The best thing we can do for nonprofits–and ourselves

Have you seen Rick Cohen’s typically smart and on-target piece “The Worst Thing We Can Do for the Obama Administration”?  While he’s speaking about the nonprofit sector and its/our special-interest-group needs, there’s a broader point: that those of us who supported the President’s election because we share his basic principles and values should express that support by remaining independent and criticizing when necessary, rather than by becoming supplicants to or apologists for the people we put in office.  That’s an idea relevant to each and all of us as citizens.

The Nonprofiteer’s own version of this insight struck her while she was raging at news of the Administration’s refusal to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture.  Abruptly she realized she had two choices: struggle to construct a rationale for a constitutional law professor’s apparent indifference to violations of the Constitution, or struggle to make it impossible for such apparent indifference to continue.  So she’s now volunteering with the ACLU,  whose legal work contributed to the release of the torture memos and which is helping to orchestrate public pressure to bring to justice the people who violated our laws in our name.

Politics, it is said, is the art of the possible.  The citizen’s job is to define for politicians what’s possible, and to make sure that the definition encompasses everything that’s essential.

As nonprofit leaders, we know first-hand how much of what’s essential requires the government’s support.  But as Cohen says, our primary job is not begging for that support; it’s giving or withholding our own based on how well the government–our government–lives up to our ideals, and its own.

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2 Responses to “The best thing we can do for nonprofits–and ourselves”

  1. Yana Davis Says:

    Jefferson reputedly said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Most Republican leaders fell down on their jobs as Americans under Bush by failing to criticize (or even notice) the obvious violations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights being conducted in plain sight.

    Now, as the Nonprofiteer has ethically indicated, it would not be a good idea for Democrats and other supporters of Obama to commit the same mistake, although nothing even remotely as sinister is going on now as was during the previous regime.

    President Obama has made a point of saying he wants his administration to be held accountable, and wants to hear constructive criticism, so the Nonprofiteer is on the same page as the president, and for that matter, Tom Jefferson.

  2. janinsanfran Says:

    I just came back tonight from a meeting of the new Organizing for America (Obama 2.0), that is. Report here. As a person whose work is coaching organizing, I could hardly miss it.

    All your questions are going to work themselves out within Obama’s own group as well as outside I think. And that’s fine. That’s citizenship, a virtue that needs resuscitation.

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