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Read This New Yorker Piece on What Calling Congress Achieves

Read What Calling Congress Achieves, a New Yorker piece that explores that question and gives a history of Americans calling their Congressional representatives.

 

It’s a long read, but a good one. The author not only explores what works and what doesn’t and why, and what a Congressional office would consider a “flood” of phone calls, she goes back to the late 19th-century beginnings of calling Congress.

 

The story is festooned with tasty little anecdotes and wonderful bits of evidence that calling and emailing Congress actually does something.

 

This paragraph, for example:

 

For political watchers, the most striking thing about this outpouring of political activism is its spontaneity. “If Planned Parenthood sends out an e-mail and asks all their donors to contact their Congress members—that’s honest, it’s real, it’s citizen action,” Fitch said. “But this thing was organic: people saw something in the news, it made them angry, and they called their member of Congress.” At this point, he paused and informed me that he was “not one for hyperbolic statements.” But what was happening was, he said, “amazing,” “unprecedented,” “a level of citizen engagement going on out there outside the Beltway that Congress has never experienced before.”

 

And this one:

 

Perhaps the most striking shift so far, though, has happened on the Democratic side of the aisle, in the form of a swift and dramatic stiffening of the spine. In the past month, at the insistence of constituents, the party line has changed from a cautious willingness to work with the White House to staunch and nearly unified opposition. “If you ask me, before the calls started coming in, someone like Neil Gorsuch”—Trump’s pick for the vacant Supreme Court seat—“would have passed with seventy-one votes,” said one Democratic senator’s chief of staff, who has worked on the Hill for close to twenty years. “Now I’d be surprised if he gets to sixty.” More generally, that staffer noted, the newly galvanized left is suddenly helping to set the Party’s agenda. In thinking about Cabinet nominations, Democratic members of Congress had planned to make their stand over Tom Price, then the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services—until their constituents chose Betsy DeVos. “That was not a strategic decision made in Washington,” the staffer said. “That was a very personal decision made by all these people outside the Beltway worrying about their kids. We’re not managing this resistance. We can participate in it, but there’s no chance of us managing it.”

 

Oh, and this one:

 

Republicans, of course, can’t manage the resistance, either—and, so far, they are struggling to figure out how to respond. Some have merely expressed frustration that so many calls are apparently coming from out of their district or state. But others, including Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Cory Gardner, and President Trump, have tried to discredit concerned citizens by claiming that they are “paid protesters,” an allegation supported by precisely zero evidence. Still others have expressed disingenuous outrage over political organizing, as when Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for Representative Lou Barletta, of Pennsylvania, criticized “the significant percentage who are encouraged to call us by some group.” And other legislators simply turned out not to like their job description. “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up,” Representative Dave Brat, of Virginia, said last month, “the women are in my grill no matter where I go.” In an apparent effort to dodge such interactions, a number of Republican legislators, including Representative Mike Coffman, of Colorado, and Representative Peter Roskam, of Illinois, have cancelled or curtailed town-hall meetings. Other G.O.P. legislators have allegedly been locking their office doors, turning off their phones, and, in general, doing what they can to limit contact with their constituents.

 

…but enough quoting. Go enjoy it for yourself.

 

Read What Calling Congress Achieves:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/what-calling-congress-achieves

 

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Subscribe to the New Yorker:

https://subscribe.newyorker.com/subscribe/newyorker/111547?source=AMS_NYR_ARTICLE_NAVBAR_MemorialDay_2017&pos_name=AMS_NYR_ARTICLE_NAVBAR

Community Activism · Ethics · Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare

Read There Is No Good Card For This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love

Read There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love, by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell.

 

TINGCFT might seem like a not-quite-on-topic choice for a political blog, but bear with us. It’s a great textbook on how to have awkward conversations, how to listen, and how not to be a jerk–skills that are ever more precious and valuable in the time of Trump.

 

McDowell is the genius behind a series of greeting cards that you’d actually want to send to someone who’s going through hell but still has a sense of humor. Crowe holds a doctorate in social welfare, and founded Help Each Other Out, which teaches people how to avoid being the person who ghosts or says and does unhelpful things when bad stuff happens to friends and family.

 

The whole book is a gem, but in particular, it goes over how to help people in the grip of illness, fertility issues, divorce, unemployment, and grief.

 

Some general takeaways:

 

It’s better to do something than nothing. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is doing something.

Remember it’s about them, not you. Don’t make their problem about you.

Listen.

Your kindness is your credential.

The person who needs help may not respond to your overture the way you’d expect. Don’t hold that against them, and don’t let their response deter you from helping others.

 

 

Buy There Is No Good Card for This at great independent book stores such as The Strand or Powell’s:

http://www.strandbooks.com/index.cfm

http://www.powells.com/book/there-is-no-good-card-for-this-9780062469991/1-5

 

 

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Learn to Evangelize (In a Good Way)

Learn, and practice, how to tell the story of the candidates you support, and become an evangelist for them.

 

One of the most important things you can do to push back against Trump is convince people to come out and vote against his democracy-destroying agenda. But if you really want to be effective, you want to immerse yourself in the merits and the story of a non-Trumpish candidate, fully master it, and be ready to make a powerful, personal, eloquent case for voting for them.

 

Now, a personal confession. Sarah Jane here. I’m the founder of the OTYCD blog and the lead wrangler of research and of its anonymous writers. This is my 2016 story.

 

So it’s late 2015 or so and the election is starting to gear up. I resign myself to voting for Clinton. I’m meh on her but I don’t think Bernie can do the job, the Republicans are all thoroughly horrible, and the third party options look miserable, too.

 

But at some point I see clips from that eleven-hour Congressional Benghazi hearing.

 

And I see Clinton own those Republican twerps like the boss she is. Own. Them. Completely and thoroughly. She cleans the floor with them till she can see her face in it, and she doesn’t even break a sweat. She slays. She dominates. She destroys. Through her actions and her attitude, she reveals the hearings for what they are–a formal, coordinated attempt to kneecap her 2016 presidential campaign–and she ain’t havin’ it. At all.

 

And I realized: She can do this, and she wants to do this. She is crazy-smart and ludicrously skilled, and she has a skin as thick as a rhino’s, and she actually wants to be president. She’s been through hell and back so many times, from so many different directions, she could write a guidebook on it for Lonely Planet. She has taken far more than her allotted ration of shit in this life. She has long since earned the right to walk in the woods and play with her grandkids. But she wants to do this. Damn. Whoa.

 

In that moment I became a Clinton convert. The scales fell from my eyes. I went from ‘meh’ to ‘yeah!’ I was *excited* to vote for her. Not as much as I was for Obama, but I was excited.

 

Now, here’s my sin: I didn’t tell anyone about my change of heart. At no point before the 2016 election did I speak up to anyone else and say why I was excited to vote for her.

 

I donated to her campaign. I voted for her in the primary. I stayed on top of the issues. I watched all three debates. I voted for her for president. But never did I ever sit with friends and family and spontaneously say why I was so jazzed to vote for Hillary Clinton.

 

I live in a state that went overwhelmingly for Clinton. I can tell myself that not speaking well of her once I started thinking well of her made no difference.

 

But c’mon. What if more of us had shown genuine enthusiasm for voting for her? What if more of us had evangelized for her?

 

What if our friends and family made note of that, and passed the word to others–that there are people out there, sane and fine people, who actually like Clinton and want to vote for her?

 

Don’t get me wrong–I realize she had a fine contingent of folks who did speak well of her, early and often, and I realize a goodly number of them read this blog. I’m wondering how things might be different if that contingent were bigger, and if folks who share my Clinton journey had stepped up and joined it.

 

The overriding perception was that those who cast votes for either major presidential candidate in 2016 did so while holding their noses.

 

Remember the ‘Giant Meteor 2016’ bumper stickers? Judging by the way the election was covered, no one would blame you for thinking it was a giant nationwide game of ‘Would You Rather?’

 

It wasn’t, or at least it wasn’t for me. I liked Clinton, and I still like her, and what she stands for. And I’ve gone from being irked to pissed to stabby about how the right wing noise machine has done its level best to smear her for 30 goddamn years.

 

It’s too late to do right by Hillary Clinton, the presidential candidate. But you can devote yourself to becoming a better evangelist for non-Trumpish candidates running in special elections and in 2018 who will restore and defend our democracy. (“Non-Trumpish” candidates include Republicans and conservatives who have spines, btw.)

 

You don’t have to formally join their campaigns to be effective. Heck, you might be more effective if you don’t. Just do your damnedest to learn about them, and what they stand for, and figure out what it is about them that you connect with most, and tell others why.

 

You have power. You have friends and family who listen to you and value what you have to say. Hearing people you trust speak happily, and authentically, about a candidate for office helps that candidate’s chances of winning that office.

 

Speaking up is scary. Some people will challenge you, talk over you, even yell at you and try to shout you down. But you need to speak up anyway. It’s too important. Do not succumb to silence. Do what you have to do to learn how to speak up, and get good at it, and start working on it now, in summer 2017, well before the primaries.

 

We need you. We need every voice. Our democracy depends on it.

 

Update: Since I wrote this I realized (headsmack) that many of those who stuck up for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign got shouted down, and they’re still getting shouted down months later. I can only point back to my own experience.

 

I know most of my crowd was pro-Clinton, but no one expressed spontaneous enthusiasm for her. I don’t think I would have felt any pushback if I had voiced my enthusiasm in real life (online is of course another matter) but I can’t know because I did not think to try.

 

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Believe It, You Matter, Part III: The Parable of Eating Less Meat

This OTYCD entry originally posted in June 2017. In the lead-up to the midterms, we’re re-running important posts. Please click on the announcement from Sarah Jane to learn why you’re not seeing timely daily posts.

 

Believe it, you matter. Every little thing you do to push back against Trump matters, no matter how small. 

 

Eating less meat is, generally speaking, a good idea. It’s better for your health and it’s better for the planet, because raising animals for meat demands more resources than growing plants for food.

 

But what if you can’t quit meat entirely for the rest of your days? What if you need it for health reasons, or cultural reasons, or hey, you just like meat too much to give it up once and for all?

 

Despite what some nasty, one-upping vegans and vegetarians would have you think, if you make a conscious choice to eat less meat, and you faithfully commit to making a change, that’s a win. Even if you never give up meat entirely, that’s a win, because you thought the matter over, you chose to eat less meat, and you stuck to your choice to eat less meat.

 

You are part of the resistance. Many of us–those behind this blog included–cannot devote ourselves to the resistance full time. We have jobs and family obligations and housework and a host of other demands on our time. There are some days when we don’t have the chance to do anything at all to advance the cause. (If WordPress forced us to write fresh posts every day instead of banking evergreen posts at our leisure and bumping them forward as needed to make room for breaking news, this blog would not exist.)

 

And there are some people who can’t advance the cause as often as they might like. Maybe they live in an environment where it’s not safe to resist Trump openly. Maybe they have crazy-demanding job or school schedules. Maybe they’re 24/7 caregivers. Maybe they’re disabled. Doesn’t matter why, it just is, and they have to work around it.

 

The point: As long as you’re doing something, you win. Even if it’s not as much as you want to do. Even if it’s not as much as you think you should do. Even if it’s not as much as your neighbor did, or your cousin did, or your best friend from your Indivisible group did.

 

Resisting Trump is not a competition, nor should it be. Something is better than nothing, no matter how small that something is. We should celebrate every contribution that we make in the effort to push back against Trump. All of it helps.

 

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Work Like Never Before: Countdown to the Midterms

Sarah Jane here. I’m the lead writer and editor on the One Thing You Can Do blog.

 

We’re post-Kavanaugh. We’re angry and exhausted but anger is winning out.

 

Here is the silver lining: The pushback against Kavanaugh scared the crap out of the GOP, and while they won (which is bad, don’t get me wrong), they won by a hair, a sneeze, a twitch, a wiggle, a blink, and they had to fight like hell and take damage and break shitloads of rules and norms and traditions to eke out that whisper of a win.

 

The GOP know how precarious it is, and they’re feeling it. The boasting at Kavanaugh’s formal confirmation ceremony (which is damn weird and wrong in context, because c’mon, we’re talking about SCOTUS here, and SCOTUS is supposed to be above politics, right?) is just as much to shore themselves up and sell themselves on what they just did as it is to perform ritual cruelty and recommit to general assholic behavior.

 

They want you to go away. GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is convinced this will all blow over.

 

Show McConnell that he is wrong. Show him this won’t blow over. Show the GOP you are not going to go away.

 

Assuming you’ve had a rest–because you should really, properly step away and rest for a bit after all this–stoke the glowing embers of your anger and light your way through the last few weeks before the midterms.

 

If you’re not using the Core Four strategy, check it out, then pick two Democrats to support in each chamber of Congress, an incumbent and a challenger for each.

 

Donate to worthy Democratic incumbents and challengers.

 

Canvass–knock on doors to talk to people in person about the merits of a candidate for office.

 

Phone-bank and text-bank–like canvassing, except it’s over the phone or via text.

 

Write get out the vote (GOTV) postcards and help underwrite Tony the Democrat’s postcard-writing army.

 

Follow Celeste Pewter (@Celeste_Pewter) on Twitter for updates on the state of the (admittedly difficult, thoroughly worth it) quest by Democrats to claim control the Senate.

 

Follow Swing Left (@swingleft) on Twitter for updates on the state of the quest by Democrats to claim control of the House of Representatives (doing well at the moment but as we’ve said before, always act like your candidates are 10 points behind, even if they aren’t).

 

Follow Flippable (@flippable_org) on Twitter for updates on efforts to flip state legislatures blue, and see what you can do for your own state’s legislature. We need to turn the state legislatures blue to, for example, remove anti-abortion laws sitting on the books that would go into effect if Roe vs. Wade is overturned.

 

Follow Tokyo Sand (@DHSTokyo) on Twitter and subscribe to the Political Charge blog for updates on state voter registration deadlines as they approach and arrive, plus vital related news about the midterms.

 

Assuming it’s not too late in your state, consider filling out and returning an absentee ballot now, to free yourself to help others get to their polling places on November 6. Take the day off work if you can and volunteer to help others vote.

 

Learn if your state is one that allows 17-year-olds to register to vote if they’ll be 18 by November 6, and help them register, if there’s still time.

 

Put campaign signs on your lawn and campaign stickers on your car.

 

Talk to friends and family about voting. Help them make a plan to vote on November 6. Help those who want to do more than just vote.

 

Be welcoming and kind to Independents, Libertarians, Republicans, and others who don’t normally vote for Democrats but are doing so in the 2018 midterms.

 

Talk to people who didn’t vote in 2016. Donate to organizations that help people register to vote.

 

Don’t compare yourself to other activists. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do as much as you want to do. See the value in what you are doing, and keep doing it.

 

Give as much time as you can to as many candidates as you can on the federal, state, and local levels [as well as ballot questions, if that applies in your state].

 

Months ago, we asked you to donate two hours a week to helping your preferred candidates. Now that we’re T-minus one month from the midterms, we’re asking you to take your schedules in hand and figure out how much time you can devote to the democracy bucket brigade between now and November 6.

 

Anything you do from the list above counts. Include routine self-care in there, too.

 

And, Believe It: You Matter. It’s true, and it never stops being true. You matter, your vote matters, and your activism matters.

 

Go forth and do good, people.

 

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Believe It, You Matter, Part X: We May Not Get Everything We Want. Keep Fighting Anyway.

Believe It, You Matter, Part X: We May Not Get Everything We Want. Keep Fighting Anyway. 

 

You might have noticed that people are pissed about the way things are going. You might be one of those pissed-off people. Team Trump and its shitshow of corruption, cruelty, and pro-bully tactics have spurred millions to do more to push back.

 

A fair number of registered Republicans–including some high-profile ones–have left the party and gone independent. Many folks who were never politically active stepped up after the November 2016 election. They went to protests for the first time in their lives. Same again for phone-banking, knocking on doors, donating to causes and candidates, and calling their members of Congress. A small but heroic number found the courage to run for office.

 

It is unprecedented. It is organic. It might be unique in the history of America. And it should continue as long as Team Trump keeps crazy-assing and the GOP keeps shirking its duties to check Team Trump’s fucked-up, hateful, hurtful actions.

 

But! While we are righteous, motivated, and strong, we could still lose.

 

Take the SCOTUS nomination battle. Team Trump and the GOP are determined to ram their choice through before the midterms. We don’t want that. But because Democratic Senators are in the minority, there’s only so much they can do to stop it.

 

They will do what they can. They will fight. And, as we at OTYCD have asked, you should call your Senators and urge them to fight (if they’re Democrats) or vote no if they’re Republicans. Yes, your Republican Senators probably won’t change their votes, but they need to know their constituents oppose them on this, and will work to vote them out if they move a Trump nominee along.

 

But we could lose this one, and losing this one would be bad. People you love will be hurt by a SCOTUS dominated by hard-right judges. People you love could die as a result of a hard-right SCOTUS decision. You could lose your health insurance. Gerrymandering might get a yellow or green light. Voting rights might be curtailed. Parts of the Constitution that annoy evangelical Christians, greedy corporations, racists, and committed bullies could be muzzled and stomped upon. Democracy could be smothered. [Edited to add: This post was written and queued before the Senate approved Kavanaugh by a 51-49 vote.]

 

The answer is to keep fighting.

 

The only way to stop the SCOTUS from being perverted by hard-right extremists is to elect Democrats to the Senate and keep electing Democrats to the Senate until there are enough of them to control the chamber. And once they control the chamber, you need to defend them so they can keep control of the chamber and stop hard-right extremists from getting on the court.

 

If Democrats controlled the Senate now, they could refuse any nominee who’s stupidly hard-right and continue to refuse until Team Trump puts forward an actual moderate. But they don’t, so they can’t.

 

But if you curl into a ball and quit when the news of InJustice EvilJerk’s swearing-in breaks, we all lose.

 

Same again with the 2018 midterms. Things generally look good right now. But we won’t get absolutely everything we want. Simply from a mathematic standpoint, it’s unlikely that every Democrat wins and every Republican loses. There are too many races, at too many levels. There will be losses, and some of those losses might be tough.

 

Plus, there’s an elephant in the room (or, rather, the polling place). Having successfully messed with the 2016 elections, Russia’s hackers will be keen to try again in November 2018, and Team Trump has yet to order the National Security Agency (NSA) to take the steps needed to defend our country from those attacks.

 

Again, if you curl into a ball and quit when news breaks of, say, Iowa House Rep Steve King’s reelection, we all lose.

 

Yes, rest. Yes, unplug. Yes, take time away. You are allowed to have fun. You are allowed to do things that make you happy. Heck, it’s vital. Drafting and sticking with a self-care routine is one of the most important things you can do.

 

Rest. Recharge. Frolic. Forget for a few hours or days, maybe even weeks. But come back. Always, always come back. We need you.

 

And hey, getting mad is OK, too. Crying is OK. Despairing is OK. Feeling the force of your emotions is OK! But come back. Always, always come back. We need you.

 

Trump will go, but you must not.

 

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

Community Activism · Good News · Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare · Use Your Power, Recruit Friends

Believe It, You Matter, Part III: The Parable of Eating Less Meat

This OTYCD entry originally posted in June 2017.

 

Believe it, you matter. Every little thing you do to push back against Trump matters, no matter how small. 

 

Eating less meat is, generally speaking, a good idea. It’s better for your health and it’s better for the planet, because raising animals for meat demands more resources than growing plants for food.

 

But what if you can’t quit meat entirely for the rest of your days? What if you need it for health reasons, or cultural reasons, or hey, you just like meat too much to give it up once and for all?

 

Despite what some nasty, one-upping vegans and vegetarians would have you think, if you make a conscious choice to eat less meat, and you faithfully commit to making a change, that’s a win. Even if you never give up meat entirely, that’s a win, because you thought the matter over, you chose to eat less meat, and you stuck to your choice to eat less meat.

 

You are part of the resistance. Many of us–those behind this blog included–cannot devote ourselves to the resistance full time. We have jobs and family obligations and housework and a host of other demands on our time. There are some days when we don’t have the chance to do anything at all to advance the cause. (If WordPress forced us to write fresh posts every day instead of banking evergreen posts at our leisure and bumping them forward as needed to make room for breaking news, this blog would not exist.)

 

And there are some people who can’t advance the cause as often as they might like. Maybe they live in an environment where it’s not safe to resist Trump openly. Maybe they have crazy-demanding job or school schedules. Maybe they’re 24/7 caregivers. Maybe they’re disabled. Doesn’t matter why, it just is, and they have to work around it.

 

The point: As long as you’re doing something, you win. Even if it’s not as much as you want to do. Even if it’s not as much as you think you should do. Even if it’s not as much as your neighbor did, or your cousin did, or your best friend from your Indivisible group did.

 

Resisting Trump is not a competition, nor should it be. Something is better than nothing, no matter how small that something is. We should celebrate every contribution that we make in the effort to push back against Trump. All of it helps.

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the blue button on the upper right or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!