Leverage needed to nudge politicians

To the students of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting and all the students around the nation who came out in support of their effort to get politicians to do something about school shootings, welcome to the cruel world of money and influence politics.

Hopefully you’ll be able to get state and federal legislatures to make some meaningful changes, but don’t hold your breath. There is hope, but it won’t happen overnight.

Ask the students of the 1960s.

Elected officials will always act in the defense of policies dictated by the organizations and individuals who are providing the money to keep them in office. Only when they see a ground swell of opposition to their positions and policies and are faced with the prospect of being removed from office by voters at the ballot box will they begin to take notice.

Just look at the number of Washington politicians declining to seek re-election this year.

Protest marches, sign waving and speeches are great, but how long can you sustain that? Politicians will just wait for all the headlines and passion to fade away, as it has for every other school shooting prior to yours.

Nothing will change until you have leverage over the politicians.

Why do you think politicians are afraid to tackle Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security reform and other programs that benefit older citizens? Because large numbers of older citizens vote.

Many participants of the civil rights and anti-war protests of the 1960s were individuals under the age of 21 who weren’t old enough to vote. They didn’t get that right until 1971.

So continue to march and protest, but if you really want to effect change, as soon as you turn 18, go register to vote. Convince your classmates to do the same.

Parents are voters. Convince them to support your cause. Spread the message on social media. At election time participate in “get out the vote” campaigns. It will take time, but once you represent a voting block larger than those that currently hold your legislator’s allegiance, your voice will be heard.

Your challenge now is to maintain the passion of the moment until you achieve your goals. Do it for your fellow students and all the other involuntary martyrs who are no longer with us. Don’t let their names fade into history.

Never again.

Jeff Bowman