with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Randolph described to FDR the condition of black people in America, the condition of working people. Reportedly, FDR listened intently, then replied: “I agree with everything you have said. Now, make me do it.” That was the message Obama repeated.
There you have it. Make him do it. You’ve got an invitation from the president himself.
For years during the Bush administration, people felt they were hitting their heads against a brick wall. With the first election of President Obama, the wall had become a door, but it was only open a crack. The question was, Would it be kicked open or slammed shut? That is not up to that one person in the White House, no matter how powerful. That is the work of movements.