Get out the vote week
They say that history is made by the people who turn up. Surely though, if anyone makes history, it is those who ensure that people turn up. And this week, it’s get out the vote week.
Across the country, we will be voting in the first UK wide referendum in decades – the first in my lifetime. In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, people will be voting to elect their devolved governments. Across England, there are local council elections. And, after months of campaigning, activists and candidates will be gasping for that last ounce of energy. Powered by late night take away or piles of toast, they will be sitting at their desks, printing out canvassing spreadsheets, phone databases and electoral rolls for the next day. They will be arranging their closing press stunts, and bundling their final newsletters. Their few moments in bed will be dominated not by sleep, but by the toss and turn of fearful speculation.
When the sun emerges, they will be knocking on doors. They will be pushing leaflets through letter boxes, or they will be telephoning strangers to remind them to vote. And in doing so, they will be making history, one person at a time; changing the world, one person at a time.
Politics is rarely about winning the argument. And politics is not about effective rhetoric. No, ultimately, politics is about a negotiation between organised groups of people. That means that people need to be organised. Politics is about pounding pavements and grasping moments of conversations. Politics is about leaflets through letter boxes and the reader on the other side. It is about their lives, their experiences, and which side of history those things put them on.
Ultimately, politics is about working together to improve our communities. And this week, we all have a choice. Because it will be all to easy for progressives to sit in our armchairs and cheer as our side wins, or moan about the failures of those running the campaigns we support. But that’s not good enough. Because those campaigns are our campaigns. It is our history that they seek to make.
The cynicism of many activists prevents us from encouraging people to vote one way or another, but such cynicism rejects the potential for any change now, through current structures. And that rejection is as stifling of progress as is the belief that radical change is impossible.
So, this week, it’s time to help get out the vote. If you want to help the Yes to AV campaign, you can get in touch through their website. You could help the Scottish Greens elect more MSPs who will stand up against cuts, the Welsh Greens elect their first Assembly member, or the Northern Irish Greens to maintain their voice of reason. You can help the Greens in Norwich or Brighton who are both within sight of becoming the first Green controlled city councils. Or you can help numerous other local parties, or, if you must, other campaigns entirely.
But this week, people across the country will go to the polls. And so this week, let’s remember to get out the vote. Let’s not sit back and form an phalanx of dinner table critics. Let’s give every spare moment, every spare second, to securing those things we can change this week, because this is get out the vote week. And history is made by those who ensure people turn up.