4 Ways to Fix Washington's Gridlock, Which Was Caused By You in the First Place


Let’s face it; you've done nothing to help prevent gridlock in Washington today.  

“But I’m a paramedic on call/working parent/proprietor of a popular Tumblr,” you say. “I don’t have time to lobby against persistent special interests and support user-generated alternative media.”

Be that as it may, this happens to be a nation with a government for, of, and by the people, and as such, it might just be time to start pulling your own weight.  Here are a few things you can do (for America) to get the ball rolling.

1. Get Informed

In the words of our third president and freedom’s older brother, Thomas Jefferson: “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people ... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”  

Check out fellow PolicyMic pundit Susan Kraykowski’s list of reliable sources and don’t stop there; engage with the news, analyze it, write your own, and otherwise give yourself the tools to navigate the media maelstrom. Learn to eschew sensationalism for sense, false equivalences for true equanimity, and professed “balance” for actual professionalism.

2. Get Focused

Pick an issue or two to work toward, with tangible goals for people of all walks of life, not just the people you grab a beer with after work. Having a focused plan for addressing the issues allows you to attack from all sides; attempting to address the monolith of partisan gridlock head-on would just result in headaches.  

More often than not, focusing on one element allows us to gain an appreciation for the depth with which most policymakers address these issues and the necessary compromises we so frequently decry. Maybe for you the right place to start is equitable coverage for unlocked cell phones or perhaps it’s ensuring Second Amendment rights — the key is to get your hands dirty and experience what this rough and tumble game of politics is all about.

3. Get Smart

The odds that your individual efforts will be solely responsible for breaking the gridlock in Washington are comically slim — so don’t place too much pressure on yourself. Echoing the advice of Former Speaker Tip O’Neill, the greatest efficacy for activism comes at a local level, where personal connections and intimate knowledge of context provide the opportunity to affect meaningful change on a reasonable timescale. It is far more likely that you will be able to leverage your connections to make lasting contributions for your town, village, county or city than the state or entire nation. Think less Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and more Parks and Rec.  

Big movements, like the rise of pragmatic compromise as a guiding principle for our nation’s policymakers, often have inauspicious beginnings. Political movements are emergent phenomena borne from the actions of individuals, and it sounds hokey, but there’s really no reason it can’t start with you.

Ultimately, it’s for the best that we allow ourselves to get angry, and not just at the senselessness of it all. Through inaction, we are all complicit in the status quo, so we should be doing whatever it takes to keep our peers, our champions, and ourselves working toward solutions.

4. With that, I leave you with the fourth and final thing you can do: get going