Marin Voice: Democracy demands your participation today

Apr 30, 2024

By Rhea Suh and Ralph Lewin

Much has been written lately about “the state of our democracy in crisis.” We read the headlines and feel a rise in anxiety. But what does it actually mean?

It means that the checks and balances that ensure fairness in decision-making are being undermined. That elections are being manipulated to make it harder for some people to vote. That truth and facts are being subverted by some segments of our media via misinformation and disinformation, sowing distrust. That violence is increasingly being used to threaten people with differing opinions and attack our freedoms.

As with so many issues confronting us today — climate change, economic uncertainty, affordable housing and a broken health care system — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. We throw up our hands and assume that our voice and our actions are just a drop in the ocean, insignificant in the grand scheme of things. How do we counteract the dismantling, the disinformation and the distancing that define our times? What can one person do?

Well, that’s the great thing about democracy. One person can make a lot happen. As philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke famously said, “Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could do only a little.”

Democracy can seem abstract. It’s both a reality that we live in and an ambition we strive for. One of the hallmarks of democracy is that it requires each of us to play our part. Democracy demands that we participate, that we take action. Democracy is a verb.

But we can’t wait until November to participate in democracy. Because, while casting your vote matters, it’s one action half a year away. Democracy demands your participation today.

Because today, we can effect change. We can direct funding to organizations that are actively engaged in the work of democracy. The list includes Protect Democracy, which strives to protect free and fair elections and defend the rule of law; Voto Latino, which is dedicated to educating and empowering a new generation of Latinx voters; and State Voices, which builds movements with marginalized communities so that they can advocate and organize for their own communities.

Right here in our own backyard, there are organizations like Canal Alliance, Marin Center for Independent Living, Youth Leadership Institute and many others working to strengthen civic engagement. Learn about them. Volunteer with them. Support their work. This is how democracy works.

Nonprofits are a cornerstone of our democracy. To be effective, they need funding now to ensure that voters are informed, that participation is diverse, and that the American people can be confident in the integrity of our election system. Early donations allow pro-democracy nonprofits to be more efficient and flexible with the funds they receive. November is too late. As one nonprofit executive director recently shared, “I can write a novel on how much more expensive and ineffective funding is that comes late.”

We’re asking you, Marin, to join us in this work, to engage on these issues of critical importance. Engage by participating in the systems of our democracy. Engage by investing in the people and organizations that are doing democracy work. Engage in civil and active discourse around the lives that we lead and the issues we face as a community and as a country.

The promise of democracy can be manifested as easily as showing up to county hearings, city council meetings and school board gatherings — tuning in to what’s going on, exchanging perspectives and exploring solutions.

This is about coming together to protect and uphold the democratic principles that ensure safety, freedom and truth. And when we do this together, when we leverage our individual power and our individual contributions to safeguard democracy, we become a larger force for collective impact.

Every action matters. Your action matters. So take action today.

Rhea Suh is the president and CEO of the Marin Community Foundation. Ralph Lewin is the executive director of the Peter E. Haas Jr. Family Fund.

Full article in the Marin Independent Journal.

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