Proof Through the Night

Summary: Proof Through the Night is a nonpartisan voter education and voter empowerment program. It’s based on 50 strategies, one of which is to initiate a nationwide chain reaction of voter empowerment. The vision is to create an informed, critically-thinking, and active American electorate in one decade. It’s been estimated by a presidential commission that roughly 30% of tax money is wasted. If only 15% could be saved that would be over half a trillion dollars a year. But a tax savings would only be one outcome. Others major incentives would be: better infrastructure and services; increased national security and hope for the future; and an increased quality of life.

Proof Through the Night is mainly web-based. It aims to be a comprehensive service because it aims to help voters have all five essentials needed for effective political action:

An Individual Needs to Do Five Things to Become Part of an Informed Electorate

(The bottom two are the prerequisite foundation for the top three.)

fiveneedsnewWe consider Proof Through the Night to be a trillion-dollar solution, one that would not only help Americans but also have an indirect positive impact on the world.

Here are seven major strategies of the program:

1) Put all the information that a citizen needed to know on one website. You can find this at proofthroughthenight.org/politicalinfo/

2) Name strong incentives for political involvement, ones that cause real engagement. For most people, doing only one’s patriotic duty is not enough of an incentive. For many people, a stronger incentive would be to make the most of the investment that you already made through the thousands of tax dollars you already invested. Also: to maintain the quality of life for you and your children, and to avoid future misery.

In the 1980s, President Reagan organized a group of businessmen called the Grace Commission. They examined the federal budget in detail and estimated that about 30% of the tax money was wasted. Translated to today, that’s more than $1 trillion. If even half of that could be saved or reallocated to worthy projects because of voter engagement and advocacy, it would mean a savings of $500 billion a year.

3) Give people solid reasons to believe that a major structural change is possible. Many people believe that a transformation of American democracy is nearly impossible. They believe that special interests and powerful lobbies will always control American politics. This is a deadly belief because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you believe you can’t win, you will never exert enough effort to win. Therefore, this belief must be challenged.

It’s probably a very safe bet that at least 50% of Americans are really angry about how some issue is being handled, whether it’s health care, the lack of good jobs, education, military spending or some other issue. Some proof of this is that the approval rating for Congress has lately been 10-20%. People can be asked if they want to remain angry forever, or if it would be worth a little of their time and money to dramatically decrease their anger and unhappiness. We believe that enough people would be willing to make the small investment of time that will eventually lead to better services and better decisions by government.

Thus the first key is realizing that the great amount of anger and unhappiness can fuel transformation. It becomes easy to believe that we will get critical mass on many issues. But a second key is to work toward a permanent transformation by educating most of the American electorate, rather than aiming at one or two short-term victories on issues. People should realize that most Americans would opt for a long-term solution, once they realize that the cost to each person is only about 15-20 hours to come up to speed politically, and a few hours a month to take in quality news and do advocacy on a few issues that they care about.

5) Start a chain reaction that spreads person to person. Begin with people who already care about politics and understand the importance. Invite them to take and pass the proficiency test, and then to each invite two or three others to take the online course and pass the test—and then support them to pass it on. If each person invites and supports an average of two more people, the number of participants will keep doubling.

Here’s our thinking on this: You’d be much more likely to do something if someone you know asks you personally, especially if they went through the program and believed in it. A person-to-person approach has three big advantages: 1) It provides a stronger source of motivation, since you are being invited by someone you personally know, rather than a stranger; 2) It comes with a built-in source of support: the person who invites you can also support and encourage you. They are likely one of your best sources of support, since they know you; and 3) We don’t need millions of dollars to promote PTTN.

One of the coolest things about the chain reaction is that it would be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Will the support of a friend be enough to make it happen? We think yes in some cases, but no in others. It depends on the friend’s commitment to the program (and the support the friend gets to pass it on) depends on whether the person has fully grasped the payoffs of action, and penalties of inaction. We think that this program will spread in waves. First it might begin with people who are already politically active, who spread it to their less active friends. Then, once it demonstrates a track record, more people will participate.

6) Inaugurate a new American tradition for the weekend before elections. Call them “Party and Study” events. The idea is for people to plan a 2-3 hour study session the weekend before a general or primary election. People study the current candidates and issues with one or two friends, either over a meal, or in a low-key party atmosphere, whatever fits the style of you and your friends—pizza and sodas, a potluck, hors d’oeuvres, etc.

7) Although the heart of our growth will be the person-to-person chain reaction, we can work through organizations to accelerate our impact. We have two strategies that involve organizations. One happens when the chain reaction reaches a person who is an organizational leader; he or she can invite other leaders in his or her organization to participate. The leaders then lead by example, gaining proficiency themselves. Then the leadership creates a “climate of expectation” among the members of the organization—they encourage and expect them to participate in PTTN.

A second organizational strategy is to create organizational contests. Organizations challenge each other to a contest, a race to political proficiency. One group of college students could challenge another to a contest. One church could challenge another. One university could challenge another. One chapter of an environmental group could challenge another, and so on.

Besides stimulating their members, organizational contests would also be an excellent way to get publicity and build prestige for Proof Through the Night.

Conclusion

It’s an ambitious program, but we need to confront each other and say, “No half measures—if it takes 15 hours of study to pass the test, and 3-4 hours a month taking in quality news and doing advocacy each month, well that’s the price of freedom. The payoffs will come.”

The other important thing to impress upon people is that since everyone has friends and since many people can lean on their friends, we don’t need a $100 million a year publicity campaign. We just need to remind people that “Raindrops make rivers, and rivers move mountains.” People just need to accept and believe that small impacts add up.

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Status: The Proof Through the Night website is already built and ready for use. (PTTN.ORG.)  We expect that feedback from participants will lead to continuous improvements.

Potential Impact: This project could have multiple impacts on the quality of life of Americans and also on people around the world. A better electorate would 1) save tax money; 2) elect leaders that would increase American quality of life; and 3) increase global security. Major spin-off impacts of PTTN are that it could be a model for other democracies and also that the critical thinking skills people learn and transferable to other areas of life, such as personal financial decisions and decision-making in general.


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