Beyond the Presidency

Remember that no matter who becomes president of the U.S., there is more to our political system than the person occupying the Oval Office. While the executive branch is indeed important and powerful, the federal system allocates a lot of power to Congress and the states: governors, attorney generals, state representatives, judges, etc. — as well as city and county officials — all play crucial roles in our lives.

Many of the great changes in history — the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights movement — first emerged and succeeded at the local and state levels. These are the incubators in which new policies and ideas are tested. These are where many nationally prominent politicians and reformers often get their start.

Then there is the critical yet often underrated role of civil society, the nongovernmental institutions and individuals — such as nonprofits, advocacy groups, charities, foundations, community organizations, voluntary associations, think tanks, and many more — that seek to affect change by working through, or even beyond, the political process. They matter tremendously, and are almost always in need of support and involvement. Just about every movement or issue originates from civil society and cannot succeed without it.

Again, the presidency matters — a whole lot — but so do many other political offices at all levels of government, and so do numerous organizations outside government, which are nonetheless influential. These factors remain consistently neglected, and subsequently continue to fall short. We do ourselves and our cherished causes and values a disservice when we act as if the president is the only figure that matters above everything else, or when we limit our civic engagement to occasional votes.

What are your thoughts?

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