Adopt a new strategy: Home State, Swing State, Red State.
It’s a new year, and soon enough, we’ll have a new presidential administation (Hooray! You helped make that happen!).
It’s also time for a new approach.
Trump will leave the White House shortly, but he won’t disappear. Nor will his diehards who refuse to wrap their heads around the fact that their guy was legitimately voted out.
Worse, Trump’s time as president provided proof-of-concept to smarter, more devious politicians that authoritarianism can make headway in the United States.
That’s what we have to push back against now: not just Trump, but Trumpism and the dangerous, anti-democracy mindset it reflects.
We also learned much from the 2020 Senate races, with the chief lesson being is it’s entirely possible for an individual candidate to have too much money. Diminishing returns are a thing.
We also note the stellar work of Stacey Abrams and the network she spent years building and honing in Georgia, which helped deliver her state to presidential candidate Joe Biden. (This post is being written before voting closes in the January 5, 2021 Georgia Senate runoff races; we hope good news arrives on that front.)
Thinking over all those facts, sleeping on them, then thinking about them again, leads us to hatch a new strategy for activism.
We’re calling it Home State, Swing State, Red State.
If we’re going to keep Trump and his wannabes from killing democracy, we need to continue pushing back.
2021 is not an off-year for elections. There’s no such thing anymore.
We need to spend the less-intense years doing what Stacey Abrams did in Georgia.
We need to build, refurbish, and maintain the infrastructure of democracy.
Hence Home State, Swing State, Red State.
The phrase lays out where you should direct your activism, in ranked order.
Start with your Home State.
You should spend the most energy and effort on your Home State–the American state or territory in which you live. Your Home State should always come first.
Knowing your Home State means knowing who your elected representatives are on the federal, state, and local levels.
Know their names, know their office numbers, know their email addresses, and know which social media platforms they’re on and follow them there.
Know how long they’ve been in office.
Know what they’ve done, what they’re doing, and what they promised to do when they campaigned.
Know when they’re up for re-election.
Supporting your Home State also requires you to find out what local organizations support your community.
We speak here of mutual aid societies, food banks, entities that register people to vote, Indivisible chapters, civic cleanup crews–if it exists to make the place where you live better, check it out.
If you’re not already a member of such a group, look at what’s available near you, pick one, and give it what you can under the circumstances (which, as of January 2021, means the COVID-19 pandemic continues to curtail in-person meetings and events).
In particular, look for a local organization, or a local chapter of a state organization, that’s attempting to do what Stacey Abrams did in Georgia with the New Georgia Project.
…and if the organization you’re looking for doesn’t exist? Create it!
Lastly, check out your Home State’s Democratic party organization and consider how you can support it.
Maybe you become a monthly donor. Maybe you join the local chapter. Maybe you run for office. Or, hey, ask them what they need most in your part of the state and see if you can meet that need.
Supporting your Home State means subscribing to a local newspaper. Learn what’s going on where you live.
Bringing yourself up to speed on your Home State… that takes effort. If you can only focus on one part of the strategy, focus on the Home State part.
Even if your Home State is thoroughly and reliably blue and big-D Democratic, you should concentrate your efforts there first and foremost, always.
If you have your Home State well-in-hand, you can consider adding a Swing State to your plate.
We’re defining “Swing State” as one that could go Democratic or Republican, depending.
During the 2020 election, the following states were considered Swing States:
If you have the bandwidth to adopt a Swing State for the long term in addition to your Home State, please do.
If your Home State is also a Swing State, you can, as the old saying goes, kill two birds with one stone. If you prefer to adopt a second state as a Swing State, you’re free to do that.
The procedure for adopting a Swing State doesn’t differ much from bringing yourself up to speed on your Home State–learn who the representatives are (rely on others who live in the Swing State to tell you about state and local representatives to watch), subscribe to a relevant newspaper, connect with a local group such as an Indivisible chapter and follow its work–that sort of thing.
You should also look for organizations dedicated to registering citizens to vote and turning out the vote. In other words, look for organizations that attempt to do what Stacey Abrams did in Georgia.
In addition, check out the Swing State’s Democratic Party and think about how you can assist it.
If you’re doing well with serving your Home State plus a Swing State, and you feel you can take on more, consider adding a Red State.
Red States are those that reliably vote for Republicans.
Adopting a Red State differs a little from picking a Swing State or mastering your Home State.
As with the Swing State, you should acquaint yourself with the federal-level elected representatives, and ask activists living in the Red State for help with identifying state and local representatives to watch. You should subscribe to a newspaper that covers the state, or at least follow the paper on social media platforms.
The most important thing with a Red State is identifying a local activist organization to connect with and support. It can be a chapter of Indivisible, an organization that wants to follow the playbook Stacey Abrams wrote, or something similar.
You contribute by acting as an ally and a cheerleader. This goes double if your Home State is a blue state.
Activists in Red States need our support. It can be lonely fighting the good fight when you’re surrounded by Trump fans.
Don’t lapse into telling Red Staters what to do, or drift into blathering about how your Home State does things better. Stand firm alongside your Red State friends, and stand firm for them.
If your Home State happens to be a Red State, it’s your call–you can count it for both, or you can choose a second Red State.
…and that’s it, really. Learn what’s going on where you live, stay involved, and be ready to act. Do the work of creating and shoring up the infrastructure of democracy so it will hold up under the pressure of an election year, and so it will be there when a top-drawer Democratic candidate needs it.
Go to meetings. Read. Take notes. Give time and money to these organizations if you can, when you can.
Show up. Be there. Rehearse. Learn. Be ready for next time.
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