Keeping our Republic: The Art of Self-Governance
We can - and most certain should - hold politicians' feet to the fire to force them to live up to their duty to our Republic. But we would by hypocrites to ignore our own culpability and failings in this same regard. Politicians are a symptom but we – an often disinterested and willfully ignorant populace - are the real problem. The infringements and erosion of our individual liberties and rights have come about in plain sight – yet we shook our heads and did nothing. Worse, we sometimes welcomed it because it supported our preconceptions or simply benefited us.
At the end of the day, laws – good and bad – come from lawmakers. And while enough public pressure and momentum can roll back the worst legislation through ballot initiatives (or recalls), it’s always far easier to prevent bad ideas from becoming laws in the first place. A growing group of citizens has recognized this and is now spreading its message of self-governance – the notion that we can retake control of our government by rediscovering our civic authority and leveraging it to effectively influence legislators. This is not about “politics” or stumping for one party or another. This is about developing the practical knowledge needed to understand and influence government on both a micro and macro level.
The brain child of Mark Herr, Kurt Potter and Mishelle Perkins, the Center for Self-Governance was launched in April of 2012 as a local effort in Tennessee to rein in what they felt was a government run amok. They visualized our Republic as the extremes of centralized government and self-government, balanced by the fulcrum of citizen engagement. Too little, and we dip into the realm of totalitarianism. Too strident, and we delve into anarchy. But engagement was difficult to inspire when citizens simply no longer knew how the machine worked. Civics and citizen involvement had become diluted as a fundamental field of study and generations of Americans had grown up equating government with politics, a mysterious and dangerous field best left to the professionals and high priests.
They were reminded time and again of the supposed quote by Benjamin Franklin, in response to a question about what kind of government the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had given us: "A Republic," he was purported to reply, "if you can keep it."
To restore the balance, they would have to relearn the lessons themselves and then spread that knowledge. They documented and analyzed their failures and successes at the local and state levels, refining their lessons learned into a curriculum of techniques that was repeatable and, more importantly, exportable to other interested citizens. They soon spread their “Keep The Republic” training teams to fourteen states (slated to reach twenty-two by the end of this year) and their students are now reporting successes in passing or stopping legislation touching everything from property rights to environmental issues to fiscal legislation.
The non-partisan, non-profit group offers a five-part series of classes designed to teach citizens “techniques in applied civics,” enabling them to take ownership of their rights by understanding the practical realities of how government works, communicating effectively with legislators, and leveraging relationships to affect positive change.
Their “Level 1” course introduces the concepts of self-governance and civic authority, showing citizens that they are not just spectators to the legislative process, as they may have been led to believe. At their second level, CSG introduces methods for building relationships and crafting effective messaging for legislators, other citizens (including those who oppose the notion of self-governance), and members of the media. At their third level, CSG introduces federal, state, county and city levels of government, outlining inter-relationship between government jurisdictions, partisan politics and citizens. Their level four course introduces the operation of the inter-related workings inside and outside multiple levels of government, and the final level enables students to put their accrued knowledge to work on their multiple levels of government.
As of this writing, there are over two dozen “Level 1” courses being offered between March 14th and May 9th, at locations from East to West Coasts and from Idaho to Texas (for fellow Coloradans, there are two in the next week – Colorado Springs on March 20th and Denver on March 22nd – that still have seats available). If you truly wish to get involved and use your voice for more than just complaining about the state of our society, this is your opportunity to do something.
The methods taught may not have the “tech sexy” appeal of encryption software, or elicit the passion of being outraged at legislative tyranny. But their fundamental, empowering approach may just be the best option for returning this nation to its course as a beacon of individual liberty and freedom of choice, and a bastion of personal responsibility and government “of, by, and for the people.” It may be our opportunity to prove that we're truly willing to do the work necessary to keep the Republic we were given.
We greatly appreciate CSG’s efforts and encourage you to reach out to them for further details.