“BATON ROUGE, La. — It was a squabble over $2.9 million in property-tax breaks — small change for Exxon Mobil, a company that measures its earnings by the billions.

But when the East Baton Rouge Parish school board rejected the energy giant’s rather routine request last month, the “no” vote went off like a bomb in a state where obeisance to the oil, gas and chemical industries is the norm.”

A School Board Says “No” to Big Oil in this morning’s business section of the New York Times is, I hope, a precursor of things to come. It’s an old cliché, but it’s true nonetheless, that democracy [def.: “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people…”, and, as President Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address, “…government of the people, by the people, for the people.”] cannot survive if “the people” don’t pay attention and participate. When members of Congress, elected by the people to represent the people, start behaving like little lords of the realm, rather than public servants, then, the people and democracy are not served.

But “the people” must stay informed. They must follow closely the behavior and actions of the members of Congress who were sent there to represent them. If instead those members of Congress begin to favor anyone (lobbyists and those who pay them, the special interests of industry and big tech) other than the people, then the people must hold them accountable. They must vote them out of office and replace them with someone who will serve the people’s wishes as promised.

The point is, ultimately, it’s up to “the people” to make democracy function as intended. But if constituents forgo their responsibilities to hold their representatives in Congress accountable, then they will become “subjects” not “citizens.”

I hope East Baton Rouge Parish is a sign of the times ahead. We need many like them in every state in the nation. And, by the way, raise a cheer for the school board. I’m proud that it was a board of education that took a stand against the power of big money. Because without education, citizens don’t even know that they should!