The New 1% of Committed Activists


Andy Lee Roth, a sociology professor at Citrus College is associate director of Project Censored and co-editor of Censored 2017: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2015-2016. In “Ralph Nader Calls for a New 1%,” an article written for Yes magazine, Roth highlights the call to action made by Ralph Nader in his most recent book, Breaking through Power:

The premise of his argument is that small groups of individuals have initiated most of the significant, progressive political reforms in U.S. history – from the abolition of slavery to securing women’s right to vote, from tobacco regulation to citizen initiatives on climate change: ‘Take a sweeping look at history and you will discover that almost all movements that mattered started with just one or two people.’

“The book’s final chapter, titled ‘Why Democracy Works,’ is Nader’s call to action. It begins by quoting Martin Luther King Jr. “We’ve got to massively confront the power structure,” King announced at the start of the 1967 Poor People’s Campaign. To that end, Nader proposes the creation and activation of a new 1 percent–one that will expose “conditions of deprivation and abuse” and champion “basic fair play.” Invoking Black Lives Matter, the citizens of Flint, Michigan, and the movements for climate justice, gun control, and economic justice, he  imagines 2.5 million Americans ‘motivated by a diverse range of interconnected issues . . . bubbling over with moral indignation, passion, and  commitment.’

“Nader calls on this new 1 percent to devote 300 volunteer hours and $200 to $300 per year to establish advocacy offices in each of the nation’s 435 congressional districts. In each office, at least four citizens acting as full­time activists would establish an ‘in­person advocacy relationship’ with their congressional representatives. This direct, personal relationship, he writes, is ‘the strategy used by all successful lobbyists.’ In addition to direct lobbying of Congress, this core group of committed citizens would also work to mobilize ‘the quiet majority of public opinion.’

“The second crucial component of Nader’s action plan is what he calls Citizens Summons, in which citizens call their congressional representatives home ‘for sustained questioning and education’ by voters. Organized and run by citizens, these meetings would reverse the power dynamics to which politicians are accustomed. Because they are ‘new and unusual,’ the Summons will draw media attention? because they are ‘clear, basic, and personal,’ they promise to activate communities of ‘rumbling determination’ within each congressional district. Nader offers a sample text for a Citizens Summons, focused on activating and expanding what  he describes as ‘sustainable tools of citizen power,’ which he first articulated in 1992 as the Concord Principles.”


The Ohio Conference—represented primarily by John McNay and Sara Kilpatrick—has been very active politically in advocating for public higher education and collective bargaining with members of the ohio legislature. But, one of my still unrealized projects has been to create a group of media liaisons in every part of the state. There are almost three dozen university and university regional campuses in the state, with the regional campuses themselves having service areas covering almost all, if not all, of the state’s 88 counties. My idea has been that we should have faculty monitoring newspapers and other media sites in their local areas and sharing items on higher education and collective bargaining and their responses to such items in a centralized repository. In this way, we could cover all media markets, large and small, increase the scope and the consistency of our messaging, and reduce at least some of the duplication of effort that is almost inevitable in such an undertaking.

After reading Roth’s summary of Nader’s proposals, I think that this sort of communication effort could be extended to direct communications with each of the members of our state House and Senate.


Andy Lee Roth’s complete article is available at:



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