Citizens taking action offer hope this holiday season

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Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country.  This is your democracy.  Make it.  Protect it.  Pass it on.

Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice (1967-1991)

Today, many people feel negative about politics.  Nearly 70% feel angry, sad, or fearful.[1]  Many of us hate to hear the news or even avoid it because there is always another report that makes us angry or distraught.  Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

But there is a bright side.  All this negativity has caused something positive to happen.  People are snapping out of their stupor and mobilizing.  Like the line in the movie Network, people are “mad as hell and they’re not going to take this anymore.”[2]  They’re getting out of their chairs, but they’re not going to their windows.  They’re going door to door talking about politics.  They’re calling and texting others about candidates and issues.  They’re donating money to the candidates of their choice.  They’re voting.  They’re running for office.  It is democracy in action, and it is citizens of this country fighting for a better future.

People have also put their money where their mouth is, donating over $850 million for the 2018 midterms, five times more than the amount in the last midterm election.[3]  And in that election, they voted for a record number of women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates.[4]

People are engaging in democracy all over the country.  And because they are responding to a Republican President and a Republican Congress that have been in power since 2016, they are Democrats who are supporting Democratic candidates and left-leaning policies.  But not long ago, it was conservatives that formed the Tea Party and supported a Republican agenda.[5]

The recently mobilized got out of their chairs and voted in November.  Voter turnout was at a 50-year high for a mid-term election at 47% with more than 100 million people voting.[6]   The high turnout was prompted in part by the work of several grassroots organizations.  In Texas, the Jolt Initiative urges Latino participation in government.  Woke Vote and Black Voters Matter gets the black vote out.  And EveryVoteCounts is a student-led nonpartisan organization that works to get voters out.  Next Generation Politics engages high school and college students in the democratic process.

People are also writing postcards to get the vote out. Postcards to Voters has organized over 59,000 volunteers in every state who have written 4 million “friendly, handwritten reminders” about over 130 close elections.

Postcards have also become a tool of choice to communicate with elected representatives, federal agency officials, attorneys general, and the Justice Department, among others.[7]  People are organizing into clubs and throwing parties to write postcards.[8] Postcards for America, a national umbrella group, has nearly 10,000 members across the nation.

And resources have sprung up to make writing postcards easier and more fun.  Political postcards are sold on Amazon and Etsy.  Some are targeted to specific audiences, like PersistPost[9] for women.  Some postcards target topics, like CollectiveVisionPostcards on climate change and other topics. And some provide services beyond postcards.  Write the Power will write out a message on the postcard design the user selects after it helps the user find the appropriate representative’s name and address and mails it for $1.50 plus postage.

All these efforts are being aided by national advocacy groups.[10]  One of the largest is Indivisible.[11]  It began by providing a guide to citizens about how to effectively lobby members of Congress.[12]  Written by former congressional staffers who saw the rise of the Tea Party and its effectiveness during the Obama administration, the guide has since been downloaded over a million times; and the site has had over 10 million page views.[13]  Over 6,000 local groups have registered with Indivisible.[14]  Through its website, volunteers “can find local groups, plan local actions, and access organizing resources.”[15]

Other national advocacy groups were influential as well. Color of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization with over 1.4 million members.  The Latino Victory Project, founded by Eva Longoria and Henry Munoz, works to increase Latino representation in government.  MoveOn, “a force for social justice and political progress,” supports candidates and legislation to further “equality, sustainability, justice, and love.” Swingleft mobilizes voters to support progressives in their bids for seats in the House of Representatives.  Sister District Project helps Democratic candidates win seats in state legislatures.  But its focus is not just local.  It hopes to combat the effects of Republican gerrymandering on Congressional elections by winning a Democratic majority in state legislatures previously held by Republicans to redraw districts in 2020.

Those who take action feel better – “more sane”[16] – because they’ve done something to make the world a better place.  They no longer feel powerless and at the mercy of elected officials who fail to consider their interests.    It is these ordinary — no, extraordinary — citizens acting to accomplish a political goal that gives me hope.

So here’s to all the folks who took the time to make a difference this year.  You are a reason to have good cheer this holiday season.

 

[1] Alex Vandermoss-Peeler; Daniel Cox; Maxine Najle, PhD; Molly Fisch-Friedman; Rob Griffin, PhD; Robert P. Jones, PhD, American Democracy in Crisis:  Civic Engagement, Young Adult Activism, and the 2018 Midterm Elections, PRRI, October 11, 2018.

[2] Network clip, YouTube.

[3] Charlotte Alter, How the Anti-Trump Resistance is Organizing its Outrage, Time, October 29, 2018.

[4] Joel Shannon, These are the historic firsts for women, minority, and LGBTQ candidates in 2018, USA Today, November 6, 2018.

[5] Charlotte Alter, How the Anti-Trump Resistance is Organizing its Outrage, Time, October 29, 2018.

[6] Camila Domonoske, A Boatload of Ballots:  Midterm Voter Turnout Hit 50-Year High, npr, November 8, 2018.

[7] William Wan, Postcards from the left:  Resistance groups take aim at Trump, one letter at a time, The Washington Post, November 2, 2018.

[8] Id.

[9] In the interest of full disclosure, my sister-in-law is one of the principals of PersistPost.

[10] L.A. Kauffman, First they marched, then they mobilized:  how the resistance swayed the midterms, The Guardian, November 11, 2018.

[11] Karin Kamp, How the Indivisible Movement is Fueling Resistance to Trump, Bill Moyers, February 10, 2017.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] William Wan, Postcards from the left:  Resistance groups take aim at Trump, one letter at a time, The Washington Post, November 2, 2018.

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