Skip the online petitions and polls; get out and do something

Mark Kelly wants your contact information so his people can ask you for money every day. If you donate, your contact information likely will be shared and others will ask for your money. Again and again and again …

Every day on social media, it’s the same thing: a one-question instant poll asking whether I think the occupant of the Oval Office is racist, whether Joe Biden is too old, whether pollution is a bad thing …

“Sign the petition!”

“Tell Congress you want sensible gun laws…”

“Tell Congress to protect our Second Amendment rights …”

None of it demands you get off your butt and do anything. Just sign and go on scrolling and looking at other people’s dinners and reading celebrity gossip.

But one thing you do accomplish when you take these “instant polls” or sign on to petitions that likely won’t ever be delivered, and even if they are, nobody’s going to act on them, is that you give your contact information to some marketing firm and your inbox is going to be inundated with requests for money.

That’s all they want. Your money. They’re not going to accomplish any policy change, but they have your information and they’re going to ask you for money every damn day.

Bernie needs $1 to make it to a million donors.

Mayor Pete will fight for you if you answer one question: Are you happy with your health care plan?

Elizabeth Warren needs to know whether you support consumer protections.

Sign the petition and tell Congress to protect Israel. Or Palestinians. Or Russian workers. Or the people of Hong Kong …

“Let’s put Gov. Inslee on the debate stage …”

I see dozens of them every day, and I like to comment: “I’m not giving you my contact information so you can use it to clog up my inbox with demands for money.”

I don’t answer instant polls and I don’t sign online petitions.

Neither should you.

These “polls” aren’t scientific and they’re useless as a result. And I’ve never heard of an online petition changing public policy. The only aim is to raise money, and they won’t stop, especially if you donate.

Now they know they have a live one, and they’ll tell their friends.

Have you ever tossed food to a single seagull at the beach? That gull will call all its friends, and before you know it, there are a dozen or more gulls flocking around you, trying to get at your lunch.

That’s how these marketers work. Suddenly, you have a dozen e-mails a day asking for you to sign petitions and donate money.

So, what should we do instead?

Show up.

Show up at your legislators’ offices with your demands for action.

Show up at events to learn more about the issues, so you know more than you’ll learn from clicking a yes or no button on Facebook.

Learn what you can about the issues you care about, about the pros and cons of policies and how they affect real people.

When ICE is in town, take groceries to families who are afraid to leave their homes.

When City Council wants to sell off a piece of public-owned land to a private developer, show up and demand the land stay in public hands, or if the sale is for the development of “affordable” housing, make sure that housing is truly affordable, not $1500 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Educate yourself and act on what you know, and then help others learn.

If you’re tempted to post a petition, find a fact sheet and post that instead.

Oh, and make sure you’re registered to vote, and then vote. If we all use the ballot, cheating is less likely to work for those who steal elections with voter suppression laws and gerrymandering.

You can check your voter registration status here: If you thought you were registered and you’re not, you’ve probably been purged and you need to re-register. Do it now so you don’t get screwed out of your vote on Election Day.

The instant polls and fake petitions are a distraction. Please treat them as such.

Sign the petition, and nothing will happen

Rep. John Ager is another of the representatives we elected from what was supposed to be a safe Republican district. We did not do it by signing online petitions, but by making phone calls and knocking on doors and getting out the vote. Here, John is speaking to the crowd of about 200 people at the March for Truth.


I don’t even keep count of how many times I’ve been asked to sign one or another online petition, as though it would make any difference at all in public policy.

Let me be honest here — I don’t ever sign them because they are meaningless. Government lawmakers and policymakers don’t give a damn about what we think. They care only about the people who fund their campaigns. That’s it.

Every time someone posts a petition on my timeline on Facebook, I explain that I don’t sign online petitions, and people argue that of course signing a meaningless petition is “taking action.”

No, it isn’t. Sitting at your computer and typing in your name and address is effortless, and the people in power know that. You risk nothing because you have done nothing. They know you’re not likely to get off your butt and take any real action.

A million signatures is one thing, but a million faxes, phone calls, e-mails or visits from real human beings shows them we mean business.

If you want to fill out a form that makes a difference, fill out a voter registration form, and follow it up by filling out a ballot. That’s what will make a difference.

Work to get a worthy candidate elected. Make phone calls, knock on doors. You can make phone calls after work, even for a half hour once a week. Get that candidate’s name out there.

I know this works because I live in the most gerrymandered district in the most gerrymandered state in the nation. In 2014, our Republican state representative was considered safer than anyone. He was going to be the next Speaker of the NC House.

But then something amazing happened. We, his constituents, got mad. Enough was enough. He refused to listen to us, hearing instead only the monied interests who had paid for his election.

I made calls, I showed up to knock on doors, and registered Republicans were happy to hear someone was running against him. People turned out to vote, and we sent that little weasel home.

That was in 2014. So, what happened to the seat in 2016? The Republicans couldn’t find anyone to oppose Brian Turner. He ran unopposed.

Across the county, Nathan Ramsey, a moderate Republican, was elected in 2012, and he was bullied into voting with the extreme right wing of the party.

Something good happened there, too: John Ager, a farmer who had never been in politics, decided to run. Again, his supporters worked hard and he won, both in 2014 and 2016. And no one ever signed an online petition saying his election would be a good thing.

These people who are trashing our Democracy think they’re safe. They don’t care what we want and no petition is going to change their behavior. The only way to make things better is to send them home, and you don’t do that with online petitions.

So, go ahead, sit at your desk and type in your name on meaningless petition after meaningless petition, and do you know what will change?

Not a damn thing, that’s what.

I know the petitions’ sponsors want you to think differently, but petitions are what they use to raise money. You sign their petition decrying the injustice du jourĀ and then a screen pops up asking you to donate money, so — what? They can generate more petitions?

Get up off your butt and get out there. Attend a march, meet other human beings who share your interests and work with them to make change. Meet and talk to the candidates who are opposing those in power. Find out how you can help.

We don’t all have to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested. There are plenty of ways to be active without risking arrest. But we all need to find real ways to contribute because Democracy is participatory, and signing an online petition is not participating, it’s lazy.



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