Glance back through American history from colonial times to the present and you’ll discover that the one consistently effective strategy for citizens who seek to change the direction of their society is to organize.
When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America not long after the Revolution, one of the things he found most remarkable about the new republic was the way that ordinary citizens who wanted to bring change to their society did it by organizing societies, lodges, movements, political parties, or any other kind of citizen’s group you care to name. The same thing has been true ever since; glance back along any wave of change in American life and you’ll find an organized group of citizens behind it.
It’s popular to insist these days that such organizations can’t possibly muster the clout needed to overwhelm, say, the power of big corporations. History says otherwise. In the 1880s, for example, corporations had even more unrestricted power in the United States than they do now, and the railroad corporations were the richest and most powerful of the lot. The Grange, an organization of farmers, took on the improbable task of breaking railroad monopolies that were forcing farm families into poverty by keeping the cost of shipping farm produce to urban markets artificially high. The short version? The Grange achieved total victory, and the railroad corporations lost the monopoly status that made their fortunes.