What is Political Reality for the Mississippi River?

Today, Iowa Caucus Day, two articles on political reality collided in my inbox.

The first article was from EENews.net. Summing it up, the author, Paul Quinlan, bemoans what he calls the political reality of decision making for the Mississippi River.

Washed away in the political deluge: a plan promoted by ecologists to not rebuild the levees. That option, they say, would be initially more expensive because it would require buying out landowners, but it would save taxpayers’ money in the long run by avoiding payments for future flood-related property damage.

Levees and other flood-control and navigation projects along the Mississippi River have opened vast tracts for farming and development and created a superhighway for shipping. Lost in the bargain, environmentalists say, are natural flood basins that safely absorbed periodic floods and provided pollution control and wildlife habitat.

Without the floodplains, ecologists say, the river is more prone to more frequent and intense floods. It is time, they say, to let the river flow, and there is no better place to try that than the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.

Quinlan speculates political reality won over ecological considerations, as if the two were mutually exclusive.

The second article, from the New York Times was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek explanation of Iowa’s precinct caucuses by David Schoenbaum. While the columnist suggests Iowa’s precinct caucuses are strange and somewhat out-dated, he does a good job describing their history and place in the political landscape.

Here, political reality is more than what ‘s seen in the eye of the beholder. Political reality is a bi-annual process of applying pressure where the political process is most responsive – where voters get involved. The great thing about a democracy like ours is that anyone gets to apply that pressure. The bad thing about our current political situation is that very little organizing goes on at the grass roots level anymore, except in precinct caucuses. This brings me back to the Mississippi River.

The National Dialogue for the Future of America’s Waterway, in essence, is a precinct caucus process for the whole Mississippi River. Just like Schoenbaum describes in his piece, the National Dialogue is neighborhood, River-based meetings on issues that escalate and coalesce to form positions for the whole River. Today, with the use of AmericaSpeaks technology, the process can be collapsed so it can take place in one day.

You see political reality belongs to those who understand and take part in the political process. Coming up with plans and then hoping doesn’t cut it. Showing up and participating are keys to achieving goals through the political process. So is keeping the pressure on. 

This may sound Tea Party-ish, and I assure you it is. But it’s not something complicated or  corrosive. It’s the most basic of democratic principles – the people most affected by policy outcomes have a vehicle to express their political reality as well as their political power. It’s called participating in the political decision-making from the grass roots — or river banks — all the way to the halls of congress.

Right now those who show up are usually those with more resources to do so. It’s why we created the National Dialogue: to provide a way for Mississippi River citizens from ALL walks of life to come together to discuss and vote on what seems best for the future of the River. Precinct caucuses for the future of the Mississippi River also result in more committed grass roots advocacy, yet another necessary political reality. Won’t you join us? http://tiny.cc/rz2b6




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