The best way to influence the government by ordinary people - Essay Example

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The United States is a democracy which means that people are expected to use their right to vote in local and federal elections as a way of influencing the political direction of the country. This method is fine if a person just wants to participate in steering the general…
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The best way to influence the government by ordinary people. The United s is a democracy which means that people are expected to use their right to vote in local and federal elections as a way of influencing the political direction of the country. This method is fine if a person just wants to participate in steering the general direction towards Democrat or Republican policies. It is not very effective, however, if an ordinary person wants to influence the government on a single important issue such as gun climate change, for example. Fortunately, there are a number of other possibilities which can be used to make sure that the government listens to the views of the ordinary citizen, and in recent times social networking sites and blogs are proving to be an excellent pathway.
The great advantage of social networking sites like facebook, or even twitter, is that they can reach a large number of people very quickly. When an idea takes hold on the internet and is passed from person to person, then it is called a “viral” process, because it spreads like a virus through the contacts that are made. We can see in the so-called “Arab Spring” that dissatisfaction with government performance has resulted in protests all across North Africa and the Middle East. Demonstrations and rallies are co-ordinated by facebook, in the large cities at least, and this means that many voices can be heard at the same time, forcing the government to take notice. This has resulted in violence on some occasions, because of the strong feelings of the protestors and the harsh reaction by the governments concerned. Violence, however, is not the best way bring about change. People suffer because of it, and many become bitter, resulting in a cycle of destruction that helps nobody.
A more effective use of social networking, and one which is used in the United States, is to make concerns public on the internet, and to draw attention to issues that a lot of people would like to change. Many pathways from the twentieth century like writing letters to a member of Congress, or drawing up a petition, or even lobbying key politicians, can now be done online in the twenty-first century.
The issue of climate change has many different dimensions, and an ordinary citizen can choose social networking sites for different types of action. For local issues, it is possible to join a local lobbying group, and to participate in meetings, for example to protest about any environmental damage being done by a local factory. Dates and times can be published on the protest group’s web, or blog, or facebook page, and supporters can follow what is being planned, and participate in organizing events and campaigns. On national issues, such as the targets for the nation’s carbon usage, or the President’s position at international conferences, ordinary people can catch the attention of the media by organizing novel protests which have a symbolic meaning, such as a campaign with people volunteering to be arrested in protest at a proposed pipeline from Canada. (McKibben, 2011) If a group of people can encourage television reporters to take up their story, this can have more effect on the government than formal channels like lobbying and petitions, because it catches the imagination of viewers, and puts pressure on the government to come up with answers.

McKibben, Bill. “A Watershed moment for Obama on climate change. The Washington Post, August 17, 2011. Available online at: change/2011/08/16/gIQAGX3zJJ_story.html Read More
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