During campaign seasons, I work with community groups that are trying to ensure that the people they organize find a way to make their concerns heard in elections. They aim to leverage the fact they have organized memberships, people, to make sure the politicians listen; and they take advantage of the opportunity elections offer to talk with people who might want to join them in working for community friendly policies.
Trouble is, too often, folks who work in these groups have struggled very hard to learn how to deal with policy wonks, government bureaucrats, and funders -- and in the process they've forgotten how to talk the language of the people they want to mobilize. So they use language like:
- "single payer health care"
- "affordable housing set-asides"
- or even the fuzzy notion of "high quality jobs".
Theda Skocpol, in a review of an economics book I probably will never get around to reading, says the same problem afflicts national Democratic policy makers who aim to use government to advance economic equality.
No wonder we don't think government will do anything for us. Even the good politicians, the ones whose programs really might help, have not managed to make their programs visible, felt, and understandable. So folks don't even know they exist.