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.
Kelly Kleiman, who blogs as The Nonprofiteer, is principal of NFP Consulting, which provides strategic planning, Board development and fundraising advice to charities and philanthropies. She is also a lawyer and freelance journalist whose reportage and essays about the arts, philanthropy and women’s issues have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and other dailies; in magazines including In These Times and Chicago Philanthropy; and on websites including Aislesay.com and Artscope.net.