Obama calls for citizen participation

ADVERTISEMENT
Voting is a moment in representative democracy. This is what the moment of November 6 produced.

Nov. 6, 2012, the nation votes: Obama 69.9m votes or 51 percent, Romney 60.9m votes or 47 percent.

Dec. 12, 2012, the Electoral College votes: Obama 332, Romney 206.

Jan. 3, 2013 the 113th U.S. Congress is sworn in. Senate members elected: Republicans 8 seats, 39m votes; Democrats 23 seats, 50m votes; Independents 2 seats, 1.5 m votes.

So where is one-person, one vote?  U.S. House of Representatives: Republicans 234 members, with 58.6m votes; Democrats 201 members, with 59.6m votes.

Who won the House? Gerrymandering won the House by the redistricting process demanded every ten years, with Republicans controlling the processes in many swing states.

What’s a Democrat to do? Join the movement.

Generationally, President Obama is a “boomer.” He, as other boomers, witnessed politics as a succession of movements; civil rights, women's rights, environmental rights, student rights, the rights to peace, senior rights, and more recently, LGBT rights, Latino rights, and hopefully a meaningful rise of working middle class rights. The movements that President Obama lived through shaped his political consciousness.

Participatory democracy also created a generation of idealist activist who visions to end oppression and create opportunities through expanding justice is never ending. Participatory democracy is transformative in that it is a rebirth of citizenship as an inherent and ongoing responsibility in democracy. It is not a one day event, or a moment, once every year, or four years.

“Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.” On November 6th, the campaign apparatus of “Obama for America” delivered the moment. On January 21st, the president’s agenda for “Organizing for America” was defined. A movement is being launched. Eisenhower’s “Sputnik Moment” was recalled in the POTUS’s State of the Union Address in 2011. Now with four years to implement, President Obama has launched the movement towards sustainable development. “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.”

Sustainable development is simply defined as development not only serving the present generation, but our children’s generation and their children’s generation. Boomers, Gen Xers, and the Millenniums, the working generations of our times, with assistance from the Silent and the Greatest Generations will be united in common a cause. “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.”  This is the birth of the sustainable development movement in America. President Obama has seized the global leadership upon which his legacy will stand.

The movement is the coalescing of the power and the energy of our generations, uniting, to lead the world in meeting human needs by expanding human rights and equality. “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.” Sustainable development means creating a global sustainable economy inextricably linked to the reduction of poverty.

Our Common Future, the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development written 24 years ago, has found its place in history in the vision of President Obama. He closed his inaugural address, “With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future the precious light of freedom.”

Five times President Obama challenged us, “Our journey is not complete.” Five times he identifies us as “We the People.” Seven times he reminds us that we must create democracy “together.”  If that’s not a call for participatory democracy and creating a movement of sustainable development, I do not know what is.

Julian is a professor and provost faculty fellow in the Political Science Department at Pace University in New York City.