Mayfield: Democracy needs your help

Jun 21, 2024, 8:12 AM | Updated: Jun 27, 2024, 4:44 pm

Children wave American flags. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)...

Children wave American flags. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

There’s a lot of talk these days about the future of our democracy. Both major political parties are warning that if the other one wins democracy is over.

There are many legitimate reasons to be concerned about the health of our representative system in this country. But one that we don’t talk much about is our own willingness to actually participate.

I volunteer with our kids’ school PTA. This week, we had the chance to meet with the state senator who represents our neighborhood. It was a good discussion. I think we learned a lot and he was able to hear our legitimate concerns.

What struck me when it was over was just how easy it really was to have such direct access to someone who votes on the literal laws that govern our lives. In my career as a journalist, I have interviewed countless elected leaders at every level of government.  That’s a kind of access often afforded journalists and I am grateful for that access. I always felt like it was my privilege to represent you at home with my questions during those interviews.

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But this was different. This was me – just a random human – talking for 30 minutes with the lawmaker who has been asking for my vote for the last two decades or so. The process was simple. We had concerns. We reached out for a meeting. The meeting was scheduled. We had the meeting.

That’s it.

I bring this all up because as I was reflecting on it, I realized this was only the second time in my entire life that I had—as a private citizen—had one of these meetings with a lawmaker.

I consider myself well-read, politically engaged, and certainly an active participant. I haven’t missed casting a ballot in any election since I was legally able to vote almost 30 years ago.

Yet this meeting felt special and unique and revealing.

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This made me wonder why we aren’t doing this kind of thing more often. Why have I only done this twice in my life? Why do we often let others do this kind of work for us? We think activists and lobbyists get a lawmaker’s ear and that’s true, but in our system of government…we get an ear as well if we are willing to take and bend that ear.

Let’s continue this national debate over the health and future of democracy, but at the same time, perhaps we could all examine our own civic participation. Let’s all ensure that we, too, are playing an active—and direct—role in shaping that future.

Travis Mayfield is a Seattle-based media personality and a fill-in host on KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of his stories and commentaries here.

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Mayfield: Democracy needs your help