Turning “political hobbyism” into real action

By Sandy Long, Chaffee County Chapter Leader and Jim Hooton, Colorado State Co-Coordinator

Jim: Happy New Year, Sandy!

Sandy: Happy New Year, Jim! What’s new with you?

Jim: I just read an interesting New York Times opinion piece by Ezra Klein that talks about “political hobbyism,” from Eithan Hersh’s book, Politics Is for Power. Hersch says that a third of Americans say they spend two or more hours each day on politics, but what most of them really do is look at news and podcasts and social media and then grouse to friends and family. My favorite quote is “[Real political work] is action in service of change, not information in service of outrage.”

Sandy: What a great quote! I sometimes find it's easy to get stuck in “scrolling” and not doing much besides complaining. That’s why I like CCL and the Five Levers – Lobbying, Media Relations, Grassroots, Outreach, Grasstops Engagement, and Group Development – because they're how we take action to build political will. What are you working on this year?

Jim: My goal for 2022 is to work on passage of the Carbon Fee and Dividend Resolution that will be considered by the Colorado State Legislature this year. If it passes, Colorado would join California as the only State to pass something like this. By the way, we need help with this all over the State, so if you have any extra capacity, join in! And don’t forget to check Grasstops Engagement Tracker in CCL’s Community so you can coordinate with any others that are also reaching out to your State Legislators. How about you? What are you and your chapter going to be working on this year?

Sandy: Several members and I have been very busy the past few weeks spreading the word about new pricing from our local electric cooperative, Sangre de Cristo Electric Association. They plan to raise the monthly service fee which hurts low energy users including low-income folks and those with solar systems. They intend to charge net metering users a distribution charge when they use energy from the grid which will significantly increase their electric bills. We got over 580 people to sign an online petition objecting to these changes and had over 100 people attend their Board Meeting.

Jim: Wow, that’s impressive for a small mountain community.

Sandy: Yes, but this is just the first round, so stay tuned. Also, this year my chapter will be in a new congressional district, so that’s exciting.

Jim: Yes, and it’s an election year. Ezra Klein also talks about the importance of organizing at the local level. Go to public meetings. Register voters. Run for a position. Last election I participated in the Environmental Voter Project. Their simple mobile app helped me text and call inactive environmentalists with the idea of converting them into consistent voters. The folks we’re reaching out to already agree with our mission, so we don’t have to persuade them. We just try to get them to turn out to vote. It’s actually pretty fun!

Sandy: I’ll have to check that out and keep myself focused on actions, not scrolling. On to an interesting 2022!

Click here to read Ezra Klein’s article. (Note: If you hit a paywall on this article, many public libraries offer a free pass to read the New York Times.)