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Believe It, You Matter, Part XIII: The GOP Really Is That Bad

Believe It, You Matter: the GOP really is that bad.

 

Sarah Jane here. I write all the Believe It, You Matter pieces for OTYCD.

 

Some time in 2018, I came across tweets from David Roberts (@drvox) that referenced the results of focus groups convened at various times between 2000 and 2014 with voters. They laid out information that showed what the GOP intended to do, if elected.

 

I’ve had trouble finding direct reference to the George W. Bush-era focus groups, but I was able to find them for the Romney-Ryan campaign in the 2012 cycle.

 

It describes groups convened by a Democratic Super PAC that attempted to alert voters to the extreme nature of the Romney-Ryan platform–promises to cut taxes for the wealthy and essentially destroy Medicare.

 

They hit a truly startling finding.

 

Apparently, a large number of the focus group recruits simply refused to believe that what the Super PAC described was, in fact, the Romney-Ryan platform.

 

They couldn’t wrap their heads around the notion that real politicians would advocate such unpopular and ruinous policies. Did not make sense. Did not compute. So they rejected the notion that the platform was the platform. It couldn’t be. It was cartoonishly evil. Real American politicians aren’t cartoonishly evil, because democracy, and civility, and American values, and rules and norms, and blah blah blah.

 

I’m going to drop the cites here before pivoting. Here’s a passage taken from a 2012 piece by David Roberts for Grist:

 

“If it’s hard for many folks to see the centrism already on offer from Obama, it’s also hard for the general public to see — to really understand — the radicalism on offer from the GOP. In the middle of Robert Draper’s recent New York Times Magazinepiece on Priorities USA Action, a Democratic super PAC, comes this astonishing detail:

Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.[my emphasis]

That is, of course, an entirely accurate description of the Ryan budget plan. It’s precisely what Romney and the congressional GOP have said they will enact. And yet when voters hear it, it sounds over-the-top, like fear-mongering.

My guess is that most voters wouldn’t believe that the GOP has embarked on a nationwide effort to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters, but that’s just what they’ve done. (Here’s the latest.) Most voters wouldn’t believe that Romney and the GOP want to end the Environmental Protection Agency as we know it, but that is precisely what they have said they will do; Romney has expressed only eagerness to work with the most anti-environmental House of Representatives in the history of the institution.”

 

Here is the July 5, 2012 New York Times piece in which Roberts found the information about the focus group. (Scroll down to the subhead with the words “Last December” in bold:

 

And here is a MaddowBlog piece that references the post-9/11 focus groups. Not an ideal cite, but unfortunately, I can’t find other sources talking about it (I invite others to send them if they find them):

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/why-focus-groups-incredulity-matters

 

 

I realized I should pass on this information about the focus group results, but for months, I couldn’t figure out how. One of the fundamental tenets of OTYCD is to offer bad news with substantial side dishes of, you know, THINGS YOU CAN DO to fight back against what the news represents.

 

The focus group results are important, but they don’t offer anything inherent to act on.

 

Well, I’ve finally figured it out.

 

You can use this information when you talk to friends and family about the importance of voting.

 

It seems gross and Pollyanna-ish to find a silver lining in the torrent of bullshit that Trump has rained upon us since November 2016, but there is this:

 

The disbelief that people expressed earlier in the century about the GOP should have evaporated by now.

 

People should be far more likely to believe that the GOP and its goals are cartoonishly evil.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would stick with Trump, despite the mountains upon mountains of evidence that he’s incompetent, incapable, venal, self-serving, and thoroughly corrupt.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would support placing babies in cages.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would go mute in the face of Trump’s outrageous capers with Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Mohammad bin Salman, and other autocrats.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would plow ahead with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh after the president, who was, by then, credibly accused of a felony by Michael Cohen, placed 93 percent of Kavanaugh’s work product under the veil of executive privilege, and off-limits to their evaluation.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would stand by while Trump refuses to safeguard elections and announces he’d be open to accepting information about opponents from foreign governments, which is a crime.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil… I could write so many more of these. You get the point.

 

When you talk to friends and family about the importance of voting, you can say “I don’t know what happened, but the GOP has completely gone around the bend. [Reel off a bunch of things they’ve done under Trump, describing each with neutral, factual, uncharged language. That means don’t use the phrase “cartoonishly evil,” btw.] Even if you don’t normally vote for Democrats, it’s important you do so now, to help the country find its way back to something that looks like sanity.”

 

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Candidates · Choose Your Core Four · Community Activism · Elections · Voting Rights, Fighting Voter Suppression

Believe It, You Matter, Part XIV: Feel Your Feelings and Vote Anyway

Believe It, You Matter, Part XIV: Feel your feelings and vote anyway.

 

Hi, I’m Sarah Jane. I write all the Believe It, You Matter entries. I’ve long since forgotten what Roman numeral I’m up to so I apologize if I’ve used 12 before.

 

Anyway. I’m here to talk about voter suppression, in part because the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) bizarrely (and irresponsibly, IMO) threw up its hands (well, five of the nine did) and essentially said it couldn’t do anything to stop gerrymandering, not even the ludicrously extreme gerrymanders drawn to explicitly corral and nullify the votes of one party.

 

This is the latest bit of news that could dispirit us. And hey, it’s OK to feel dispirited about such a thing. But please, please, do not let it stop you from voting, ever.

 

No matter what, show the fuck up and vote, and help others vote, too.

 

Republicans know, and have known, they can’t win if they can’t stop people from voting. Blatant, flagrant cheating, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attempting to defang Article 4’s re-enfranchisement of more than a million felons by requiring them to pay assorted fees before they can cast a ballot, is one such move.

 

But the vote-suppressors work in subtler ways as well, ways that get less attention.

 

One of those ways is fostering despair and disgust with the whole voting process.

 

They try to make people feel that voting doesn’t matter, and it’s not worth the trouble.

 

It does, and it is.

 

As we advance into 2020, be alert to attempts to dispirit you and yours about the act of voting. It’s already happening, it’s happening in particular on social media, and not all of it is the work of bots, btw.

 

They’re doing it because it works, even if it’s kind of oblique and hard to quantify. The vote-suppressors don’t have to get everyone to stay home, or specific people to stay home. They need just enough people to stay home to make a difference.

 

You need to carry on talking to you and yours about the importance of voting, and removing obstacles to voting, both literal and figurative.

 

You need to tell people they matter, and their vote matters, and there are people out there who want them to give up and stay home. Fuck those people.

 

Now, when you talk, you should be straight with them. Acknowledge that fuckery is likely in 2020. Trump has explicitly said he would accept information foreign governments offer him about his opponents, which prompted the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission to issue a statement saying that accepting anything of value from a foreign government is a crime. Mitch McConnell has consistently refused to advance bills that would protect the integrity of the 2020 election.

 

Republicans, in particular, are doing whatever they can to suppress the vote.

 

Go out and vote anyway. Go out and vote, faithfully and always, and help others vote, too. Every time. No matter what fuckery abounds.

 

Hell, go vote IN SPITE OF the fuckery. Flip the bird by throwing the lever for a Democrat.

 

Also, keep talking to your friends and family about the importance of voting.

 

Talk about how excited you are to vote for specific candidates, and say their names, out loud, often.

 

Do this even if it feels like it’s not enough.

 

Do it even if you feel like no one is listening to you.

 

Do this even if the crisis du jour is turning your mood grim. If you need to take a break to work through your feelings, do it, and come back.

 

Vote even if the Democratic candidates look like they’re running away with it.

 

Vote, because you matter, and your vote matters.

 

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Action Alerts · Stand Up for Civilization · Stand Up for Norms

Believe It: You Matter, Part VII: You’ve Got To Stay Here and Carry On The Fight

This OTYCD post originally appeared in June 2018.

 

Believe it, you matter: The meaning of ‘You’ve got to stay here and carry on the fight.’

 

Sarah Jane here.

 

Every now and again you’ll see me slip a line into a post:

 

“You’ve got to stay here and carry on the fight.”

 

It’s a paraphrase of a line in the 1981 film Time Bandits.

 

It comes from a scene toward the end, when (spoiler alert) God (yes, that one) comes to collect the Time Bandits and take them back with him, where they will pay penance for stealing God’s map and traveling through time to commit robberies by serving in lowly jobs with a pay cut back-dated to the beginning of time.

 

One of the Time Bandits asks if Kevin, the young mortal boy who joined them on their travels, can come along to what God calls creation:

 

What about my friend, sir? Can he come with us?

No, of course not. This isn’t a school outing.

But sir, he deserves something. I mean, without him–

Oh. don’t go on about it. He’s got to stay here to carry on the fight.

 

 

The line is mysterious, and deliberately so.

 

The film ends soon after, with Kevin still the age of a preteen boy.

 

We never learn any more about the nature of the fight God mentions, or why Kevin is the one who needs to fight, and what God might mean when he says that Kevin needs to stay back on Earth and carry on the fight.

 

When things feel extra bad and weird and hopeless and miserable, I think back to this line from one of my favorite films, and I imagine I’m Kevin.

 

No matter what happens, I’ve got to stay here and carry on the fight until I can’t fight any longer, or until an impeccably dressed Ralph Richardson and six ragged-looking little thieves show up to spirit me away.

 

I’d prefer the latter way to go, for what it’s worth.

 

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Believe It, You Matter: You Need a Longer Break? Take It. Just Please Come Back, OK?

Hi there. Sarah Jane here. I write the Believe It, You Matter entries.

 

Over and over on this blog, we stress the importance of regular self-care. It’s one of the four things listed under The Most Important Thing You Can Do. [Yes, we know it says The Most Important THING you can do. We cheated.]

 

But sometimes, regular self-care isn’t enough, and you have to step away for a longer spell.

 

I am writing this to tell you explicitly: If stepping away for a longer spell is what you need to avoid burnout, do it. Just please come back, OK?

 

There are days when I Cannot News Anymore, and I have to stop and mainline the Great British Baking Show instead. It happens. Sometimes it sneaks up on me.

 

Sometimes I go weeks between signing into the One Thing You Can Do Twitter account, because life happens, and because sometimes I come down with an acute case of I Cannot News Anymore.

 

Know how I handle it?

 

I step away, I let the blog run evergreens, and I aggressively refuse to beat myself up for stepping away.

 

Then, when I’m ready, I come back.

 

You matter. Your voice matters, and your vote matters, even if it doesn’t feel that way. We need you to stay here to carry on the fight, and we’ll still need you after Trump goes. Hell, we’ll probably need you more then.

 

If it’s all too much, step away and rest. But please come back. Always come back.

 

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Believe It, You Matter: The “May Contain Peanuts” Presidency

Believe It, You Matter: The “May Contain Peanuts” presidency.

 

Sarah Jane here. I write all the Believe It, You Matter entries. Offering this in case it helps you talk to friends who might have voted for Trump in 2016, who lean Republican, and who are struggling with who to vote for in 2020.

 

Ok, so you go to the store and you buy a bag of peanuts. *As you’re having your snack, you idly flip it over and notice that on the back, in a far smaller font, there’s a warning:

 

May contain peanuts.

 

This despite the fact that it says PEANUTS in two-inch-high red letters on the front of the goddamn package.

 

Why the hell is that warning there?

 

It’s there because a) the company that sells the peanuts got sued by someone, and they got nailed for not having an explicit, legible warning printed on the package, or b) the lawyer for the company got spooked by a similar lawsuit and insisted they put that language on the package, just in case.

 

It seems ridiculous to warn people that a package of peanuts contains peanuts. It should be self-evident. And guess what? It IS self-evident to virtually everyone. The vast majority of people who are allergic to peanuts read the front of the package and stay far away.

 

Except one guy.

 

THAT guy.

 

There’s ALWAYS that guy.

 

And somehow That Guy finds a That Guy Lawyer and brings a ludicrous lawsuit claiming that a bag of peanuts that says peanuts on the front is not enough of a warning. So the company does a collective eye-roll and tells the graphics department to put the warning on the back of the goddamn package, just in case.

 

Trump is That Guy.

 

There’s a bunch of things that everyone who runs the country, or wants to, does because it’s The Right Thing To Do.

 

An example of that is candidates for president releasing their tax return at some point in their campaigns.

 

They do that because Richard Nixon submitted some hinky-looking tax returns in the early 1970s. The hinkiness fed into the Watergate scandal. It was the tax thing, NOT Watergate, that prompted Nixon to famously say, “I am not a crook.”

 

Anyway. Since Nixon, all presidential candidates have released a series of tax returns from their recent past, to show they’re clean and hink-free.

 

It wasn’t, and isn’t, a law. It never needed to be.

 

Everyone understood that releasing their tax returns was The Right Thing To Do, and it let the public get a clearer picture of the people who wanted the job of Leader of the Free World.

 

Except Trump.

 

Oh, he PROMISED, as a candidate, to release them, but he never got around to it, and the GOP never got around to demanding that he do it before picking him as their 2016 nominee.

 

As President, Trump famously said, “Hmmm, nah, not gonna,” and KellyAnne Conway was wheeled out to back him up.

 

As I type this in late March 2019, the Dems who run the House of Representatives are in the process of summoning Trump’s tax returns. [I have no idea why it’s taking so goddamn long.] Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is bracing for a fight, even though Congress definitely has the right to ask for them.

 

But the Dems shouldn’t have to ask for them, because Trump should have released them like every single other candidate has since Nixon. And the GOP should have told him “Release your goddamn tax returns, or you can’t be the 2016 Republican nominee. Simple as that, dude,” and they should have followed through.

 

But he didn’t, and they didn’t, so here we are.

 

Because of Trump, we now have to codify in law what everyone did voluntarily for decades, because while their individual political worldviews might be shitty, they, themselves, were not shitbags.

 

Because of the GOP, we now have to codify in law what they should have stepped up and enforced, voluntarily, because they’re craven cowards who claim to hate regulations and big government, but they won’t do what’s necessary help create a world in which people Do The Right Thing without being compelled to by law.

 

Trump is That Guy.

 

Fuck That Guy!

 

Fuck him for forcing us to pass laws covering acts that everyone before him was sensible enough to do without having to be compelled. Fuck him for his shitbaggery that’s forcing us to say, “Hey, you presidential candidates can’t be a shitbag in this particularly obvious way, or else.”

 

Fuck the GOP for not stepping up when it mattered.

 

Fuck him for making the process of running for high office that little bit more grim and tedious.

 

Trump is That Guy.

 

Don’t re-elect That Guy.

 

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*I have not encountered such a bag of peanuts in the wild, but I have encountered other products with equally absurd warnings on their packaging. I have not meticulously cataloged them with photographic evidence.

Choose Your Core Four · Community Activism · Elections · Use Your Power, Recruit Friends

Believe It, You Matter, Part VIII: No Matter What the Polls Say, Act Like Your Candidates Are Ten Points Behind

This OTYCD post originally appeared in August 2018.

 

No matter what the polls say, always act like your candidates are ten points behind.

 

If you’ve been watching the polls on “generic Democratic Congressional candidates” vs the GOP, you know that they’ve been all over the place–sometimes giving the Dems a huge lead, sometimes showing the GOP closing the gap.

 

Ignore those polls.

 

Ok, let’s be more specific. No matter what’s happening with the polls, always act like the candidates you’re supporting are ten points behind. Even if they’re not.

 

2018 promises to be the most consequential midterm election in several decades, and possibly the most consequential since midterms began.

 

You need to focus and stay focused on your candidates. (You’re using the Core Four technique, yes?)

 

Keep talking to friends and family about them. Keep volunteering for them. Keep donating to them regularly (small sums given monthly are better than a big lump sum given once). Keep boosting them on social media.

 

Stick to your schedule of self-imposed breaks. Burnout is a thing. We need you. Yes, things are bad and this election is crucial, but still, don’t try to do everything all the time or you won’t be able to do anything.

 

And! Keep talking to friends and family about voting, and make sure everyone you know is registered to vote, knows where the polling place is, and knows how they’re getting there on the day.

 

Polls say many things. Don’t be lulled into complacency if your candidates are doing well.  Keep putting in the same amount of time, money, and effort that you’ve put in all along, and encourage everyone you know who’s game to do more than show up and vote to do whatever else they’re willing to do, whatever that is.

 

Stay strong. Stay steady. Stay focused.

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Believe It: You Matter.

This OTYCD entry originally posted in April 2017, but with the mid-terms approaching and the stakes rising, we are reposting past posts that discuss key things you can do to push back against Trump. Click on the announcement from Sarah Jane to learn why you’re not seeing timely posts.

 

Never forget: You matter, and your actions matter, even when it feels like they aren’t adding up to much. You. Matter. Never give up the fight.

 

Waking up on November 9, 2016 was tough.

 

Trump will go, eventually, but you should not. Your work doesn’t end when his term does. You need to carry on and help reshape America so this sort of crazy nonsense can’t happen again.

 

One of the most insidious things about Putin’s attack on the 2016 election was just that–the attack on democracy itself. Never forget: Putin gains when he can destabilize liberal democracies and make them look broken and dysfunctional.

 

Putin is trying to teach his people that it’s fruitless to resist autocratic leaders like him. And that’s why it should give you pause when you consider that as of early April, Trump has yet to criticize Putin in any way whatsoever.

 

When you feel like what you’re doing to push back against Trump isn’t working, remember this:

 

Vladimir Putin doesn’t want you to vote.

 

Robert Mugabe doesn’t want you to vote.

 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t want you to vote.

 

Kim Jong-un doesn’t want you to vote.

 

Bashar al-Assad doesn’t want you to vote.

 

When you vote, or protest, or contact your members of Congress, or run for office yourself–when you pick up an oar and row the endless longboat of American democracy,  you are yelling a big, loud “fuck you” at those who are trying to scare their own people into submission.

 

You matter.

 

You are one among many, but you matter.

 

Never forget. Never despair. You matter.

 

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