Grassroots movements are sweeping the nation and are showing themselves to be some of the greatest forces of political change currently at work in the US. Recent grassroots victories in Ohio and with the Keystone XL pipeline deferral have proved the power of organized protests and their ability to dramatically affect policy and government.
In Ohio, union workers and their supporters successfully galvanized voters to get out to the polls and strike down Senate Bill 5, which would have severely curtailed worker’s bargaining rights. The bill was struck down by a wide margin, all the more impressive given the close elections and slim margins of the year before. This was not a vote along party lines: citizens of Ohio came out to vote based on their feelings on the issue and how it would impact the future of unions and the future of their state. The success of the people who organized and protested this issue is especially important since many viewed Ohio as the state that would set the path for the future of unions in America. While that future once seemed dim unions have now been given an extended life, thanks to the efforts of the grassroots groups and those who made their voices heard.
The Keystone XL pipeline decision is another victory for grassroots movements, as what was once seen as a done deal for TransCanada Corp. is now facing a very shaky future. While Obama has yet to make a final decision on the fate of the oil pipeline stretching from Canada down through the heartland of the U.S., the very fact that he sent the bill back for further review is a huge victory for environmental groups and others protesting the pipeline against the TransCanada company and its lobbyists. Attention to this issue was brought about not by lawmakers or the media but through the organized voices of the American people. This is a key strength of the grassroots protests materializing across America; while politicians concern themselves with party politics and partisan feuding the people of America are calling attention to the issues that matter the most to them, forcing Washington to sit up and pay attention and more importantly to act.
While the Occupy protests were originally greeted with much skepticism and brushed aside as a movement that was sure to be short-lived, they have since exploded and are proving themselves to be a serious force in the national discourse. The Occupy protests challenge the current economic systems and failures of the United States as well as the status quo in Washington, DC. While the Occupy movement, like many of the other grassroots efforts taking shape across the nation, swings toward the liberal end of the spectrum it does not associate itself with any one party. This choice to not associate with any one political party better unifies the people while also challenging the antagonistic, partisan mood of Washington.
As Congress continues to struggle to pass major legislation that might bring about sweeping reforms in any area, economic or otherwise, grassroots movements and protests are demanding and causing action on the part of government, reminding us all that the voice of the people is one of the most fundamental and effective tools in American politics, and may be the force that steers the future of this country.