Week 5/14 Action 3: Rethink the Power of the Petition

We all need broccoli. It’s nutrient filled and good for you.

But sometimes we just want candy.

We ask you to do a lot of broccoli activism: contact your Members of Congress, show up at a town hall meeting, go to a march, phone bank. Candy activism, like signing a petition, goes down a little easier sometimes. And it feels deliciously gratifying to see the hundreds of thousands of other names on that list.

But as sweetly easy as they are, petitions make a real difference. Petitions can send a signal of public opinion to a decision maker, tell the media there is enough public attention to do a story, build a list of people who are interested in an issue, spur additional action, and raise money.

Americans have a long history of using petitions to resist. More petitions were sent to Congress in 1837 to 1839 (most of these relating to anti-slavery) than ever before or ever since. Women not only signed these petitions in greater numbers, they also canvassed petitions with amazing energy, getting far more signatures than men did. A few years later, new antislavery chapters and parties started exactly where petitions had been signed a few years earlier.

Short and sweet, but also healthy for our democracy, petitions are an essential staple of a well-balanced resistance diet. Here’s how all-of-us can leverage petitions this week:

1. Sign this petition and this one from our allies at the Daily Kos (a leading voice for grassroots activists since 2002) to demand action on Russia.