​An action even more effective than protesting

Demonstrators stop traffic while marching through Manhattan on December 5, 2014 in New York City, protesting recent court decisions involving fatal confrontations between the police and unarmed black men.

John Moore/Getty Images

If we named news cycles the way we name hurricanes, this one would be called the "Upside-Down World" cycle.

Whether its institutions we once took for granted that no longer work, or terrorist acts too hideous to describe, nothing lately has seemed to go right for America at home or abroad.

And now, we've been jolted in the most tragic way into remembering that the one problem the world's greatest democracy has never gotten quite right -- race -- is still with us.

The police put their lives on the line every day and must make snap, life-or-death decisions most of us never have to face. And sometimes, as humans will, they get it wrong.

Yet, wherever you place the blame for these episodes we've seen play out on television, it's obvious there is a serious disconnect between the police and African Americans in many communities, and it is in all of our interests to fix that.

Demonstrations are understandable. It's what we do in America, and they can be an effective way to illustrate a grievance.

But we must never forget the most effective way to affect change is the next step -- to vote.

Even though a majority of Americans felt the country was headed in the wrong direction, just over one-third of us bothered to vote in last month's election.

That is not the way to fix anything, but if we really want to change things, it's still the best place to start.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.