Democracy may be boring and frustrating, but it’s what we’ve got, so fight for it

Activists attend a Voting Rights Amendment Act rally in Capitol Hill June 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. The rally marked the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder which held a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unconstitutional. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Democracy is boring. There are a lot of rules. Policy is weedsy. Electioneering is repetitive. And there are way too many meetings.

Democracy includes a lot of people you don’t like. They also come to the meetings. And they’re wrong about everything, so wrong. 

But it’s what we’ve got: imperfect, but promising. Every two years — and counting local races, every year — we go to the polls with the opportunity to change the direction of our government. It’s a way to transform our economy, our criminal justice system, and how we care for the people and places we love.

In the climate justice movement that I work in, we recognize how climate solutions and democracy are connected. We’ve been restless and creative about how we’ve expanded and protected our democracy.  

As the Trump administration moved aggressively to rig federal rules for industry, climate justice leaders in Minnesota have succeeded in pressing our state and cities to improve standards.  

 Here in Minnesota, the administration of Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota House have proposed nation-leading climate legislation to transition to 100% clean, renewable electricity by mid-century. We’re improving our transportation system by creating more options for clean cars. We’ve pressed for infrastructure investments to prepare our water systems for climate change impacts. 

Minnesota has launched a public-facing, statewide planning process focused on equitable climate solutions via Gov. Walz’s Climate Subcabinet. Likewise, Minnesota’s cities from Northfield to Grand Marais, have created their own climate action plans, working to improve their hometowns.

These are the weedsy, meeting-intensive, hands-on, work-with-people-you-don’t-like efforts where everyday people get to create a climate-adapted future together.

And as a result, in the past four years, the climate justice movement has become a bigger, more inclusive, more ambitious movement, one that integrates demands for racial and gender justice with our demands for climate justice. More climate and environmental organizations have had more to say about voting rights, and COVID-19, and workplace standards, and police violence.

In a future where climate change is happening, tangibly, in our daily lives, we’ll all need a greater capacity to adapt. Our communities will need to be more resilient during crises.  We’ll need our governments to be more responsive. And that means it must be more democratic.

This will not be easy. Expanding our democracy is never boring. It’s always a fight. 

And make no mistake: Democracy is on the ballot this year. President Trump breaks democratic norms and laws in order to consolidate power around himself and the corporate special interests that back him. The right-wing has spent decades and millions suppressing votes, usually of Black, brown, and Indigenous citizens.

But democracy is hard to put down. The vast majority of Americans — and Minnesotans — value democracy and are committed to civil rights.  It’s in our bones. We vote in droves. We march and protest. We organize unions. We tweet. We write letters to the editor.  And, yes, we go to those boring meetings because we want a say in our future.

Democracy is ours to lose, and we could lose it. But it’s also ours to expand.