I'm up to my old tricks again, by which I mean posting about something that comes courtesy of Andrew Sullivan (who in turn got it courtesy the Political Science Weblog): It seems that grassroots mobilization campaigns increased voter turnout by 7%. I find this encouraging, even if the study specifically found that MoveOn.org and other lefty-loons to be effective.
First, I haven't had time to read the entire article, but I would guess that they do not provide data suggesting how that extra 7% voted. Although, the article did mention that both parties exceeded their voter turnout goals. Meaning, part of that 7% may well be folks who saw MoveOn doing its thing and though "uh oh, those hippy liberal pansies are mobilizing. I'd better get out and vote too!" (Please note that "hippy liberal pansies" were their words not mine. You don't believe me; I can tell). Similarly, some may have been folks who listened to people more of like mind with me and thought "uh oh, those gun nuts are coming out in full force, I'd better go vote!"
Second, I like to see grassroots work effective; it captures democracy to my mind. We have groups educating constituents about issues, and encouraging those constituents to vote, and they do! What is most exciting, is that grassroots seems to work even in high-stakes elections, where voter turnout would be higher anyway.
Finally this is encouraging because we "the little people" can have more of an impact at the grassroots level than anywhere else. I don't have enough money to hire a lobbyist to go to Congress and persuade Representatives to vote against gun control, for example. Even by joining the NRA and paying my dues, I am only barely participating. But I can spend a weekend or two as part of a grassroots campaign talking to "Ordinary People" about the value of self protection and encourage them to vote! Sure maybe the two or three people I get to vote may not have a substantially or statistically bigger impact than my $35 NRA membership dues, but it allows me to to control the message that I am sending. I'm not sure I know or would even agree with all the things said on behalf of my membership dues, but I do know what comes out of my mouth. Besides that, it allows me to participate actively in the political process, and encourage others to do the same.
I used the example of gun rights, but really I have another cause in mind. It shows me that I can tell people "Hey not all Republicans are homophobes" and "Hey, not all gays are liberals," and maybe, just maybe, they'll listen.