People often ask me why I focus my efforts at the state level. When I explain that the average person can actually influence the process in state government, they generally react with skepticism.

I understand why. They relate their experience trying to influence Washington D.C. with all grassroots activism in general. They’ve called Congress and gotten a form letter back for their efforts. They’ve sent emails the seemingly went into a black hole. And they’ve signed the petitions, only to see them completely ignored.

But things work differently in state capitals. Average people calling and writing can actually change outcomes. This week in Kentucky provides a perfect example.

On the last day of the legislative session, the Kentucky House gave final approval to a bill that would have set Kentucky on the path toward compliance with a national identification system known as REAL ID. As Senate Bell 245 was working its way through the legislature, Gov. Matt Bevin made a video in support of the measure.

Having already publicly voiced support for the measure, it seemed almost a certainty that Bevin would sign the bill into law.

I live in the Bluegrass State, so this issue was personal to me. I blasted Bevin when he made the video, and I called the Kentucky legislators who voted for the bill “oath breakers.”

I was not alone in my outrage. A prominent grassroots organization here in the state called Take Back Kentucky also vehemently opposed the move toward state compliance with REAL ID. Within a day of passage, a campaign sprung up urging Kentuckians to call Bevin and ask him to veto SB245. It seemed like a long-shot. After all, the governor made a video supporting the bill. But people starting calling. Messages started flying across Facebook. And people started calling.

When Bevin ran for governor, he positioned himself as a man who would stand up to federal overreach. He famously said the state should tell the EPA to “pound sand.” So signing a bill to implement an unconstitutional national ID system was not going to play well with the grassroots that supported his candidacy.

As momentum built against REAL ID, the Kentucky’s GOP held its state convention and nearly 600 delegates voted almost unanimously to tell Bevin to veto REAL ID.

Lo-and-behold, he did.

And it all started with a few blog posts and some aggressive social media campaigns.

Here’s what a guy posted on my Facebook page after the veto was announced.

Woohoo, my vote, calls, and emails mattered. Wow…shocked!”

You see! You can make a difference. But it’s not going to be by calling your congressman, or waving a sign at a protest in D.C., or voting for one presidential candidate or the other. You will really make a difference when you begin focusing your efforts at the state level. Those phone calls matter. Attending those committee hearings matter. Informing your neighbors about state legislation matters.

Progressives have long said, “Think globally, act locally.’ In this case, they are right.

Mike Maharrey

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